The landscapes of Namibia are home to a wealth of desert-adapted wildlife that conservationists are working hard to protect. Meet National Geographic grantees and other researchers in the field to learn about wildlife preservation efforts. Along your journey, encounter elephants, hyenas, giraffes, and oryx on safari; go sea kayaking in Walvis Bay; and climb the dunes of the Namib Desert.
Get settled at the N/a’an Ku Sê Wildlife Sanctuary, where National Geographic–supported researchers have developed an innovative approach to protecting predators while reducing attacks on local livestock. Learn about the use of GPS and Google Earth to track leopards and cheetahs, and head into the field with local researchers on game counts, collar-tracking exercises, or to set up camera traps at watering holes. Snap close-up shots of the resident cheetahs and baboons, and zoom out to photograph large herds of zebras and springbok. Track African wild dogs that have been recently reintroduced to the reserve, visit a specialized sanctuary caring for injured and orphaned elephants and rhinos, and help to perform a veterinary check-up on rehabilitated animals. Discuss the effects of climate change on this desert ecosystem with conservation experts, learning about the work being done to mitigate its impact; and spend time with members of the San people to gain insights into daily life in their hunter-gatherer community.
Head south to Sesriem Canyon and Sossusvlei—a salt and clay pan surrounded by towering dunes. Camp overnight in the national park and wake early to photograph the sun rising over the massive orange-red dunes. Pay a visit to the iconic Deadvlei, a stark landscape dotted with ancient, skeletal camel thorn trees that have been dead for more than 700 years. Continue to the seaside city of Swakopmund, a lively hub for surfers and adventure seekers. Explore the dunes with desert ecologists and learn about the species that have adapted to survive the harsh conditions. Then, tear down dune slopes on a sandboarding excursion. Visit Cape Cross to observe a vast breeding colony of some 100,000 Cape fur seals, and paddle alongside dolphins, flamingos, and pelicans on a guided sea kayaking adventure on Walvis Bay.
Journey into Damaraland, where the desert harbors unusually succulent plants fed by Atlantic mists. With local guides, hike to the White Lady rock etching, believed to date back at least 2,000 years. Pay a visit to Brandberg Mountain, a giant granite monolith and Namibia’s highest mountain peak; then descend into the neighboring valley and venture across the stark landscapes in search of endangered desert-adapted elephants.
Namibia’s dry season spans April through October, when herds of plains game flock to the waterholes of Etosha National Park, and their predators—lions, leopards, and cheetahs—follow close behind. The resulting concentrations of wildlife provide optimal scenery for photographers and a living laboratory for conservationists. Enjoy three days on safari here, looking for big cats, giraffes, oryx, rare black-faced impalas, and endemic birds like the bare-cheeked babbler. Stop at watering holes for close-up views of bathing elephants, zebras drinking at the water’s edge, and hartebeests splashing in the shallows. Meet with park rangers and learn about their efforts to encourage conservation through tourism.
Learn about the plight of the cheetah at the world-renowned Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) near Otavi. Talk with scientists about predator-conservation outreach efforts and hear about their collaborations with local farmers. Join trackers on census walks, help care for rehabilitated cheetahs, visit the genetics lab, and observe a training session for livestock guard dogs—an integral part of the CCF’s conservation plan.
Travel to the Namibian capital of Windhoek, where we’ll cap off our expedition with visits to artisan markets, presentations of our On Assignment projects, and a final meal out on the town.