The Ocean – Desert Tour
Cape Town to Windhoek
(Reverse Tour Windhoek – Cape Town also available)
Copyright Great African Outdoors CC, 2008
Day 1, Cape Town and Surroundings, km 100, tar road
Cape Town is a city like no other. It’s a contrast of vibrant activity and meditative relaxation. She often compared to Rio de Janeiro, Sydney and San Francisco. Many travelers, however, find her the most beautiful city in the world. The position of South Africa's "Mother City" is at the foot of the mighty Table Mountain massif, amidst a National Park of extraordinary beauty and surrounded by two oceans, with stunning expansive beaches that enchant innumerable visitors every year
Day 2, Cape Town – Cape Town (Cape Peninsula), km 180, tar road
Amongst the most popular travel destinations in South Africa is the Western Cape region with Cape Town as its centre. Although it's a small area relative to other popular cosmopolitan cities, it attracts millions of visitors from all over the world every year. Cape Town is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world as it is surrounded by glorious landscapes with unique vegetation, beautiful mountains and stunning wide beaches, especially on the Cape Peninsula, at False Bay and on the West Coast.
In May 1998, the entire of the Cape Peninsula was proclaimed a National Park for its extraordinary natural beauty, its unique flora and fauna and its special historical and cultural significance. The new Cape Peninsula National Park extends from Signal Hill in the north down to Cape Point and includes the mountain ranges of the area and the coastal stretches. The former Cape of Good Hope Reserve in the south of the peninsula became part of the new National Park as well as Table Mountain and the Silvermine resort. The greatest attraction of the Nature Reserve continues to be the southern part of Simon's Town down to the Cape of Good Hope. Here one can go on long walks through the Fynbos landscape, particularly beautiful in spring when the wildflowers bloom, and many animals can be observed: many different species of antelope, reptiles, ostriches, zebras and numerous seabirds.
A trip to Cape Point is a must for any Cape Town visitor. The southern end of the Cape Peninsula boasts two points of interest really, the Cape of Good Hope and the more southerly and a bit higher situated Cape Point. However, the most southern point of Africa is to be found 150 kilometers towards the southeast. There, at Cape Agulhas, the two oceans, the Indian and the Atlantic 'meet'. For the early seafarers the Cape of Good Hope marked the turning point in their luck because once the " Cape of Storms", as Bartholomeus Diaz called it in 1488, had been passed, the battle against the sea was basically won.
Day 3, Cape Town – Clanwilliam, km 250, tar road
Clanwilliam is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. In 1732, the Voortrekkers, the first Dutch farmers, settled along the Olifants River and in 1820, the English administration of the Cape established a Magistrate's Court here. In the beginning, the settlement grew very slowly, and a fire in 1901 destroyed almost all of the houses. Today, Clanwilliam is a flourishing town and the centre of Rooibos tea production which grows exclusively in the sandy valleys of the Cederberg. It is being centrally marketed in Clanwilliam. Wine and citrus is also grown here. The fertile soil could only be intensively used, after a dam was constructed at the lower Olifants River. Its water runs through a wide-spread canal system to the fields.
Day 4, Clanwilliam – Calvinia, km 250, (90% dirt road)
Calvinia lies off the beaten tourist tracks, some 120 km east of Vanrhynsdorp. Time seems to stand still in the little rural town which is why nostalgic Calvinia is worth a visit. The town at the Oorlogskloof River was founded in the year 1847, first under the name "Hantam", a Khoi-Khoi word meaning "Mountain where the red edible flowers bloom". After the building of the first Dutch-Reformed church the minister insisted in changing the name to Calvinia in honor of the Swiss reformer Johannes Calvin. Calvinia lies at the foot of the Hantam mountain range at a height of about 1000 metres above sea level. The vegetation mainly equals Karoo Flora, but some fynbos plants can also be found in here. Calvinia is the trading and service centre for the merino and dorper sheep breeders in the vicinity. Over the last years this agricultural sector was badly hit by the falling of the wool prices. Lately, though, the prices start to recover.
Day 5, Calvinia – Augrabies Falls, km 420, Tar Road
The Orange River drops 191 meters at the Augrabies Falls. The thundering cascade of water led the original Hottentot residents to believe that evil spirits were active here, and so they named the waterfall Ankoerebis, "place of big noises", from which the Trek Boers, who settled here later on, derived the name Augrabies. Especially in late summer, when the river carries a lot of water, the roaring waters fully justify that name. New waterfalls then form at the sidewalls, and the air is filled with dense spraying fog. The gorge at the Augrabies Falls is 240 m deep and 18 km long. It is a most impressive example of granite erosion. When the whole landmass of the area lifted about 500 million years ago, the Orange River slowly started to dig its bed into the ground. The Augrabies Falls National Park, an hour from Upington, comprises an area of 820 sq km and stretches along the Orange River. The vegetation is suited to the arid desert climate. The Kokerboom, or Quiver Tree grow here. They are succulents and can store huge amounts of water in their stems and so survive long periods of drought. The park contains a game reserve with rhinos as the main attraction.
Day 6, Augrabies Falls – Kalahari Gemsbok Park, km 300, (60 km on dirt)
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - the former Kalahari Gemsbok National Park - in the northernmost corner of South Africa is still one of the best kept secrets in South African tourism, attracting 50,000 visitors annually. From any starting point, the journey to the remote nature reserve is a long drive over dusty roads. The park provides an insight into the fascinating ecosystem of the Kalahari with its orange-red sand dunes and a flora and fauna specially adapted to the arid conditions in the Kalahari Desert. The Kalahari Park was declared a National Park in 1931, mainly to put a stop to the destructive game poaching. After the amalgamation with the bordering Gemsbok National Park in Botswana in 1998 the reserve is now called Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and comprises an area of more than 36,000 sq km.
Day 7, Gemsbok Park, Game View Drive, no riding
Access to the park (South African part) in the south leads through the rest camp Twee Rivieren ("Two Rivers"). Excellent accommodation is available here with a swimming pool, restaurant and other amenities. The two main routes through the National Park start here and run along the - usually dry - riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob rivers to the remote rest camps Mata-Mata and Nossob. In distances of 5 to 20 kilometers, one can find waterholes along the riverbeds, most of them fed by wind pumps. Here is where the game gathers, especially in the early hours of the morning and late in the afternoon. The cooler winter months from April to September are more suitable for a visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park than are the very hot summer months, when temperatures might rise above the 40° C mark. The most favorable time for game observation is right after the rainy season, which usually ends in March or April. If you don't mind the heat, January and February are good months to spot lions. The border is marked only by whitewashed stones, so that the animals can roam freely through both parks.
Day 8, Kalahari – Koes / Gochas, km 280 / 380, (100% on dirt roads)
The Kalahari desert is part of the huge sand basin that reaches from the Orange River up to Angola, in the west to Namibia and in the east to Zimbabwe. The sand masses were created by the erosion of soft stone formations. The wind shaped the sand ridges, which are so typical of the landscape in the Kalahari. Only in recent geological history, 10 to 20,000 years ago, were the dunes stabilised through vegetation, so the area should actually be called a dry savannah. Unlike the dunes of the Namib Desert, those of the Kalahari are stable and not wandering. The dominant vegetation: grasses, thorny shrubs and Acacia trees, can survive long drought periods of more than ten months every year. The remarkable nests of the weaver birds in the camelthorn trees and in other acacias are a frequent sight in the Kalahari. These inconspicuous little birds, which resemble sparrows, live in huge communal nests with a diametre of up to two metres. At any given time, hundreds of lively little birds are breeding and feeding their youngsters in such a nesting colony.
Day 9, Koes / Gochas – Sesriem, km 350 (90% on dirt roads)
The Sossusvlei, Namibia's famous highlight in the heart of the Namib Desert, is a huge clay pan, enclosed by giant sand dunes. Some of the spectacular hills of sand are, at a height of 300 meters, the highest in the world. Only after a heavy rainfall, which is a rare event in this area, does the vlei fill with water. As the clay layers hardly allow any water infiltration, a turquoise lake will remain for quite some time. The dunes of the Namib Desert have developed over a period of many millions of years. It is thought that the vast quantities of sand were deposited into the Atlantic Ocean by the Orange River. This material was subsequently moved northwards by the Benguela current to be dumped back onto the land by the surf. The coastal dunes developed as a result of this and were shifted further and further inland by the wind. Wind continuously reshapes the patterns of the huge dunes of the Namib Desert. It timelessly forces the grains of sand on the flat windward slope upwards to the crest of the dune. Here they fall down in the wind shade. The leeward slope is therefore always considerably steeper than the windward side.
Day 10, Sesriem, Visit the Soussousvlei and the Dunes
The Namib-Naukluft Park is Namibia's largest nature reserve, about 50.000 sqkms in size. It includes a 100 to150 km broad belt of land that stretches along the coastline from the Swakop valley in the north, towards the road B4 to Luederitz in the south. Most parts of this enormous area are not accessible to man. One can only visit a small stretch north of the Kuiseb River: the Naukluft Mountains and the Sossusvlei in the central dune fields.
Day 11, Sesriem – Swakopmund, km 320 (95% on dirt roads)
Swakopmund was of major importance as a harbor during the German colonial era even though the water at the coast is actually too shallow and the bay is unprotected. But Luederitz was too far away and the seaport of Walvis Bay was in British possession in those days. In August 1892, the gunship "Hyäne" under the command of Captain Curt von François, staked out a wharf north of the Swakop River mouth. A year later, 40 settlers from Germany and 120 members of the Schutztruppe were taken ashore on landing boats to embark upon an adventurous undertaking. The 325 meter long wooden jetty was only completed in 1905 and it was later replaced by a more solid iron construction. Swakopmund became the gate to South-West Africa and the entire supply for the colony was wound up through this little town. The narrow-rail train to Windhoek started operations in 1902 while at the same time, the station in the Wilhelminian style (equivalent to Victorian style) was built. It was completely restored some years ago and has become an entertainment centre, a casino and a luxury hotel. The appearance of the town, with its 30 000 inhabitants, is characterised by numerous colonial buildings with the Woermann House from 1905 as its landmark. The former trading house in Bismarck Street with its 25 meter high Damara Tower and its courtyard bordered by arcades today houses the city library, an art gallery and the office of the Namibia Wildlife Resorts.
Day 12, Swakopmund, Relaxing Day
Optional: Quad Biking, Flights to Namib Desert, Balloonflights.
Day 13, Swakopmund – Windhoek, km 350 (90% on dirt roads)
With 15 000 inhabitants, Namibia's capital of Windhoek is the biggest city in the country. The attractive town lies at an altitude of 1650 meters in a beautiful valley bordered by the Eros Mountains in the north and the Auas mountains in the south. Towards the west, stretches the Khomas Highland to the Namib and the coast. Windhoek combines the modern city architectural style with that of the German colonial era. The city is - for an African town - still very clean and a bit provincial, although the atmosphere does have cosmopolitan flare as well. The influence of the German language and culture is, in many ways, still present. There are German restaurants where one can have traditional German dishes, bread and beer, and even celebrate the German carnival. Although English is the official language, one can use German just about anywhere.
Day 14, Windhoek,
After Breakfast short City Tour (depending on flight) and Transport to the Airport
Final routing depending on availability of accommodation at time of booking and might change slightly.