Organising your trip
Most visitors who come to Namibia for a holiday use the country's guest farms, lodges and restcamps – often combining them together into a self-drive tour around the country.
Such trips are quite complex, as you will be using numerous hotels, camps and lodges in your own particular sequence. Many of these places are small (and so easily filled), and organise their own logistics with military precision. Finding space at short notice is often difficult.
To arrange everything, it's best to use a reliable, independent tour operator based in your own country. Although many operators sell trips to Namibia, few really know the country well. Insist on dealing directly with someone who does. Namibia changes so fast that detailed local knowledge is vital in putting together a trip that runs smoothly and suits you. Make sure that whoever you book with is fully bonded, so that your money is protected if they go broke; and, ideally, pay with a credit card. Never book a trip from someone who doesn't know Namibia personally: you are asking for problems.
Trips around Namibia are not cheap, though they are currently cheaper (and also better value in many cases) than in any other country in southern Africa. Expect to pay around the same to an operator as you would have to pay directly: about £550–900/US$880–1,440 per person per week, plus airfares. At this price you can expect a good level of service whilst you are considering the options and booking the trip. If you don't get it, go elsewhere.
Booking directly with Namibian safari operators or agencies is possible, but communication is more difficult and you will have no recourse if anything goes wrong. European/US operators usually work on commission for the trips that they sell, which is deducted from the basic cost that the visitor pays. Thus you should end up paying about the same whether you book through an overseas operator or talk directly to someone in Namibia, but the former is a lot easier.
Until the last few years, most tour operators overseas have overlooked Namibia. Few have featured it. Now that it is better known, many are hastily putting together programmes without knowing what they're doing. Often they are just selling tours that someone in Namibia has designed and marketed. Few have spent much time in the country themselves, and fewer still can give detailed first-hand guidance on all of the country, let alone a wide range of guest farms, camps and lodges.
Don't be talked into thinking that there are only a handful of places to visit and a few camps to stay in. There are many, all individual and different. Ask about ones mentioned in these chapters; a good operator will know the vast majority of them and be able to describe them to you.
Here I must, as the author, admit a personal interest in the tour-operating business: I organise and run the southern African operations of the UK operator Sunvil Africa (tel: 020 8232 9777; email: firstname.lastname@example.org). In Namibia our flexible fly-drives start at about £1,600/US$2,560 per person for two weeks, including flights from London, car hire, all accommodation and some meals. I believe that Sunvil Africa have the best and most interesting programme to Namibia – and will happily send you a detailed map of Namibia and our brochure, to demonstrate this. Just call us. For a fair comparison, other UKtour operators that feature Namibia include: Aardvark Safaris
RBL House, Ordnance Rd, Tidworth, Hants SP9 7QD; tel: 01980 849160; fax: 01980 849161; email: email@example.com; web: www.aardvarksafaris.com. Recently founded, small upmarket operator featuring much of Africa and Madagascar.Abercrombie & Kent
Sloane Square House, Holbein Place, London SW1W 8NS; tel: 020 7559 8500; fax: 0845 070 0608; web: www.abercrombiekent.co.uk. Long-established, large and posh operator worldwide, with a wide choice of Africa trips – though often focuses on selling its own lodges in Africa.Africa Explorer
5 Strand on the Green, London W4 3PQ; tel: 020 8987 8742; fax: 020 8994 6264; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.africa-explorer.co.uk. Tiny but knowledgeable company, run by the jovial John Haycock, that has unusual, and enormous, six-wheeled self-contained vehicles for hire.Africa Travel Centre
Leigh St, London WC1H 9EW; tel: 020 7387 1211; fax: 020 7383 7512; email: email@example.com; web: www.africatravel.co.uk. Featuring East and southern Africa, the Africa Travel Centre has a special emphasis on golfing holidays, and trips for sportspeople to Africa. Bridge Travel Group
Bridge House, 55–59 High Rd, Broxbourne, Herts EN10 7DT; tel: 0870 191 7168; fax: 01992 456 609. A member of the UK's large My Travel Group, Bridge has a programme concentrating on South Africa, including trips to Namibia.Cazenove & Loyd
3 Alice Court, 116 Putney Bridge Rd, London SW15 2NQ; tel: 020 8875 9666; fax: 020 8875 9444; web: www.caz-loyd.com. Old-school, established tailormade specialists to East/southern Africa, the Indian Ocean Islands, and Central/South America. Cedarberg Travel
16a High St, Hampton, Middx TW12 2SJ; tel: 020 8941 1717; fax: 020 8979 3893; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.cedarbergtravel.com. South African specialist with some knowledge of Namibia.Cox & Kings
Gordon House, 10 Greencoat Place, London SW1P 1PH; tel: 020 7873 5000; email: email@example.com; web: www.coxandkings.co.uk. Old company renowned for India, now also featuring Latin America, Indian Ocean, Middle East, China, Asia and Africa, including some Namibian trips.Dragoman Camp
Green, Debenham, Stowmarket, Suffolk IP14 6LA; tel: 01728 861133; fax: 01728 861127; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.dragoman.co.uk. Budget overland truck tours worldwide, including Africa.Exodus
9 Weir Rd, London SW12 0LT; tel: 020 8675 5550; fax: 020 7673 0779; web: www.exodus.co.uk. Budget overland truck tours worldwide, including Africa, now branching out into set trips that don't involve trucks.Explore Worldwide
1 Frederick St, Aldershot, Hants GU11 1LQ; tel: 01252 760000; fax: 01252 760001; email: email@example.com; web: www.exploreworldwide.com. A relatively large specialist company concentrating on small-group escorted tours throughout the world, including Namibia, using local operators and transport.Footloose Adventure Travel Services
3 Springs Pavement, Ilkley, West Yorks LS29 8HD; tel: 01943 604030; fax: 01943 604070; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.footlooseadventure.co.uk. Gane and Marshall
98 Crescent Rd, New Barnet, Herts EN4 9RJ; tel: 020 8441 9592; fax: 020 8441 7376; email: email@example.com; web: www.ganeandmarshall.co.uk. Offers small group trips to South and Central America and the Galápagos, plus the Far East and most of Africa, from Ethiopia to Namibia.Guerba
Wessex House, 40 Station Rd, Westbury, Wilts BA13 3JN; tel: 01373 826611; fax: 01373 858351; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.guerba.com. Long-standing overland truck company that's branched out in recent years into other trips worldwide; takes a very responsible approach to African travel.Hartley Safaris
The Old Chapel, Chapel Lane, Hackthorn, Lincs LN2 3PN; tel: 01673 861600; fax: 01673 861666; web: www.hartleys-safaris.co.uk. Old-school, established tailormade specialists to East/southern Africa, and Indian Ocean Islands. Nomad African Travel
Smugglers Cottage, Church Rd, Westbourne, Emsworth, Hants PO10 8UA; tel/fax: 01243 373929; email: email@example.com; web: www.nomadafricantravel.co.ukOkavango Tours and Safaris
Marlborough House, 298 Regents Park Rd, London N3 2TJ; tel: 020 8343 3283; fax: 020 8343 3287; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.okavango.com. Small, long-established specialists to East/southern Africa, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands.Rainbow Tours
64 Essex Rd, London N1 8LR; tel: 020 7226 1004; fax: 020 7226 2621; email: email@example.com; web: www.rainbowtours.co.uk. Established specialists to South Africa and Madagascar with a strong ethical streak, and a programme in Namibia. Safari Consultants
Orchard House, Upper Rd, Little Cornard, Suffolk CO10 0NZ; tel: 01787 228494; fax: 01787 228096; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.safari-consultants.co.uk, web: www.safariconsultantuk.com. Old school tailormade specialists to the Indian subcontinent, East/central/southern Africa, including Namibia, and the Indian Ocean islands.Safari Drive
The Trainers Office, Windy Hollow, Sheepdrive, Lambourn, Berks RG17 7XA; tel: 0870 240 6305; fax: 01488 71311; email: email@example.com; web: www.safaridrive.com. Operate trips using equipped Land Rovers, mainly in Botswana and Tanzania though also covers Namibia.Scott Dunn World
Fovant Mews, 12 Noyna Rd, London SW17 7PH; tel: 020 8682 5010; fax: 020 8682 5090; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.scottdunn.com. Worldwide luxury operator featuring Asia, Latin America, ski chalets, Mediterranean villas and Africa, including Namibia.Somerville Wood (Drive Africa)
The Nightingale Centre, 8 Balham Hill, London SW12 9EA; tel: 020 8675 3974; fax: 020 8675 3913; email: email@example.com; web: www.driveafrica.com. Relatively new company concentrating on sub-Saharan Africa, with a variety of offerings including fully equipped 4WDs. Steppes Africa
The Travel House, 51 Castle St, Cirencester, Glos GL7 1QD; tel: 01285 650011; fax: 01285 885888; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.artoftravel.co.uk. Originally founded as 'Art of Travel', this posh tailormade specialist now features much of Asia, as well as most of East, central and southern Africa, plus Mauritius and the Seychelles.Sunvil Africa
Upper Square, Old Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 7BJ; tel: 020 8232 9777; fax: 020 8568 8330; email: email@example.com; web: www.sunvil.co.uk/africa. Sunvil started trips to Namibia in 1992, and now have the most comprehensive programme to the country, run by Chris McIntyre – this book's author.Tim Best Travel
68 Old Brompton Rd, London SW7 3LQ; tel: 020 7591 0300; fax: 020 7591 0301; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.timbesttravel.co.uk. Bespoke operator concentrating on South America, the Indian Ocean Islands and Africa – including Namibia.Tribes Travel
12 The Business Centre, Earl Soham, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP13 7SA; tel: 01728 685971; fax: 01728 685973; email: email@example.com; web: www.tribes.co.uk. Not a Namibian specialist, though an interesting selection of trips worldwide, based on fair-trade principles, including some innovative options.Wildlife Worldwide
170 Selsdon Rd, South Croydon, Surrey CR2 6PJ; tel: 020 8667 9158; fax: 020 8667 1960; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.wildlifeworldwide.com. Wide-ranging small operator with programmes across the globe, including options that feature Namibia.
Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) is the government department responsible for all the national parks. It is generally efficient, if sometimes apparently over-zealous about its bureaucracy. Its system insists that advance bookings for accommodation are made through the Windhoek office.
You can, theoretically, reserve accommodation by post or fax. However, you must pay for it in advance. From overseas this can require a telex transfer of money. To start this process, write to the Director of Tourism, RESERVATIONS, P Bag 13267, Windhoek; tel: 061 236975–8; fax: 061 224900. If you are booking less than 25 days ahead, then you must pay for everything in full. This system is most easily mastered by visiting the office in person in Windhoek. Alternatively book in advance through a tour operator that understands the system.
Entry permits for most parks are available at the gates, provided you're there before they close and there is space left. The exceptions are permits for the Naukluft, Terrace Bay and Torra Bay, which can only be obtained from Windhoek. Permits to drive through the Namib section of the Namib-Naukluft Park are available at most tourist offices.
During Namibia's public holidays the towns shut down, though the national parks and other attractions just carry on regardless.
New Year's Day January 1
Independence Day March 21
Workers' Day May 1
Cassinga Day May 4
Africa Day May 25
Ascension Day 40 days after Easter Sunday
Heroes' Day August 26
Human Rights Day December 10
Christmas Day December 25
Family Day December 26