Luxury safaris in Namibia

“If you’re asking what constitutes a luxury safari, I think much of it comes down to location,” says Rebecca Blakey from our partner Wayfairer Travel. “Ultimately, wildlife is what people want to see, and they also want to experience a sense of wilderness.”

Few African safaris deliver on both as spectacularly as Namibia.

Home to Etosha, one of the world’s largest national parks, and the Namib Desert, the oldest on the planet, Namibia is a land of extreme environments where the wildlife has adapted to the climate, and where safaris are like nowhere else.

This is a land where the petrified bones of whales, shipwrecks and ghost towns protrude from the desert; where lizards and snakes ‘swim’ across colossal sand dunes; where eerie, long-dead trees stand sentinel in stark clay and salt pans. And yet the wildlife, from herds of elephants and giraffes to prowling lions, cheetahs and leopards, manages to thrive.

Luxury safaris in Namibia enable you to explore some of the planet’s most inhospitable landscapes in a very hospitable manner. Trips here don’t cocoon you away from the rawness of nature. Rather, they take great pleasure in immersing you deeply into it, with open-sided cabins, outdoor showers and skylights for stargazing regular features of the remote camps and lodges that are tucked discreetly between mountains and dunes.

Why take a Namibia luxury safari?

Namibia, as one of our travellers Louise Race puts it, “patched my wounded soul and set it soaring”. The wildlife is astounding: great herds of zebras, springboks and wildebeest, prowling lions, leopards and cheetahs, and elephants, giraffes and black and white rhinos. There are herds of wild horses, aardvarks, ostriches and, in the Zambezi region, crocodiles that you’ll spot on mokoro canoe river tours.

But as impressive as the wildlife is here, when it comes to landscapes Namibia is one of Africa’s most celebrated safari destinations. It’s a paradise for photographers, where the background is often just as entrancing as what’s going on in the foreground.

There are the towering burnt-red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, some of the largest on the planet and surprisingly teeming with creatures. There are the skeletal trees of Deadvlei, starved of water and scorched black by the sun. The lunar-like canyons near Swakopmund and the bleached expanse of the Etosha Pan.

Paying more for your Namibia safari makes getting from place to place far quicker and more enjoyable, so you can see as much of this huge country as possible in 10 days or so. It means game drives by day and night, but also lots of other equally special experiences – like a day roaming the Namib Desert in search of far smaller critters, catamaran cruises spent looking for dolphins and seals off Swakopmund, and fully catered picnics overlooking busy waterholes.

Most of all, perhaps, opting for a luxury safari in Namibia means smoothing out what can sometimes be an exhausting trip due to the distances you need to travel and the desert landscapes. Lodges out in the middle of nowhere somehow manage to have a good supply of wine for the evenings, the vehicles on your game drives tend to be a little more comfortable and spacious, and refreshments seem timed to appear at just the right intervals.
Travel Team
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What do luxury safaris in Namibia involve?

Types of luxury safaris

Our Namibia safaris offer plenty of choice when it comes to navigating this vast country. You can opt for a privately guided tailor made trip or a self-drive safari, both of which allow you to spend as much time as you want in a particular place, and take interesting diversions as they occur. Guided small group tours follow fixed itineraries, however all the logistics are handled on your behalf.

Those after deeper insights into all creatures great and small might consider a specialist wildlife safari led by a naturalist or zoologist guide with intimate knowledge not only of the animals but also the habitats they live in.

Getting around

Namibia is a huge country, over 800,000 square kilometres, and while the roads between key parks and reserves are usually smooth and well-maintained, driving from A to B can sometimes involve entire days on the road. Luxury safaris in Namibia make good use of short internal flights to get between far-flung camps in reserves and remote parts of the coast or desert.

It’s not just for practical reasons. Flying, you gain a sense of Namibia’s immense scale, as well as awe-inspiring views over a sea of dunes, desert shipwrecks and herds of elephants and giraffes on the move.

Luxury accommodation

Namibia safaris can be exhausting, with long, hot treks and game drives under the unforgiving desert sun. Anticipating that, the lodges and camps you’ll stay in on a luxury safari here seek out innovative ways to make the going easier.

Pre-dawn departures become far more palatable when you realise that your packed breakfast is actually a feast. It’s all the more remarkable when you consider it must have been cooked – somehow – out in the bush, before sunrise, by someone who was up long before you. Then there is cocktail hour, where the bar comes to you perhaps atop a clifftop, with lodge staff whipping up chilled G&Ts for you to sip while you watch a typically astounding African sunset.

Luxury Namibia safaris pick out smaller accommodations, often in private reserves, where the sense of remoteness is panoramic and all-pervading. Your cabin might be open on three sides or boast a glass front so that from your four-poster bed it feels as though the wilderness is encroaching into your bedroom.

Staff are frequently hired from surrounding villages, and our partners deliberately seek out accommodations that work with local conservation or community projects. Your stay might be helping to fund a rhino reintroduction scheme or an organisation dedicated to working with farmers so they can manage the presence of big carnivores rather than hunting them. Meanwhile lodges and camps often sell beautiful handmade artworks, such as by local woodcarvers, providing them with a valuable income from tourism.

The amenities you can expect are also dependent on your accommodation’s location. Deep inside parks and reserves, all meals need to be included, which could be served in a variety of ways: in open-sided restaurants, around the fire pit as guests trade safari stories, or perhaps out in the bush.

Though menus are by necessity limited, the cuisine is exceptional – three, four or even five-course meals that lean heavily on sustainably hunted bushmeat. Vegetarian and vegan diets, as well as allergies, can be catered for but advance notice is essential as there’s no supermarket at the end of the road.

As is customary on safari, guests dine together for the most part but have no concerns about dressing for dinner: muddy walking boots and dusty hair are de riguer. The hallmark of a luxury safari in Namibia is that while everything from wine tastings to sundowners out in the hills is done on a relaxed, informal basis, you know that an immense amount of thought has gone into organising it.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Eric Ward] [Intro: Arne Smith] [Getting around: Hp.Baumeler]