Cape, Dunes & Safaris: Vacation in Namibia & South Africa

A 13 day trip to Namibia & South Africa 
4.25 out of 5 stars
4 reviews

This journey through South Africa and Namibia takes you to some of the continent’s most dramatic, wild, raw and captivating landscapes. The sparkle and glamour of Cape Town is starkly contrasted as you stand beside the country’s largest river, and the continent’s largest canyon. Towering ancient pink and orange sand dunes challenge your understanding of the capabilities of nature, while game drives through Etosha National Park will overwhelm you with the power and vibrancy of the animal kingdom. With countless opportunities to hike, wander and explore, this tour will give each guest the freedom to immerse themselves in the majesty and wonder of southwestern Africa. 

Customize This Trip For Me
Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Cape Town, Gariep River, Fish River Canyon, Namib Desert, Soussusvlei, Swakopmund, Etosha National Park, Waterberg Plateau Game Park, Windhoek 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Welcome to South Africa! Arrive in Cape Town in Time to Explore the City

South African vacations must include the dazzling city of Cape Town, and this is where you will begin your enthralling tour of southwestern Africa. Having cleared customs in Johannesburg, all that will separate you from a full day exploring the city will be collecting baggage, connecting with your transfer and checking into your hotel. After accomplishing that, you will have the remainder of the day to explore this captivating city.

While the day is yours to design, we might suggest spending some time at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, sampling local wines, tasting famous dishes and fitting in a bit of shopping. Consider soaking in some local history through a tour of the Robben Island Museum, and absorb local culture as you listen to marimba bands play classic South African songs at sunset. A boat tour through this working harbor at sunset will provide a stunning evening view of the city and Table Mountain before you sleepily retire to your hotel for the night. 

Day 2: Travel North to the Gariep River by Way of a Series of Rooibos Tea Plantations

This morning you will drive north through some of South Africa’s most remote regions en route to the Gariep River on the Namibian border. The drive will take you through the unique and endemic fynbos vegetation with a few opportunities to stop and explore Rooibos tea plantations and to sample their products, of course!

After a full day of driving, you will arrive at the Gariep River in the late afternoon. Also known as the Orange, Groote, or Senqu River, this massive waterway creates a natural border between Namibia and South Africa. This river begins in the Drakensberg Mountains in Lesotho and journeys across the entire country before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest river in South Africa, and among the largest on the continent. Tonight you will set up your first camp on the banks of this epic river in excited anticipation of tomorrow’s border crossing.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 3: Enter into Namibia and Spend the Night in the Continent’s Largest Canyon: Fish River Canyon

This morning you will officially enter Namibia as you cross the Gariep River and travel north into the Fish River Canyon. The road twists and turns for 200 kilometers as you approach the largest canyon on the continent and the second largest in the world, second only to the Grand Canyon. The ravine is over 160 kilometers long, nearly 550 meters deep, and up to 27 kilometers wide in select places. A river runs sporadically throughout the year, filling the bottom with either a flowing waterway or a series of small pools. The surrounding plateaus are generally dry and rocky, and are coated in a series of drought-resistant plans. Wildly unique and always dramatic, this canyon is often referred to as one of the most impressive natural wonders in Africa.

Arriving in the early afternoon, the remainder of the day can be spent exploring the canyon at your leisure. Some may wish to embark on an afternoon hike along the plateau, while others may wish to set up with a book and soak in the majesty of the region. No matter how the afternoon is spent, be sure to orientate yourself westwards as the sunset dips below the canyon’s ridge for a stunning end to the day.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 4: Travel to the Sossusvlei, a Large Clay Pan Enclosed by Enormous Sand Dunes

This morning you will leave Fish River and travel to the Sossusvlei, a massive saltpan in the heart of the Namib Desert. Surrounded by the world’s largest sand dunes, with the highest standing proudly at 380 meters, this new landscape will be a stunning and stark contrast to what you left behind this morning. High levels of iron in the sand give the landscape a pink, red and orange hue – which is positively incandescent at sunset. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon in this extraterrestrial-looking setting: tomorrow, you will have an entire day to explore the natural wonders.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 5: Spend a Full Day Exploring the Namib Desert

The entirety of today will be spent exploring this bizarre and captivating landscape. A number of remarkable sights are found in the extended region, including the Deadvlei, Petrified Dunes and the Big Daddy Dune, which contribute to making this one of the most photographed places in Africa.

Big Daddy is the highest dune in the area, towering over neighboring Big Mama Dune at approximately 380 meters. Ambitious travelers may wish to attempt climbing Big Daddy in search of a physical challenge and surreal views of the landscape below. Others may prefer to circle around to the base of Big Daddy to explore the Deadvlei. Like Sossusvlei, the Deadvlei is another saltpan in the center of the desert. What makes this area unique is that it was formerly an oasis in the desert. However, when the river changed its course, the surviving acacia trees died. All that remains today are blackened skeletons of the life that once thrived here. It is among the most eerie and enchanting landscapes in the desert. As you travel between landmarks, do keep an eye out for the ancient petrified dunes which have solidified into rock after over a billion years in existence!

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 6: Travel across the Desert, Arriving in the Historic and Coastal Town of Swakopmund

This morning you will traverse the whole of the Namib Desert as you move west towards the coast and the town of Swakopmund. This historic town is surrounded by the same vibrant dunes which roll out onto a foggy section of the Atlantic Ocean. Spend the afternoon wandering through this eccentric town taking note of the preserved elements of German colonial culture. Early twentieth century German architecture makes the streets a fascinating place to explore, with the Altes Amtsgericht and the Woermannhaus being noteworthy stops along a self-guided tour. The seaside promenades along the Atlantic Ocean are another noteworthy detour. Here, you can imagine befuddled explorers coming up on the shores as part of an epic search for the southernmost point in Africa. While the town shares a shocking number of similarities with classic German coastal towns, it differentiates itself with the sheer number of adventure-related activities available. These, you will have the chance to explore tomorrow!

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch

Day 7: Spend a Day Exploring Swakopmund and its Endless Outdoor Adventure Options

You will have the whole of today to experience all that Swakopmund has to offer. The city itself is famed for being the adventure-capital of the country, and those looking for an adrenaline rush may want to consider surfing, sand dune boarding or a light-plane tour. Should at this point you still feel a desire to explore the dunes, it is also possible to walk into the desert from the city center and wander through at your own pace. Others may be happier to spend a morning observing an enormous Cape Cross seal colony, which coats the shoreline just beyond the city limits. Seals and their pups are easily observed from a series of boardwalks or by boat or kayak on the ocean. The city also happens to have one of the best libraries in Africa which perfectly complements a series of delightful street side cafes. No matter how you spend the day, be sure to factor in time to indulge at the city’s fantastic restaurants and to pair your meals with Hansa Draught, the famous and local brew.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch

Day 8: Travel North up the Desolate Skeleton Coast, Entering the Heart of Damaraland

Early this morning, you will leave Swakopmund and travel north along the Skeleton Coast. Named as a result of the countless ships that beached themselves on the shore because of heavy fog, this region is among the most peculiar places in Africa. As you venture north, the stunning desert landscapes will be gradually replaced with massive rocky outcroppings as you enter into Damaraland.  Rugged, raw and dramatic, this region again sits in stark contrast to the landscapes before. Highlights in the region include the Spitzkoppe, also known as “The Matterhorn of Africa,” a million-year-old Petrified Forest and innumerable Bushman paintings on various rock faces. Slowly explore these sites and more as you travel through the homeland of the Damara people.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 9: Arrive at Etosha National Park, and Begin Your Game Drives across this Epic Landscape

This morning you will reach the northernmost part of your journey as you cross into Etosha National Park. This 22,270 square kilometer park has roughly 23% of its surface area covered by the remarkable Etosha Saltpan. In spite of its arid landscape, the park supports a rich diversity of reptiles, birds and mammals, including a number of threatened and endangered species. The park is home to the tallest elephants in Africa, to populations of both black and white rhinoceros, along with the rare Black-faced impala, the Tssesebe and the Gemsbok. Lions and leopards thrive in the park, as do populations of giraffe, zebra, hyena and springbok. Ostrich, flamingos and a rich variety of falcons, owls and hornbills add further diversity to the skies and plains of the region.

Arriving in the early afternoon, you will begin your safari to Namibia by exploring the park on a guided game drive. Given that this will be your first safari of the trip, it will be essential to make space in your day for the quintessential sundowner cocktail – perhaps had on the edge of the pan as the sky comes alive with color!

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 10: Spend a Full Day on Safari in Etosha National Park

Today will be devoted to exploring Etosha National Park on a series of guided game drives. Rising early in the morning to catch the park while it is at its most active, you will spend hours traversing yet another unique landscape in search of the resident species. Returning to camp for lunch and a rest, you will then depart on a second drive in the late afternoon. Meals will be a combination of bush picnics and fireside delights, providing the ultimate wilderness experience.

Etosha translates to the “place of dry water,” in reference to the 5,000 square kilometer pan, which acts as a focal point for the region. Most often, the pan creates a shimmering silver backdrop that perfectly contrasts the savannah grassland that surrounds it. Water is held for only a handful of days each year, which is often just enough to create the algae that sustains a vibrant pink flamingo population. Some guests opt to spend the entire drive circling this park, while others are keen to venture out into the shrub land in search of adventure. Today will ultimately be entirely yours to design.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 11: Return South by Road, Spending the Night at the Lush Waterberg Plateau Game Park

This morning, you will be able to rise early to fit in one final game drive before beginning your southern journey towards the capital. Spend a few final hours visiting favorite species or seeking out those that remain unseen  before returning to camp for breakfast. 

The remainder of the morning and early afternoon will be spent driving towards the Waterberg Plateau Game Reserve. After nearly two weeks of arid desert, the lush forests that characterize this unique region will be a welcome change. Spend the late afternoon on a scenic forest walk, soaking in the cool breeze and the natural beauty, before indulging in a final dinner in the wild. Tomorrow, you return to the city.

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 12: Travel through the Countryside, Arriving in the Capital City off Windhoek

Today, your journey will begin to draw to a close as you travel towards Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek. The morning will be spent driving through the countryside, observing dramatic shifts in landscapes and local culture. After roughly four and a half hours of driving, you will enter into the capital. What remains of the afternoon will be spent organizing your belongings for your international departure tomorrow and exploring all corners of the city. While Windhoek lacks the charm and character of Swakopmund, there are a number of pleasant parks perfect for reading a book as you collect yourself and unwind after this remarkable journey.

What’s Included: breakfast

Day 13: Arrive at Windhoek International Airport in Time for an International Departure

Enjoy a final few hours exploring Windhoek, before continuing on to the airport in time for your international departure home. For those among you who crave a few more days in Africa, it is of course entirely possible to further customize this itinerary and add on a few final days of exploration in Namibia, South Africa or perhaps Botswana. A canoe trip through Okavango Delta may just be the perfect way to round off this journey through a series of arid landscapes. 

Be sure to read the South Africa traveler reviews and the safari reviews of Namibia for more information and ideas.


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.