Untamed. Unrivalled. Unforgettable. Writer and Editor, Robbie Stammers, spends a spectacular 18-day road trip across the length and breadth of Namibia, to experience all that the Naturally Namibia group offers.
Following on from the first part of my journey in the last newsletter, we continue on.
From Okonjima, I headed back to Windhoek, where I met up with Henk Schoeman from the Skeleton Coast Flying Safaris. I had already heard loads about the legend of the Schoeman family and their love and knowledge about the Skeleton Coast but nothing quite prepares you for just how incredible this experience is.
‘Flying high’, Skeleton Coast Safaris is one of the most fascinating ways to explore Namibia’s wild northwest.
Here you experience fascinating bird’s-eye views of shipwreck remains along the coast, diverse and ever-changing geological formations, and the refuges of desert-dwelling animals such as the endangered black rhino and desert-adapted elephant. Guests are taken on excursions by Land Rover to be introduced to the scenic and ecological aspects of the environment with its wide diversity of flora and fauna.
Henk is an expert with decades of collective experience with a wonderfully dry sense of humour. I frankly felt like I found my Mojo flying above the desert. Who knew it had been sitting there all this time in Covid! Accommodation consists of three incredible tented desert camps that nestle into the natural environment. The first of these is in the lower reaches of the Huab River, the second on top of a beautiful ridge overlooking the Hoarusib Valley in Kaokoland, and the third on the north-western Namibian border overlooking the Kunene River. I never knew this was on my bucket list until I did it and was enthralled.
Saying a sad farewell to Henk, I was met by Roger Fussell from Big Sky Lodges on my landing in Swakopmund and we headed off to a lovely lunch in Walvis Bay and then onto Villa Margherita for the evening. A charming boutique hotel for connoisseurs in the heart of historic Swakopmund where the fusion of contemporary art and colonial history becomes an eclectic luxury.
Swakopmund is not just a beautiful historical town, but also a hub for a whole host of activities from boat cruises, sandboarding, quad biking to fat bikes, desert tours and more.
At Villa Margherita, we had an impeccable dinner and woke up early the next day to watch the Springbok rugby game (we lost!) before heading off on a 5-and-a-half-hour journey to Etendeka in the Kaokofeld. The greatest pleasure of driving through Namibia is that any journey flits by so quickly as each different valley or turn, reveals an incredible new vista or flora. It is like a Director shouting “Change Set!’ from one place to another one.
Set in the foothills of the Grootberg massif, Etendeka Mountain Camp appeals to the traveller who is prepared to step outside of their comfort zone and experience this remote wilderness with its harsh beauty in an authentic way. Here one is reminded that we are all guests of Mother Nature. A rich and diverse environment to be explored on foot or a scenic drive.
Here Roger and I met up with Dennis Liebenberg, who has been here for more than two decades and is a legend in the area. Etendeka Mountain Camp was one of Namibia’s first safari camps, and since 1993 has been known as a gem by aficionados (The crystals on the walk alone will have you gobsmacked).
Etendeka offers both their Mountain Camp, along with incredible Walking Trail options. We had planned one day of the 2-or-3-day walking trail as a “taster” and spent the night at Hill Camp, where we slept under the stars (literally under the stars as we had open-roofed tents on the foothill of the mountain) The next morning we were treated to an incredible 14km walk through the beautiful surroundings, witnessing loads of animals as we walked with our guide. Our next night was spent at the Mountain Camp, where Dennis amazed us with a star-gazing and a telescope treat of everything planetary.
With no rest for the wicked, Roger and I headed off to the Eronga Mountain range to our next destination, Ai-Aiba. Ai-Aiba -The Rock Painting Lodge is famous for its countless rock painting sites (over 200 in fact and counting!) and is a mystical exploration of nature.
If the energy of the granite mountains inspires, guests can join a nature drive with one of the experienced guides, learn about bushman rock art, explore the beautiful granite landscape by foot, or visit the San Living Museum (Absolutely authentic and riveting). Ai Aiba has developed a network of Mountain Bike trails that will blow mountain bikers’ minds and allow them to explore this spectacular landscape at their own pace. (These trails range from “Slow-Coach whilst watching giraffe” to proper hardcore trails at your discretion) And then Roger and I were off for another epic road trip, thankfully enjoying the same music and each other’s company, we headed off for a 7-hour journey to Sossusvlei.
Last but by no means least, was my Bucket List item, Namib Sky Balloon Safaris. At sunrise, in the world’s oldest desert, one starts off witnessing a spectacular hot air balloon inflation, followed by the flight of a lifetime. Soaring with the winds for an hour, over the oceans of sand and mountains, endless vistas of shadows and lights. Whether it’s the Sossusvlei dunes or the splendour of the desert, your heart will skip a beat. Then you come back down to earth with an “Out Of Africa” style Champagne breakfast set up in the middle of nowhere. It is an experience like no other, the experience of a lifetime.
Founded in 1991 by Eric and Nancy, Namib Sky has now been carried on to the second generation, Denis and Andreia Hesemans. I feel it must also be mentioned that 10 years ago, Namib Sky created a trust to help the community in the Sossusvlei area and founded “Little Bugs”, the first Early Childhood Development and Primary school in the area. Beginning with 4 local children and Denis and Andreia young daughter. Little Bugs now miraculously hosts up to 50 kids, fetching them by bus every day and driving them back after school, doing over 100km within the Sossusvlei area in order to ensure all children have access to education.
And with a bump as much as the Hot Air balloon hitting the ground, so ended my incredible time in Namibia. What an absolute pleasure and a lifetime experience to treasure. New friends and memories forever are banked. During this trip, we decided to come up with a slogan for the Naturally Namibia group and it took only a few seconds to come up with Untamed. Unrivalled. Unforgettable. It sums it all up perfectly.
Written by Robbie Stammers