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Dear Vacations To Go Customer,
Alan Fox visited Namibia with SITA World Tours and his report is
Long before humans cast their first shadows on the Earth, winds screamed
off the southern Atlantic Ocean across what would one day be called the
Skeleton Coast of Namibia. Red sand from the Kalahari Desert, carried to
the coast by the Orange River, was caught in these currents and blown
many miles inland.
Over millions of years, these grains of sand accumulated and began to
take shape. Today, the massive red dunes of the Namib Desert are still
growing and migrating up to 30 feet a year. They form a striking and
surreal landscape as spectacular as any on the planet.
I am checking in today from Namibia, a sparsely populated country on the
southwestern coast of Africa. I'm in the world's oldest desert, the
Namib, which is second in size to the Sahara and runs the entire length
of Namibia's coastline. I arrived in Namibia eight days ago and this is
the final stop in a whirlwind tour of the country's main tourist attractions.
My visit started in Windhoek, a clean and orderly capital city where
African and European cultures blend easily. German castles and churches
scattered among modern buildings are a reminder of a less harmonious
time, from 1884 to 1915, when Namibia was a German colony.
In Windhoek, we met Mellos, our Namibian driver and guide, who in eight
days of touring covered 1,200 miles and two cities without once
referring to a map or GPS. The man literally seems to know every road in
this country, as well as its history, politics, flora, fauna and
From Windhoek, we headed far north to the country's
largest game reserve, Etosha National Park. The park surrounds the
Etosha Pan, a 75-mile-long salt lake that is usually dry.
We spent a full day in the park and saw large numbers of zebras,
springbok, oryx, hartebeest, wildebeest and ostriches, as well as many
species of beautiful birds. My favorite sighting was of a tower of
giraffes on the far side of a watering hole. Please forgive me if I got
a little carried away in today's slideshow.
From Etosha, we
went southwest to a village of the Himba tribe, where we were welcomed
in and invited to take photos. The Himbas are a semi-nomadic people who
raise cattle and goats and have changed little since ancient times.
The Himbas live in tiny, circular houses made of wood plastered over
with a mixture of clay and cow manure. Boys and girls are circumcised
before reaching puberty and have their bottom four front teeth knocked
out. I was told by a tribal guide that the practice allowed better
clicking sounds when speaking.
The Himbas are polygamous, with the number of wives loosely
proportionate to the number of cattle a man owns. Marriages are arranged
by a girl's father and they are given away at a very young age.
Himba women have a reddish hue from a paste of red pigment and butter
that they apply daily. Their only clothes are leather skirts and they
adorn themselves with jewelry and elaborate headdresses that include
animal hide, braided hair wrapped in red clay and hair extensions.
Himba women do not bathe, but instead use smoke from incense to clean
themselves. We were invited to observe this process in one of the small
The Himbas are about as different from the average Namibian as they are
from Americans. They number less than 50,000 out of a total Namibian
population of 2.5 million.
From the Himba village, we continued
to a region called Damaraland, known for interesting geological features
such as the Organ Pipe rock formation and a purple-and-black hill called
Burnt Mountain. We viewed prehistoric rock carvings at Twyfelfontein and
toured a petrified forest before continuing on to the charming coastal
resort town of Swakopmund.
Swakopmund was established by German colonists in 1892, and its upscale
hotels, restaurants and shopping draw vacationers from throughout
Namibia and South Africa.
As we approached Swakopmund from the desert, we could see a blanket of
fog a thousand feet high hugging the coast the entire length of the
horizon, which happens much of the year. Upon arrival, we found that the
wall of white was about 100 feet offshore and the town was bathed in
sunlight, just one of many extraordinary visual experiences this country
It was an easy walk to explore the downtown area, shopping streets,
beach and restaurants from our hotel.
Leaving Swakopmund behind, we drove to the so-called Moon Landscape, a
barren region of deep canyons carved into granite mountains, then south
to the heart of the Namib Desert, to see what brought me here.
Yesterday morning, we were on the road to Sossusvlei (translation:
dead-end lake) an hour before dawn in order to see the first rays of the
sun strike the towering dunes. I knew a little about what was in store
but the sight exceeded my expectations.
We stopped many times for photos before we reached one of the most
famous dunes, Dune 45, which visitors are allowed to climb. Fortunately,
it was only 80 degrees F as we started up.
Imagine scaling a sand pile 500 feet tall where each foot sinks 6 inches
when you take a short step and you'll understand why 90% of the people
who started the climb that morning gave up along the way. We spent about
an hour trudging to the top for an incredible panoramic view of the sand
Getting down was a lot easier than getting up. We went straight down the
steepest part of the dune, sinking and sliding and barely managing to
stay upright. One fellow traveler was not so lucky, going
head-over-heels before coming to a soft, gritty landing.
We drove deeper into the dune field until the road turned to sand and
only 4-wheel-drive vehicles were allowed to proceed. A mile after that,
the sand was so deep that all vehicles were stopped.
We hiked the last arduous mile to the region's biggest attraction,
Deadvlei (translation: dead lake).
It's hard to believe that every five or 10 years there is enough rain in
this desert country to allow the ephemeral Tsauchab River to flow into
Sossusvlei, but when it does, it dies nearby. Its path to the sea is
blocked by the dunes.
There are trees at Deadvlei that sprouted in an age when the river came
through regularly, but that stopped 600-700 years ago. Their skeletons
have been scorched black by the sun and it is an incredible sight.
In my photos, the dune in the background of Deadvlei is called Big
Daddy. Its more than 1,000 feet tall.
If you come to Namibia, you only need to remember one word for
. The company's 15 lodges and one hotel
are clean, comfortable, well-run and serve good food, buffet-style. They
are strategically located in the tourist areas of the country.
I've stayed at four Gondwana properties -- the Etosha Safari
, the Damara Mopane Lodge, The Delight Swakopmund
the Namib Desert Lodge --
and I heartily recommend all four.
Namibia is a friendly, peaceful, stable democracy. It is not so much a
traditional safari destination as a geological feast, highlighted by
cultural experiences and game drives.
If you want to see most of the country's tourist areas, as I did, you'll
cover a lot of miles, but the utterly unique topography and the
occasional free-roaming ostrich, oryx, zebra or springbok will keep
To view photos or a slideshow from my Namibia tour, please
Alan Fox is traveling for the third time with the deluxe tour and safari
operator SITA World Tours
. The company has more than 80 years of
experience and specializes in guided travel to exotic destinations.
SITA offers upscale tours and safaris on scheduled departures for small
groups but will also customize a trip for as few as two people. They
work with the best lodges and guides in each destination and take care
of every detail.
For more information about SITA's tours of Namibia, please
To see all of SITA's itineraries in Africa,
To see all SITA tours worldwide,
Top 10 Africa vacations
Affordable South Africa In-Depth,
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Starting at $3,400. Departures from January 5 through December 19, 2018.
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Rwanda & Uganda Gorilla Discovery (National Geographic Journey),
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Splendors of Africa,
12 days with SITA Tours. Begins in Cape Town and ends in Johannesburg.
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Southern Africa: Travel to the Ends of the Earth with the Cape of Good Hope,
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