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Namibia brims with photographic opportunities, from its wild, unusual geology to its unique wildlife and evocative ancient cultures. Hone your wildlife photography skills while tracking cheetahs, leopards, and desert-adapted elephants and rhinos with scientists and a National Geographic photographer. Capture landscapes that defy the imagination—endless salt pans, moonscapes hewn in red rock, and deserts that sweep to the sea. Enjoy a rare chance to document the timeless traditions of the San Bushman, the Topnaar, and the Himba people as we spend time with them in their settlements and hiking the wilderness they know by heart.
Hone your photo techniques with National Geographic photographer Chris Rainier (June departure) or Jay Dickman (December departure).
Encounter leopards and cheetahs up close with National Geographic grantee Florian Weise, and track cheetahs on foot in the Okonjima Game Reserve.
Search for rare desert-adapted black rhinos and elephants.
Go kayaking on Walvis Bay, and take a night walk in the Namib Desert.
Itinerary - 13 Days
Day 1 — Windhoek, Namibia/ N/a’an ku sê
Arrive in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city, and travel to nearby N/a’an ku sê, a research and conservation center focused on protecting Namibia’s wildlife and cultures. National Geographic grantee Florian Weise greets us here to discuss his innovative carnivore conservation project—part of the Society’s Big Cats Initiative. As we learn about Florian’s use of GPS and Google Earth to track predators, we’ll have some great opportunities to photograph cheetahs and leopards at very close range. Stay in the center’s stunning not-for-profit eco-lodge tonight. N/a’an ku sê Lodge (D)
Day 2 — Okonjima Game Reserve
Travel north to the Okonjima Game Reserve, stopping to photograph merchants presiding over colorful handicrafts in the markets of Okahandja. Stretching some 55,000 acres, Okonjima is home to the AfriCat Foundation, which seeks to rehabilitate injured or captive predators, and mitigate conflicts between wildlife and local farmers. Settle into your private thatched chalet, and head out on safari. Hone your wildlife photography skills while tracking cheetahs on foot or leopards in a vehicle, and later, take a spot in a hide and practice low-light photography as nocturnal creatures such as porcupine, honey badgers, and perhaps a leopard emerge. (2–3 miles walking, 1–2 hours) Okonjima Camp (B,L,D)
Days 3 & 4 — Tsumkwe
Rise early for a game drive and photograph wildlife in the clear morning light. Then travel east to the land of the San people, who have lived off this harsh land for millennia. Our time with the San offer incredible opportunities to document their ancient hunter-gatherer culture and everyday life. With our cameras at the ready, we’ll take part in daily activities such as fire- and rope-making, cooking, and setting traps to catch game. Join community members for a bush walk, tracking game, looking for honey, and foraging for edible or medicinal plants. With luck, our visit will coincide with a traditional elephant or giraffe healing ceremony, affording us a rare chance to photograph this colorful ritual. (Day 3: 2–3 miles walking, 1–2 hours; Day 4: 3–4 miles walking, 2–3 hours) Nhoma Safari Camp (B,L,D)
Days 5, 6, & 7 — Etosha National Park
Drive west, stopping to visit Lake Otjikoto, where retreating German forces dumped tons of armaments following the South-West African campaign. Arrive at our bush camp on the eastern boundary of Etosha National Park. Enjoy two full days on safari in different regions of the park, and spend a night in the adjacent private Ongava Game Reserve. Photograph gemsbok and rare black-faced impala, zoom in on endemic birds like Hartlaub’s francolin and the bare-cheeked babbler, and linger by the water’s edge to capture images of the zebra, elephants, giraffe, and more that come to splash, bathe, and drink by the water’s edge.
Mushara Bush Camp; Andersson’s Camp (B, L, D Daily)
Days 8 & 9 — Palmwag Concession
Take advantage of the morning light during a final early game drive in Ongava, and then head south to the Palmwag Concession, a vast, arid landscape dotted with flat-topped mountains and conical peaks that is home to one of the world’s largest natural populations of the rare black rhino. Our camp here is part of the Save the Rhino Trust, which has helped revive the rhino population after the species was nearly wiped out. Go rhino tracking on game drives and walks led by wildlife guides and enjoy an opportunity to photograph these prehistoric-looking creatures—and more of the region’s flora and fauna—against this otherworldly backdrop. (Day 8: 2–3 miles walking, 1–2 hours; Day 9: 3–4 miles walking, 2–3 hours) Desert Rhino Camp (B,L,D)
Day 10 — Damaraland
Enter Damaraland, a stark desert landscape where unusually succulent plants thrive, fed by mists off the Atlantic. We’ll seek out the Himba people, semi-nomadic pastoralists who live in conical homes built of palm fronds, saplings, and mud. Many Himba women still dress traditionally and cover their skin and hair with a rich, red paste of ochre and fat. Meet with elders to learn about their culture and enjoy a chance to take portraits of these stunning people and record their daily life. (1–2 miles walking, 1–2 hours)
Doro Nawas Camp (B,L,D)
Days 11 & 12 — Twyfelfontein/Swakopmund
Capture the early morning light on the sweeping landscapes of Damaraland as we search for the elusive desert-adapted elephant. Then, at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Twyfelfontein, hike into the hills to photograph San petroglyphs engraved in red sandstone, and the geological curiosities of Burnt Mountain and the Organ Pipes. Continue to Swakopmund, a harbor town between the Namib Desert and the Atlantic. Go on an evening photo walk in the Swakop River Valley, on the lookout for reptiles and other nocturnal desert creatures, and end the day with a barbecue. The next day, get a new perspective on Namibia’s landscapes and wildlife on a kayaking excursion on Walvis Bay. Train your lens on Cape fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, flamingos, and perhaps a leatherback turtle, and frame the intersection of desert and sea. Later, venture into the Kuiseb River Valley to meet with and photograph the Topnaar people (Day 11: 3–4 miles walking, 2–3 hours; Day 12: 3–4 miles paddling, 2 hours)
Sossus Dune Lodge (B,L,D daily)
Day 13 — Windhoek
After breakfast, head to the airport in Windhoek for your flight home. (B,L)
National Geographic Active Expeditions are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers that combine spectacular places, cultural interaction, and physical challenge. You'll explore fascinating, off-the-beaten-path places with top guides, and wherever possible, meet National Geographic experts in the field.
Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer Jay Dickman has worked in photojournalism for more than 40 years, covering topics as diverse as the war in El Salvador, the Olympics, national political conventions, six Super Bowls, and the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. Among his more than 25 assignments for the National Geographic Society, Jay has lived for three months in a Stone Age village in Papua New Guinea and spent a week under the Arctic ice in a nuclear attack sub. A popular photo instructor and expedition leader, he has also published five books and numerous articles for National Geographic Traveler, LIFE, Condé Nast Traveler, Time, Sports Illustrated, and Forbes.
This is an easy walking trip with one day of kayaking along the Skeleton Coast. This trip is suitable for beginner and expert kayakers; no previous experience is necessary. We will be paddling stable, two-person kayaks for an average of 2 hours (2 to 4 miles), and will be walking 1 to 4 hours (1 to 3 miles) per day. We will stay 9 nights in deluxe tented camps, one night in an eco-lodge, and two nights in a comfortable hotel.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.
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