I had come to the Namib to shadow Stander in his research on a trip organized by Wilderness Safaris as part of the outfitter’s Travel with Purpose program of small-group itineraries, which emphasizes conservation and community engagement.
Our base was Wilderness Safaris’ Damaraland Camp, a collection of ten bungalows on a rocky slope overlooking the Huab River Valley, with rooms that were luxurious by desert standards, excellent food, and attentive service. But the greatest privilege was the chance to see Stander at work. For more than two decades, Wilderness has provided him with financial support and lodging, but this was the first time it had collaborated with him on a trip—”an experiment,” as Stander called it—that gave guests the chance to witness his efforts firsthand.
The opportunities Wilderness’s Travel with Purpose program offer don’t just satisfy a growing demand for deeper and more exclusive safari experiences—they support a greater mission to build community-based conservation. “Tourism gives value to wildlife,” Stander told our group of four over dinner the first evening. “It provides income and job opportunities and a whole range of other benefits to the communities. Without tourism, we would not be able to justify lions in this area.”
Maybe no country has seen the buzz of the travel world like Namibia, and it’s been fascinating to watch it grow from a specialist desert destination to a model for conservation and ecotourism done right.
With new attention comes new opportunities, and there’s a great range of safari options including overland packages with under-canvas camps to convenient flying itineraries that connect Namibia’s vast and far-flung points of interests.
- Travel with one of Namibia’s most reputable and well-known naturalist guides.
- Visit the world renowned AfriCat Foundation and learn more about conservation initiatives involving Africa’s large cats.
- Sleep under canvas in the tree tops overlooking one of the most productive waterholes on the Onguma Private Game Reserve.
- Memorable and exciting guided game drives within the renowned Etosha National Park, from the vantage point of a specially modified, air conditioned 4×4 with pop tops.
- Explore the Damaraland region whilst staying at the exclusive-use //Huab Under Canvas.
- Search for desert adapted elephant in ephemeral river systems.
- Track for the endangered black rhino in conjunction with Save the Rhino Trust.
- Visit and explore Namibia’s central coastal region with canyons, dunes and lagoons.
- Explore the private Namib Tsaris Conservancy on exploratory nature drives and guided walks whilst staying in the exclusive-use Sossus Under Canvas.
- Climb some of the world’s highest free-standing sand dunes at Sossusvlei and enjoy a magic box picnic in the Namib Naukluft Park afterwards.
- Enjoy spectacular star gazing of the Milky Way on the Namib Tsaris Conservancy.
- Enjoy refreshing moments in desert pools on the Namib Tsaris Conservancy.
In practical terms, the Skeleton Coast refers to the northern stretch of Namibia’s Coastline — where the Atlantic Ocean meets a “sea” of sand dunes from the Namib Desert under a cover of dense fog rising from the cool ocean currents. The name is, surprisingly, quite recent and refers to the many shipwrecks that litter the inhospitable coast. It remains one of the most remote and pristine areas of the world.
Departing from Namibia’s charming capital city, Windhoek, I took a light aircraft transfer about 2.5 hours to the area. The beautiful new Hoanib Camp, which opened last year, is located in a valley close to the ephemeral riverbed of the Hoanib River, just 3km from Skeleton Coast National Park.
We began at sunrise with a game drive along the floodplains where we saw lots of desert-adapted elephants and giraffes. We crossed a beautiful dune field and saw a small group of oryx at an oasis as well as a solitary oryx on the dunes. Arriving at the rocky, foggy coast made an incredible finale to the day — a vast untouched coastline, a mangled shipwreck, a lively seal colony and a funky little museum at Mowe Bay. We flew back along the route we’d driven, which offered an excellent perspective and stunning photo opportunities.
This past September Kili led her first safari to Namibia. Read our 5 reasons for loving this spectacular destination.
Here’s the itinerary in brief:
Day 1 Arrival in Windhoek, The Olive Exclusive All-Suite Hotel
Day 2 & 3 Fly to Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, NamibRand Nature Reserve
Day 4 & 5 Fly to Mowani Mountain Camp, Damaraland
Day 6 & 7 Drive to Ongava Lodge, Southern Etosha National Park Boundary
Day 8 Drive to Okonjima Villa, AfriCat Foundation
Day 9 Drive to Windhoek, The Olive All-Suite Hotel
Day 10 Depart from Windhoek International Airport
Click any thumbnail to enter gallery.
See Kili’s full gallery of photos here.
1. A Landscape Like No Other
Maybe this is true of any place, but there is nowhere on earth like Namibia. In population density, it ranks right there between Iceland and Mongolia.
The Atlantic’s north-flowing Benguela current brings 180 days a year of fog to Namibia’s Skeleton Coast which is dotted with whale bones, shipwrecks and lions. Meanwhile, twenty mile long dunes crest at 1000 feet above the vast sand seas of the great Namib Desert. From gravel plateaus and bushveld to fossil forests and quivertrees, Namibia is a fascinating world of contrasts and extremes.