Southern Africa has yielded some riveting stories, from game-changing fossil discoveries to critical conservation efforts. Meet the researchers working on these projects as you explore South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind, the ethereal landscapes of Namibia, and the pristine wilderness north of Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Enjoy a spectacular perspective on it all, traveling by private air.
Discover Namibia’s unique wildlife and landscapes amid the dunes of Sossusvlei, the salt pans of Etosha, and the pristine sanctuaries of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, exploring alongside a National Geographic expert.
Get an insider look at National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger’s historic fossil finds in the Cradle of Humankind.
Meet with researchers from the Save the Rhino Trust and track endangered black rhinos across the deserts of Damaraland.
Go on safari in the Selinda Reserve, a wildlife-rich sanctuary made famous by National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert.
Itinerary - 12 Days
Day 1 — Johannesburg, South Africa
Arrive in Johannesburg this afternoon and transfer to our hotel, set along the banks of the Magalies River. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
Valley Lodge & Spa
Day 2 — Johannesburg/Cradle of Humankind
Travel to the Cradle of Humankind, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site where a wealth of hominin fossils has been unearthed. Get an insider’s perspective on National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger’s groundbreaking finds—including the recent discovery of a new ancient human relative, Homo naledi. Learn about ongoing excavations, and explore the pristine nature reserves where these discoveries were made. Return to our hotel for a welcome dinner.
Valley Lodge & Spa (B,L,D)
Days 3 & 4 — Windhoek, Namibia/Sossusvlei
Transfer to Lanseria Airport and board a private charter flight to Windhoek, arriving in time for lunch. Continue by private flight to Sossusvlei, then head further into the desert to watch the sunset illuminate the dunes. Rise at dawn the next day for an optional hot-air balloon ride over the desert,
or venture out on a morning drive into Namib-Naukluft National Park, home to some of the
highest sand dunes in the world. Encounter
otherworldly Dead Vlei, where blackened acacia trees form haunting silhouettes against an arid lakebed. Enjoy a picnic lunch, and if you choose, climb a dune for an incredible view. In the evening, set out with a naturalist in search of unusual
Little Kulala Camp (B,L,D daily)
Days 5 & 6 — Desert Rhino Camp, Damaraland
Two short and scenic private flights bring us to Damaraland, passing over the spectacular Skeleton Coast, where seal colonies and shipwrecks are often visible from the air. This forbidding stretch of shoreline was explored by renowned filmmakers Des and Jen Bartlett for films and articles for National Geographic. Settle into our camp, located within the Palmwag Concession and run in conjunction with the Save the Rhino Trust. Go on a late-afternoon game drive in this unique desert landscape, watching for desert-adapted elephants, oryx, and mountain zebras. The next morning, track endangered black rhinos and learn how this species has adapted to the harsh environment. Then meet with local conservationists to hear about efforts to protect these rare creatures in the face of poaching and other threats. After lunch, visit a nearby village that plays a role in maintaining an ecological balance in the region.
Desert Rhino Camp (B,L,D daily)
Days 7 & 8 — Etosha National Park
Fly north to the Onguma Game Reserve, on the eastern edge of Etosha National Park. During the day, herds of plains game flock to the water holes of Etosha, and big cats are close behind. On an afternoon game drive, spot oryx and rare black-faced impalas, look for endemic birds like Hartlaub’s francolin, and catch elephants splashing at the water’s edge. Stop for sundowners in the bush before returning to the lodge for dinner. Explore Etosha further the next day, skirting its lunar-like saltpan, visiting water holes, and stopping for a picnic lunch. If you wish, opt for several additional activities: a walking safari, a visit to a photo hide, or a nocturnal game drive.
Onguma the Fort (B,L,D daily)
Day 9 — Selinda Reserve, Botswana
Depart early on a private charter to Maun, Botswana and connect by private bush plane to Selinda Camp, located at the northern edge of the Okavango Delta. Working with the local community, National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Beverly and Dereck Joubert have transformed the Selinda Reserve from a trophy hunting concession into a wildlife sanctuary. The unfenced, 320,000-acre private reserve bridges the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti wetlands, and many species move through it to get to the two adjacent wetlands. Head out on a late-afternoon safari and watch the wildlife change guard as night falls.
Selinda Camp (B,L,D)
Days 10 & 11 — Selinda Reserve
Rise early for a game drive in search of resident lion prides and packs of wild dogs. After lunch back at camp, set off on a boat trip, watching for wildlife on the shore (water levels permitting). Enjoy a special dinner in the bush. On your last full day on safari, choose from a variety of activities, including game drives, a night drive, a walking safari, or a fishing excursion. Toast our southern African safari at a farewell dinner at the camp. Selinda Camp (B,L,D daily)
Day 12 — Maun, Botswana
After an early-morning game drive and breakfast, depart Selinda Camp on a scheduled flight to Maun and connect to your flights home.
Bill Branch has been a wildlife biologist at the Port Elizabeth Museum in South Africa since 1979 and has undertaken fieldwork across the African continent, from Ethiopia to Senegal and Madagascar. Bill is also a general naturalist and keen birder. He has described numerous new species and amphibians, received a grant from National Geographic to help fund his research on African reptiles, and published six books as well as several photographs and scientific articles. In 2015, Bill joined a National Geographic-supported science team for the land-based survey of areas around the Cuito River in the headwaters of the Okavango Delta.
*The December 2018 departure will stay at Kwando Lebala on Days 9, 10, and 11.
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $3,200 in 2017 and $4,750 in 2018. All flights within Africa are included in the expedition cost. Airfare to Johannesburg and return from Maun or Windhoek is not included in the expedition cost.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives on bumpy roads, or easy hikes.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
What To Expect
We'll board our private Pilatus PC 12 aircraft to travel easily between private reserves and extraordinary safari camps deep in the wilderness. With a seating capacity of only nine passengers, this versatile aircraft offers maximum comfort and incomparable views. Each departure will be limited to 16 travelers, allowing for a more intimate experience on safari.