Namibia is a land of never-ending colour, rock formations and haunting emptiness. It is a vast region, more than twice the size of Germany, wedged between Angola, Botswana, South Africa and the foreboding Atlantic Ocean. It contains one of the oldest deserts in the world. The largest canyon – second only to the Grand Canyon, and is home to the world’s highest dunes, towering over their nearest rivals in Arabia. Remarkably, only 2.5-million people call this place home.
After arriving at Windhoek’s International Airport, you are whisked away to Okapuka – one of the best stocked private game reserves in Namibia, and the promise of an unforgettable 9-day 4×4 and horseback adventure across tall dunes, dry riverbeds, tight mountain tracks and endless savanna landscapes.
The group is deliberately small, with a maximum twelve participants (two to a vehicle). At the briefing, the BMW driving instructor speaks of the BMW X5, practical driving exercises and the impending 1,300km of exhilarating driving manoeuvres. The program promises thrills, action and adrenaline as well as captivating wildlife encounters and meeting an indigenous tribe.
It kicks off with a breath-taking sundowner horseback safari on purebred Arabian horses, getting close-up to giraffe, white rhino, antelope and wildebeest. Following a sumptuous dinner, a brandy plays well with fantastic views of the mountains at the Hyena Bar, carved from the wood of a Camel thorn tree.
The next day begins with a morning horseback safari ride. Okapuka Horse Safari’s owner, Ingeborg Hernes, joins the ride and ensures additional wildlife encounters. After lunch, the BMW X5 4×4 tour begins with an exhilarating drive into the Otjihavera mountains, driving through gorges, savanna and bushveld. Despite its executive looks, air-con, hugely comfortable front seats and iPod bits, the BMW X5 is as nimble footed as the purebred Arabians, huge fun and guarantees massive GPK’s (grins per kilometre).
An ultimate 4×4 horse-back safari experience, it’s raw, in your face, and utterly exciting
On day three it is drive-time to the private Erindi Reserve via Okahandja famed for their wood carving market. Erindi is one of the most remarkable conservation areas on Earth (it’s twice the size of Germany’s Jasmund National Park), with unforgettable game viewing experiences, including some of the Big Five. Dinner takes place on the terrace of the Old Traders Lodge, with a splendid viewing deck.
Leaving the asphalt behind, day four is about riverbed driving, cave exploration in the volcanic Erongo mountain range, followed by a true African hospitality with a ‘braai’ under the Milky Way, which stretches across the horizon. You’ll bed down for the night at Ai Aiba – The Rock Painting Lodge, set amongst a massif of granite boulders – it’s a place of unimaginable beauty, overlooking the magnificent Erongo mountain range.
Things start getting very real ploughing through gravel tracks, past an old abandoned copper mine, through the Khan and Swakop riverbeds towards Swakopmund. Namibia is threaded by a dozen indigenous tribes, including the Wambo, who comprise nearly half the population; the Herero, historically a nomadic pastoralist people; the San bushmen, hunter-gatherers by tradition; and the Damara, who you’ll meet at the ‘Living Museum’. It is a cleverly arranged and highly instructive live representation of the past. Thatched huts, scanty but authentic dress, herbs, iron smithing, fire making, song and dance, all feature.
The sixth day, possibly the most exciting, starts with a boat trip to observe seals, pelicans, flamingos, possibly even whales. Lunch is served on the beach and is followed by a drive towards Sandwich Harbour – a lagoon, salt pan and bird sanctuary, which forms part of the Walvis Bay Wetlands. The return journey takes you through the dry Kuiseb River and over monstrous sand dunes which run straight into the ocean. Over a seafood dinner on the pier, you’ll exchange Top Gear-like memories and photographs with fellow adventurers – especially those of the Skeleton Coast, Namibia’s nautical graveyard, strewn with the metal carcasses of hundreds of ships who lost the fight against the forces of nature.
From the coast, it’s back to Okapuka Lodge to continue wildlife watching and another sundowner safari horse-back ride.
Your last full day is spent in the saddle. You’ll head deep into the Otijhavena Mountains riding through dense bushveld or groves of Acacia trees, along open sandy tracks and dry river beds – which are terrific for faster riding. Here you’ll encounter eagles, mountain zebra and magnificent Kudus, with their spiralling horns corkscrewing above their heads.
Then it’s one final morning horse-back safari ride before transferring to Windhoek for your flight home.
This is, without doubt, a challenging ‘Out of Africa’ experience for the skilled equestrian. Your journey, undertaken on thoroughbred Arabian horses and state-of-the-art BMW X5’s, will leave you breathless – narrow mountain tracks, rugged gravel roads, rocks, canyons, dried-up river beds, formidable shorelines, mountain-high sand dunes and salt beds. The deafeningly silence, the surreal vistas, the sheer enormity of the land – it will touch your soul and evoke your emotions. It is said that Namibia will make you cry twice – once when you arrive, and again when you leave.