Some trips are hard to return from because they seem to transport you to an entirely different realm. The distance you travel is not just measured in miles or across time zones, but it moves you to a new plane of being or in the case of Namibia, of quiet and stillness. I have felt that I traveled to some place ultra-exotic when I visited Bhutan, which is known as The Land of the Thunder Dragon, and truly felt like a fairy world, but Namibia in Southern Africa touched me in an equally profound way. Bhutan proclaims its spirituality as a Buddhist kingdom; Namibia may be more subtle about its power to inspire awe, but it casts a mystical calm over all who visit.
The country is the third least densely populated country in the world after Greenland and Mongolia with two million residents on 824,000 square miles. In the Namib Desert we drifted in a hot air balloon over the private reserve that we called home for a few days; it is 606,000 acres with 50 permanent residents. The silence isn’t just something you hear; you feel it. The open skies and unbroken horizons seem to reach into forever in a way that shifts perspective. When the desert is 80 million years old, yes the oldest on earth, and you climb down a 300-foot sand dune into a valley of 900-year-old trees, time as we know it becomes irrelevant. You feel suspended out of this world, like a speck in a giant hour glass, or as I did when I walked toward Big Daddy, the famous dune, like I had tumbled into a Georgia O’Keefe landscape, which was no longer one-dimensional.
On our recent Indagare Insider trip to Namibia, we started in Etosha National Park where we had amazing game viewing thanks to recent rains. We had been advised that Namibia is known for its landscapes not its wildlife, but we saw leopards, lions, elephants, rhinos, cheetahs and even flamingoes that are only there for a few weeks each year. We stayed at a camp that benefits the local community and is staffed by locals and designed to feel like a Moroccan Kasbah. Next we went to the Kunene region, which is famous for desert adapted elephants and is near to a Himba village. The Himba are among the last nomadic people still living in a traditional way, and we were able to spend time with a family in their home.
Our camp was owned by two wealthy Italian ladies so while we were guests in a place that truly feels like the back of beyond, we were served amazing pizza, pasta and cappuccinos overlooking an infinity pool with one of the best views I’ve ever seen. We then flew over the Skeleton Coast to see Cape Fur seals and ancient shipwrecks in the dunes to stay at a camp that is owned by the luxury conservation company, Wilderness, where the rooms are high-style with plunge pools and star beds so you can sleep under the night sky but in a proper bed. Our last stop was another camp that a Namibian farmer had turned into a massive nature preserve in the Namib desert. It is the same one that Brad and Angelina hid out in when she decided to have one of her children away from civilization. We stayed in tents with wooden floors and double sinks and views that took your breath away. We climbed the famous Sossuvlei dunes, sailed in a hot air balloon over the vast emptiness and got to go tracking with a bushman who taught us about reading tracks and how acacia trees can turn their leaves bitter to repel giraffes and can emit signals to alert other nearby trees to do the same.
One of the women on the trip described part of the magic that we all shared was being able to be far away enough from distractions, noise and other people that she could start to hear her own voice again so clearly that it was almost audible in the silence. To me that is the magic of Africa, it allows you to strip away the unessential and to be clear. And to be clear, I will be returning to Namibia.
If you are interested in joining our 2018 trip to Namibia, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.