Flying up Namibia's Skeleton Coast to land in impossibly remote and beautiful spots is a safari you'll never forget
If I were looking for a simple answer to the question, “What’s Namibia like?” I’d begin by directing you to a satellite image of Sub Saharan Africa and suggest you looked at the bottom left hand corner. And I‘d expect that the first thing you’d notice, was that in contrast to the lush green of the rest of Sub Saharan Africa, the southwestern tip of the continent is bright orange, and looks as if it’s been dipped in a pot of sepia ink.
And simplistic as it sounds, this ought to give you a clue what to expect when you get to Namibia; a country dominated by a staggering sense of space, an overwhelming intensity of light and colour…and quite a lot of sand.
With its immense deserts and elaborate rock formations, epic clear blue skies and incredible colours, (most of which sit between blue and orange in the spectrum), this must be one of the most photogenic places in the world. When you see your photos from Namibia, you too will feel like a National Geographic photographer.
Surprisingly for a country that is roughly 90% desert, Namibia lends itself well to a self-drive exploration. You can easily head off for a couple of weeks driving your self between one remote gem of a camp and the next, but If you’re looking for a truly exceptional way in which you see it - to experience it close up as well as from afar; examining minerals in a remote desert floor on your hands and knees, or viewing radiantly coloured desert landscapes like huge expressionist works of art, then it doesn’t get better than from a small light aircraft piloted, and guided, by someone who’s experience of the country is born of a lifetime of exploring it.
This is how I was lucky enough to experience it last November, when, having organized a flying safari for Richard Grant from The Telegraph (due to be published 8th Feb 2014), we set off for three extraordinary days that felt about as far from the daily routine as it’s possible to imagine.
Picked up in Swakopmund by the highly charismatic Henk Schoeman, youngest of the four Schoeman brothers, we were whisked away at what would have been treetop height if there had been any. Over three days we flew over massive seal colonies, skimmed over impossibly beautiful dune fields that stretched as far as the eye could see.
We landed on beaches in the middle of nowhere, touched down in remote desert canyons that felt like they’d never seen a human, flew in intense evening light over magical landscapes populated with magnificently marked oryx, drove and ran down monstrous dunes and crawled into caves to discover bushman rock art.
By night we slept in the Schoeman’s wonderfully old-school camps, ate like kings, drank plenty and laughed a great deal, which isn’t hard to do in the relaxed company of Henk.
The danger these days, with too much information too readily available, is that you might - if you’re unlucky - discover too much about this trip before you get there. All I can say is that this would be a real shame. Resist the urge to over research this, trust to more than 40 years of Schoeman know-how and you’ll most likely be letting yourself in for a treat that you’ll never forget.
In 20 years of running and organizing safaris, including many years flying as a bush-pilot in some of East Africa’s most stunning and wild locations, I honestly thought I’d lost the capacity to be that blown away by an experience. Thank goodness I was wrong.
We organise safaris to Namibia from self drive to flying safaris - drop us an email if you'd like some information.