Faces of the Namib

Discover the desert on our unique 4×4 desert tour from East to West across the Namib. Faces of the Namib is a completely unique five-day/six-night self drive off-road tour through this incredible desert, specially designed to incorporate dune driving adrenaline thrills along with other unique Namib Desert highlights. These include the marvelous Kuiseb River Canyon, ancient petrified dunes, haunting diamond mining villages of yore, fascinating shipwrecks such as the Shawnee and Eduard Bohlen, interaction with the indigenous Topnaar (≠Aonin) people, and the southernmost examples of the endemic Welwitschia Mirabilis plant.

Distance: 550 km from Solitaire to Walvis Bay

TOUR PRICES FROM 01 AUGUST 2017 TO 31 OCTOBER 2018

Adult: R10,950.00
Child aged 3-5 years: R850.00
Child aged 6–17 years: R2,450.00
Single Supplement: R1,750.00
*single supplement added to vehicle with only one adult.

NB: Optional Extra: Desert Scenic Flight Experience - the magic of the rolling Namib Desert dunes from a Cessna plane. Scenic flights available on request.

This tour operates with a minimum of 20 adults.

High season rates will apply throughout the year to any tour booked on an exclusive private basis.

View Departure Dates

Itinerary and Details

ESSENTIALS

What to pack

The following items is mandatory for each participation vehicle:

  • Spade
  • 60 litres water of which 20 litres will be used by the kitchen and the remainder will be for shower purposes.
  • Bottled water for drinking
  • Tyre pressure gauge
  • Toilet paper & matches
  • Plastic bags to carry waste (e.g. empty cool drink tins, etc)
  • Brake fluid
  • Gear oil
  • Engine oil
  • Fuses
  • Spare V- Belt set
  • Sufficient Petrol/Diesel to cover the distance – 550KM. Heavy sand driving conditions (+/- 3 km/litre and +/- 5 km/litrer consumption for larger petrol and diesel engines respectively) will be experienced.
  • Vehicle to be fitted with points to attach tow ropes both in front and at the rear. NB!!
  • All equipment and luggage must be strapped in and securely fastened
  • Vehicle must be loaded in such a way to ensure that the vehicle is not “Top Heavy” – e.g. only light items, camping gear on roof carriers
    2 Large bags of firewood per vehicle.
  • The trail passes through heavy dune area, which requires high flotation tyres (“fat takkies”).

Optionally:

  • Hi lift Jack & Q20 Spray
  • Extra Spare wheel (no 6)
  • Small broom & Small spade

We supply:

  • Communication radios for all participating vehicles
  • 2 Meals (Only Tea/Coffee and fruit juices supplied with meals)
  • “Communal” camping equipment (e.g. braai grid, cooking facilities & equipment, tables, wash-up facilities, shower, toilet etc.)

All you need:

  • Tent, folding chair & sleepwear (bedroll, tent etc.)
  • Eating utensils (cutlery, plate, bowl, glass & mug)
  • Lunch
  • Own snacks & refreshments (alcoholic beverages, cool drinks etc.)
  • Torch & batteries
  • Camera (extra films & battery)
  • Sunglasses & sun tan lotion
  • Clothing (very hot and very cold), toiletries & towels.
  • Prescribed medicine
  • Small bowl or collapsible wash basin

OVERVIEW

Where you'll go

Discover the desert’s unique treasures…

A world of infinite horizons, dramatic vistas and fascinating flora and fauna…

Do you believe that travel should be about more than “just looking” – and that every journey should be a life-enriching experience?  Do you yearn to go off-the-beaten-track and to experience nature at its unspoilt best? If you answered “yes”, then our off- road Namib Desert tour is a MUST!

World’s Oldest Desert: Reported to be the oldest desert on earth, the Namib is approximately 80 million years old.  Completely devoid of surface water, it is bisected by several dry riverbeds and is characterized by extensive, undulating dunes. The Sahara may be larger and Gobi more isolated, but the Namib is the very oldest, so on this trip, prepare for the best desert experience possible!

The Living Desert: At first glance, the Namib’s interior appears totally devoid of fauna & flora but look closely and you’ll finds that apart from the diamonds and uranium that have been mined here, the desert’s unique plant and animal life is definitely another of its infinite treasures. One outstanding living wonder is the famous Welwitschia mirabilis, a plant that can live for up to five hundred years. Although its tenacity and longevity are remarkable, the fact that it has the appearance of a heap of garden refuse means that instead of an earth-shattering visual experience you may want to concentrate on its remarkable age when taking pictures!

The “Sheltering” Desert: At the start of the Second World War, German Henno Martin and his colleague and friend Hermann Korn, feared internment in a camp for Nazis. Consequently, they escaped into the Namib Desert. For two and a half years they eked out a living in this harsh environment. In later years, Martin published his account of this experience, titling his book, The Sheltering Desert and later their story was also made into a film. As you drive along, or when setting up camp, imagine trying to survive here without the luxuries offered to you on this trip. You may see the Namib in a different light!

The Diamond Desert: The discovery of diamonds in 1908 around Kolmanskuppe initiated an uncontrolled rush of prospectors into the region. The German Government was forced to establish the so-called “Sperrgebiet” between 26-degree line of latitude and Namibia’s southern border, stretching 100-kilometres inland. As a result, independent prospectors were forced to turn northwards beyond this area. This resulted in the discovery of diamonds at Spencer Bay and between Meob and the Conception Bay area (Diamond Area no. 2) during December 1908. A total of 5000 diamond claims were registered in 1909 and hopeful fortune hunters tried their luck at Saddle Hill and Spencer Bay, also traveling via Swakopmund and Sandwich Harbour southwards towards Meob Bay. However, the small yields of diamonds from these claims meant few were successful in their pursuit of riches.

Custodians of the Desert – the Topnaar community: The !Nara fruit, a wild melon that grows in the Kuiseb River bed, is unique to the Namib Desert. For more than a thousand years it has been the traditional staple food of the Topnaar or ≠Aonin-people, one of the oldest communities of Nambia. The Topnaars belong to the Nama tribe, a Khoi group. Traditionally, the Topnaars acquired a lot of their food from the sea, spearing fish in the shallow water and hunting seals, birds and turtles. For this reason, they were also called Beachcombers by European settlers. Eventually, members of the tribe settled around the Kuiseb River, harvesting the !Nara and keeping livestock. Prepare to learn more about these fascinating people and their way of life as we journey.

The Desert of Everlasting Impressions: (extracts from our tour diaries):

  • The extent of what awaits you is hard to describe.  It will change something about your humanity.  Even if you only do one 4×4 adventure in your life, make sure this is the one.” (Barnie Louw, Editor DRIVE OUT)
  • “Jy kan nie die Namib verlaat sonder dat dit ‘n indruk op jou gelaat het nie.  Dit is ‘n ongelooflike ervaring wat jou ewig sal bybly”
  • “If there is somebody who has not been in the Namib, I can only say: DO IT NOW!! It is one of the last places  to experience the rawness of unspoilt nature”
  • “It was nothing less than a truly brilliant experience and one that I would certainly do again.”
  • “Ons kom op baie plekke, maar hierdie was die BESTE OOIT!”
  • “Ek is ‘n 13-jarige dogter wat die Namibtoer saam met my ouers gedoen het.  Dit is ‘n asemrowende ervaring – jy is weg van alles, en ek kon weer ‘n slag asemhaal en myself wees.  Dit was my lekkerste vakansie ooit!!!  Selfs lekkerder as my besoek aan Disney World in Amerika 2 jaar gelede.  Dit is BESLIS een van die “TEN THINGS YOU HAVE TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE”!!!

If this is your introduction to the Namib Desert, expect the exceptional. The emphasis of the tour is not only on the adrenaline thrill of dune driving, but a huge part of its focus is studying the plants, small creatures and wildlife all of which make this desert their home. Enjoying the Namib’s incredible views and history is also emphasized. Our guides will capture your imagination with their knowledge on the fauna and flora of the desert or historical facts. They will also “wow” you with their cooking skills, preparing three mouth-watering meals each day, and by making you chuckle constantly! Equally, if you are a seasoned desert traveller you will find our Faces-tour to be both an unparalleled adrenaline rush and a journey of discovery. The dunes along this stretch of the Namib are higher and more challenging than elsewhere. Driving here requires good technique and discipline to manoeuvre from one dune strait to the next. The magnitude of what awaits you is difficult to express in words. Although the tour’s emphasis is not solely on 4×4 and off-road driving, driving on and over the world’s highest sand dunes means previous experience and a proficiency in off-road driving are recommended. Beginners will be talked through each phase of the journey.

DAY 1:

Overnight Solitaire

We assemble at Solitaire, preferable by nightfall. This is the time to get last minute supplies and fill fuel tanks to the brim. Remember-you need fuel for six days. Since many group members may have been to Sossusvlei (one of the highlights of Namibia), a visit here not included in our current itinerary. Tonight you will have the opportunity to meet guides and fellow travellers. After a detailed briefing of what to expect the next couple of days, you will be treated to a lovely meal around the campfire.

 

DAY 2:

Solitaire to Kuiseb River Canyon

We depart from Solitaire and enter the Namib Nauklüft Park, 35kms north of town – restricted Namib area. This is the start of a unique adventure offering you aspects of the Namib seldom experienced by the “normal” tourist. We cross the Namib plains more or less on the same ox-wagon route followed by early settlers, German Schutztruppe (on horseback & camels) and ‘transport ryers’ in the late 1800s.

The route leads to the Kuiseb River. The landscape gradually changes from the typical Namib Plains into a colourful landscape of red sand dunes separated by grassy plains. The Kuiseb Canyon offers unique scenery. Its southern bank is formed by massive red sand dunes and northern bank by pitch black rock formations, while the riverbed itself is    overgrown by massive endemic trees. The dry sand bed creates a kaleidoscope of green and white tones. We now proceed westwards along the edge of the canyon until we reach a spot were the dunes falls right into the river, near Homeb.

Depending on the status of the river (which may be in flood) we will ‘slip’ into the river enjoying its unique eco- system. This includes a variety of trees and an abundance of birds. We will cross over onto the northern bank of the Kuiseb Canyon, enjoying breathtaking views. On the northern side of the Kuiseb we will come across the southernmost examples of the Welwitschia mirabilis plant, endemic to the Namib Desert. Although the plant looks as if it has many leaves, it has only two, shredded by the wind over the course of centuries. The plant’s scientific names are a combination of the first European to describe it, a Slovenian botanist named Friedrich Welwitsch, and “Mirabilis” which comes from Latin and refers to its marvellous ability to survive in harsh, apparently waterless conditions.

DAY 3:

Desert Crossing!

The Namib Desert follows the coast of Namibia for approximately 2000 kilometres. It varies in width from 80 to 200 kilometres where it meets the Namib Escarpment. The most important climatic feature of the Namib Desert is its sparse and highly unpredictable annual rainfall which ranges from 5 mm in the west to about 85 mm along its eastern limits. Our aim with this trip is drive across the desert from east to west experiencing the dramatic change in the environment. From Homeb, we head southwest into the “sand sea”. On the way to Conception Bay massive dunes are negotiated. Once again ever-changing scenery and beautiful landscapes are enjoyed. Drivers’ skills are bound to be improving as the dunes offer greater and greater challenges. The dune straits are massive, and the dunes themselves even more impressive. Most are in excess of 150m high. We once again make camp amongst them, enjoying the unique thrill of desert camping.

 

DAYS 4 & 5:

Conception Bay and Ghost Towns

In the area between Conception Bay and Meob Bay the mining settlements of Holsatia, Charlottenfelder and Grillenberger were established during the heyday of diamond mining. No form of engine-driven transport was available during the first 15 years of exploration. Transporting supplies and mining equipment happened mainly by ship from Swakopmund or using the cutter, Viking, traveling via Sandwich Harbour, Conception and Meob Bays. Various shipping casualties occurred, such as when the Eduard Bohlen was stranded near Conception Bay in 1909. This rusty wraith is something exceptional to behold! During 1912/1913 a light railway from Conception Bay to Conception Water, and an 80-kilometer pipeline linking the settlements, were constructed. It is not clear how many pre-fabricated buildings were erected at the various settlements, as only the foundations of some of these are still visible today.

The exploration of Namibia by Europeans commenced from this coastline as early as 1485, although the inhospitable Namib Desert barred access to the interior. Probably the first European to set foot on Namibian soil was the Portuguese explorer, Diogo Cao or Diogo Cam, followed by Bartholomew Diaz two years later, on 8 December 1487. This date represented the holiday of “Maria’s Conception”. Therefore the bay received the name” Santa Maria da Conceicao” (Conception Bay). Today you will most likely see vast flocks of birds, drive past Cape Fur seal colonies, visit the wreck of the Eduard Bohlen near Conception Bay and see various relics dating back to the diamond mining era. In November 1914 all the people in this area were requested to stop operations and to proceed to Swakopmund. This order came as a result of an expected invasion of allied troops. This part of the journey is something history buffs will particularly enjoy…Keep a look out for wandering ghosts!

Tonight you will be camping in the Conception Bay area, either at “Leeukoppie” (Lion’s Head) or at “Conception Water” – depending on progress and/or weather).

DAY 6:

Langewand to Walvis Bay

The dune belt opens up between Meob Bay and Conception Bay, but immediately after Conception it stretches right onto the beach. From Conception Bay you will be driving on the beach. Scenery is truly magnificent.  You will also experience driving freedom – BIG TIME!! We are heading northwards towards Sandwich Bay passing the wreck of the Shawnee and negotiating the famed Langewand where massive dunes come straight down into sea. There are only two or three places in the world to see this natural phenomenon. Due to the tides, there is only a very limited time span to negotiate this stretch of beach. After Langewand the trail once again leads into the dunes, circumnavigating the salt pan ‘extensions’ of Sandwich Harbour. The dunes are still getting progressively larger, offering drivers an ever-changing dune driving experience.

From Sandwich Harbour the trail enters the roller coaster, a series of massive ‘roaring’ slip faces, not only giving you a thrilling experience but also offering breathtaking views of the harbour and a panorama of sandscapes on the way to Walvis. The trip concludes over dinner at a restaurant in Walvis Bay.  Accommodation for the last evening in Walvis Bay is included. The time has sadly come to say your good-byes to new friends made during this adventure of a lifetime.

OPTIONAL:

Before returning home, make use of a unique opportunity to view the Namib from the air. A scenic flight over the Desert is a great way to experience the desert you have just negotiated from another angle- well worth the expense!

**Please note: Although some experience of dune driving and previous ‘wild camping’ (no formal facilities at camp) are recommended this does not mean that this will be a “Dakar Rally”. The emphasis is definitely on what the Namib has to offer but crossing massive dunes and doing a lot of off-road driving forms a large part of this experience. Participants must definitelyhave off-road endurance and a taste of adventure.