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New Friendly Planet Travel destination #1: Discover Namibia

 Giraffes at Etosha National Park

At the end of last year I promised to introduce new destinations to Friendly Planet Travel’s tour selections. One of the continents we were looking to expand our tour offerings to was Africa.

I’m delighted to keep my promise by unveiling the first new tour of 2011: Discover Namibia. Tucked between the South Atlantic Ocean and South Africa, this country is one of our most off-the-beaten-path tours yet.

It’s home to the shimmering salt pan and diverse wildlife of Etosha National Park, the enormous Sossusvlei sand dunes in the heart of the Namib desert, the rugged terrain of Damaraland, the ancient rock engravings at Twylfelfontein, the quaint coastal town of Swakopmund, and more.

The 14-day journey begins in Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city. After a good night’s rest, you depart north for Etosha, stopping en route in the small town of Okahandja, known for its woodcarvings and curios.

In Etosha, you tour the Etosha National Park. It’s regarded as one of most interesting game-viewing reserves in the world because of its abundance of wildlife and its unusual topography.

It sits on a unique combination of an expansive dry lake (salt pan), grasslands, dense brush, and open plains. Combined with the 100 different large mammal species — including the elephant, giraffe, zebra, leopard, lion, and black rhino — and 340 bird species, it’s a photographer’s dream.
Continue to Damaraland, a huge, untamed, and ruggedly beautiful region, often considered to be one of the last true wilderness areas in Africa. You stop at the Petrified Forest, where you have the opportunity to view enormous fossilized tree trunks that are believed to date back nearly 250 million years.

The following day you tour the remote Twyfelfontein valley, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to more than 2,000 rock carvings estimated to be more than 3,000 years old and believed to be the work of the San Bushmen. These engravings are etched in red sandstone and depict giraffes, lions, hunters, and other symbols.

Next you drive along the Atlantic coast to the charming resort of Swakopmund. Its palm-lined streets and seaside promenades give the town a pleasant, laid-back feel, while its colonial German architecture and numerous beer gardens recall a quaint German village.

During your time in the town, you can opt for the Harbor Dolphin Cruise. It takes you to Bird Island and across the lagoon where seals will swim up to the boats and flamingoes, cormorants, White Chinned Petrels, and even the Jackass Penguin can be spotted. Or get a bird’s eye view of Swakopmund on a scenic flight.

The next day you arrive in Sossusvlei, home to the massive Sossusvlei sand dunes, reported to be the highest sand dunes in the world. The strong colors of these majestic red dunes change with the sun, making a breathtaking memory.

You arrive back in Windhoek at the end of your 14-day day tour. But if you want to spend more time in Africa, you can opt for the 5-day extension to Cape Town. Or start your tour early with our pre-tour extension to Johannesburg.

The 14-day tour includes roundtrip flights from New York via South African Airways wide-bodied jet service, including fuel surcharges; ground transportation and transfers within Namibia; 11 nights in superior, first-class hotels and lodges with private bath; 18 meals, including 11 breakfasts and seven dinners; professional English-speaking tour directors; comprehensive touring program and safaris, including entrance fees.

Right now we only have 10 departure dates available, and space is limited. Each group holds no more than 15 per departure. So if you want to take a walk on the wild side in Namibia, book the 14-day Discover Namibia tour for $4,499 before July 23, or as long as space lasts. If you have any questions, visit our website for the full itinerary. And as always, feel free to leave a comment on this post or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.