Lodge safari in Namibia

Our lodge safaris in Namibia are not only about the wildlife, though here you can admire lions, rhinos and elephants in Etosha National Park, vast numbers of Cape fur seals on the coast, and Africa’s largest population of cheetahs. Instead these trips place an equal focus on the unique and wondrous landscapes in Africa’s southwest corner: the rust-red dunes and petrified trees of Sossusvlei, the vast saline desert of Etosha, the Martian-like channels of the Sesriem Canyon.

Our lodge safari holidays also explore Namibian culture. You can dine on fresh-caught seafood in tiny fishing villages around Walvis Bay, and discover painted rock art left on the walls of caves by the San people thousands of years ago. And, particularly around Kaokoland in the northwest of the country, you’ll have the opportunity to meet Himba villagers.

Many of Namibia’s Himba people continue to follow semi-nomadic pastoral lifestyles that often keep them isolated. But the Himba are faced with an existential threat in the climate crisis, with worsening drought now forcing some to abandon their traditional ways of life in search of employment in urban areas. It’s a delicate situation, and one where responsible tourism can play an important role.

What do lodge safaris in Namibia involve?

“Lodges are the best option for Namibia safaris really,” says Antony Barton, Product Manager for our partner Explore Worldwide. “It’s an enormous country and getting around involves a lot of driving. What I love the most about Namibia is the contrasts in the landscapes you pass through, from the wide-open desert to savannah, fertile valleys to coastal areas. But those long journeys can be quite punishing – the average trip is twelve to fourteen days. So having a lodge waiting for you every evening, with an elevated bed in a comfortable room, preferably with air conditioning, makes such a difference.”
In fact lodges are now the preferred option for most safaris here over camping, as Antony Barton explains. “Namibia is composed of some quite harsh environments, and safaris take you to remote areas, so the cost of transporting and erecting tents gets prohibitive, and so lodges make sense financially speaking too.”

Whether you’re travelling as part of a fully escorted small group, or taking a tailor made, self-drive tour of Namibia, there will be a prebooked lodge waiting to welcome you every afternoon (hotels and guesthouses will be used in some areas such as Walvis Bay). These properties are generally small, locally owned places, so that more money stays in the regional economy. It also means that your accommodation tends to be more personable.

Lodges vary in size and standard, from 3-star to very opulent (and correspondingly expensive) 5-star places. They will often have been constructed using local materials, which helps them blend into their environments, the better for watching wildlife unobtrusively. Our partners select accommodation in the most convenient locations possible: “In Etosha National Park for instance, the lodges are likely to be adjacent to a watering hole, so you can see elephants or zebras as they come up for a drink,” says Antony.

In the Ongava Private Game Reserve, which borders Etosha, lodges not only employ members of local communities, but also partner with them to run the reserve and follow a ‘Responsible Code of Visitor Behaviour’. This ensures guests are well-prepared on how to interact respectfully and appropriately when visiting nearby villages.

Outside the cities your meals will be included throughout – you can expect cuisine from Namibia and other African countries at lodges, though international food will also be available. Depending on group size you’ll travel between destinations either by 4WD, or a truck. There are some bumpy roads and long distances to cover, so bringing an inflatable travel pillow is recommended.
Travel Team
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Exploring Himba culture in Namibia

The Himba are Namibia’s last remaining semi-nomadic people. Visiting one of their settlements as part of a Namibia lodge safari can sometimes be complicated, as they tend to move around without notice, following the rains so they can graze their livestock. But their pastoral way of life is under threat because the rains they depend on are drying up, and some Himba are now moving away from this type of farming.

Men are often away with the herds, so villages are mostly populated by women and children. Himba women wear jewellery such as thick bracelets to protect their arms from wildlife and branches, as well as ohumba necklaces, a fertility symbol. In Himba society girls marry very young and are not considered women until they have had a child. Much of the jewellery they wear is red-hued, coated with the same otjize paste with which the Himba adorn their skin and hair. The paste gives the Himba their distinctive terracotta appearance. A mixture of animal fat and ochre, it serves as sun protection and insect repellent – vital, as both men and women are usually bare-chested.

These cultural practices go back centuries, and sadly risk being lost. Namibia, already one of the most arid countries in Africa, has suffered from persistent drought since 2015. Younger generations, aware they will struggle to make a living from animals and conscious that status in their communities is principally derived from the size of one’s herd, are looking to urban areas to improve their prospects.

The worry is that in the face of these changes traditional Himba culture will gradually fade away. Responsible tourism brings valuable income to communities such as those around Etosha National Park, and Opuwo, near Windhoek, money that can then empower them to make choices about the future of their culture without the need to put on a ‘show’ for visitors.

Our lodge safaris in Namibia ensure that when you enter Himba villages you’re fully briefed beforehand by guides who are fluent in Himba history and culture. You’ll learn how to engage respectfully and politely, and if you would like to bring a gift, you will be directed towards something useful for the community, such as metal cooking equipment, food, or even goats bought from nearby farms.

Cultural visits like this should take place on an equal footing. While the lives of your hosts may be very different to your own, there will always be points of connection. Local guides who act as interpreters are great at helping you to find them.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Joshua Kettle] [Food: Frank Smith] [Places: Joe Bloggs]