On the heels of Kent’s Namibian adventure, I too journeyed to the land of vast skies, rich red landscapes and desert-adapted species, where I hosted a lovely group of 4 travel agents from around the US. It was my first time to Namibia, and having been on the top of my travel list for years, this stunning country truly exceeded my expectations. Another highlight of this spectacular journey was sharing it with my husband, on his first African adventure! It’s a real joy to see Africa through the eyes of a first time visitor – seeing the innocent awe and excitement as Africa reveals her wonders that have captivated us all.
John and I landed in Windhoek, Namibia with the warm sun, a cool breeze and the beautiful Jacaranda trees in full, purple bloom. Springtime in Africa was a nice change to the oncoming winter and end to Daylight Savings Time back in Colorado! Our group met over cocktails at the Rooftop Bar at the Hilton Hotel, followed by a zebra steak and oryx schnitzel at Joe’s Beerhouse (a local favorite). I always love meeting new industry friends for the first time in Africa – it creates a bond that can’t be captured over coffee in the US. The group split between the Olive Grove Guest House, and her luxurious sister property, the Olive Exclusive for much needed rest after our long journey in anticipation for the adventure ahead.
Our knowledgeable and charismatic Wilderness Safaris guide, Johann, traveled with us by light aircraft to Ongava Nature Reserve, bordering Etosha National Park. Namibia has become popular for overland safaris (all-driving) or self-drive adventures; however, we were lucky to save time and traverse this vast country by air. Seeing the epic views, dramatically changing terrain, and hundreds of empty miles with no civilization from the air was a highlight for all of us. I was also reminded once again of the importance to pack light, in a soft-sided bag, as these small Cessna’s and Caravans are strictly limited by weight on these 1 to 2.5 hour flights.
John spotted his first African ostrich as we touched down on the dusty airstrip and was in awe as we passed zebra, springbok and giraffe en route to Ongava Lodge (the Classic Level Wilderness Safaris property in the area, along with Ongava Tented Camp, luxurious Premier Level Little Ongava, and more rustic Andersson’s Camp). Over the next 2 days, we enjoyed open air game drives in the private reserve, a full day’s exploration in Etosha NP, close observation of the camp’s waterhole from a secret hide, and lots of delicious cuisine and laughter under the stars. Ongava/Etosha is no Serengeti, but the wildlife was quite good considering their harsh habitat. We spotted lions, black rhino, brown hyena (a highlight!), wild cat (my first!), giraffe, elephant, and a plethora of plains game, including the most stunning oryx (gemsbok).
If you must get your wildlife fix during a visit to Namibia, then Etosha is the perfect spot. And although it’s not advertised for the best location for a first time safari-goer with a long species list to tick off, Namibia did not disappoint John on his first game drives in the bush (nor us veteran agents, either)!