Nowhere is it as brittle as in Namibia – and nowhere in Africa can you travel more relaxed. BRIGITTE editor Nikola Haaks was rarely so dusty and happy. Your travel tips.
We wanted it the hard way: from row 37 D straight into the bush. No gentle acclimatization in the capital, Windhoek, but land, pick up a rental car and be the latest sundowner in the desert. However, the road to the Kalahari stretches, the car bumps over the uneven gravel road, and photographer Christian Kerber and I have trouble concentrating. Was the idea really good – drive straight after a long-haul flight? She was. And that’s what!
From everyday life to paradise – we can hardly believe it
As we arrive at the secluded “Camelthorn Lodge” south of Windhoek, it’s almost 4pm and the sun is turning everything into this incredible African afternoon light: the impala antelope and ostriches lazily wandering across the grounds, the reddish sand dune on the right hand, and our bungalows, whose ocher yellow on the dark Kalahari sand could not stand out better. A light between honey and caramel.
Seth, a co-worker, greets us cheerfully in the open lobby, and a little later we sit by the pool with a “Rock Shanty” – ginger ale , sprite, angostura – pinching us a couple of times and watching this busy day at dusk. Eaten in the candlelight on the wooden terrace: kudu steak, antelope, even shot. We catapulted ourselves without any transition from everyday life to paradise.
Our round trip begins in the quaint “Camelthorn Lodge”
The quaint “Camelthorn Lodge” is the beginning of our round trip through Namibia . Marlies and Volker, two young Namibian Germans, operate these, as well as the somewhat larger neighboring lodge “Zebra” and a tent camp. There are 5000 animals on the grounds, including oryx antelope, zebra, ostrich, wildebeest and giraffe. While the noble oryx and the impala like to stroll past the acacia trees by the pool, you can only see the other animals on a safari, to which Field Guide Bertus takes guests the next day. He is a true Herero, very tall, very slim – and very funny! His uncle, a Bushman, starred in 1980 in the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy”. The actor gene is thus in the family.
Bertus knows a lot and talks a lot while we marvel at nature in an open Land Rover. The sundowner, however, needs no further animation: the drinks are set up on the bonnet of the car, and we indulge in the light of the setting sun with a gin and tonic in our hands.
Sunrise in Sossusvlei – a color spectacle
With a heavy heart, but well arrived, we leave the lodge again after two days. We want to go west. Our goal: Sossusvlei, the legendary salt-clay pan surrounded by dunes. The landscape there is insanity: sharp-edged dune crests, ocher yellow or bright red depending on the light, sand in gentle waves as far as the eye can see. From time to time an oryx, with its long horns like an expensive booked extra in the picture pushes.
In the so-called Deadvlei are ancient acacia skeletons that put any extravagant art project in the shade. Here at the dead trees we argue a little bit for the first time. You have to get up early to be in the park for sunrise – otherwise it will be too bright and too hot – but then it’s an incredible experience that turns any photographer into a maniac.
From the Vlei through the Namib Desert
Christian can not stop taking pictures. However, there are still at least six hours drive ahead of us. On sandy tracks, some of which have deep ruts. I urge, he snaps, I nag.
We finally leave the Vlei in silence. But at the latest on the middle of the screeching Namib desert, we got along again. Here in the big nothing you should not even better rumbling. So we’ll be grinning together about the German station, which is drumming in the car radio and sounds like something from another time. Here, empty mayonnaise glasses are given away, rides offered or used chairs for sale. The hyggelige sharing feeling that is hyped in Germany so: In this vast country, in which the population density per square kilometer is less than three people, it is inevitably lived long.
Incredible landscape in roaring heat
The more disgusting a landscape, the more the soul goes to me. In these rugged foothills of the Namib Naukluft Park, near the inhospitable Kuiseb Canyon, I am fully in my element. I can not get enough of the wide surfaces in various greyish tones, only sometimes broken by lonely acacias.
As soon as you get out, kill a 38-degree hot-sword. We may meet two cars in five hours, even though Namibia is more traveled than ever. As we overtake two cyclists in the very deep sand, I doubt briefly about my mental condition. But – we stop and convince ourselves – the two are not mirages. If you like it extremely, just plan your bike ride here …
I drive my head more than free
After the desert comes the water: on the wild, deep blue Atlantic Ocean lies the small town of Swakopmund. Nature always does everything right. I remember this revelation from my last Namibia visit. I drove the “Golden Circle” by car, as we do now: Windhoek – Kalahari – Sossusvlei – Swakopmund – Etosha – Windhoek. I still remember how gloriously I drove my head free in this brittle impressive landscape, which then suddenly ends almost abruptly on the roaring ocean.
Swakopmund – seaside resort with retro charm
Sea air, fresh wind, small houses, beach promenade. The town actually has a similar retro seaside charm as its Baltic sister. And even at the extreme end of the world you know what is currently trend elsewhere: In a parking lot on the beach road is a food truck. Irene, 68, fries burgers and hotdogs with her daughter, “Boere Roll” is called here. Small extra income to supplement the pension – aging in Namibia is also not so easy, says Irene. Despite the almost always good weather …
If you really want to immerse yourself in Swakopmund, you can dine in the classic “The Tug”, a fish restaurant located at the beginning of the pier. But without a reservation you have no chance here.
We move into the quite new “Ocean Cellar”, where you can choose between sushi and ceviche, among other things. For the rather down-to-earth Namibia pretty far ahead! But for us Swakop remains – as the Namibians say – only a short refreshing stopover on the way to the bush, to the wild animals.
Lions and leopards in the Etosha National Park
One day later, in the Etosha National Park, one might think we were a little bit crazy. We drive at a relatively high speed a meandering sand road long, “faster” I call, “we have only 15 minutes!”. Unfortunately we drove into the park until late in the afternoon and had to be outside punctually at sunset at 7 pm. Otherwise we have to stay in the car.
We did not expect that we would even see any animals on our short trial trip, but already at the first water hole a leopard was deeply relaxed and within easy reach of our car. We could not tear ourselves away and now have a small problem. And then suddenly there is something on the way, too far away to classify it. A grayish silhouette. No one needs it now. “Probably a lion,” I laugh, convinced that I was joking. “It’s a lion,” says Christian and goes to the iron. And then she slowly strolls to the right into the bush, the lioness. Not without looking a bit contemptuous. Before sunset the hour of the animals seems to be. Probably, because then only a few stray people like us through the park.
Etosha offers a huge animal cinema
The next day we have more time and get really big cinema at the waterhole offered: gazelles join antelope, zebra and wildebeest together stretch their necks in the cool water, and from the distance an eight-headed elephant family geschlendert. All I’m waiting for is Noah’s Ark, where Elton John’s ballad “Circle of Life” is played somewhere, while the little baby elephants start playing in the water.
“Okonjima Nature Reserve” – a lodge with a mission
At the end of our tour, on the way back from Etosha to Windhoek, we treat ourselves to a special highlight: the “Okonjima Nature Reserve” near Otjiwarongo. There are 38 leopards and six cheetahs currently living in the 20000 hectare site.
In addition to two lodges, an exclusive Bush Suite and a camp site, the “AfriCat Foundation” is at home here. The Foundation is a kind of shelter for injured or traumatized leopards, because in contrast to the lions, which live in Namibia only in national parks, these big cats are actually free. As a result, more and more farmers are raising their fences to protect their livestock, setting traps or even shooting the animals. The number of leopards has declined so much in recent years.
Above all, the AfriCat Foundation looks after the animals that can be rescued from the traps of the farmers. Most of them are first observed in a smaller enclosure and treated if necessary, before they are, equipped with a transmitter, released back into the bush of the reserve. Here you can watch them on ranger-accompanied safaris. “Okonjima” is not cheap, but a lodge with a mission. Because the guests help to finance AfriCat.
Leopard safari and campfire – it can hardly get better …
The operators have been especially good with us and given us the Bush Suite for one night. A private house in the bush, modern, but completely in the African style, which is mainly booked by honeymoon couples, who want to let it rip. I would not be surprised if the Dream Dates from the next “Bachelor” shoot take place here.
From the spacious terrace you can look over a small pool directly on the savannah and a floodlit waterhole. Two antelopes make their evening walk in the distance, in the background the mountain silhouette is visible, as we enter our suite after the leopard safari.
“You can shake off everything from Africa, but not the dust”, lady of the house Selma greets us with a laugh. The sun soon sets, Selma has lit the wood on the open hearth, and we take place in the camping chairs. To top it off, Craig, our ranger, joins in to get his guitar out and start playing. Later we eat, drink wine, sit by the fire for a long time and look, look, look: antelopes, springboks, warts and porcupines – they all come to the water in the dark.
At night, the smell of the savannah blows around my nose
It’s so hard for me to go to bed. But the bedrooms have tent walls that you can roll up, and so I fall asleep with crickets, the spicy smell of the savannah and a slight breeze around my nose. At night I wake up a few times and look into the wide, dark silence of the savannah. More Africa is not working.
Nikolas tips for Namibia
The round trip is booked in a slightly longer form as a self-drive tour with car hire Marco Polo Travel (13 days from 2659 euros per person in a double room, without flight, accommodation in standard lodges, optional, there are also premium lodges from 3839 euros per Person in the double room). Who does not like to drive, can book a tour with their own driver (10 days, from 3759 euros per person in a double room, without flight). All information about www.marco-polo-reisen.com/individuell
Direct flights from Frankfurt with Air Namibia from 930 Euro or with Quatar Airways via Doha from 750 Euro (also bookable via Marco Polo Travel).
Best travel time
Namibia is a year-round destination, the peak season of most lodges (high prices!) From about May to October, so in the winter there.
Intu Africa Camelthorn Kalahari Lodge: Family run and enchanting with only a few thatched roof bungalows – each has its own private deck with views. Small pool, safaris. DZ / HP from 174 Euro (Kalahari, Tel. 63/24 08 55, www.intu-afrika.com/camelthorn.html ).
Sossusvlei Lodge: Very large resort in the style of a club hotel. The rooms are in individual bungalows, the great restaurant terrace offers wide views. DZ / HP from 196 Euro (Namib Desert, Tel. 63 29 36 36, www.sossusvleilodge.com ).
Swakopmund Sands Hotel: Small modern city hotel close to the water. The rooms have no direct sea view, but partly (small) terraces. DZ / F from 120 Euro (Strand Street 3, Swakopmund, Tel. 64 40 50 45, www.swakopmundsandshotel.com ).
Damara Mopane Lodge: New, colorful wooden houses, furnished in a modern style – for those who do not like classic safari style. In the evening a fire burns in the open restaurant – nice atmosphere. Double / Half Board from 160 Euro (Twyfelfontein, Tel. 61/42 72 00, www.gondwanacollection.com ).
Toshari Lodge: Modern, simple, not too big, with nice pool area. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the Etosha National Park, ideal for those who do not want to live in the state camps in the park. Double / F from 105 Euro (Etosha Park, Tel. 67/33 34 40, www.toshari.com ).
Okonjima Lodge: In addition to the exclusive Bush Suite (FB from 663 euros per person) there is the Luxury Bush Camp (DZ / HP from 460 euros), the simpler Plains Camp (DZ / HP from 300 euros) and the Campsuite (from 25 euros per person). From the lodges or the camp suite you can do small hikes. The leopards are in an extra secured area, which can only be visited with a guide (Otjiwarongo, tel. 67/31 40 00, www.okonjima.com ).
Hilltop Guesthouse: Simple but nice guesthouse with terrace and pool right in the capital Windhoek. Breakfast is served personally on the balcony for each guest. Perfect for the arrival or departure day. Ask for rooms on the first floor! DZ / F from 70 Euro (Tel. 81/24 52 750, Lessing Street 12, Windhoek, www.hilltop.com.na ).
Good to know
Due to the current high demand, you have to plan a Namibia trip on time – about a year before. Especially the more individual smaller lodges are quickly booked. Most car rental companies require a vehicle cleaned from the inside and outside. There are plenty of washing facilities in Windhoek (eg at petrol stations), but you have to plan at least one hour.
Area code Namibia 002 64
At the “Camelthorn Lodge” begins a new day
This is what morning sports looks like in Sossusvlei. Professionals start before sunrise.
Swakopmund is located on the Atlantic – more sea is not
Bathing: You meet at the waterhole in Etosha
Cheesy? Nope! A normal evening in Okonjima