Because the civil war in Angola has spilled over the border into northern Namibia, the U.S. State Department is advising American citizens to avoid travel to northern Namibia. Otherwise, travel to the country remains safe. The destinations covered in our story lie far from the affected area—Windhoek, for instance, is 375 miles south—and no one expects the fighting to spread deeper into Namibia. For the latest security information on travel to Namibia, visit the U.S. State Department's Web site, which is located at http://travel.state.gov/namibia.
When To Go
The weather is invariably warm and sunny year-round, with May through September the most comfortable months and November through March, when temperatures in the desert interior frequently exceed 100 degrees, the most uncomfortable. Note that August can be windy, an important consideration when undertaking an air safari.
The jumping-off point for an air safari is Namibia's capital, Windhoek. The best way to get there from the United States is to take South African Airways from New York (JFK only) or Atlanta to Johannesburg or Capetown, then connect to Windhoek. Air Namibia offers three weekly overnight flights from Frankfurt to Windhoek, in addition to a Friday evening flight departing from London (via Frankfurt).
It's best to spend a day or two in Windhoek to recover from the flight, although the time difference is not huge—only seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Most hotels in Windhoek are large and charmless. An alternative is Hilltop House, a surprisingly luxurious six-bedroom guesthouse that overlooks the downtown area. The accommodations are spacious and attractively furnished with African tribal artifacts. A superb breakfast is served on the sun deck beside the small swimming pool. Any of the guesthouse's four owners—Andrew Gillies, Melissa London, Nichola Waterhouse, Lumley Hulley—can advise about restaurants in the capital or arrange for transportation. $100. 12 Lessing Street, Windhoek;
To arrange a private air safari in Namibia, we recommend Worldwide Journeys and Expeditions, Britain's leading adventure travel company and the London agent for The Namib Travel Shop and Wilderness Safaris. The cost of a small group safari with a route similar to the author's: $2,725. 44-207-381-8638; fax 44-207-381-0836;
Air Charter Practicalities
The air-charter company we used, Sefofane Air Charters, is a reliable outfit associated with the established South African travel company Wilderness Safaris. The company uses a variety of aircraft, including the single-turbine-engined Cessna Caravan (12 passengers) and the twin-engined Beechcraft 402 (seven passengers). However, the workhorse of the region is the single-engined Cessna Centurion 210. The plane can take five passengers but is ideally configured for just three, which allows for more luggage space and ample legroom. The 210 has retractable landing gear, which means it can fly significantly faster than a fixed-gear plane, and a high wing, which means that your view of the landscape below is unimpeded. Although the terrain of Namibia is forbidding, flying conditions are often ideal, with cloudless skies and perfect visibility. Box 6850, Windhoek, Namibia; tel/fax 255-735. http://africanadrenalin.co.za/wildernesssafaris
WOLWEDANS DUNES LODGE Completed in December 1998, this camp has eight stylish and comfortable double chalets, plus a single two-bedroom suite, all in a majestic setting. Bright, well-equipped bathrooms have excellent solar-heated showers, while spacious bedrooms feature pine floors, stylish furniture, and thick duvets to ward off the chill desert night air. The aesthetically pleasing main lodge has an attractive bar, a small library, and an open fire. Food is well-prepared, and there is a good selection of South African wines. (Note: Don't confuse this camp with Wolwedans Dune Camp, which offers more basic tented accommodations.) $380-$530. Price includes all meals, tax, and activities. Reservations through NamibRand Safaris, Box 5048, Windhoek, Namibia; 230-616; fax 220-102; www.wolwedans.com.
SOSSUSVLEI WILDERNESS CAMP Opened in the summer of 1998, Sossusvlei, approximately 180 miles southwest of Windhoek, has an extraordinarily spectacular and otherworldly location—on private land close to the Namib-Naukluft Park. The lodge has nine bungalows of rock, timber, and thatch, each equipped with a private deck and plunge pool. The cuisine is excellent—dining is communal—and in general, despite the lodge's remote setting, guests enjoy a high level of creature comfort. $260. Price includes all meals, tax, and activities. Reservations: The Namib Travel Shop, Box 6850, Windhoek, Namibia; 225-178; fax 239-455. www.iwwn.com.na/resorts/sossus.html
DAMARALAND CAMP Situated in a dramatic, mountainous landscape, Damaraland Camp has a private 46-square-mile concession located within the Torra Conservancy. The camp features eight roomy and exceptionally comfortable safari tents (each with good bathroom facilities), attractive public areas, and a small swimming pool. $260. Price includes all meals, tax, and activities. Reservations: The Namib Travel Shop, Box 6850, Windhoek, Namibia; 225-178; fax 239-455.
Telephone Numbers: The country code is 264; the city code for Windhoek is 61 from abroad, 061 from within the country.
Local Time: Seven hours ahead of EST.
Currency: Namibian dollar, abbreviated NAD, or South African rand, abbreviated ZAR.
Current Exchange: NAD 6.58=$1; ZAR 6.93=$1.
Best Time To Visit: May through September.
Airlines Served By: South African Airways (code-shared with Delta) and Air Namibia.
U.S. Gateways: New York, Atlanta.
Flight Time: About 14.5 hours (from the East Coast).
Cab from Airport: to City Center $20.
Airport Car Rental: Avis, Budget, Imperial.
Taxis: Can be hailed or reserved by phone.
Taxi Tipping: Ten percent.
Restaurant Tipping: Service is often included; when not, a ten percent tip is customary.
Health Precautions: Several vaccinations are recommended for travel to Namibia; consult your doctor at least five weeks before your trip.
Further Information: visit www.cdc.gov/travel/safrica.htm, the southern Africa travel page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About This Guide
Prices In U.S. dollars.
Hotel Prices Double occupancy, from the least expensive double room to the most expensive suite, excluding service. Hotel tax included.
Telephone Numbers Only the local number is given. See Namibia Basics.
Travel Tips See Namibia Basics.
Platinum Card Travel Service (PTS) or Centurion Travel Service (CTS)
For assistance with your travel to Namibia or any destination, call 800-443-7672 (PTS) or 877-877-0987 (CTS). From abroad, call 623-492-5000 collect.
Disclaimer: The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication in July 2000, but we suggest you confirm all details with the service establishments before making travel plans.