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Explore the wild Kalahari Desert 

16-day round trip, South Namibia

Some destinations sound almost mythical, like the Kalahari. With Tales from Africa Travel you can explore the wild Kalahari Desert. Discover the wild side of the most beautiful desert in the world. Your journey focuses on the Namib Desert, the most rugged part of the Kalahari with deep canyons, incredibly high sand dunes, endless plains and rich wildlife.

Once you’re out in the bush you will really appreciate all you experience and learned in the conservation project at the start of your tour. Deep in the south of Namibia the Kalahari is cut in two by the mighty Orange River. Go a half or full day guided canoeing trip to see the wonder of a green river in a brown, red, grey and yellow coloured desert.  

Carving out an epic rocky wonderland in the south of Namibia, the Fish River has created Africa’s largest – and the world’s second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon. From here you travel to the quaint town of Lüderitz, home of penguins, the famous desert horses of the Namib and a real ghost town.

The land of empty

Inland lies the land of empty: the Namib Desert. Never in your wildest dreams will you have imagined how incredibly stunning and beautiful emptiness can be. Endless plains are crossed by imposing mountain ranges. Bordering this area you find the highest sand dunes in the world. Despite the seemingly harsh conditions, this desert teems with wildlife. At Wolwedans you can walk the Tok Tokkie trail and sleep in the desert under an endless number of stars.

If you do only one hot air ballooning trip in your life, this (or Sossusvlei) is the place. Almost perfect weather conditions the whole year round, the most beautiful desert landscape in the world with plains, magical fairy circles, mountain ranges and the vast expense of the highest sand dunes in the world make this an unforgettable experience.

These sand dunes are the famous dunes of Sossusvlei. They glow in a deep red colour in the light of the rising sun and colour an almost eery pink in the light of a full moon. You’ll travel far into the dunes to visit Deadvlei, where ancient tree trunks turn the desert into a photographer’s heaven. Sesriem Canyon, a deep chasm carved through the rocks by water, is a striking natural feature of the area that is best explored on foot.

Wine tasting in the desert

At the foot of the Naukluft Mountains lies Neuras, an oasis that boasts natural fresh water fountains, palm trees and vineyards. It is here where ecotourism is combined with wine-making and wildlife conservation. Join a guided walk through the vineyards and visit the natural water springs, and lush palm trees. Learn about winemaking in the desert and top it all off with a full tasting of the wines, accompanied by a delicious cheese board. What a way to end your journey, to explore the wild Kalahari Desert to the last moment!

Explore the wild Kalahari Desert the way you want it. Whether self-drive or guided chauffeur driven, exclusive fly-in or adventurous 4×4 safari camper – this is a journey of discovery you’ll never forget!

Highlights of Explore the wild Kalahari Desert round tour

  • Discover the wild side of the most beautiful desert in the world
  • Unique safaris, sunset drives, night drives and game walks
  • Learn all about wildlife conservation at Na’an ku se
  • Quiver Tree Forest
  • 2 nights along the mighty Orange River
    • Guided relaxed canoeing on the river
  • 2 nights to marvel about the mighty Fish River Canyon
  • 2 nights in the Quaint town of Lüderitz
    • Meet the Wild desert horses of the Namib
    • Kolmanskop, a ghost town disappearing under the desert sands
    • Boat tour to Namibia’s wild penguin colony
  • 2 nights to explore the stunning emptiness of Wolwedans
    • Walk the Tok Tokkie trail
    • Discover the mysterious fairy circles in the desert
    • Take a hot-air balloon over the mountains and sand dunes of the Namib Desert
  • 2 nights Sossusvlei: the highest dunes in the world
    • Deadvlei, a photographer’s heaven
    • Walk the incredible Sesriem canyon
  • Desert Wine tasting at Neuras Wine and Wildlife Estate
  • Cheetah experience
  • Sleep in stunning eco-tourism and community supportive lodges
  • Choose the option you want: self-drive, guided chauffeur driven, fly-in or 4×4 safari camper
  • Exclusive bespoke and flexible experiences

Explore the wild Kalahari Desert round tour in detail

Day 1 – 2 Wildlife conservation at Na’an ku se Lodge

In the middle of the wild bushlands surrounding Namibia’s capital Windhoek lies a luxurious, unique not-for-profit ecolodge: Na’an ku se Lodge. Here all profits go to wildlife conservation and community development. The stunning lodge is crafted from ecologically clean material (including solid logs and glass) to complement its beautiful wilderness setting.

You will have the best introduction to fully enjoy the wildlife of the wild Kalahari Desert by learning about them before heading out into the wild. Upfront you might think this is interesting but trust us: once you’re out in the bush, you will appreciate all you experience and learn today!

The Naankuse Nature Reserve is all about conserving wild animals since it is also a rehabilitation centre for lions, leopards, wild dogs, baboons, caracals, and cheetahs. To keep them as wild as possible, human interactions are minimal. Absolutely no touching is allowed. Join a carnivore feeding tour, and you will learn all about the animals’ behaviour and their exciting stories of their histories from the local guides.

These guides are often San, the original bushmen of the Kalahari. During the Ancient San Skills Tour, you will spend time with a San family. Learn how they hunt, find food, water and medicine with traditional skills. Walk with them through the bush and learn traditional songs and dances.

Day 3 Windhoek city tour, game drive in Hardap NP

Windhoek is Africa’s small large city. The capital of Namibia sprawls over a large area, has all amenities, bars and restaurants, but not that many inhabitants. Windhoek has an interesting mix of historical architecture and modern buildings, many of which are worth a look, including the Alte Feste an old fort, the 1896 Christuskirche Christ Church, and the more contemporary Supreme Court.

After the city tour you will skirt the edge of the Kalahari Desert on your way to Mariental and the magnificent Hardap Dam, the largest reservoir in Namibia. It has breathed life into this arid terrain, which is now fertile with farmlands covered in citrus, melons, lucerne, wine and maize. And it’s time for your first game drive! In the Hardap NP you can spot rhino, ostrich, antelope, springbok and a variety of bird species.

Day 4 – 5 Quiver Tree Forest and the mighty Orange River

It’s a long but fast drive through the desert to the far south of Namibia, where the mighty Orange River forms the border with South Africa. Along the way you’ll stop at the scenic Quiver Tree Forest. These amazing trees grow only on certain black rock outcroppings and are actually not trees at all, but huge succulents. The San bushmen of the Kalahari used the bark of these trees to make quivers for their arrows, hence the name.

At the end of the day you reach the green lint of vegetation along the mighty Orange River, the largest river in this part of Africa.

Go a half or full day guided canoeing trip to see the wonder of a green river in a brown, red, grey and yellow coloured desert. Small shallow rapids and long lazy gliding river stretches take you between fantastically coloured rock formations and small mountains. This is not wild water, so even without any canoeing experience it’s a wonderful, relaxed experience.

Day 6 – 7 The marvelous Fish River Canyon

Carving out an epic rocky wonderland in the south of Namibia, the Fish River has created Africa’s largest – and the world’s second largest canyon after the Grand Canyon. Hot, dry and stony, the Fish River Canyon measures a whopping 160 kilometres in length, at times 27 kilometres in width and 550 metres in depth. The San people believe that in ancient times an enormous, godlike snake slithered through the Kalahari, carving out the canyon in the rocky floor of the desert. And in fact, the way the way the canyon snakes through the desert resembles the trail a snake would leave behind!

You overnight close to the edge of this awe-inspiring natural beauty. Explore the various viewpoints at leisure, each offering a different vista of the many curves of the might Fish River Canyon. Horse riding and extensive day walks are also possible, taking you down into the canyon. During the hottest months, November to April, walking into the canyon is not allowed, since temperatures inside the canyon can easily go up over 40 C.

Day 8 – 9 A ghost town and Wild desert horses

Along the cold Atlantic Ocean you find the small, isolated town of Lüderitz. Situated along a natural harbour, this is a quaint piece of 19th-century Bavaria bordering the pinkish sand dunes of the Namib Desert. Lutheran churches, German Konditoreis (bakeries) and colonial buildings boasting German art nouveau architecture are dotted about the settlement, while its windswept beaches are home to flamingos, ostriches, seals and penguins. Make a catamaran tour to Namibia’s only colony where you can see penguins in the wild.

Inland the desert sands are flowing over the ruins of Kolmanskop, once a thriving mining town. Now the old rambling houses and factory buildings are covered by the ever-moving desert sands. The result is a place where manmade and nature meet in harmony – a photographer’s paradise.  

Even further inland the Kalahari displays all its beauty in sheer endless sandy plains, distantly bordered by impressive mountain ridges. This is the home of the Wild horses of the Namib, who have managed to adapt to the harsh conditions. Their forebears were once in the service of man. Now they have gained freedom for themselves: a life in the vastness of the Namib, away from human civilization, according to the rules of their own horse society. You visit one of the waterholes where they come to drink.

Day 10 – 11 Wolwedans: the land of empty

Today a long drive takes you into the Namib desert, part of the much larger Kalahari desert. This is the land of empty. But never in your wildest dreams will you have imagined how incredibly stunning and beautiful emptiness can be. Endless plains are crossed by imposing mountain ranges. Bordering this area you find the highest sand dunes in the world. Despite the seemingly harsh conditions, this desert teems with wildlife. During your stay in Wolwedans Nature Reserve you will have ample opportunity to explore and discover this wildlife. And at night the most incredible sky forms your canopy. Your mind, your whole being will relax and you will not just see, but feel the immense power of the desert.  

Walking the Tok Tokkie trail

One of the many animals that live in the desert is the desert beetle, better known in Namibia as the Tok Tokkie. Its footsteps form a pattern that cross all kind of terrain, from grasslands to the sandy dunes. What better way to explore the Namib then by following its footsteps? The Tok Tokkie Trail takes you close to the desert’s stunning beauty. Whilst walking, you will discover many secrets of the Namib that cannot be experienced when driving and you will get to feel different aspects of the desert – from mountainous terrain to sandy dunes. Let your experienced guide explain all this to you, relax with a sun downer and enjoy a three-course dinner before falling asleep under the stars…

This optional two-night guided walking trail can be booked in addition to, or instead of, the two-night stay in Wolwedans. Distances do not exceed 10 km daily. Meals and drinks are included and you sleep on comfortable camp beds under the starry skies each night. The trail can only be walked in the cooler winter months – May to September.

Mysterious fairy circles

In other months, or if walking is not your thing, you can go on game drives to discover this wonderful nature reserve. The camps offer scenic drives in open 4×4 safari vehicles accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. You’ll explore the different landscapes and the wildlife that calls this home. One of these landscapes are the mysterious fairy circles of the Namib desert. Thousands and thousands of mysterious circles gaze unblinkingly up in space. They truly are a mystery, because they are only found in a remote area flanking the red sands of the Namib Desert. They are between 2 and 15 meters in diameter and all are guarded by a circle of knee-high grass, much higher than the surrounding vegetation. Inside this narrow border lies an almost perfect circle of yellow or red sand. You can read more about them in our blog: ‘Where fairies dance and dragons sleep’.

Hot air ballooning

If you do only one hot air ballooning trip in your life, this (or Sossusvlei) is the place. Almost perfect weather conditions the whole year round, the most beautiful desert landscape in the world with plains, fairy circles, mountain ranges and the vast expense of the highest sand dunes in the world make this an unforgettable experience. A champagne breakfast in the desert rounds out this experience-of-a-lifetime!

Day 12-13 Sossusvlei: the highest dunes in the world

Sossusvlei is where you will find the iconic red sand dunes of the Namib. The clear blue skies contrast with the giant red dunes to make this one of the most scenic natural wonders of Africa. Its unique, ever shifting dunes rise to almost 400 metres – making them some of the highest in the world. These iconic dunes come alive in morning and evening light. Sossusvlei is home to a variety of desert wildlife including oryx, springbok, ostrich and a variety of reptiles. You have spectacular views from the deck of your lodge at the edge of the dunes.

The next day you drive far into the dunes. You can climb ‘Big Daddy’, one of Sossusvlei’s tallest dunes. Explore Deadvlei, a white, salt, claypan dotted with 900 years old, dead trees against a background or red sand dunes and a photographer’s heaven.

Sesriem Canyon

Sossusvlei is part of the Namib Naukluft NP. Naukluft is German for ‘narrow gorge’, and nowhere is this better illustrated as in the Sesriem Canyon. This deep chasm carved through the rocks by water, is a striking natural feature of the area that is best explored on foot. Stony walls rise up sharply on both sides of the canyon, while birds roost in its crags and lizards dart along the ledges. The canyon’s name was coined when early settlers used it as a water source, using six lengths of leather (‘ses riem – six thongs) tied together to lower buckets into the water at the base of canyon.

Last but not least, this is the other place (besides Wolwedans) perfect for a hot air ballooning trip. Ballooning from here you will see more of the sand dunes, less of the fairy circles and other desert landscapes. Either is an incredible experience, so it’s all up to your personal preference.

Day 14 A Wine farm in the Kalahari

Along the winding gravel roads, sample the famous Moose’s apple pie in Solitaire and enjoy the beautiful mountain passes taking you back to the highlands. At the foot of the Naukluft Mountains, Neuras is a 14,500-hectare oasis that boasts natural fresh water fountains. It is here where ecotourism is combined with wine-making and wildlife conservation. The lodge runs on solar power and wine farming is done with minimal impact on the environment.

Join a guided walk through the vineyards and visit the natural water springs and lush palm trees. Along the way learning about the origin and history of the farm as well as the yearly management of the vines. Once at the wine cellar, a full explanation of the wine production from start to finish is given to provide you a real insight into how wines are made in the desert. This is topped off with a full tasting of the Neuras wines with the accompaniment of a cheese board at the lodge restaurant.

At the end of the day you have a sundowner drive. Enjoy a scenic drive through the Honey Canyon, stopping along the way for any photo opportunities of the beautiful landscape and plant life. End with drinks of your choice and a snack platter at a perfect location while watching the sun go down. What a way to explore the wild Kalahari Desert until the very last moment!

Day 15 Windhoek

In the morning you can participate in the Cheetah Experience. Neuras is home to 7 cheetahs who were brought there to live out the rest of their life in the most natural way possible after being rescued from conflict situations. You have the opportunity to witness these wild creatures in their 35 hectare enclosure and learn about their history, their behaviour and why these cats are so precious to Namibia and the struggles they face to stay alive in the wild. Afterwards you return to Windhoek. You spend the last night once again in Na’an Ku Se, close to the airport and in an area that looked brown when you arrived, but green now after the desert.

Day 16 Return home

A short drive takes you to the international airport of Windhoek. You will leave this incredible country, forever carrying the knowledge how to explore the wild Kalahari Desert in your heart.

Map of the tour

Map Tales from Africa Travel Explore the Wild Kalahari South Namibia tour

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