Here is a little snippet of my EPIC 2-week adventure from the Skeleton Coast to the Desert adapted elephants of Damaraland and everything in between…
The start: Windhoek, Namibia
Small, friendly, modern, engaging. Windhoek is a neat Germanic little town that has been going since 1840, with just 230,000 inhabitants making up a little over 10% of the whole of Namibia’s population.
We stayed overnight in this neat, compact capital city, which is so well worth exploring. Close to our hotel we had several restaurants representing a variety of countries, and further afield, you’ve got museums, galleries, craft markets, botanical gardens, and some interesting historical buildings to discover.
Big Daddy Dune and the Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei
The sand dunes of Sossusvlei are often referred to as the highest dunes in the world. Various arguments support this claim, but all miss the point that Sossusvlei is surely one of the most spectacular sights in Namibia. Located in the Namib Naukluft Park – the largest conservation area in Africa and fourth largest in the world – the sand dunes at Sossusvlei are just one excellent reason to visit Namibia.
Sossusvlei is one of four pans in amongst the towering dunes, the others being Dead Vlei – named because of the petrified camel thorn trees that survived for a few hundred years after the dunes blocked the river.
We drove about 60km down a road lined with enormous iron-oxide dunes. We hiked up Big Daddy Dune and came across unreal shapes, colours, textures, and landscapes, accentuated by the ancient trees and desert-adapted wildlife like gemsbok, springbok, and ostrich.
This is a photographer’s haven, especially in the morning light, when the shadows magnify the sharp edges of the dunes, the red Namib sands shine and the area is just so beautiful.
The Dead Pan is also one of the most amazing places to visit – just a short hike from one of the parking areas.
From Soss to the Namib Desert
From Sossusvlei we had our private charter flight south-west into the Namib Desert, but you can also drive between the two.
We left the city life behind and the Namib Desert started showing off. We saw so many viewpoints along the way, capturing stunning pictures of the beautiful landscape from above.
Ever changing and just incredibly captivating.
At our lodge, very early the next day…it was time for THE HOT AIR BALLOON over Soss… An absolutely MUST. It is almost indescribable!
A representative from Namib Sky Ballooning collected us from our lodge and took us to the launch point, where the balloon was blown up before our eyes.
We then climbed aboard with our very entertaining pilot, and up we soared above the Namib Desert… On landing, we had a full feast and champagne breakky waiting for us. What a treat and the pics and video say it all!
Namib Desert Activities
So many activities to do here: nature trails, hikes, off-road buggies, scenic flights, sundowner drives, bush dinners, and guided excursions to the Sossusvlei dunes. The private reserve is a fascinating showcase for the ancient living desert of Namib. Desert-adapted species of animals, birds, plants, insects, and reptiles make for an interesting and out of the ordinary.
We then embarked on our scenic flight over the dunes, diamond mines, sand-scapes and more to the funky little town of Swakopmund.
Swakopmund has many interesting German-influenced buildings from the early 1900s in a variety of styles: from a fairy-tale railway station, a neo-baroque Lutheran Church to Haus Hohenzollern – purportedly a brothel in its hey-day. There’s also a Museum with the local archaeology, ethnology, flora, fauna, history, and mining and a Marine Aquarium is an engaging display of inshore reef marine life and coastal birds. We made our way into the Swakop night to an incredible little bar filled with locals and a live rock band… all that you would expect from a small town with interesting people, fantastic community vibes, GREAT food (crayfish caught that day by our guide) and superb hospitality.
Swakopmund and Walvis Bay have a lot on offer for the adventure-seeker!
We did a WHOLE lot, including quad-biking, sand-boarding, dune-boarding, horse-riding, fat biking, and almost (but lost our nerve) skydiving. The fat biking in particular… what a thrill to be able to ride a bike up a dune.. On the Scenic Desert Tour you simply take in the silence and breath-taking scenery of the oldest desert in the world while feeling the fresh coastal air… I absolutely loved every second.
The Skeleton Coast… the next destination and one of my dreams.
Beyond Terrace Bay, the Skeleton Coast Park lies vast, brooding and impenetrable.
The Skeleton Coast is a sliver of desert that spans 1,500km from the Orange River in the south to the Kunene River and Angolan Border. Despite its macabre name – given by sailors wary of the strong winds, shifting sandbanks and rusting wrecks – the northern section of the great Namib Desert is full of life and is one of my favorite destinations in the WORLD.
The name Skeleton Coast comes from the 1800’s whale hunters that left a vast amount of whale skeletons and shipwrecks along the coast. The desolation and arid area are just open plains like a skeleton.
Desert-adapted flora and fauna are rife: lichens (a symbiotic relationship of fungi and algae); the fascinating Welwitschia; dune-creating dollar bushes; and whole ecosystems in the linear oases along with the dry river courses. Jackals and the brown hyena prey on the seals at Cape Cross, and elephant and rhinos traverse the eastern parts in search of food and water; kudu, gemsbok, springbok, steenbok, genet, and wild cat frequent the vegetated valleys and lure the occasional predator.
Shipwreck Lodge Stay
Shipwreck Lodge is the only lodge situated inside the Skeleton Coast Central Concession, an area of 146,600 hectares. It was built with a nautical feel with modern and minimalistic elegance. Wooden finishes, neutral in unity with the surrounding desert landscapes and distant Atlantic. Understated yet indulgent. Cozy and all conducive to an atmosphere of utmost relaxation and comfort, whether in your cabin or lounging in the main area, we felt right at home.
The activities here were singular and fascinating. A half-day 4×4 Hoarusib River drive to the Clay Castles; a beach walk and sundowner, sandboarding, and quad biking… always to winners in the desert for the adrenaline hit OR just perusing through and over the dunes.
Stay tuned for PART 2 – Where we head off to Damaraland
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