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 when, having organized a flying safari for Richard Grant from The Telegraph, we set off for three extraordinary days that felt about as far from the daily routine as it’s possible to imagine.
DAY 1 - 4
TAKE TO THE SKIES
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.
Unlike textbook guides, the knowledge these men have was acquired by osmosis through their upbringing alongside their wild and personable diamond-miner turned conservationist father.
DAY 1 - 4
VIEWS TO MAKE YOUR HEART SING
Over three days we flew over massive seal colonies, skimmed over impossibly beautiful dune fields that stretched as far as the eye could see.
From the rocky Khomas Hochland west of Windhoek, over the red sands of the Namib and up the thrashing Atlantic Coast, the journey is one of continual change. Flying low in a Cessna 210, you can really appreciate the beauty of nature’s design, and every now and then, you set down to get a closer look.
DAY 1 - 4
BY DAY 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.
DAY 1 - 4
...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.
DAY 1 - 4
Highlights of the trips include tracking desert elephant, drives into the “roaring" dunes of the Skeleton Coast in 50 year old landrovers, held together with rust and barnacles, and landing off piste in impossibly remote deserts for walks into ancient canyons to examine the geology and get a glimpse of “living fossil" plants.
A NOTE FROM ALEX
A TRIP LIKE NOTHING ELSE
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.
At the end of the safari, you truly feel as though you have trodden where very few people have been before and that is indeed a privilege.
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.
Our experienced travellers include:
It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary.
All of us at Natural High have over 20 years’ experience in the countries we offer. We’ve lived there, worked there and arranged countless one-off journeys for clients. We live to travel – and love to share our tips on what’s really worth doing. For expert advice (and a traveller’s tale or two), speak to one of our team. They’ll be happy to let you in on their travel secrets, and help you plan a tailor-made trip that’s truly unforgettable.
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Desert safaris in Namibia