Lay of the Land
Namibia sits in the southwest corner of Africa, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the east and Angola and Zambia to the north. The country is geographically divided into three strips running from north to south: the 1,200-mile-long Namib Desert on the Atlantic coast, the central plateau (home to the capital city Windhoek) and the Kalahari Desert in the east, which borders Botswana. The south is home to the famed Sossusvlei dunes (best accessed by staying at Little Kulala) and much diamond mining activity, but not a lot else. The 300-mile-long Skeleton Coast comprises Namibia’s northwest stretch of land facing the Atlantic and is protected as a national park. The “Coast” in fact extends up to 30 miles inland in some parts, and consists mostly of sand dunes and dried-up riverbeds. To the east of the Skeleton Coast are barren areas known as Damaraland and the Kaokoveld (home to Hoanib Skeleton Camp and Serra Cafema). In the east of the country is the relatively lush and vibrant 8,500-square mile Etosha National Park.
The best option for North Americans is to fly direct to Johannesburg and from there connect to Windhoek, Namibia’s capital. It is a good idea to spend the night either in Johannesburg (at the Saxon or Four Seasons Westcliff) or Windhoek (at the Hotel Heinitzburg) en route to acclimatize and recover before getting on a small plane to your first lodge. Those traveling with Wilderness Safaris will be welcomed by a representative at the Windhoek airport and taken to their lovely lounge. Connection flights via Wilderness Air to their camps around the country leave from the same airport, and the pilot will typically pick up travelers from the lounge to go to the small craft plane. The city of Windhoek is about a 45-minute drive from Hosea Kutako, the international airport.
Small planes are the main mode of luxury transportation in Namibia, and visitors must be amenable to flying in four- or 13-seater Cessnas. (The only alternative is driving between camps, which is not recommended as the majority of roads are unpaved and distances are long.) Though flights can be bumpy, the views are incredible, and seeing Namibia’s landscape from the air is a major reason to come here. Even if it’s not mentioned in the itinerary, most flights will make multiple stops en route, letting other passengers board and disembark. (To avoid this, you can charter a plane privately.) Flights are typically scheduled so that guests can do a morning activity at their camp before leaving, or an afternoon activity at their new camp upon arrival. Fun fact: of the 112 airports in the country, only 19 of airstrips are paved, the others being sand, packed earth or gravel. Indagare Tip: while none of the camps have cell phone service, sometimes it is possible to get a signal while flying.
When to Go
Namibia is best visited during its dry, (relatively) cooler season, which is anytime from March – December. January and February (their hottest summer months) can get very hot during the day. The rest of the year maintains pleasant daytime temperatures ranging from 70-85° (with hot days and cooler nights). Keep in mind that as in all deserts, very hot days end with cold—sometimes freezing—nights, so packing layers is crucial.