If Namibia isn’t on your radar, I’m here to change that. If you’re searching for a cutting-edge adventure, a Namibia safari should be top of your bucket list. This under-the-radar destination contains a wide variety of wildlife adapted to the country’s distinct geography and climate. The lodges you come home to after each day’s adventure are nothing short of spectacular, as vetted by a handful of intrepid SmartFlyer travel advisors who have scouted breathtaking stays across the country.
Get ready to dream beneath the stars of Africa’s first designated International Dark Sky Reserve. Then, wake up in desert accommodations as you take in morning views of the misty Atlantic coast. Finally, relax poolside and watch an exotic mix of wildlife convene at a neighboring watering hole. So get your safari packing list in order, and let’s dive into what to expect on this epic safari through Namibia.
Who should go? Seasoned safari-goers who’ve checked off regions like the Serengeti, Kruger, and the Maasai Mara, or simply travelers seeking some lesser-known thrills.
What you’ll find? A picturesque journey through southern Africa’s natural sights and sounds
Insider tip: The Namibian landscapes are ideal backdrops for your next Instagram post. Pack some flowy garments and bright colors for photos that pop against the monochrome desert terrain.
Day 1 – Namibrand Nature Reserve
After your international flight to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, get ready to board your bush plane to the NamibRand Nature Reserve. This is one of the largest private reserves in southern Africa, serving as a sanctuary for countless species of wildlife. Make sure to take plenty of pictures of the craggy mountains and red dunes on your way to your first stay of the trip at Natural Selection’s Kwessi Dunes (pictured below). You’ll arrive with time to freshen up before your first of many sundowners on this trip; get ready for the magnitude of being immersed in the endless dunes.
At nightfall, convene back at the lodge with your fellow explorers and get lost in the awesome stars illuminating the night sky. If you’re relishing in the fresh air, the Natural Selection team will prepare an outdoor boma dinner for you to eat under the twinkling sky.
Head back to your accommodations where a star bed awaits outside; the NamibRand is Africa’s first designated International Dark Sky Reserve meaning it’s one of the least light-polluted areas in the world – and it shows.
Day 2 – Dunes
After resting in one of Kwessi Dunes’ spacious chalets overnight, wake up and choose how you want your guides to help you explore the nature reserve’s 15,000 hectares. We recommend the trip over to Sossusvlei, where you can take on the trek up to the top of Big Daddy, the second largest dune in the country. The best part? It may take over an hour to get to the summit, but the sprint to the bottom happens in mere moments.
After a long morning, you’ll be ready for a hearty lunch. Enjoy the outdoor spread just beyond Sossusveli created by your on-the-ground experts, Natural Selection. Upon your return to Kwessi Dunes, break away from traditional game drives by riding horseback or atop a quad bike. Or, take a nature walk for a chance at spotting the exotic black-backed jackals, aardwolves, and African wild cats.
Day 3 – Namib Desert
NamibRand Nature Reserve to Hoanib River
Start the day with a bucket list hot air balloon ride into the sky to catch a glimpse of the region’s golden sunrise from above. The fairy circles that dot the ground beneath you are worth observing; perplexing even scientists who’ve studied them, many people theorize that these natural phenomena are formed by poisonous fungi, termites, and even meteor showers. And while it’s always hard to say goodbye, after two memorable days immersed in the dunes, it’s time to pack up for your next stop, 700km away in northwestern Namibia.
In Namibia, it rings true that the journey is half of the fun. Today you’ll embark on a scenic flight above the coast where the desert meets the sea. Look out the window to spot abandoned diamond mines, flamingos, etc. After your scenic flight along the coast, begin your drive to Hoanib Valley Camp, on which there is an opportunity to stop by a nearby village for a cultural experience with the local Herero people. Though the Hoanib River only flows occasionally, it fills a dense underground aquifer that provides groundwater and salt licks for desert-adapted animals traversing the valley, including desert lions, elephants, and giraffes.
Hoanib Valley Camp is an elegant, intimate affair that arose as a joint venture between the local communities and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the world’s only Africa-wide giraffe conservation organization. A stay here immerses you into the wilds of the desert. After gathering around the fire before a hearty dinner, retire to just one of six suite-style tents for the night, hot water bottle included!
Day 4 – Hoanib River Valley
Wake up at dawn for a morning game drive out into the magnitude of your surroundings. At Hoanib Valley Camp, days are spent tracking endangered rhinos, desert-adapted elephants, and desert-adapted giraffes. Your guide will be sure to share more about the ground-breaking giraffe research conducted in this remote corner of Namibia, including the new species of giraffe that was recently studied in the region. For active travelers, consider embarking on a guided nature walk and uncover the smaller flora and fauna of the desert.
Days 5 and 6 – Skeleton Coast
Start the day with a drive through the Hoanib River valley towards Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, one of the few places in the world where the desert meets the ocean. This region is characterized by its whale and seal bones scattered throughout the coastline. There’s also an interesting array of wildlife that have adapted to this unique environment. Marvel at the large seal colonies as you drive across the gravel coastlines. If you’re lucky, you may catch sight of a herd of elephants or a pride of lions trekking towards the coast.
Arrive at Shipwreck Lodge and settle into your own shipwreck-shaped chalet nestled atop the high dunes with views of the Atlantic. Then, walk over to the lodge’s restaurant and spend a moment gazing at the landscape with your favorite drink in hand. After that, join the lodge’s designated guide on a sundowner drive to watch the sun descend behind the Roaring Dunes and into the sea.
The next day, take an all-day game drive out to the coast and catalog the distinctive flora and shipwrecks that inhabit the mist. Finally, spend the next day on a guided exploration of the dry riverbeds. Start with a sunrise breakfast and end with a visit to the Clay Castles, where your guide will help you pinpoint sightings of elephants and hyenas.
Days 7 and 8 – Windhoek
Following one last breakfast at Shipwreck Lodge, check out and board a private plane back to Windhoek. Here, you’ll hop in a car for one final day venturing through the Zannier Reserve, a 22000-acre wildlife conservancy located half an hour from the city. Even as you check in to your private One Bedroom Hut at Omaanda, you’ll notice how deeply immersed this boutique lodge is in its natural surroundings. You can easily watch a variety of wildlife drinking from the nearby watering hole just from your seat by the infinity pool.
Book a private savannah watch for close encounters with giraffes, warthogs, baboons, and more if you’re craving more adventure. The lodge’s guides use their extensive knowledge of the reserve’s wildlife to tailor a profoundly personal safari experience. Alternatively, head to the spa and experience full-body polishings and aromatherapy massages crafted from native roots, herbs, and spices. Reconvene with your fellow travelers at sundown around their boma firepit for a final starlit dinner and cocktails. After an extraordinary Namibia safari, it’s time to head home. Enjoy your à la carte breakfast before checking out and heading on a half-hour ride back into Namibia’s capital city.