Doing Namibia, Gondwana styleComment on this story
Windhoek - Our Namibian trip started early one Saturday morning as we joined the exodus of northbound holidaymakers.
Twelve hours later our travel party of four rolled into the Gondwana Canyon Lodge at the Fish River Canyon. The lodge, tastefully nestled among the granite koppies, would be the start of our visit to Namibia, and no amount of dust or fatigue could suppress our excitement.
That evening our party assembled for dinner around a roaring fire in the restored century-old farmhouse.
As would become the norm for our holiday we started off the following day with a big Gondwana-style buffet breakfast before setting out to explore the Fish River Canyon, the second largest canyon in the world.
Our day was spent exploring the park and taking in the views of the Fish River as it twists, turns and carves its way through the landscape. By the late afternoon we were ready to return to the tranquillity of Canyon Lodge, our oasis among the dry plains. That evening we were treated to the lodge’s special sundowner experience, where we watched from a koppie as the red sun dipped below the horizon.
The next morning we bid farewell to Canyon Lodge as we set off for Klein-Aus Vista in the Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park. Already our souls had been revitalised by the clean air and open spaces. Klein-Aus Vista offers camping, luxury self-catering accommodation and the Desert Horse Inn, each providing a unique experience.
The Desert Horse Inn was our accommodation for the two-night stay. Named after the famous wild horses of the region, the ranch-like lodge offers spacious chalets near the reception, lounge and dining area.
Klein-Aus Vista is set up for the outdoor enthusiast with hiking and mountain biking trails and, once unpacked, we set off for the campsite, the start of our chosen hiking trail. The campsites are strategically positioned to offer campers a true sense of being “in the middle of nowhere”.
However, no one could escape the eyes of the weaver birds who peer at you from their enormous nests in the trees above. If you happen to take out a rusk or snack you will have them eating out of your hand in no time.
The hiking trails are well-marked and before long we reached the viewpoint and looked out over the wide open plains below. It was magnificent! As the resident Black Eagle glided along the cliff face below us the sun set on another beautiful day in Africa.
The next morning at first light we met Nakale, a manager at the lodge. Together we set off for what I consider to be one of my best mountain-biking experiences to date. The 28km predominantly single-track trail wound through the granite koppies, climbing to numerous viewpoints with exhilarating descents to follow. The single track is well maintained and the lodge bicycles are in excellent condition.
With the day still young we set off to experience the secrets of Kolmanskop, a deserted diamond mining town near the old German port of Lüderitz. After a tour of the old town and an insight into the life of the miners about 80 years ago, we went on to Lüderitz to see the port and Diaz Point. It was an action-packed day, and that evening we showed little restraint as we tucked into another Gondwana feast.
The next morning brought with it new opportunities and excitement, as well as a new destination: Namib Desert Lodge near Sossusvlei. After a bumpy and dusty journey we arrived at the lodge which borders on the Namib Naukluft National park. It is situated between grasslands and red petrified dunes, and is the best place in Namibia to observe these.
After a quick breakfast we were on our way to the park, eager to catch the early morning sun on the red dunes. The tar road in the park was a welcome sight, and we enjoyed a smooth 55km game drive amid the red dunes.
From where the tar ended, a 5km 4x4 journey in the soft sand took us to Sossusvlei where we climbed Big Daddy, the highest dune in the area. Following a brutal ascent we were treated to the spectacle of waves of sand stretching towards the Atlantic.
Heading back to our vehicle, our path took us through the Dead Vlei, a flat white pan scattered with ghostly lifeless trees, beautifully contrasted against the red dunes and blue sky.
Southern Namibia had proven to have far more to offer than we had allowed time for and we would certainly need to return.
If You Go...
VISA: If you own a South African passport, a visa is not required for tourism purposes.
PARK FEES: These are standard throughout Namibia and vary depending on your nationality. South Africans pay R60 a person and R10 for the vehicle.
GONDWANA CARD: Anyone with a permanent or temporary residence permit for an SADC country may apply for a Gondwana card at a cost of R100, which entitles the holder to a 40 percent discount on accommodation and a 25 percent discount on dinners or activities booked through the lodge.
BOOKING AHEAD: While booking is not essential, it is advisable. Booking for all Gondwana Collection lodges and campsites can be done online at www.gondwana-collection.com. They also have suggested routes to help you plan your stay.