Saturday, December 12, 2015

Why we went to Namibia

Every couple of years we try to plan a longer-than-usual vacation to a destination we are interested in that requires a bit of time to explore.

Our first long journey was in 2005 to visit Botswana (safari), Zambia (Victoria Falls), and South Africa (Cape Town region). We fell in love with the experience and returned to Africa in 2008 to experience Botswana in the winter (our earlier trip was during the summer) and see Victoria Falls again with water actually flowing (summer time was low flow and not very falls-like). While on these trips we met many folks whom had traveled through Africa and we would ask them where should we visit next. They all would answer Namibia.

Namibia is not a typical safari destination like Kenya, Tanzania, or Botswana. Game-viewing favorite animals are only found in the northern section where there's actually water in rivers provided by the rains in Angola. The Namib Desert is the oldest desert in the world and is home to the largest sand dunes. The Skeleton Coast is a beach destination like no other with rough seas, shipwrecks, and colonies of flamingos and seals. Namibia is the second least-densely populated country with 2.3MM people living in an area 1/2 the size of Alaska. The country was colonized by Germany, part of the British Empire, then ruled by South Africa until 1990. Over 80% of the country is Christian and the official language is English.

We tried to pull this trip off in 2009/2010 but the Namibian tourist infrastructure was not as well defined as it is today. Our agent advised us we could do a self-driving tour, but driving 300 miles at a time through the desert didn't sound like an appealing option. Waiting a few years allowed for the opening of new lodges/camps in unique locations and time for the fly-in options to develop. We decided to save up money and frequent flier miles to have our trip coincide with our 20th wedding anniversary.


Using Thanksgiving weekend as an anchor for our trip we knew we could work in a two week touring schedule. We definitely wanted to see the big sand dunes which meant we had to go south to Sossusvlei. Sand boarding (sleigh riding in sand) sounded fun and they do that in the coastal town of Swakopmund. Dave wanted to see Twyfelfontein - a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with cave art. Holly always wanted to see the Skeleton Coast with its shipwrecks. A couple camps had quad biking available as an activity so we were hoping to work that in as well.

We used to book our entire trip. They are a Cape Town based online agency we discovered in 2003 when planning our first trip. We've worked with our agent Bonita for 8 years and trust her with our trips. All of our Botswana safari camp experiences were in lodges owned by Wilderness Safaris. Since we liked the experiences and services they provided we only considered their lodges in Namibia. We looked through the Wilderness offerings and matched up areas/camps with our interests. We booked the preliminary itinerary in August 2014 and secured our frequent flier tickets in January 2015. Based on the flights we booked, and the in-country flights provided through Wilderness Air, we ended up having to add another night in Windhoek because we couldn't get back to Johannesburg from our final camp in time to make the flight to London.

Since we are affiliated with American Airlines / One World Alliance,  British Airways offered the most direct route for us to use our miles for free tickets. We went from Chicago to London, London to Johannesburg, then Joburg to Windhoek. All flights had long layovers. We have been hoarding miles for this occasion and had enough to book at minimum business class. This helped us sleep on all the overnight flights with full-flat seats and helped us relax at the airports with lounge access (lounges save lives). We left on a Thursday evening and finally landed in Namibia Saturday afternoon. The return trip had only one overnight flight.

The end result of all this work and time planning was a fantastic trip! More information to come in upcoming posts.


  1. So happy to see this report - looking forward to more!

  2. Thanks Laura. We have tons to go through and post.