Namibia – more than just Dunes!

Namibia Bucket List

When people consider trekking to Africa or going on a safari, rarely does the Southern African country of Namibia make the list. In a country so vast, with so much to see (there are more than just dunes) here’s my Namibia bucket list which will ensure you see everything worth seeing.

1.Road Safari

Expect to find well maintained, open roads across the country… It is the best way see all the sights whilst appreciating just how sparsely populated and diverse the land is.

2. Cycle through Katutura

The township settlement of Katutura on the outskirts of Windhoek is a lively location. Book yourself on a bicycle tour through this area, it is a great way to not just see but feel apart of the vibrancy of it all.

3. Eat at Corner of 62nd in Windhoek

Hands down the best restaurant in the capital city. With only a handful of restaurants around they stand head and shoulders above the rest. Dear husband highly recommends the Lamb Shank

4. Day trip to N/a ‘an ku se Lodge

A 45 minute drive out of Windhoek takes you to N/a’an ku se, a sanctuary of amazing cuisine and tranquil surroundings. They also have multiple wildlife conservation projects, that offer you the opportunity to get up close with the wildlife on carnivore feeding tours, horse-riding through the bush, and Caracal or cheetah walks.

Open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week, but their Sunday buffet lunch is truly special

Naankuse Road

5. Climb to the top of Heroes Acre

On the southern outskirts of Windhoek lies Heroes Acre, a war memorial, that showcases the history and struggle for Namibia’s independence and it also offers the best viewpoint of the entire capital city.

6. Watch an African sunset

Because nothing beats the golden hues of an African sunset.

7. Visit Spitskoppe

If you have the time it is a great place to go camping for a night or two, hike or watch the sunset but if not it is worth the short detour when you are heading between Usakos and Swakopmund (in the middle of nowhere). Walking among the giant granite peaks will make you feel like you are exploring another planet.

8. Quad bike through the dunes

When in Swakopmund go quad biking through the desert dunes… because it’s just pure fun.

Swakopmund

9. Go sandboarding

Not nearly as advanced as snowboarding, sandboarding in Swakopmund is as simple as lying on a thin wooden plank and slipping down the monstrous dunes. You may be shaking sand out your shoes and ears for weeks to come – but it’s so worth it!

10. Eat at Anchors @ the Jetty

Walvis Bay home to thousands of flamingos and Anchors, situated on the waterfront this restaurant serves the best seafood dishes and they are not shy with their portions – go hungry.

11. Paddle with the seals

Go kayaking among the seals at Pelican Point and if you are lucky, the dolphins may come out to play.

12. See where the ocean and desert collide

Sandwich Harbour is a short drive out of Walvis Bay and it is surreal. You stand between the wild ocean and serene desert.

13. Walk among the Quiver Trees

Pit stop outside of Keetmanshop to visit Quiver Tree forest, because it’s a forest like no other. And whilst there drive a few metres down the sand road to Giants Playground which is a fascinating place that looks like someone played rock Tetris.

14. Trudge through Ghost Town

A mere 62 years ago this German diamond mining town was abandoned and now slowly the desert is reclaiming it. The eerie town consists of uninhibited houses and once lavish institutions like a ballroom, casino, theatre, hospital, even an ice factory, that now lie knee-deep in sand.

Kolmanskop

15. Seek out the wild horses 

Down south in Aus, roams the desert horses, completely free, without fences, these feral horses have adapted to the harsh conditions of the environment.

16. Stargaze

Whether you purposefully go to stargaze or just happen to look up one night whilst sitting around the camp fire you will be treated to a twinkling night sky like you have never seen before.

17. See the second largest canyon in the world

After North Americas’ Grand Canyon, Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon and it lies in the far south of Namibia.

18. Twyfelfontein

One of Namibia’s UNESCO World Heritage site’s is an art gallery for rock carvings where at least 2,500 San Bushmen engravings are carved, making it one of the biggest collection in Africa.

19. Go in search of the Big 5

A visit to the countries largest national park, Etosha is where you can see the Big 4 (lion, leopard, elephant and rhino) and you will have to go up north to the Capri Strip in search of buffalo.

Elephants_erindi

20. See the magical Epupa Falls

In the Northern Kunene Region lies the Epupa Falls. What makes them so unforgettable is the contrast of the misty white falls against the arid desert landscape.

Epupa FallsImage source: Paul van Schalkwyk // Epupa Camp

21. Go on a water safari

The Caprivi Strip, an oasis in the northeast tip, is a stark contrast to the rest of the country and the best place to see the wide variety of water-loving game (hippos, crocodiles, sable, waterbuck and buffalo) that is largely absent from the rest of Namibia.

22. Go on a Hot Air Balloon safari

Imagine watching the sun rise over the Sossusvlei Dunes – all from your Hot Air Balloon, and landing in the middle of nowhere and enjoying a champagne breakfast.

23. See the wild Skeleton Coast

The hauntingly beautiful but infamously treacherous coastline of Northern Namibia is a graveyard for unwary ships whilst the land is one of the world’s most inhospitable and waterless areas, a place where white gravel plains and colorless dunes meet the cold, misty waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Skeleton Coast Namibia Image source: The Modern Nomad

24. Eat apple pie 

When on route to Sossusvlei, make a stop for some apple pie at Moose McGregors Bakery. Situated in the middle of nowhere is the town of Solitaire, that comprises of a gas station, a post office and this world-famous bakery.

25. Walk through the oldest desert in the world

And finally, what trip to Namibia would be complete without walking through the iconic Sossusvlei Dunes.

Mexico’s Sea of Cortez & Copper Canyon

pelicansExploring the Sea of Cortez and the Copper Canyon in Mexico left and indelible impression on me. During my stay I did some snorkeling in a marine preserve near La Paz on the Baja California. The water is crystal clear and warm and the only company we had were some very inquisitive pelicans. They have the longest noses (beaks)

Gray Whales migrate to these waters from the Arctic Circle during the winter months to give birth to their calves in the lagoons of the southern Baja. Whale watching expeditions are available during the winter months and these fully inclusive kayaking/camping trips would surely be an unforgettable experience.

copper2Then we boarded the “Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad” in the coastal town of Los Mochis and embarked on one of the most dramatic railway journeys I’ve ever experienced.

copper_peopleDuring the 7 hour trip the train winds its way over 37 trestle bridges and through more than 80 tunnels, climbing 7500 feet into the Copper Canyon. This rugged ‘Land of the Sierra Madre’ rivals the grandeur of the Grand Canyon and is a great destination for those who love the unusual.

Contact Vancouver Travel Consultant
Christine Boecker for your next vacation!

A Week of Daily Wonders in the Galapagos

ECUADOR— by SEAN STANLEIGH, Globe and Mail

It started with a conversation over a few pints: “How are we going to celebrate our … birthdays?”… “Let’s take a trip,” I suggested.

After intense negotiations – hiking in Bolivia (too much work), sailing the British Virgin Islands (not enough work), a village trek in Scotland (too many hangovers) – five of us settled on the Galapagos Islands: home of my only travel regret.

Several years earlier, I was in Ecuador for a rain-forest excursion and had plenty of time to explore the site of Charles Darwin’s famous observations, which culminated in the classic On The Origin of Species. Lacking the benefit of hindsight and a comfort level with debt, I declined the opportunity, believing the cost to be extravagant. I have regretted it ever since.

The Galapagos Islands, located 1,000 kilometres west of mainland Ecuador, have a long and rich history. The first recorded discovery was in 1535, and in 1570 the 19 islands earned their name after the thousands of giant tortoises that roamed their shores. The islands were used on and off by sailors and pirates, mostly as a stopover to hunt whales and store tortoises for food, until 1832, when the first formal settlement was established.

Then came Darwin in 1835. His visit would lead to a new theory of evolution, and nearly 200 years later, the site continues to draw scientists and curious onlookers to the home of his greatest triumph. …

I felt like I’d really arrived in the Galapagos on the second day of our weeklong boat cruise. After flying from Quito to San Cristobal island a day earlier, we boarded our 20-passenger ship, the Letty, and took a quick cruise around a dramatic formation called Kicker Rock. But a cancelled swim with sea lions because of stormy seas had dampened our spirits.

Then the events of Day 2 more than made up for the disappointment. We woke up on the shores of Genovesa Island, having travelled overnight. After breakfast, we donned wetsuits and snorkel gear, and plunged into the cool waters, where we swam with an array of tropical fish, coral, colourful starfish and sea urchins. The water was stunningly clear, with new sights everywhere you looked, and our guides, Jeanette and “Pepe” (his nickname was his preference), got their first taste of our reluctance to get back in the dinghies.

We went ashore later that morning and out came the cameras. … Up “Prince Philip’s Steps” we went (he had visited the site in the 1960s). What we saw at the top made my jaw drop: birds. We were practically surrounded. The famous red-footed boobies – yes, I’ve heard them all – and Nazca boobies. It wasn’t just their strange, otherworldly looks that captured my attention, it was the fact they just sat there next to the hiking trails as our group walked by that amazed me.

I’d heard all the stories about the wildlife of the Galapagos, and the complete lack of fear of humans. But it’s one thing to hear about, another to experience. The birds stared intently at us, as though we were the first people they had ever encountered. We were able to crouch next to them, observe them closely, take their pictures, examine their nests, even catch glimpses of their eggs when they stood up to stretch. “This is incredible,” I kept repeating. …

There’s nothing quite like snorkelling in the ocean, watching rays “float” below you, while you’re surrounded by schools of angelfish and parrotfish, when out of nowhere, a sea lion swims toward you and stares you down, face to face mask. …

The most spectacular swim of the trip took place off the shore of Isabela Island on Day 3, when within a one-hour period we saw sea turtles, sea horses, sea lions, bull-headed sharks, chocolate-chip starfish (yellow with black spots) and cormorants and Galapagos penguins taking a dip. To top the day off, as we sailed toward Santiago Island, the sun was setting in spectacular fashion as a school of minke whales broke the surface next to the ship.

It was a week of daily wonders: barren, beautiful landscapes; stunning vistas; naturally formed lava tunnels; blowholes spraying water 15 metres into the air; marine iguanas, often in packs of hundreds, spitting out excess salt; red crabs scampering along rocky shorelines; white-tipped reef sharks; huge marble stingrays and albatrosses performing their mating rituals.

The list seems endless. It was everything I expected from a visit to the Galapagos, and more.”

For more information contact Christine Boecker, Adventure Travel Specialist

 

Mexican Baja Cruise – Travel Review

We had a marvelous time!  Our small ship only had 69 passengers so there was so much to do and folks to help with the details. I did yoga in the early morning every day but one, before breakfast.  Mike and I did kayaking twice, I did snorkeling three times, wetsuited, [once with sea lions].  One massage was included in the activity list for every passenger – heavenly.  Mike’s main complaint was that they purposely did not have Wi-Fi.  We even got to ride one day: donkeys, mules, and a couple of horses.

We went grey whale watching in Magdalena Bay; Mike called it ‘whale soup’ because there were so many whales in the bay.  Occasionally they would be curious and come up to the boats [we were in smaller boats – only 10 passengers plus the operator].  We saw moms with their new calves as well as mature of both genders getting ready for mating.

There was a professional photographer aboard for some presentations and to be available for assistance. Mike appreciated that.  It was sure a camera friendly environment.  Unbelievable dawn and sunset every day plus islands, bays, cactus, sea lions, and dolphins.

Little things like everyone’s food at a table of six being carried out by three servers all at once.  As you met new people in  activities you would rearrange yourself for meals.  Every meal was memorable.  There were always choices, fish, meat, vegetarian.  Always salads, fresh fruit and the presentation was beautiful.  Nice sized portions although you could ask for seconds; I only saw someone do that  once.  Otherwise you didn’t have room for dessert.

MaxineYoung BajaJan15

Folks from all over the US, i.e.  Seattle, California, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Portland ,plus  New Zealand. A real mixed bag of background;, teachers, firefighters,  scientists, nurses, business folks.  Two teenagers with their grandparents; a father- daughter pair – she had just graduated from college, a foursome gal-pal group, one 85 yr old traveling alone, and then lots of couples; in ages similar to Mike and me.

The little inn you found for us in San Jose was charming.  Entering through a long garden area, we had a second story suite with a balcony.  The downward  view from the balcony was a huge yard with remnants of storm collection/damage but family activities apparent.  Dogs and chickens sounds.  The horizon and up view was palm trees, buildings of various types, and beautiful skies. We frequently got pleasant recorded Elvis and often live music from places a block or two away.

The historic area was quite peaceful, very few tourists which made the curio shops seem almost desperate.  The galleries had a range of art and objects and were more relaxed since their clientele would be more directed.  We did a Grey Line bus tour [12 passengers] which gave us a tour of both cities, a glass-bottomed boat trip out beyond the ‘arch’ and a glass-blowing demo.  This gave us a look at Cabo most folks would envision; we were glad we were a bit removed from the hustle and bustle.

Thank you for helping us set up this experience.  Maxine

Contact Christine Boecker to arrange your own small ship adventure.

West Coast Wilderness Safari

Travel Talk and Slide Show – 19 May 2016 –  7:00 to 9:00 pm

Join us on Thursday, May 19th for a fascinating presentation on a very innovative way to explore marine coves and inlets inaccessible to larger ships – from Alaska to Costa Rica.

I’ve just returned from Seattle, where I toured part of the fleet of small ships and yachts that ply the remote coves and bays of the North American west coast in search of wildlife and unspoiled wilderness.

Small ship cruising

Yours truly, touring the Un-Cruise fleet.

What makes these journeys so unique are their flexible itineraries – following the wildlife rather than a predetermined schedule; small groups for up-close wildlife discoveries, and mingling with locals to learn about their culture and traditions.
Life on board is casual and relaxed and meals are created from fresh, regional ingredients. What I really appreciate is their “Leave No Trace” practices and sustainable and responsible business philosophy.

These small ship expeditions are ideal for everyone, whether you’re traveling solo, with a companion, as a family, or in a group. And they cater to your special interests by bringing on board experts such as ornithologists, professional photographers, marine biologists and even beer experts.

Said our valued clients upon their return from a ‘Photography cruise’ in Mexico:
“We had a marvelous time in the Sea of Cortés! Our small ship only had 69 passengers and there was so much to do like yoga in the early morning, kayaking, snorkeling, ‘wet-suiting’ with sea lions… unbelievable dawn and sunsets every day plus islands, bays, cactus, sea lions, and dolphins.
We went grey whale watching in Magdalena Bay; Mike called it ‘whale soup’ because there were so many whales in the bay. Occasionally they would be curious and come up to the boats [we were in smaller zodiacs at the time].
Little things made this vacation special, like everyone’s food at a table of six being carried out by three servers all at once. As you met new people in activities you would rearrange yourself for meals. Every meal was memorable. Thank you for helping us set up this experience.”

Mexican Baja Cruise

Our happy Un-Cruise client

We have invited LouAnn Stanley, Sales Director of Un-Cruise Adventures to share some great photographs and fascinating stories with us on Thursday, May 19th.
If you and your friends want to learn more about this wonderful way of getting an up-close view of the world, mark your calendar and join us from 7 to 9pm for another excellent travel presentation.

West Coast Wilderness Presentation May16

RSVP by May 16 to reserve FREE tickets for you and your friend(s).