Monday, 6 March 2017

Namibia 2017 Part 1. Introduction

Ever fancied a safari holiday ? Like so many I have done so for a long time but always been frightened by the cost. My only experience of an African safari was a three night trip to Tsavo East and West in Kenya and that cost £765 6 years ago. Prices have risen considerably in many places since.
Why are safaris so expensive? Good question and one I can't answer but they do have to reflect the cost of park entry fees and they alone are now $75 US pp per day in places such as Kenya. Add in accommodation, transport , guides, food and drink and you can soon be looking at a re-mortgage or in my case selling off the family silver by dipping in to the pension pot again.
Fancy Gorilla trekking ? You need to be minted! The licence to enter the park costs $750 US pp . Yes, that's right no decimal points missing. For that you get an allowance of 1.5 hours in which to see the Gorillas. Tough luck if it's a no show I suppose. I can understand the need to restrict numbers and it's good news that the money raised helps to protect the wildlife but it's a bit sad that safari trips can be very much for the rich ( but there again I suppose it always was).
I made some enquiries about a guided Botswana trip and was quoted £8k for a 7 night tented trip for Claire and myself. The cost would reduce if we increased numbers to 4. You still had flights to add as well as any extended stay costs. Out of my league I decided.
Then I discovered Namibia!
Actually I was recommended by a friend who has worked out there as a geologist and he had nothing but good to say about the country.
The decision was sealed when I spotted an advert by Qatar Airways offering discounted prices for the next 5 days to celebrate their new direct route to the capital city , Windhoek.
£480pp economy. Only slightly dearer than travelling from the UK to The Gambia, an African favourite of mine. It was a no brainer. On impulse the tickets booked for a 25 night trip.
I had been told self drive was the best option, the roads were good and it was safe.
Car booked via Pick up at the airport from Avis, an Hyundai Tucson or similar was a reasonable £880 including the extra insurance to reduce the excess from sky high to nothing.
All I had left to do was decide were to go when I got there!
I did a fair bit of research online... discovered it was the rainy season and the pitfalls...hey ho, too late now ! The good news was it was peak season for birds so I was fine with that. Besides, Namibia is a desert country and the rains are not very heavy anyway.
My plan put together I published it on Trip Advisor asked for advice on anything that was missing. Most of my accommodation was sorted. I use for most as you can check availability and reserve rooms without paying a deposit for most places so you can tweek your plans later if need be. Accommodation which is run by the National Parks isn't as flexible. You pay up front and loose a fair chunk if you cancel so the 4 nights I had booked were now tablets of stone.
I got some good feedback, some a bit negative, some positive ideas though. I was missing out on Damaraland were Rhino and desert adapted Elephant tracking are specialities so I added a two night stay at Grootberg Lodge. This made my journey plan a little odd as it didn't quite run in the order that you'd expect but I wasn't too bothered about the criticism. I couldn't afford to cancel.
My final plan including some idea of estimated mileage and travel time looked like this.
My upcoming trip plan!

If you don't have any knowledge of Namibia it won't mean too much but there again, much of my blog is aimed at those who have never been to help them decide if this is the trip for them.
From previous experience we have learnt that trying to take in too much of a country in too little time is a big mistake. We had three and a half weeks but we decided to skip on all of the southern half of the country as well as the major tourist destinations of Sossusvlei ( big sand dunes and dead trees) and Caprivi ( leading in to a visit to the Victoria Falls).
No Namibia is nearly as big as Germany and France put together and you wouldn't contemplate trying to see everything there in one go would you? We were still looking at driving 3500 kilometres and moving to new accommodation 11 times. I was already concerned that we were not making enough longer stay stop overs. Too much packing and unpacking, checking in, checking out. Living out of a suitcase. I suppose a camper van might be an alternative but I didn't even consider that. A tent was out of the question.
How would it pan out ? Only time would tell and you are about to find out!
I had 6 months to contemplate and savour the prospects. I bought "The Photographers Guide to Etosha National Park" and took in all the details of each waterhole and what I might see. Took note of equipment used etc , read every blog I could find.
As a passionate and avid wildlife photographer I had some big decisions on what gear to take. The more you have the worse it makes it. Decisions made, guide books bought, plans printed we were ready for the off. February 6th 2017.

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