Day 1 - 2
Landing at Hosea Kutako International Airport gives you an impression of how private and uninhabited Namibia is going to be. It feels more like a provincial village airport, not one for a capital city. Meet with your Land Rover and the feeling of getting away is quickly reconfirmed. You’re driving towards Damaraland and already there’s virtually nothing but wilderness. The odd farmhouse whizzes by, a springbok skips onto deserted plains, and a dragon’s tail of mountain peaks guides your journey. Within an hour of landing you’re engulfed in Namibia’s captivating riddle; the landscapes are never monotonous but you find it impossible to elucidate how each vista is different.
Damaraland could be simplified. It’s just desert, valley, and rock. But what rocks! And what desert! Burning red and rising almost 200 meters above the plains, the strange domes of Spitzkoppe hide ancient rock art and glorious hiking trails. Wind around and up Brandberg Mountain to watch the desert unfurl onto the horizon, a kaleidoscope of color elegantly meandering across your panorama. Stop and listen. Silence. Train your ears to these new impressions of tranquility. Somewhere far away there is noise. Look up, look around, and an elephant plods along, making its long journey through Damaraland.
This is a landscape for exploring, for roaming on foot, by bike, or in your Land Rover. Ogle the ancient rock art in Twyfelfontein, the diagrammatic stories of ancestral Bushmen as poignant today as they’ve ever been. Stop for a picnic and gouge yourself on the views, not a single manmade creation in 360º of diaphanous beauty. Of course you don’t need to explore. From your raised wooden suite at Camp Kipwe there’s an almost mythical view, one that should feature on some space-based Hollywood epic. It’s an idyllic first stop for rest and flight recuperation, only a few noisy kudu interrupting the repose.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3 - 4
Even though this is a couples getaway, you can’t have it all to yourselves. Long before you arrived the local residents have been patrolling the landscape. It’s time to meet them, to say hello in grand Namibian fashion. Walk out onto the savannah and the white rhinos of Ongava are less than 20 meters away. Yes, the residents here are all four legged. Don’t get too close; they like their privacy as well. Hearts skip a beat and heads shake in bewilderment, then your partner grabs you by the hand and you admire in silence. All other thoughts evaporate as you track rhinos on foot, the microcosmic scene symbolic of Namibia’s ability to deliver experiences on a macro level.
White rhinos aren’t the only endearing mammals keeping you company in Ongava Game Reserve. Game drives loop between waterholes as they serve up a gripping collection of safari sights. Giraffe watch you from up high, diminutive dik dik poke their heads up from the grass, and a swishing tail alerts eyes to a leopard in the woodland. A skilled local guide unveils Ongava’s secret spots, secluded havens where you’re the only things on two legs. Fluttering through the trees and providing a melodious soundtrack are some 300 bird species, many of Namibia’s rare endemic species bringing their colorful wings before your camera.
Perched on a hill above the action, Little Ongave Camp exudes the privacy and romance of this unique vacation. They only have three units, each wonderfully separated and affording unending views onto Ongava and Etosha National Park. Giraffe wander past, springbok say hello in the morning, and a succession of four legged characters keep passing by your gorgeous en-suite room. The question is, from where do the two of you want to watch the wildlife? Perhaps from the outdoor bath that points towards the landscape. Maybe with champagne in hand in the sumptuous private sitting room. Or just sitting on the bed, opening the curtains, and indulging in the 24-hour-a-day safari experience.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5 - 6
A trumpeting call wakes you from slumber; the elephant herd announces their arrival in advance. Get up and watch them pass, steaming coffee and a sumptuous buffet breakfast accompanying the pachyderms. Ongava and Etosha National Park share unfenced boundaries and your game drives can explore both. Today you pack the picnic and elevate the intimacy levels, heading deep into Etosha and stopping beside the gaping whiteness of the salt pans. More elephants, this time the babies struggling to keep pace in the search for water. Now a herd of hartebeest, the largest of the antelopes, nuzzling into each other and suggesting that romance isn’t reserved for just you two. Even the lion pride looks suitably amorous, big cats grooming and frolicking without a care in the world. Small cubs play for your camera, testing their strength with exuberant wrestles. For over half an hour you marvel at the lions, adoration of the wild pride not interrupted by any other safari vehicles.
With the gleaming white in your periphery it’s time to move forward, more isolated places bringing Etosha’s 100 plus mammal species. Somehow the spotted hyena also look to be in a tender mood, or is it just the prevailing atmosphere that’s encircling these unique safari experiences. Etosha isn’t all about dating and love affairs. The scarcity of water brings deadly competition. On a map the Etosha pan is often colored blue. Blue for water. But this 75 mile long lakebed is shriveled and cracked for most of the year. Wild game journeys across it heading to the few permanent sources of liquid goodness. Bashful slurps at waterholes indicate that the ungulates are afraid. Stalking their thirsty journey are the salivating predators, and any attention in your partner is quickly abandoned as a leopard enters the scene. Hold each other tight and watch it unfold, the camouflaged predator merging into the dusty landscape and approaching unsuspected.
Excited narratives continue into the evening, the pair of you recalling what happened when big cat met zebra. Now a very different experience brings silence. It’s dark and hushed in Ongava, the safari truck waiting in the wilderness and moonlight failing to puncture the woodland canopy. Stay silent. Adjust your ears and there’s rustling. It’s getting closer. And closer. And now the guide turns on the spotlight and a whole herd grazes at phenomenal proximity. It could be elephants, hartebeest, kudu, or springbok. It could even be a pair of rhinos. That’s the beauty of a nighttime game drive; you’re never quite sure what’s lurking in the dark.
For these two days you continue to use Little Ongava Camp as a base, luxuriant meals delivered to your room and those views accompanying every time you take a shower. The safari program is flexible and private, allowing you to combine different experiences in a relaxed and easy way. You’ve already been walking up to the rhinos, but there’s more to discover on a walking safari. Nail scratches in the tree branches indicate nearby claws, the freshness of the scar providing indicative clues to a leopard’s location. Walking through big cat country sounds scary, but your local guide has been tracking wildlife since he was old enough to walk. He learnt it from ancestors, and they’ve passed down 40,000 years of animal tracking knowledge. So relax, follow his instructions, and marvel at the intimacy of a walking safari. Everything seems a lot bigger when you’re down at ground level.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 7 - 8
The Caprivi Strip is Namibia’s peculiar panhandle, a thin jut of land that’s flanked and defined by famous rivers. Wildlife has the right of way on the roads, tens of thousands of wild elephants crossing the Caprivi and migrating to permanent water. It’s a rarely explored part of the country, yet this narrow strip of fertile landscape is where you’ll find four national parks and a complete collection of Africa’s safari greats. Leave Etosha and head east, cruising alongside the Okavango River and marveling at Popa Falls en route. Keep driving through elephant country, a healthy population of these playful beasts part of the scenery as you cut through Mahangu Game Park.
If the Caprivi feels like one big safari adventure it’s because it is. It’s an integral part of the Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, Africa’s largest unfenced wildlife area. The migrants pass through at will, and those with four hooves are cleverly escorted by those with four paws. In Bwabwata National Park there are some permanent residents that clearly have something to say. Hippos line the rivers, grunting and snorting as they wade into the shallows. They’re not sharing the water, young males boisterously splashing around and causing the ungulates to drink from somewhere farther downstream.
Cruise down the rivers on a boat safari, winding around different pods of raised snouts. Contrary to their watery residence, hippos are terrible swimmers. Instead they walk out to their daytime spots, each splash into the water gleefully captured by your camera. Nile crocodiles are fonder of the passing herds and the resident predators lick their lips at anyone crossing Bwabwata. Despite the splashing and posturing, a safari here is wonderfully laid-back, particularly as you float down the river. Just watch out for those hippos; you’ll be hearing their huffing and puffing through the night, your sumptuous lodge located on the banks of the Okavango River.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 9 - 10
Wild doesn’t sound like a strong enough adjective to describe Nkasa Rupara National Park. The grass grows and roams, high river reeds provide shocks of lush green, and there’s virtually nowhere that isn’t dominated by water. Throughout most of the year Nkasa Rupara is a wet wonderland, brimming with floodplains, river channels, and swamps. It’s quite an adventure, the safari truck splashing up mud and slithering through marshy trails. Nothing interrupts the wild game here, because, well, man and his inventions simply aren’t suited to the environment. While the Land Rover wriggles around the mammals look on in bewilderment. Black-faced impala skip through the water, hippos can’t understand why you’re so afraid of getting dirty, and then the oryx and Sable antelope herds wander past without offering a helping hand. The wheels spin and you sink further into the mud. Don’t worry, your guide is experienced in getting out of the swamp. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy nature’s great theater.
Nkasa Rupara showcases what can happen in a place of abundance. After four desert-like environments, this national park divulges a new version of Namibian wilderness. There’s also a new cast of characters, like the little puku or the charming red lechwe. And don’t discount the popular favorites. Even after 10 days you won’t have bored from seeing lion prides or hippos. Sometimes you may cuddle up in bed and wish that the elephants would stop trumpeting past, but you don’t mean that really. You're just a little overawed because it’s hard to go five minutes without seeing an elephant. Nkasa Lupala Lodge compliments the experience and allows you to admire the wildlife without sliding through the swamp in the Land Rover.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 11 - 12
Victoria Falls is always heard before it's seen. A deep rumble sits on the horizon, almost like an unrelenting thunder cloud in the distance. Despite being one of Africa's most iconic and visited destinations, there's still a wonderful sense of seclusion and romance in Victoria Falls. Your lodge overlooks the mighty Zambezi and even now the wildlife is inescapable. Sit on the balcony and listen to the rumble. And what's this? A troop of baboons swinging past! It's less than two hours from Nkasa Lupala to Livingstone and the sumptuous Waterberry Zambezi Lodge. You might have crossed to Zambia but the private getaway continues.
On day 12 you start with a cacophonous close-up, exploring the world's most powerful waterfall on foot and becoming engulfed by its fiery roar. Cross narrow bridges that get drenched by spray, admire a dozen different views of the falls, and watch 1000 tons of water drop into the abyss every second. Of course it's beautiful, although few are anticipating the intensity of the experience. The afternoon brings a cinematic panorama, a helicopter taking you above this natural wonder and revealing astonishing views of the Zambezi River and its ancient chasm. It's a fitting finale to this inimitable vacation; an effortless and private blend of tranquility, adventure, and natural splendor.
Livingstone's International Airport is well connected and makes for an easy departure from Africa. Connect via Johannesburg and cross the Atlantic, both of you filled with indelible memories.
If you aren't ready to leave Namibia, consider adding on to your customized trip. Browse the Namibia safari trip reviews for additional ideas of what to see in Namibia.
Namibia redefines concepts of space and wilderness. Within its epic landscapes you’ll find prowling big cats, white and black rhinos, and an endearing collection of Africa’s other great mammals. But the two of you will rarely find people. Even when thousands of elephants are rumbling past you stand alone with nature. You look at each other and wonder why. Why aren’t others accessing this natural splendor? Why is this country so intimate yet so undiscovered?
Namibia doesn’t need to be shared because there’s so much of it. On this unique, couples itinerary, you will visit six different national parks and game reserves, and that’s just a handful of what the country can offer. Furthermore, Namibia rewards the discerning traveler, offering ultimate safari experiences to those who are the most appreciative, not ruining the magic with abundant tour groups. It’s more than a private getaway. It’s a total submersion in an alternative world, one that’s ruled by the Big Five.
Over 13 days you both travel from the Namibian capital, Windhoek, to the majestic Victoria Falls in Zambia, the journey packed with national parks and wilderness exploration. Namibian roads are in excellent condition and you may see as many elephants on them as vehicles, particularly towards the end of the trip. Destinations easily link together and two options are included. Take some time together and self-drive, or be driven by an experienced guide. At each national park, a specialist guide will unveil their local knowledge and take you deep into big cat and rhino country.
After landing in Windhoek you head straight out to the lunar landscapes of Damaraland, peculiar rock formations and desert elephants punctuating a vast uninhabited land that epitomizes Namibia’s beauty. Drive north to safari experiences that are drenched in intimacy and oozing with authenticity. Track white rhinos on foot in Ongava, take nighttime game drives that reveal a mystical nocturnal world, have a picnic beside teeming waterholes, and watch nature’s great roam across the shimmering Etosha salt pans. Ogling a hunting scene is a real possibility here; lion prides and leopards are the apex predators in arguably Africa’s most beguiling national park.
After Ongava and Etosha you drive east, cruising along the captivating Caprivi Strip. Elephant herds migrate across this land, joining the resident hippos and being followed by a coruscating collection of antelopes. By now you’ll have learned that anywhere populated with four hooves attracts those with four paws. You’ll stop in two national parks along the Caprivi, although you will also drive through another two en route.
Supplementing and enhancing your experience are secluded luxury camps and lodges, each offering wonderful isolation and privacy; except, of course, for the wild game that roams past your verandah all day and night.
Completing this inimitable itinerary are three majestic days at Victoria Falls, with your journey crossing into neighboring Zambia. Aesthetic beauty meets with astonishing power here, and like always, a luxury lodge is surrounded by charming characters, not other people.
$5845 per person (excluding international flights)
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