Cape and Dunes Experience Map
Day 1 Arrive Windhoek
Arrive in Windhoek and make your way to the hotel. Attend a pre-departure group meeting with your CEO scheduled for the evening. Please make sure you have all of the necessary visas for this tour by the time of the welcome meeting. It is very important to read the Visa section in our trip details to make sure which visas you will need, if any. Please note that not all nationalities are able to obtain a visa on arrival at the border.
Windhoek is the capital of Namibia, It has a population of 230,000 and is a major trade centre of sheep skins. Windhoek was originally the centre of a Nama chief, who defeated the Herero inhabitants of the region in the 19th century. Germany occupied the region in 1885, and it became the seat of colonial rule in 1892, as the capital of the colony of South-West Africa (Deutsch-Südwestafrika). During World War I, Windhoek was captured by South African troops and became a British dominion. Until the independence of Namibia was inaugurated in 1990, Windhoek was recognized as the capital of South West Africa as administered by the South African government. It continues today as the capital of the Republic of Namibia. The city of Windhoek is traditionally known by two names: Ai-Gams, from the Nama people, which literally refers to the hot springs that were once part of Windhoek, while the second name, Otjomuise, meaning a place of steam, was given by the Herero people. Both traditional names reference the hot springs.
Possible things to visit: Christuskirche & Alte Feste
Day 2 Waterberg Plateau Game Park (B,L,D)
Approximate Distance: 280 km
Estimate Travel Time: 6 Hours
Head north to Waterberg Plateau Game Park, where in the afternoon you can take a scenic forest walk to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
For those who are up for it, can get their hiking shoes on to do the hike up to the Waterberg plateau with its magnificent view over the plains of Namibia.
Day 3-4 Etosha National Park (2B,2L,2D)
Approximate Distance: 380 km
Estimate Travel Time: 8 Hours (including game drive)
Etosha in waMbo means "the great white place of dry water" or “white place of mirages” . As one of Africa’s highlights, the Etosha National Park offers a variety of wildlife and phenomenal natural beauty.
Upon arrival in the area in the afternoon, we continue on a game drive around the huge dry pan to find the elephants, herds of antelope and lions around the waterholes. After sunset you can watch some animals at the watering holes near the camping area, which is safe, being well lit with flood lights. Game drives are done in our overland vehicle. Night game drives are done by Namibia Wildlife Resorts in open vehicles (optional, at extra cost). The following day, enjoy another game drive en route as we travel towards the eastern side of Etosha.
A brief animal count of Etosha National Park: 30 000 Blue Wildebeest; 25000 Springbok; 23000 Zebra; 5000 Kudu; 3000 Hartebeest; 3000 Gemsbok; 2600 Eland; 450 Giraffe; 2000 Elephant; 260 Lions; 20 Black Rhino; 325 Bird species.
Etosha National Park in Namibia was first established in 1907, when Namibia was a German colony known as South West Africa. At the time, the park’s original 100,000 sq km made it the largest game reserve in the world. Due to political changes since its original establishment, the park is somewhat less than a quarter of its original size, at 22,912 sq km, but still remains a very large and significant area in which wildlife is protected.
The Etosha Pan dominates the park. The salt pan desert is roughly 130 km long and in places as wide as 50 km. The salt pan is usually dry, but fills with water briefly in the summer months, when it attracts pelicans and flamingos in particular. Periannual springs attract a variety of game and birds throughout the year, including the endangered Black Rhinoceros and the endemic Black Face Impala.
The name Okaukuejo (our first night’s camp) is derived from oKakwiyo, meaning “place of the fertile women”. It began as a veterinary post created by the Germans during a rinderpest epidemic in 1897. In 1901 a small fort was built here as a military stronghold. Namutoni, our camp for the second night in the park, was named after a spring found in the area. The waMbo called the spring oMutjamatund (high landmark). The name got distorted through the years. In 1903 a small fort was built at Namutoni, and it was maintained as a police outpost and customs post by the Germans.
Day 5 Damaraland (B,L,D)
Approximate Distance: 300 km
Estimate Travel Time: 8 Hours (including game drives)
Enjoy one last morning game drive, and begin moving south into the stony desert landscapes into Damarland. In the afternoon explore the area, which is adorned with rock engravings and petrified fossil forests.
About 100 000 Damara people live in Namibia, they share a common language with the Nama but have no kinship. The Damara have mystified anthropologists as they are a group of Bantu origin who speak a Khoisan dialect. Due to their resemblance to some Bantu groups of West Africa it is speculated that the Damara were the first people to migrate to Namibia from the north. There is evidence that the Damara have kept small herds of stock for centuries, they also grow tobacco and pumpkins, and in more recent time they have begun cultivating vegetables and corn. Prior to 1870 the Damara occupied most of central Namibia, but large numbers were displaced or killed when the Nama and Herero began to occupy this area in search of better grazing. When the first Europeans visited Namibia the Damara were a group of semi-nomadic gardeners, pastoralists and hunter-gatherers. They also had skills in mining and metal work. However in 1960 the South African government settled the Damara people in the area of Twyfelfontein and Khorixas, now known as Damaraland. The area has poor soil and irregular rain fall, and as such this has changed the way of life of the Damara and many now work in urban areas, with only about one quarter of their numbers actually residing in Damaraland.
This area is a famous for the bushmen paintings found in the region. The valley is known in the Damara language as Uis (fountain). This natural spring (when is flowed) attracted game animals and man. But the consistency of water flow has always been erratic, thus the Europeans named it Twyfelfontein (Doubtful fountain).There are numerous well-preserved rock engravings here. Their origin is uncertain, but they are probably the work of Bushmen or Nama artists and are estimated to have lived in the area 5 000 years ago.
Day 6-7 Swakopmund (B,L)
Approximate Distance: 425 km
Estimate Travel Time: 7.5 Hours
Heading south through Damaraland, en route if time allows, we’ll have a chance to visit some of the local attractions, such historic rock engravings, a petrified fossil forest, or see the “organ pipes”. We will spend 2 nights in Swapokmund, here you can explore this historical town or try some of the numerous activities available, such as dune boarding and a dolphin cruise.
Swakopmund has mind-boggling lunar landscapes, unforgettable sunsets, and bizarre prehistoric Welwitchia plants. The Topnaar people who live in the valley of the Swakop River derived the name from the mud, flotsam, and general detritus washed down during its infrequent floods, which reminded them of very loose evacuation of the bowels.
Almost a full four centuries later, the area, then known as South West Africa, was under Germany control. In choosing a location for a port, German captain Curt von Francois chose this site, north of Walvis Bay (an already existing English-controlled port), at the mouth of the Swakop River, for creating an artificial harbour. A military fort was built here in 1892, which was the beginning of Swakopmund. The building of the railway began in 1895. After the First World War, Germany lost occupation and the port/harbour was automatically displaced by Walvis Bay.
Namibia is well known for its desolate northern coastline called the Skeleton Coast. Along the West coast of Namibia flows the Cold Benguela Current. Also along the coastline is a very hot desert. What happens is that the cold, moist air from the sea mixes with the warm air from the desert and forms a very heavy mist. This mist over hundreds of years has caused many shipwrecks along the coast and if the sailors survived they soon perished in the unforgiving desert. It is from this, and from all the wrecks and shells of stranded ships along the coast, that the region received its name. As you approach the coastline you will see the band of mist.
In 1486 Portuguese Diego Cáo landed just north of what is now Swakopmund and erected a stone cross in honour of John II of Portugal. Known nowadays, as Cape Cross, the area is commonly visited by tourists looking for the large population of Cape Fur Seals that inhabit the coast.
NOTE ON ACCOMMODATION: In Swakopmund, we stay in backpacker's (hostels) or small guest houses, which will give us a break from camping and to be better located than the campgrounds in the area. Here, the accommodation is based on several people sharing dormitory-style rooms, with possibly 6 to 8 people sharing a room. Although we will try, we cannot guarantee to be able to divide the group into different dormitories based on gender lines. As such, males and females may have to share the same sleeping quarters for these nights. The bathrooms and showers are private, but may also be shared between both males and females
Day 8-9 Namib Desert (2B,2L,2D)
Day 8 Approximate Distance: 300 km
Estimate Travel Time: 7 Hours
Day 9 Appriximate Distance: 95km (excluding drive to Sossuvlei)
Day 8 Arrive in the area in the afternoon where we will be camping on a private farm on the edge of the Namib Desert. Here you can do a walk with a local expert who will explain the desert and its mysteries to you.
Day 9 We will leave early morning towards Sossuvlei campsite, where the towering red sand dunes of Sossusvlei form the gateway into the Namib Desert. Here you will really feel as though you’re in the middle of nowhere.
The afternoon is spent exploring this the natural wonders of this bizarre environment. You will visit Sossusvlei - a clay pan, enclosed by the world’s largest sand dunes, up to 300m high. Here you can take a guided walk at the sands dunes, and enjoy some free time to enjoy them on your own.
Also, make a stop at Sesriem Canyon, a small canyon typical of the area, and invisible from even a short distance away.
The name Namib is of Nama origin, with the modern spelling referring to a desert, but a particular part of the desert, specifically a large plain. The desert is classified as either extremely arid or hyper-arid, with a mean rainfall or less than 100mm of rain per year.
The dune sands are primarily derived from sediments washed down the Orange River and then moved northwards by the long shore drift plus the dominant southerly quadrant winds. The winds move the sand northwards and inland, trapping it by wave action in coastal embayment.
The types of dunes found are Star dunes, formed as a result of wind coming equally strong from all directions; Barchan dunes, crescent shaped and formed where wind is mainly from one direction and with a shortage of sand and the Linear dunes, which are long dunes with sharp crests that tend to lie in parallel rows. They are a result of two dominant winds in the central Namib- Southerly and easterly winds. Linear dunes form in a south to north direction.
The 14km long Sesriem Canyon was formed by the Tsauchab River rising in the Naukluft and Zaris Mountains to the east, and flowing through to Sossusvlei. Walking through the canyon takes you on a journey back 10-20 million years ago when sedimentary layers of gravel and sand were deposited and cemented together by lime. The ledges are now inhabited by pigeons, raucous pied crows and chattering starlings. But look a little higher and you might see a lanner falcon or the soaring spread of a lappet faced vulture with a wingspan of 2.6m. An amazing variety of wildlife has adapted to live in this inhospitable place such as lizards that only put 2 feet down at a time and the black toc tokkie beetle who leans forward to allow droplets of morning mist run down its body into its mouth.
Day 10 Fish River Canyon (B,L,D)
Approximate Distance: 560 km
Estimate Travel Time: 9-10 Hours (including canyon visit, excluding dune 45 sunrise.)
Before sunrise we will get up and head back into the desert where we you will have the chance to climb Dune 45 and view the sunrise from the top.
After the sunrise we will start out journey to Fish River Canyon, the largest canyon in Africa, and arguably the second largest in the world. Spend some time here taking in the majestic beauty of the canyon, watch as a spectacular sunset slips over the canyon's rim. We'll take some time for lunch in the area, we will continue south as we slowly leave the Namib desert behind us.
At 650 kilometres in length, the Fish River is Namibia’s longest river. Its source lies in the eastern Naukluft Mountains and flows south-west of Ai-Ais into the Oranje.
The canyon itself is situated along the lower reaches of the Fish River, and is one of the most impressive natural formations of southern African. It is approx 161 km long, 27km wide at its widest point and 550m deep. It is the oldest canyon in the world, formed approximately 500 million years ago, with some rocks at the bottom dating up to 2600 million years old. The canyon was formed in part by glacial movements (upper section), movement of tectonic plates, and erosion. Four wet periods, or pluvial periods, have occurred in the south-western part of Africa during the last million years, resulting in a large run-off of water, which sped erosion.
The plateaus are 220m from the base of the canyon. Catfish can be found in the Fish River below, and they are known to survive the dry season by burrowing into the mud until the water returns. It’s a very slow moving and shallow river – more like a stream. Water levels are normally highest during February until April. The highest recorded temperature at the bottom of the canyon was 58 C.
Day 11 Gariep River (B,L,D)
Approximate Distance: 180 km
Estimate Travel Time: 5 hours
Today we will cross the border from Namibia to South Africa. The name of the border post is Vioolsdrift on the South African side and Noordoewer on the Namibian side.
Some nationalities do require a visa for South Africa. See our visa section for further information. Remember that visas are your own responsibility; please double check with your agent if you will require a visa for South Africa.
The currency in South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR).The ZAR and the N$ is 1 to 1. Please make sure you do not have any N$ left when you cross the border into South Africa, as the N$ is worthless in South Africa. It will not be possible to change foreign currency at the border. But ATM machines are widely available in South Africa.
Crossing into South Africa we settle down on the South African banks of Gariep River. After we set up camp, enjoy a late afternoon swimming, relaxing, or possibly even canoeing on the river.
The Orange River, in the past also sometimes known as the Gariep or as the Grootrivier, is the major river of South Africa. The river was first discovered by indigenous people but only explored by Europeans in 1760 and named after the House of Orange, which was the Stadhouder of Holland between 1777 and 1779. Another account of its naming suggests that it may have been called after the supposedly orangey colour of its water, as opposed to the colour of the water of the Vaal River (‘vaal’ being Afrikaans for pale or grey). The farthest head stream of the Orange rises in the Drakensberg Mountains along the border between South Africa and Lesotho, about 193 km (120 mi) from the Indian Ocean and at an altitude of over 3000m. While in Lesotho, the river is known as the Senqu and parts of it freeze in winter, owing to the altitude there. It then runs 2200 km (1367 mi) westwards and eventually discharges into the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay, forming the border of Namibia and South Africa.
Orange River, in sections, is a good diamond mining area. For thousands of years silt has washed down the river and produced diamonds on its banks. These diamonds also reach the sea and with long-shore currents (going northwards) and wind and wave action, they have been known to wash up on the shorelines.
Day 12 Cape Town (B,L)
Approximate Distance: 690 km
Estimate Travel Time: 11 Hours
Head inland, at Clanwilliam we continue south with the Cederberg Mountains in the distance. After a few hours, we approach the famous, beautiful, and cosmopolitan city of Cape Town.
Please note that we arrive in Cape Town in the late afternoon, you might not have time to do any activities or see any sights. If you would like to see or do anything, we recomend booking a night or two extra before your flight.
Cape Town offers many different activities – something for everyone. Visit Robben Island, Table Mountain, explore Cape Point (Cape of Good Hope), embark on a wine tour in and around Stellenbosch (45min drive). Visit the old French Hugonote town of Franschoek and surroundings (1h drive). For the not so faint hearted there is numerous adrenaline activities in the surrounding areas, from skydiving to abseiling to cage diving and having a close encounter with the great white sharks. Or wonder through the city centre with some of the oldest buildings and gardens in South Africa (Botanical Gardens and Parliament Gardens). Do not miss the wonderful Cultural Historical Museum, Planetarium and numerous other small museums and theatres.
Cape Town's name originated from the term 'Cape of Good Hope' when Bartholomew Diaz and other seafarers looked forward to the sight of Table Mountain, like an inn that promised hospitality and prosperity. The city is steeped in a rich history and is a cultural melting pot with its diverse and vibrant character being derived from Khoxisan and other African tribes from the North, and Indonesian, French, Dutch, British and German settlers. Cape Town is the third most populous city in South Africa, with over 3 million inhabitants, and is the provincial capital of the Western Cape. It is also the legislative capital of South Africa, where the National Parliament and many government offices are located.
For shopping, dining and entertainment the V&A Waterfront is a hotspot for foreigners and locals alike. Still a working harbour, the Waterfront is an example of creative architecture and restoration and has become South Africa's most visited tourist attraction. The Waterfront offers over 250 shops from designer boutiques to craft stalls, a host of restaurants and coffee shops and plenty of other activities.
For cultural exchange, you shouldn’t miss out a "Local Dinner” in a private home in an informal settlement. This authentic community experience provides guests the opportunity to get deep inside the heart of Cape Town. Choose from Cape Malay, Xhosa traditional or Cape Town fusion foods, and visit families in their private homes in townships and get insight into South African realities - be part of the family for an unforgettable night. Proceeds go into the community.
Visit Red-Hill pre-school, one of our Planeterra project. Planeterra - the G Adventures Foundation is our non-profit organization that was developed to give back to the people and places we visit on our tours. Planeterra supports local community projects, non-profit organizations and international charities that focus on the areas of health, education, community development, environmental conservation and employment skills training.
Day 13 Depart Cape Town (B)
Depart Cape Town at any time.