As promised (Heather!) I have been able to get online at last and share some thoughts about our recent trip to Namibia. This isn't the place write a review but while certain things are fresh in my mind I will hopefully be able to fill in a few gaps for others who are thinking of booking. (and I hope you do.) As Other Dave in our party would say,'Is this the best trip I have ever been on. Probably. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely- go for it.' I will not spoil your experience by telling you all about mine, so look at the Trip Notes to find out what you will be doing in Namibia- it is all great, and every day and experience lived up to our expectations. There was a great deal of schadenfreude, certainly, for me, to be had whilst watching other tour groups up at 4.30 wearily struggling to get their tents down in the pitch dark and again, at the end of a long and tiring day, having to put them up. (ha ha ha)Fully serviced camping- what a luxury. Accept nothing less.
Now for things I wish I had known beforehand that were only discovered through experience.
Clothing and equipment- I wish I had brought fewer shorts and a pair or two more of long or zip off trousers, as well as more three quarter length trousers, not for evening warmth particularly but as mozzie repellers. On game drives too, the early morning air struck very cold whilst only wearing shorts and sandals. Also I wish I had brought more long-sleeved shirts and fewer t shirts for exactly the same reason, and don't forget the Deet and bite and sting cream. You will need your fleece in April especially in the early morning. Your hat and sunscreen are vital. A sheet sleeping bag was also vital for me whilst camping in the desert areas as the temperature in April did not go down at night as we thought it would. There will be hardly any opportunity to use a hairdryer, so forget it. I know this sounds frivolous but as the mother of three daughters over 16 this had been a concern expressed beforehand.
Food- Namibia is a carnivore's paradise. If you were strictly vegetarian our excellent cook Jonas would have made sure that there was something you could eat but I think your diet would be far more restricted than ours was. Our tour leader Sam told of one trip where 10 of the 12 guests were vegan and he was reduced to serving 'salad for breakfast- salad for lunch- and salad for dinner, and all the guests turned their backs on me while I cooked my meat.'
I have saved my major concern until last: MONEY, and, specifically, how to pay for various trips and experiences whilst in Swakopmund (and whether or not you bother with some of them after reading this.) Nothing of what I am going to say reflects badly on either Exodus or Sam our tour leader. Ten of our party of 12 enquired about a 45-minute balloon flight over the coastal dunes at Swakopmund. Sam rang the organiser who offered what seemed like a fair price and indicated that all forms of payment were acceptable (as you'd expect from any reputable firm.) Bearing this in mind we all booked. There were 4 in our family wanting to fly- expensive- so we asked specifically about paying by either debit or credit card and Sam was told that it would be ok.
On the day, it was very foggy (happens every day and the balloonist MUST have known) but instead of the operator cancelling or waiting we were driven miles to a piece of featureless desert ground next to a railway line where we had a quite enjoyable but mainly static ascent with little to see. Instead of a 45 minute flight the operator stretched it to 1 hour. He then refused to accept the agreed price and said that it had 'just' gone up (to a price far in excess of a balloon flight in the UK.) To our dismay he also refused our credit cards as payment and said that although he had applied for credit card payment facilities, he was not bothering with cards because of unspecified 'difficulties'. This meant that some of our party did not have enough money on them to pay him. He drove us to an ATM machine in Swakopmund and he and his three assistants stood over us while we all attempted to withdraw more funds. It was as a result of this that some in our party discovered that their Maestro and Mastercard cards either would not work in Namibian ATMs or only allowed one withdrawal of 50 Namibian dollars per day depending upon the machine. The balloon operator had to return to our hotel with us where he then trousered most of our family's holiday money (over £800 for 4 flights.) This certainly soured my mood for a few days, until we could get to a bank in opening hours to try and sort it out. (we didn't- my daughter managed to.)
I might add that I HAD told our bank we were going away AND my credit card company, but I found out when I got home that the credit card company had stopped my card because the call centre person I had informed had put some misspelt nonsense like 'Nambia' on my file - she didn't seem to be English, did appear confused at the time, and obviously hadn't known where Namibia was or how to spell it- this also happened to my daughter who had 'Southern Africa' put on her file and also had her card stopped. I had a letter waiting for me at home telling me that I had been the victim of attempted credit card fraud. Please do NOT rely upon ATMs to dispense all your holiday money in Namibia (as I have seen recommended in guide books), nor credit cards to pay for anything, and double check with your bank/card provider on the day you travel- we thought we would be ok and we weren't, and it has never happened before. Needless to say I can't recommend the balloon operator, and some female members of the party felt his behaviour in and out of the balloon verged on the inappropriate. (stroking and touching.)
Hope you find this useful. I am sure that other members of the group who travelled with us can add far more than me- but I'll write a glowing review of the trip when Exodus ask me to.
Not sure I can add much to Carol's excellent points above. I certainly agree with the points on clothing but luckily I didn't go on the dreaded balloon trip!
The Exodus Group Leader and guides on the trip were really excellent (Sam, Jonas and Tuhafeni) - nothing was too much trouble for them and the food produced on open fires was truly superb.
Highlights for me were sunrise from the top of Dune 45 - though there were a few moments when we thought we might not have the energy to climb to the top in time! - and the early morning game viewing in Etosha.
The campsites used are of a high standard with all the ones we stayed at having showers. At Etosha and Waterberg there were electrical points for battery charging actually in the area of the tents although this was not the case on the sites stayed at earlier in the trip. The two night stay at Swakop does obviously allow battery charging and the hotel used - Swakop Lodge in our case - was positively luxurious after a camp site.
I-pods were very useful for the long drives on some of the days.
Not really much more I can add - all round an excellent holiday with some truly memorable moments.
As Heather has said you'll be able to charge your batteries/iPods at some but not all of the campsites. We took a cigar-lighter iPod charger and used it in the truck and it worked well- solar ones even in the African sun were pants. We bought one at the Eden project which came with a glowing report and it was rubbish.
In case you've not been to this region before, the malaria medication you need is Malarone- we had to get this on a private prescription but do not be tempted to use paludrine- it won't work.
Some of the campsites have pools so take your cozzie. They were cold in April.
By the way, Heather, I rang up my card provider again to see where they had ACTUALLY put I was going, and they said GAMBIA!! The moral of this is check, check and check again that the call centre operative has it right (especially if you suspect that the call centre is not based in the UK) but it may still be that you cannot easily use any of your cards in a Namibian ATM.
I thought the team were excellent as well and there is no doubt that, especially in Etosha, we would not have seen half, nor even a third, of what we did without the skill of Sam, Jonas and Tuhafeni. Get Jonas to cook you his chicken in ginger beer.
Further to my last post, I forgot to add that my other daughter Anna discovered that her own credit card would work in outlets where they used chip and pin, but was rejected at the Swakop Lodge restaurant and local supermarkets, where they don't. It went ok at Okaukuejo Campsite and Namutoni Campsite, because they used chip and pin.
My credit card was rejected at both ATMs we tried in Swakopmund when I attempted to use it to withdraw cash (for reasons that I have outlined) but my debit card, and Dave's debit card, allowed us to withdraw a mingy 50-100 Namibian dollars per day only, depending upon the machine (and what use is that.)
My daughter Rosie's debit card and credit cards were both stopped but luckily she managed to get through to the UK on her mobile, phoned her bank and after quite a long conversation in which she pinpointed her geographical location in Namibia and explained that it was no longer part of South Africa and that she herself was not in South Africa, managed to get them to unblock her cards.
We were not so lucky, as 02 do not, it turns out, have any agreement with Namibian networks that you will be able to use your mobile- and this after Dave rang 02 before we went, specifically to turn on roaming.
Maybe it was just as well that the creepy balloonist did not accept credit cards and that we were not actually relying upon them to pay him.
It was a great holiday and I agree with the points made. I ended up paying for the balloon drive by sterling. I think you getter a better exchange rate changing sterling at banks in Namibia than using a credit/debit card. I used my Lloyds debit card at an ATM and that worked find and I had gone in to the bank to tell them I was going to Namibia.
Sam the tour guide was excellent and Jonas the cook excellent too. I agree with the comments about the balloon operator who pulled a fast one. I'm glad I did a balloon ride once but at one point I thought we were just going to go up and down within a 100yard distance. It was not worth the money just to have an aerial view of unexciting desert when we had originally been told we would be flying up the coast. A lot of the time we travelled about 4 feet off the ground to catch the slight lower winds. Not worth it.
I'll also write a glowing review that goes against the trip because I thoroughly recommend this trip.
In terms of shopping Swakopmund is a good place to buy presents and jewellry and the airport also has reasonably priced items.
This was probably one of my favourite holidays. This trip lived up to my expectations and more. I have travelled with Exodus before and did not have a good experience, but I am glad I gave them a second chance as this has renewed my faith in the company.
As Carol, Heather and Pauline have all stated, Sam, Jonas and Tufaheny were all great. Having our tents taken care of and not having to participate in food preparation made it feel like a holiday - as it should do! The food Jonas prepared on an open fire humbles me every time I head for the freezer for my dinner. Of course after all that great food I am now on a diet - but it was worth it! Kudu cottage pie....Mmmm
My only disappointments were the balloon ride and the day at Waterberg Plateau. The balloon ride felt like a scam and it did affect the mood of everyone that day. We were having such a great trip and it felt like such a let down. All 10 of us were in the same basket - there wasn't any room to move about and we spent most of the time 2 feet off the ground. Hardly the exhilirating experience I was hoping for. I really hope that through our feedback Exodus review the company they use and decide to stop using them.
My other disappointment is minor. The day at the Waterberg Plateau just didn't live up to my expectations. It is a national park and supposed to be fantastic for wildlife viewing. The trails were not clearly marked and to me, felt like wasted a opportunity. I would like to encorage Exodus to offer the afternoon game drives that are advertised at the national park as an optional extra. We did see several Dik Diks though so not a complete waste of time!
My highlight has to be climbing Dune 45. Climbing that dune in the semi dark, watching the sun rise, getting to run down it and remember what it felt like to be 6 and completely carefree are memories that will last a lifetime. To think we did that before 7am - is there a better way to spend a monday morning?!
It was a fantastic trip and I would reccomend it to anyone. Thank you to my fellow travellers and to Exodus for making my holiday such a great one.
I've just posted a review of our trip and gave it 5 stars- and I've been recommending Namibia to all our friends. When you compare the price we paid with most of the other similar options, the value and quality of Exodus's package was outstanding. We also had a lovely mix of fellow travellers who made the trip special for us (together with Sam, Jonas and Tuhafeni of course.)
Weren't we lucky!
Finally put some photos of the trip up here http://heathercollins.fotopic.net/c1698698.html
Have just been looking at Heather's photos, and they are great (apart from the one of me.) If you are thinking of booking I don't think you could do better than to view them.
Been reading your posts and I'm going in October. So excited and really looking forward to it. Just wondered if anyone can give any advice on how much luggage you can take and how cold it gets at night. Was thinking of getting one of those expensive-ish insulating fleeces and likewise jacket so that I can save space but still be warm at night! Also, what are best clothes wise to take? I've read about taking more 3/4 length, long trousers, but how about top wise? I tend to wear mainly smaller vest tops so just wondering if this is going to be ok or if I'll need more sun protection!
Glad you all enjoyed the trip, any advice that you can give me would be greatly appreciated, and I've had a look at the photos they look great!
Hi Sarah- You won't regret going to Namibia! We all loved it. You will be able to take only one large squashy holdall with you, and in this you need to fit all your clothes and toiletries plus your sleeping bag in its compression sac. If you favour a rucksack put an elasticated cover over it as otherwise it will have to go through oversize luggage check-in at Gatwick because of the straps.
I found a sheet inner for my sleeping bag nice and cool. I can see you read what I said about long/three quarter/zip off trousers, which you will find more useful than shorts especially at either end of the day. You probably won't get rained on but you will need a warm fleece for the early mornings, and long sleeved shirts for the evenings (mozzies). I wish I had taken more. You could wear your walking boots on the plane to save the weight in your bag but I didn't and I was only up to 14 kilos (you are allowed 20)
Even when you are in Swakopmund and you go out to a restaurant no one will expect you to dress up, so in my opinion leave your frocks etc. at home.
Your regular vests should be ok for daily wear as you can easily slip a shirt on over a vest if the sun gets to you. You will need a hat and you will be grateful for it- it is HOT. I took two 7-packs of cheap M and S knickers and I was glad I did, since the opportunities for washing are limited because you are busy all day and then when you make camp in the afternoon all you will want to do is veg out or swim, etc. If you wash light things out as soon as you arrive and drape them over your tent, they will dry. Your towel will dry out on the tent after a shower too. There are swimming pools at most of the camps, so take a costume. Most people took a small day sack with their essentials in it, but I used a shoulder bag and it was big enough. It was coldest on the early game drives and at Cape Cross seal colony.
ps don't bother with the balloon trip!! you have been warned
go in a week and just wanted to check what plug sockets they use in namibia please?
round pin South African ones. You need to ask specifically for South African ones. However, don't panic because I bought one at the airport.
Have a lovely time (I'm sure you will) and remember- don't go on the balloon flight!!!! There are plenty of other things to do.
I have just been informed by my other half that I should have told you '15 amp round pin plugs' to be strictly accurate, and that if you don't manage to find a S African adapter in the UK don't worry because they are available in all Namibian supermarkets and shops.
A cigar lighter recharger for batteries and ipods etc is really useful- solar ones are not that good.
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