Image by Patrick Duvanel

Etosha NP, Khaudum NP, Bwabwata NP, Nkasa Rupara NP and Damaraland, Namibia

Uncharted Namibia

£4,995 pp sharing

At a Glance

Dates: September 1st - September 16th, 2022

Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.

Prices: £4,995 pp sharing (with a £550 single supplement)​, excluding international flights.

In a sentence: Namibia offers a well-trodden small-group safari and self-drive circuit, focussed on fenced reserves in the centre and north of the country, but has unexplored wildernesses to offer, including the majestic Khaudum National Park, that are the centrepiece of this itinerary.

Overview

Namibia is a self-driver's dream, with vast open spaces, excellent game-viewing and a well-developed road network. It is for these reasons that, for many safari-goers, their relationship with Namibia goes no further than a two-week sojourn around Etosha and other fenced reserves around Windhoek. This is a great shame, as Namibia has far more to offer than the limited wilderness in these reserves - here at Pictus Safaris, we much prefer open (unfenced ecosystems), although Etosha does have incredible game-viewing to redeem itself!

Unknown to many visitors, the remote north-east of Namibia holds perhaps the greatest safari destinations in the country. The dry and isolated Khaudum National Park is famously inhospitable, historically renowned amongst 4x4 enthusiasts for its deep sand and challenging road network. It is this remoteness that has sheltered much of its wildlife, and this national park, contiguous with the famed Okavango Delta of Northern Botswana, can be a rewarding destination. Visitors may encounter vast herds of Bush Elephant, elusive Sable and Roan Antelope and even Cheetah, Leopard and Lion. The jewel in Khaudum's crown, however, must be the healthy population of African Wild Dogs, one of only four in all of Namibia - these endangered canids are sometimes found around Khaudum Camp, and are surely the highlight of any Namibian safari.

The north-east of Namibia is also where the Okavango Panhandle extends into the Caprivi strip, attracting a variety of wildlife rarely encountered elsewhere in the country. Water-reliant species, including Hippo and Red Lechwe, are found here in abundance, both in Nkasa Rupara NP and Bwabwata NP. African Wild Dog and Cheetah are both seen here regularly, and Lion and Leopard are both encountered when specifically targeted. This lesser-travelled region of Namibia is also home to exceptional birdlife and, remarkably, is a hotspot for sightings of Ground Pangolin at certain times of year. 

These under-appreciated corners of Namibia, combined with the better-known areas of Etosha and Damaraland, make for a truly sensational itinerary that is as unique as it is captivating - an essential trip for safari veterans and first-timers.

Itinerary

Day One

Windhoek/Vingerklip

On arrival into Windhoek, you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative and the rest of the group. We will head directly (four-hour drive) to Vingerklip Lodge, a stunning lodge situated on a remarkable rock formation with excellent views of the empty surrounds. Our arrival time depends on the timings of inbound flights but, should we arrive by mid-afternoon, guests are welcome to visit a local market, hike around the Vingerklip rock formation or head out for a sundowner drive (at extra cost). This lodge is well-appointed and luxurious by the standards of this itinerary, so take advantage of some well-earned rest and relaxation!

Day Two

Palmwag

This morning we will drive the approximately three hours north-west to the Palmwag Concession in Damaraland. Arriving in time for lunch, we will settle into our accommodation (Palmwag Lodge) and soak in our beautiful and remote surroundings. Palmwag is well-known for having the highest predator populations in Namibia outside of Etosha, and desert-adapted Lions are commonly seen here. Cheetah occur at low densities throughout Namibia, and our chances of encountering them here are slim but not nil. Leopards are also seen here semi-regularly, solely around the riverine vegetation occasionally found here. The most famous residents of Palmwag, though, must be the Black Rhino and desert-adapted Bush Elephants that are frequently located in this area. The Rhino are tracked down using their characteristic spoor in the deep sand in the concession, but sightings are sometimes hard to come by so any sighting must be treated as a real privilege. The desert Elephants are easier to come by and, as the only accessible desert-adapted population in all of Africa, are a delight to spend time with. This evening we will head out on an evening drive focussed on Rhino and Elephant but we should pay special attention to smaller mammals as the night draws in - the endemic Etendeka Round-Eared Sengi is rarely encountered but highly sought after by experienced mammal-watchers.

Day Three

Palmwag

Depending on our success during our previous evening drive, our focus for today's full-day game drive may be either on the local predator population or the Black Rhino and Bush Elephant sometimes located in Palmwag. Should our focus be on predators, Lion, Leopard and Cheetah will be our key focus, with Lion particularly high on our priority list. In such a dry area, the few riverbeds attract a surprising diversity of life, and with a good dose of luck we may even locate one of the small population of Leopard and Cheetah in the area.

Day Four

Etosha NP

Today we make a beeline to the western section of Etosha National Park, widely regarded as the centrepiece of any safari to Namibia. Our three hour drive to Galton Gate will take us through rugged scenery, with the possibility of sighting Gemsbok, Springbok and even Giraffe. Upon arrival at the gate, we will go through entry formalities before entering this exceptional national park. Our short drive to camp will take us past three of Etosha's famous waterholes. In such a dry and dusty environment, these waterholes are havens for wildlife and, whilst this western section of the park does not have the game-densities seen further east, a host of unusual species are drawn to this water. Brown Hyena, Cape Fox and Black Rhino are all seen here regularly, and we are likely to come across a range of antelope including the near-endemic Black-Faced Impala. Upon arrival at the small and undeveloped Olifantsrus camp, we will set up camp and have the early afternoon at leisure. This charming camp was formerly a base for ivory hunters and now offers the most basic, and the quietest, tented accommodation in all of Etosha. The camp offers exclusive access to a hide that is open 24/7 and is itself one of the best places to see gentle bull Elephants and skulking Brown Hyena in all of Africa.

As the evening sets in, we will head out on our first dedicated game drive, driving west to the area around Dolomite Camp. Lion, Leopard and Black Rhino are well-represented here, as are Cape Fox, Bat-Eared Fox and Brown Hyena. We will aim to take advantage of the seclusion of this section of Etosha and enjoy lengthy sightings of any wildlife we encounter, be that a lone Cheetah or a large breeding herd of Elephants. On our return to camp, we highly recommend spending a few hours at the Olifantsrus hide, as a prime location for viewing predators as they come to drink.

Days Five to Eight

Etosha NP

Each of the next four nights will be spent at Etosha's most famous camps; Olifantsrus, Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni. Each day will be split into a morning and evening game drive, with an optional night drive available at extra cost. Every camp has its own character and is situated in an area with its own unique game and waterholes. Etosha as a whole is dominated by a vast salt pan, which is largely devoid of life. Its immediate surrounds are dotted with natural and man-made waterholes, all of which attract game in astonishing volumes.

Okaukuejo is the most popular camp in Etosha, in an area well-known for producing excellent sightings. Its world-famous waterhole is floodlit throughout the night, which makes for great photographic opportunities, particularly of Bush Elephant, Black Rhino, Leopard and Lion. Halali, deep in the heart of Etosha, is excellent Cheetah territory, and Namutoni is the finest location for White Rhino in the park. Any location in the park, however, may at any time produce the sighting of a lifetime - Leopard, Cheetah, Lion, Black Rhino, White Rhino and much more are possible throughout your stay. We recommend taking night drives from camp each night, with the chance of locating exceptionally elusive wildlife including Caracal, Black-Footed Cat, Aardwolf and Aardvark - these drives come at an extra cost, but are well worth it!

Day Nine

Tsumkwe Country Lodge

After a final brief morning game drive in Etosha, we will head due east for approximately six hours to Tsumkwe Country Lodge. Tsumkwe is the gateway to the remote far eastern section of Namibia, home to a variety of wild animals rarely encountered elsewhere in the country. This afternoon we will visit the San Living Museum, to learn about the extraordinarily resourceful and resilient San people who call this region home.

Days Ten to Twelve

Khaudum NP

Khaudum is Pictus Safaris' very favourite destination in all of Namibia. Startlingly remote, with deep sand roads, almost no visitors and unhabituated wildlife, this is a far cry from Etosha. Game-viewing is at its best at the waterholes around Khaudum Camp in the north of the park, our base for these three nights. Contiguous with the wildlife-rich northern reaches of Botswana, this is one of the few places in Namibia where antelope including Roan, Sable and Tsessebe. The arid environment is also home to a range of dry-country species, including Caracal, Aardwolf and Brown Hyena. Perhaps most excitingly, the predators here are truly wild, with little interaction with visitors. Lion, Leopard and Cheetah all prowl this large national park and are encountered infrequently. More often seen are the large packs of African Wild Dogs that plunder the herds of Impala in the northern reaches of the reserve, and the vast herds of Bush Elephant that descend thirstily on the waterholes each morning and evening. For those looking for an unfiltered, authentic Namibian experience, nothing can better Khaudum.

Days Thirteen to Fourteen

Bwabwata NP

Following a final morning game drive in Khaudum, we will drive the three hours north to Bwabwata National Park and Nunda River Lodge. Whereas Khaudum is dry and sparsely-vegetated, Bwabwata marks the point at which the famous Okavango leaches into the Caprivi Strip, bringing with it a vibrant and thriving ecosystem. Birding in this national park is sensational, and the mammal-watching can be immensely rewarding. Aquatic species, including Red Lechwe and Sitatunga, can be found here, as can Hippo, Bush Elephant, Waterbuck and much more. Predator populations are growing, and Lion, Leopard and African Wild Dog are most commonly seen. Our accommodation allows for two game drives into the Mahango and Buffalo core areas of the park, as well as easy access to Popa Falls, a well-known landmark in this area.

Day Fifteen

Nkasa Rupara NP

This morning we will head through Bwabwata NP at first light, increasing our odds of encountering African Wild Dogs hunting on the arterial road, or intercepting large herds of Savanna Buffalo as they cross this tarmac route. Our destination, approximately three hours away, is the comfortable Jackalberry Camp deep inside Nkasa Rupara NP, right on the border with Botswana. An excellent wildlife-watching location, visitors may see Leopard and Cheetah here in good numbers, and the park is well-known as a hotspot for Ground Pangolin - a real treat!

Day Sixteen

Katima Mulilo/Windhoek

After a final game drive in Nkasa Rupara, we will transfer to Katima Mulilo for our 11.45 flight back to Windhoek. Our flight arrives at Eros Airport (not Windhoek's main airport) at 13.10, so we recommend flights leaving at 16.30 or later for your homeward flights. If you wish to spend an extra night in Windhoek, we will happily arrange this for an extra fee.

Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.

Dates and Prices

This tour will run in September 2022, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when wildlife populations congregate around water sources. The tour will run from September 1st to September 16th.

The cost of this trip is £4,995 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities (excluding night drives). All drinks, apart from water, are excluded. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £550 for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £1,000 plus any single supplement must be paid.

Flights and Visas

Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Windhoek at the beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Windhoek after 17.00 on your return to avoid disruption to your plans.

British nationals do not require a visa to enter Namibia. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Please note that Namibian immigration officials allow visitors to stay up to 90 days from the date of their arrival, but sometimes (arbitrarily) grant entry for as few as seven days. Be sure to check you have been granted entry for at least 17 days from the date of your arrival before leaving the arrivals hall.

Weather and What to Bring

The weather in Namibia in September is mild and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 28 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 13 degrees Celsius.

A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.

Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.

Safety and Security

This tour does not visit any areas with security concerns at present.

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