Stephanie Krahn joined a Namibia fam trip for 24 travel agents for desert adventures and animal magic
In terms of visitor numbers, Namibia doesn’t compare to some other African countries, but it is far from the poor cousin.
The country has a rich history, landscape and wildlife, while the people are among the friendliest you will meet anywhere. The numbers of UK visitors increased by 14% to 28,214 from 2006 to 2007.
In a bid to boost these figures further – and showcase all it has to offer – the Namibia Tourist Board and Air Namibia hosted a trip for 24 agents who successfully completed the online training programme Namibia Know It All.
The agents were split into three groups that went on to experience the country’s diversity through themed itineraries: wildlife, desert, and adventure and culture.
Before departing on different trips on day two, the whole group took a city tour where they learned about the history of the capital Windhoek and its struggle against apartheid, followed by its independence from South Africa in 1990. The first stop was Old Location Cemetery, where many fought and died for the right to live where they wanted after a relocation programme was put into place.
The next stop was a local market where delicacies such as dried mopani worm were on offer and the sight of the carcass of a whole cow turned a few stomachs.
Then it was time for a tour of the townships and settlements that sprawl over the rolling hills of Katatura, before visiting Penduka, an organisation that supports and encourages women to nurture their skills to help them make a decent living.
After a brief freshen-up at the Safari Court Hotel, we headed for the Namibian Institute for Culinary Education, also known as NICE, where we were treated to a four-course meal.
We had an early start the next morning as we boarded one of Wild Dog Safaris’ modified trucks and drove 270 miles north to Etosha National Park, which is the third largest in Africa. The park is dominated by a huge salt pan and during the dry season – which lasts most of the year – its waterholes attract game and predators of every size.
Dark grey clouds hovered on the horizon as we entered Okakuejo campsite in the park, and as we began to erect our two-man tents, the wind picked up and the heavens opened. While many ran for shelter in a nearby building, the hard core campers finished the job, ensuring we had somewhere to sleep.
Our guide, Clifton, warned that animal viewing was not the best in the rain, but we decided on a game drive anyway. The other side of the park seemed to have escaped the rains and we were rewarded with sightings of wildebeest, jackal, zebra and a pair of ostriches with six babies.
As the evening drew in, we enjoyed a tasty barbecue cooked by our guides and went to see the ‘entertainment’ by the floodlit waterhole, which was visited by elephants, rhino and a giraffe during the course of the evening.
After a site visit and lunch at Taleni Etosha Village, which is 2.6 miles from the entrance of the park, we then headed to Etosha Safari Lodge for our final night. The view as you walk through the reception is amazing and the group got to cool down and enjoy a swim in one of the resort’s three swimming pools.
As the elusive cheetah escaped us on our game drives in Etosha, Clifton arranged for us to visit the AfriCat Foundation – a leopard and cheetah sanctuary – at Okonjima luxury resort. It was the highlight of the trip for many and amazing to see these elegant creatures so close up.
NTB senior sales and marketing executive Karen Black said: “In terms of what it has to offer it has got so much: the Namib Desert – Africa’s second largest; the sand dunes at Sossusvlei; and the Skeleton Coast, which is beautiful and has got the shipwrecks. There is also Etosha National Park, which is one of Africa’s largest wildlife reserves; and Fish River Canyon in the south, which is the second largest in the world.
“It offers a bit of everything – canyons, desert, wildlife, beautiful rugged scenery. And it’s not over populated – there are only two million people here. We don’t brand it as a holiday, we brand it as an experience.”
As international visitor figures head toward the one million mark – from 928,912 in 2007 – the NTB is looking to promote what it has to offer by capitalising on the football World Cup being hosted by neighbouring South Africa next year.
Account director Debbie Walker said: “The tourist board’s key 2009 campaign objective is to retain the levels of tourism into 2010, especially during the South Africa World Cup. The Cape to Namibia route will be used to target visitors travelling to the tournament, and encourage them to extend their holiday and enjoy a contrasting peaceful and soulful experience in Namibia.”
Black said: “We’ll be working on campaigns to try to get people to come to Namibia while the World Cup is on, attracting people who want to see our beautiful game.”
What travel agents thought
“When you come to a country you get first-hand experience and it’s the only way to sell it. You try the food, the hotels and the transfers to see how they work. It’s the best way to give somebody your personal experience. I would say this trip is ideal for people who are over 30. It’s a holiday for the discerning traveller who is looking for something different.”
Maria Hitchens, travel consultant, Milestones, Horley, Surrey
“The highlight for me was making it to the top of the dune. It’s like being on top of the world. You have to have a reasonable level of fitness to make the climb, but it’s worth a visit just to see the dunes even if you stay at the bottom. You can then go further into Sossusvlei and take a ride in a four-wheel drive vehicle that can take you further into the dunes. The views are fabulous.”
Janet Winn, sales administrator, 2by2 Holidays, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
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