Route: Swakopmund – Erongo Mountains – Etosha National Park – Kavango River – Mahango Game Reserve – Otavi Mountains – Waterberg – Windhoek
Duration: 14 Nights / 15 Days
Day 1: Arrival and Desert Night Walk
You will be collected at the international airport in Walvis Bay and transferred to your hotel in Swakopmund. Depending on your time of arrival you can enjoy the afternoon at leisure. Around sunset, you will be collected by your guide and partake in a night walk to the Namib’s gravel plains where you will be shown the desert-adapted nightlife concentrating on the various species of Gecko, Spiders, Gerbils and Scorpions.
During the day the desert looks inhospitable, unfriendly, devoid of any animal life, but once the sun sets, the sand turns into a playground for all kinds of animals. Most of the creatures in the Namib are nocturnal and can be observed only after dark. The Night walk offers a glimpse into the nocturnal theatre of this unique eco-system. After dark the seemingly barren Namib gravel plains come to life and we help you discover these little nocturnal wonders. The walks provide a truly amazing educational experience of the little seen nocturnal creatures.
Key species: Large Dancing White Lady Spider (Leucorchestris arenicola), Small Buthid (Uroplectus planimanus), Namib Thick-tailed Scorpion (Parabuthus namibensis), Carp’s Barking Gecko (Ptenopus carpi) and the beautiful Namib Web-footed Gecko (Pachydactylus rangei)
We will have dinner either before or after the walk depending on time of sunset.
Day 2: Full Day Desert Special
After breakfast we will venture along the eastern part of the major dune belt which lies between Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. Here the ecology of the dunes is concentrated on explaining the evolutionary aspects and the uniqueness of these adaptations. The theory part is dealt with in an informal way and the various desert-adapted creatures are then searched for and the various interesting adaptations are pointed out to you. The main animals looked for are the Namib Sand diving Lizard, Web-footed Gecko, Namaqua Chameleon, Peringuey’s Adder (Sidewinder), Namib Sand Snake, Namib thick-tailed Scorpion, the fog basking Tenebrionid Beetle and several other insects only found along the dune belt. From the dunes we walk through a place known as ‘The Horse Graveyard’. Here, the mass slaughter of South African military horses marked the turning point of Namibia’s (then South West Africa) involvement in the First World War. This area, holding some 1,600 carcasses, signifies the key role that Swakopmund and Walvis Bay played in the development of Namibia.
A brief description of the minerals found in the dunes is also explained as well as the formation of the dunes and the importance of the coastal fog to all the living organisms and vegetation found along the dunes.
After lunch we will continue from the Dorob National Park into the northern reaches of the Naukluft Park past the Moon Valley, through the Swakop River Valley and the Welwitschia Plains east of Swakopmund.
Millions of years and even more cubic meters of water contributed to the formation of this internationally known tourism attraction, the lunar-like landscape called the Moon Valley. According to geologists, the group of hills was pushed through the earth’s surface about 500 million years ago. On misty mornings when the coastal fog penetrates between the hills, the valley can be described as ghostlike, but once the sun’s rays emerge, the fog disperses and the lunar landscape reveals itself with the most spectacular colors and contours, making this spectacular moonlike topography a photographer’s haven.
From here we travel through the Swakop River Valley into the Swakop River. Huge Acacias and Tamarisks fill the riverbed with bright green Salvadora shrubs on the river banks. This linear oasis with water flows beneath the dry surface sand, provide an oasis for several bird species and desert-adapted animals.
Once on the plains the most notable feature of this area is the presence of the highest concentration of Welwitschia mirabilis plants (Welwitschia) in Namibia. Not only is the Welwitschia endemic to the Namib Desert and semi-desert, but it is also taxonomically very distinct, being the only representative in its family, and only one of three species in the order Gnetales.
Today will provide you with excellent photographic opportunities.
Key species: Fog Basking Beetle (Onymacris unguicularis) and several other tenebrionid beetles; the endemic Assasin Bug (Odontopus sexpunctatus), butterflies including Topaz Arab (Colotis amata williamsi) and Boquet’s Green-eyed Vagrant (Nepheronia boqueti) Some of the Namib’s special birds such as Gray’s Lark, Tractrach Chat, Orange River White-eye and Ruppels Korhaan may also be seen.
Day 3: Swakopmund to Erongo Mountains
Today we leave behind the coast and venture inland to the stunning Erongo Mountains, searching for any other desert species en-route before crossing the escarpment at Usakos where the Namib Desert formally ends.
The Erongo Region is a geological wonderland. Its volcanic Erongo mountain range peaks at 2,320m above sea level. This roughly circular massif, dominates the flat plains west of Omaruru and gives the Erongo region its name. The Erongo Mountains are flanked by the Namib Desert to the west and a mixed, woodland savannah to the east. The mountain is an eroded relic of a volcano that was active some 140-150 million years ago. It collapsed in on its magma chamber, allowing the basin to fill with slow-cooling igneous material.
This rare confluence of ecosystems is home to a vast array of plant, reptile, mammal and bird species, some endemic to Namibia. Wildlife in the area includes Leopard, Cheetah, Giraffe, Elephant, Rhino, Blesbok, Waterbuck, Impala, Warthog, Wildebeest, Kudu, Oryx, Eland, Mountain Zebra, Springbok and Steenbok.
Birding in the Erongo Mountains is very rewarding and supports many of the Namibian near-endemics such as Violet Wood-Hoopoe, Damara Red-billed Hornbill, Rüppell’s Parrot, White-tailed Shrike, Carp’s Tit in the river beds, Rockrunner, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl and other specials like Freckled Nightjar & Rosy-faced Lovebird in the granite outcrops.
Key Species: Some of the butterflies which may be seen are the Brown Plyboy (Deudorix antalus), Bowker’s Saphire (IoIaus bowkeri subinfuscata), Doubleday’s Orange (Colotis doubledayi angolensis) and Lilac Tip (Colotis celemene pholoe). The common Brown-veined White (Belenois aurota), African Vagrant (Catopsilia florella) and Broad-bordered Yellow (Eurema brigitta) should also be seen as well as the Diadem (Hypolimnas misippus), African Monarch (Danaus chrysippus), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and some other Pieridae.
Day 4: Erongo Mountains to Etosha National Park
Today we travel to the famous Etosha National Park where we will spend the next three nights. The Park is the flagship of Namibia’s conservation areas, teeming with large game and boasting about 380 species of birds. During our stay here we should see Lion, Elephant, Burchell’s Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Springbok, Oryx, Giraffes, Greater Kudu and several smaller antelope. Among the rarer species regularly seen are Black Rhino, Leopard, Cheetah and Black-faced Impala, a subspecies only found in Namibia. Your visit here will be taken at a leisurely pace and there will be excellent photographic opportunities.
Key species: The gardens and bushveld around the camps will no doubt offer some interesting butterflies especially the Orange Tips of the Pieridae family as well as some Acraea’s. The Scarlet Acraea (Acraea atolmis) and Acraea lygus are two possibilities. There should also be a range of the blues of the family Lycaenidae. However in the park we will be concentrating on the larger wildlife as we will be restricted to the vehicles except while in the camps.
Day 5: Etosha South to Etosha East
Today we slowly amble our way to the eastern side of the park continuously looking for wildlife. Halfway we will stop in at Halali Camp for lunch and walk around the camp to stretch our legs. After checking in at our next accommodation we will spend the rest of the afternoon roaming the gardens in search of insects and birds.
Day 6: Etosha East
We will spend today doing a full day of game drive in the park and insect watching in the gardens in the afternoon.
Day 7: Etosha National Park to Okavango River
Most of today will be spent traveling to the far North of the country. Mopane bushveld will give way to Makalani palms and massive Jackalberry, Teak and Marula trees, which provide a beautiful habitat for a whole range of new species to add to your list. Along the way, we will stop and search for various insects.
Key Species: Butterflies here are those mentioned previously plus Azure Hairstreak (Hypolycaena caeculus), Spotted Leopard (Phalanta phalanta) and African Common White (Belenois creona). The change in vegetation becomes evident from about 80km south of Rundu and species such as the Angola White Lady (Graphium angolensis), various Skippers, Blues and Acraea’s can be found here. Near the river species such as the Veined Swallowtail (Graphium leonidas), Citrus Swallowtail (Papilio demodocus), Foxy Charaxes (Charaxes jasius saturnus), Dusky Charaxes (Charaxes phaeus), Blue Pansy (Junonia oenone), Ox-eyed Pansy (Junonia orithya) and Large Blue Charaxes (Charaxes bohemani) are all possible.
Day 8: Okavango River
Today we travel parallel to the river for a few hundred kilometers before reaching our next destination. Mahango Game Reserve is home to a range of habitats, from open water, floodplains and swamps to dry, dense and broad-leafed woodland. This mixture of habitats means that the park attracts over 410 different species of birds in an area less than 25,000 hectares.
Key species: We will stop en-route and search for Acraea lygus and stenobia as well as Bush and Common Scarlet (Axiocerses amanga and tjoane). Bushveld Charaxes (Charaxes archaemenes) should be plentiful and Acraea species could include Lygus Acraea (Acraea lygus), Acara Acraea (Acraera acara) Acraera acara melanophanes, Common MimicAcraea (Acraera encedon) andSmall Orange Acraea (Hyalites eponina).
Day 9: Mahango Game Reserve
We will start the day with a breakfast cruise up the Okavango River to look for Hippos, Crocodiles, birds and other game that comes down to drink. After that, we will head into the Mahango Game Reserve where it is permitted to disembark the vehicle, despite the occurrence of dangerous game such as Lion and Elephant. With precaution, we may put up some Charaxes traps to see what comes in.
Key species: Other than the previously mentioned species we will also look out for White-barred Charaxes (Charaxes brutus), Apricot Playboy (Deudorix dinochares), Tinted Blue (Thermoniphas micyclus), Autumn-leaf Vagrant (Eronia leda), Striped Policeman (Coeliades forestan), Two-pip Policeman (Coliades Pisistratus), Small Elphin (Sarangesa phidyle), Kavango Skipper (Caprona assualalla) and a host of different Pieridae.
Day 10 & 11: Otavi Mountains & Kombat Area
After breakfast we will start our backtracking journey towards the Otavi Mountains. This area is dominated by dolomite hills with different vegetation to the surrounding area and boasts the most diverse number of species. We will spend our time here trapping and watching insects
Key species: Braine Straight-lined Sapphire (Iolaus silaris brainei), Darker Commordore (Precis antelope), Braine’s Zulu (Alaena brainei), Pale Buff (Cnodontes pallid), Common Woolly-legs (Lachnocnema bibulous), Bowker’s Sapphire (Iolaus bowkeri), Mimosa Sapphire (Iolaus mimosa pamelae) as well as the very scarce Obscure Sapphire (Iolaus obscures), Purple-brown Hairstreak (Hypolycaena philippus), Henning’s Black-eye (Leptomyrina henningi), Common Figtree Blue (Myrina silenus ficedula), Ella’s Bar (Spindasis ella), Silvery Bar (Spindasis phanes), Damara Copper (Aloides damarensis), Silver-spotted Grey (Crudaria leroma, and Black-striped Hairtail (Anthene amarah).With a massive amount of luck together with perfect conditions we might be fortunate enough to find the extremely rare Comet Moth (Argema mimosa).
Day 12 & 13: Otavi Mountans & Waterberg
Today we head to Waterberg. The striking sight of Waterberg Plateau’s brick-red sandstone crowned with lush vegetation has supported a wide diversity of flora and fauna for thousands of years. Rising to 420m in places and enveloped by Namibian savannah, the untouched fortifications of this unmistakable feature have provided nature with the perfect wildlife sanctuary.
The Waterberg Plateua and 41,000 hectares of the surrounding land was declared a Nature Reserve in 1972. The table land is largely inaccessible, enabling several of Namibia’s endangered species to be relocated here to protect them from predators and illegal hunting. The reintroduction program was so successful that surplus species are released from Waterberg to supply other Namibian parks with rare animals. Poaching has since been eliminated. Africa’s largest antelope, Eland, were the first and herds of up to 100 often congregate. Presently there are some 25 species of mammal including Black and White Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Giraffe, Kudu, Impala, Warthog, Tsessebe, Sable and Roan Antelope and Blue Wildebeest. Sightings of the elusive Leopard prowling along the cliffs, Cheetah, Caracal, Black-backed and Side-striped Jackals have been seen on the plateau or in the savannah below.
Key species: Additional to the species found in the Otavi / Kombat area otherspecies include: White Pie (Tuxentius calice), Common Geranium Bronze (Cacyreus marshalli), Hintza Blue (Zintha hintza), Velvet-spotted Blue (Azanus ubaldus), Lucerne Blue (Lampides boeticus), Common Blue (Leptotes pirithous), Dusky Blue (Pseudonacaduba sichela), Silvery Blue (Lepidochrysops glauca), Tailed Meadow Blue (Cupidopsis jobates), Grass Jewel Blue (Freyeria trochilus), Velvet-spotted Blue (Azanus ubaldus), Topaz-spotted Blue (Azanus jesous). Skippers found here are the Bushveld Sandman (Spialia colotes transvaaliae), Mafa Sandman (Spialia mafa), Chequered Ranger (Kedestes sublineata), Black-veined Ranger (Kedestes lepenula), Dark Hottentot Skipper (Gegenes pumilio) and the White-cloaked Skipper (Leucochitonea levubu). Specials would include thePale-yellow (Acraea Acraea obeira meyeri) and Namibian Elf (Saragesa gaerdesi). Charaxes to be found here include Pearl Charaxes (C. varanes), Green-veined Charaxes (C. candiope) andBraine’s Charaxes (C. brainei). Wandering Donkey Acraea (A. terpsichore neabule), Suffused Acraea (Acraea stenobea) and Pale-yellow Acraea (A. obeira meyeri) also occur here. We can look forward to finding Zebra White (Pinacopteryx eriphia), Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe), Veined Orange (Colotis vesta mutans), Bushveld Purple Tip (Colotis ione), Queen Purple Tip (Colotis regina), Red Tip (Colotis antevippe), Bushveld Orange Tip (Colotis pallene), Common Orange Tip (Colotis evenina), Speckled Sulpher Tip (Colotis agoye), Small Orange Tip (Colotis evagore), Banded Gold Tip (Colotois eris), Lemon Traveller (Colotis subfasciatus), Common Dotted Border (Mylothris agathina) and Common Joker (Biblia ilithya).
Day 14: Waterberg to Windhoek
Today we travel towards Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. We will stop along the way and try to catch up with some of the species which we may not have seen. En-route will stop for lunch in Okahandja where you will have the chance to visit the famous wood-carving and African curio market. We will stay on a guest farm outside of Windhoek where we can continue looking for any interesting finds.
Day 15: Depart
Your guide will drop you off at the airport.