For the mindful traveller, this 24 day package is the perfect combination of touring the main attractions in Namibia and volunteering at the Elephant Human Relations Aid. Overnight in well located lodges in and near Etosha National Park and outside Namib Naukluft National Park and includes a few nights in Swakopmund in between. You will be able to experience the amazing sand dune sea of the Namib and Sossusvlei region as well as Etosha National Park, renowned as one of the best game reserves in Africa.
DAY 1: Friday Chameleon Backpackers, Windhoek
Today we are collected at the Hosea Kutako International Airport, and brought into Windhoek to Chameleon Backpackers, our accommodation for the night. Tonight’s dinner is at own expense is in one of the many restaurants Windhoek have to offer.
DAY 2: Saturday Okonjima Nature Reserve, Northern Namibia
It’s safari time and we will be picked up at 07:15 and taken to Chameleon Safaris Head Office for the pre-departure talk and to meet the rest of the group. After departing from Windhoek, we stop briefly at the Okahandja Wood carving markets where woodcarvers from all over Namibia come to sell their hand-crafted goods. This is the perfect opportunity to practice our haggling skills all while supporting the local community. Our next stop is our overnight destination, the world-renowned Okonjima Nature Reserve. Okonjima, is an impressive 20,000ha nature reserve that is home to an incredible array of wildlife species. It is also home to the AfriCat Foundation, whose long-term mission is the conservation of Namibia’s wildlife in their natural habitat, but in a protected conservation area. This includes predators and keystone species and the reserve is well known for leopard, cheetah, and hyena sightings.
We aim to arrive at camp around midday, giving us ample time to set up camp and enjoy lunch before we join the afternoon activity where we have the chance to see some of the cheetahs currently part of the AfriCat rehabilitation programme. The aim of this programme is to re-introduce these animals back into the wild where they can thrive. After our educational tour, we join an afternoon game drive on the reserve before enjoying our first spectacular sunset in the Namibian bush. Dinner tonight is prepared by our guide over an open fire.
DAY 3: Sunday Okaukuejo, Etosha National Park
We depart from camp after breakfast and stop briefly at Otjiwarongo, a small town north of Okonjima to gather some fresh supplies, before continuing on to Etosha National Park, one of Southern Africa’s premier wildlife reserves. Upon entering the gate, we start our search for antelope, such as springbok and impala and with any luck some megaherbivores such as elephant, rhino or giraffe, on our short game drive to Okaukuejo. We set up camp and enjoy a delicious lunch before heading out on an afternoon game drive. Etosha is unlike any other, and our game drives take us from waterhole to waterhole in search of predators as well as plains game, birds and if we are lucky, even reptiles. We return to camp just before sunset, and whilst dinner is cooking, we have the chance to visit the excellent floodlit waterhole where rhino, elephant, giraffe, lion and hyena are frequent visitors. Dinner is prepared by our guide over an open fire.
DAY 4: Monday Okaukuejo, Etosha National Park
A pre-dawn start today with a quick coffee and rusk before embarking on our full day game drive at sunrise to have any chance of catching a glimpse of predators that are returning home after a night of hunting. We make our way across the park, visiting various waterholes and enjoying a late breakfast at one of the picnic spots within the parks. We continue our journey east in search of the many species that call Etosha home and arrive at Halali where we can take a dip in the pool, visit the waterhole and enjoy lunch. After lunch, we visit the Etosha Pan where the park gets its name. Here we can get out of the vehicle and experience this 4500 sq km ‘saline desert’, a salt pan so large it can be seen from space. We continue our game drive to look for the Big 4 on our way back to Okaukuejo, arriving at camp by sunset. Enjoy our last night camping in Etosha, and a visit to the waterhole before and after dinner is highly recommended.
DAY 5: Tuesday Palmwag, Kunene Region Namibia
Another early start where we can take in a spectacular sunrise whilst having breakfast and then a short game drive back to the park gate. The route today takes us west into the area known as the Kunene Region. Our first stop is a visit to the Otjikandero Himba Village. The Himba people are one of the last tribes in Namibia who still embrace their ancient culture and customs. We participate in a guided tour around the village where we have the chance to not only gain an in-depth insight into the Himba way of life but to get to know the Himba people to share a little of our own culture with them. We continue west and stop briefly in the small town of Kamanjab before continuing on to the Palmwag Campsite, situated in the Kunene Region (formerly Kaokoland) this campsite is ideal for nature-lovers and has a swimming pool and bar. The desert-adapted elephants have been known to venture around the lodge and campgrounds at night so keep our eyes peeled. Here we set up camp before enjoying a leisurely afternoon. Dinner is prepared by our guide over an open fire.
DAY 6: Wednesday Cape Cross, Cape Cross Seal Reserve
Today our adventure takes us through the infamous Skeleton Coast National Park all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline itself is a very hostile but fascinating area known for the Welwitschia mirabilis, the Northern Namibia sand sea, the derelict oil rig near Toscanini, the Huab lagoon and the diminishing remains of a shipwreck. On exiting the national park, we stop for Instagram worthy photos of the iconic skull and crossbones gate. We arrive at Cape Cross late afternoon, where we set up camp for the night and have the opportunity for a sunset walk on the beach. Dinner is prepared by our guide over an open fire.
DAY 7: Thursday Hotel A La Mer, Swakopmund
Today is a chance for a rare lie-in and after a hearty cooked breakfast, we continue travelling along the coast stopping to view the Zeila Shipwreck, one of the latest victims of the Skeleton Coast from as recent as 2007. We arrive in Swakopmund around 11h00 and have some time to explore this quaint little town on foot. Dinner tonight is at own expense.
DAY 8: Friday Desert Camp, Sesriem Area
This morning after breakfast we highly recommend a visit to the Museum or Aquarium (optional and unguided) and for the adrenaline junkies, a 2-hour sandboarding experience in the dunes should get our pulse racing. Departure from Swakopmund at 12h00 noon. Driving through the Namib Desert via the Kuiseb Pass and Solitaire we arrive at our camp late afternoon and have a chance to relax and enjoy the views before taking a short walk for sunset looking over the Naukluft mountain range. Pool and bar available and dinner is prepared by our guide.
DAY 9: Saturday Desert Camp, Sesriem Area
Dawn departure from camp to arrive at the park gate for sunrise. We drive down an ancient river bed surrounded by towering dunes to the 2×4 parking (around 55kms) and take a 4×4 shuttle into the Sossusvlei area to appreciate the beauty of this place in the early morning light and enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the region. We explore this unique area on foot before heading into Dead Vlei with its large expanse of bleached cracked clay and skeletal camel thorn trees, contrasting with a backdrop of huge dunes with their ever-changing colours. We can either walk or take the 4×4 shuttle back to our vehicle. As we drive back to our accommodation, we will stop at the famous Dune 45 and climb this dune if we wish or just wander around the base. We return to Sesriem and visit the nearby Sesriem Canyon, one of the few permanent water sources before arriving back at our lodge late afternoon to watch the sunset over this spectacular desert.
DAY 10: Sunday Hotel A La Mer, Swakopmund
Early morning breakfast before heading to Solitaire where we join a local guide to observe cheetahs currently in captivity with the hope to re-introduce them into a large reserve. We head back to Swakopmund with the Welwitschia Shuttle and dropped off at our accommodation. We join the pre-project talk at the hotel this evening for more in-depth information on our project and to get to know the other volunteers and coordinators.
DAY 11 – 21: Monday – Thursday EHRA volunteer project
Today we depart with the Elephant Human Relations Aid volunteer project and get our hands dirty for the next two weeks, helping out at this project. EHRA works directly with local communities to provide hands-on conservation support by building protective walls around windmills, water tanks and/or pumps. This prevents the elephants from destroying property whilst searching for water. Since their existence in 2003, they have constructed over 220 protective walls with the help of about 3500 volunteers. Expect to get sweaty, learn about conservation, make new friends, sleep under the stars and enjoy the natural surroundings. All cooking is done over the fire and we work in groups taking turns to be on kitchen duty, which includes providing ‘coffee-in-bed’ in the mornings.
At the EHRA base camp, everyone sleeps in a large tree on a wooden platform! There are also showers and long-drop toilets here. You will leave base camp and be camping in the African Wilderness for the duration of your time on each project. There are no washing facilities on either build or patrol week but you can enjoy a shower at the EHRA base camp when we return for the weekend in between the 2 weeks. Tents can be provided, alternatively, we all sleep on mattresses on a large tarpaulin under the stars. As the camp on build week is the same spot for the duration of the building project, we can set up a long-drop style toilet. However, the camp locations change every night on patrol week – true wild camping using the bush toilet! Your helpful EHRA staff will be sure you are comfortable and will explain how to do this safely and in an eco-friendly way.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
DAY 22: Friday Hotel A La Mer, Swakopmund
Time to say goodbye to the group as our adventure comes to an end after breakfast, we return to Swakopmund for one night before returning back to Windhoek. Have a chance to download all your awesome experiences, enjoy a refreshing “hotel” shower and a last restaurant meal with our new like-minded friends, tonight’s dinner is at our own expense.
DAY 23: Saturday Chameleon Backpackers, Windhoek
Enjoy an early breakfast before we are collected by Carlo Shuttle for our drive back to Windhoek. Spend the evening at the bar and pool at Chameleon Backpackers or go out for an evening meal. Tonight’s meal is at your own cost.
DAY 24: Sunday Airport drop off
For those flying out today, if flights are in the afternoon, keep busy this morning with a FREE city walking tour, or City & Township Tour at own expense. Your driver will collect you and transfer you to the airport with ample time for check-in and formalities. Fly home knowing you have made a small difference in the lives of the free-roaming Namibian Desert Elephant and the local people that live within that region.