the world's oldest desert
In the 1980s, at the height of a poaching epidemic, some African countries instituted military-style crackdowns. In Namibia, Garth Owen-Smith had a different idea. He organized a network of community guards, offering jobs to local guys who were good at tracking elephants. Poaching virtually stopped.
Namibia showed the world that guns are, at best, a temporary solution. Only by involving local people in conservation can we preserve the environment.
Cave painting in Tsodilo Hills, Namibia
Explore the Kaokoveld 12-14 days
Guided by Goldman Prize winners Maggie Jacobsohn and Garth Owen-Smith
or: 6-10 night trips with expert guides trained by Jacobsohn and Smith
Prices vary depending on season and number in party.
6-8 days; $3,200-$5,200; 12-14 days: $6,250-$8,000 including overnights in Walvis Bay
Desert trek with Garth Owen-Smith and Maggie Jacobsohn. Exact itinerary depends on weather and wildlife, but highlights include a night camping in the Huab River Valley with likely sightings of desert elephants and possibly lions, talking to local farmers about living with predators, tracking black rhino with conservancy rangers, meeting the Himba at riverside campsite where elephants and giraffe congregate, overnights at Himba-owned Etaambura Lodge, regarded as the most aesthetically designed in Namibia.
Add 3-5 days
Explore the iconic dunes of the Sossuvlei, Namibia's largest protected area. Visit Twyfelfontein, Africa's the largest petroglyph site, and meet the rhino rangers at Wereldsend, a working conservation camp. In the evenings, ease back into civilization at the Sossuvlei Lodge. End your trip at the beachfront Strand Hotel in hip Swakopmund where you can kayak among the seals or just chill out before departure from Windhoek.
add-on 2: 5 days; 6 nights/$4975
Fly from Windhoek to Maun, Botswana for 4 days, 5 nights of world-class wildlife viewing. All-inclusive including r/t flights Windhoek/Maun and 2 overnights Windhoek.
What to Expect
Arguing Around the Campfire
Nearly 30 years ago, anthropologist Maggie Jacobsohn set off to interview a cranky, bearded conservationist working with the Himba people among the red basalt cliffs and lava flows of Namibia's Kaokoveld desert. By 1993, they had become life partners and winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize, global conservation's greatest honor.
Jacobsohn and Owen-Smith only recently began accepting visitors. I explained what we were doing with Cowgirls & Pirates, and asked if they would be willing to host our clients.
"Yes," Maggie Jacobsohn said. "They sound like the sort of people who understand that this is not tourism; it's an experience. There is a lot of arguing around the campfire."
The World's Oldest Desert
Namibia's desert is the oldest in the world. A century ago, people realized its importance and established the world's largest nature reserve: 30,000 square miles that protected the migratory routes of elephants and lions from the desert to the sea. In 1963, the reserve was reduced by two-thirds, purely for political reasons. For the next half-century, Owen-Smith would dedicate his life to conserving this wild place: the Kaokoveld.
Our trips take you to this less traveled region of Namibia.
when to visit
December-March: humid with possibility of rain
April -May: Less dust (photographers take note!) spring in the desert; game viewing up
June-August: Prime game viewing
September-October: Game viewing good
November: Weather changeable
Northwest Namibia's people
Conservation by the people, for the people
The Himba have survived wars, attempted genocide, and now, drought, with their culture remarkably intact. This year, when land conservancies met to divide 2015 tourism revenues, the least hard-hit communities gave up their share for others.
your travel makes a difference
Exclusive Namibia: July 2018
Join conservation heavyweights, reporters, and just plain interesting people for an exclusive trip that will build the Himba's long-term financial independence.
Stop Rhino Poaching