The Namib Desert has always held a certain mystique, its siren call luring many people − from yesterday’s diamond miners, to today’s adventurous 4×4 owner. It’s a must-do destination on any seasoned traveller’s list, if huge dunes, desolate spaces and the wrecked evidence of centuries of sea trade get you ready to pack bags.
New routes, giant dunes and new wrecks are all in a special Desert Magic coastline tour that covers areas not seen by the public in more than 107 years
But I am one who has travelled the Namib Desert extensively, and have gone from Luderitz all the way to the Kunene River mouth numerous times; so I had to wonder, after a phone call from legendary Namib Desert guide Volker Janhke, what could possibly be different about his latest shipwreck tour.
However, as there are more than 486 known shipwrecks along the treacherous Skeleton Coast, from Oranjemund in the south to the Kunene River mouth in the north, a trip to explore some of the betterknown wrecks did hold some allure.
“The route starts out in Luderitz and finishes in Walvis Bay,” explained Volker, “but, unlike the route others have followed, we enter directly opposite Kolmanskop (the ghost town) and go to an area into which nobody has been allowed for 107 years: one which forms part of Diamond Area 1.”
My interest was certainly piqued, and then came the clincher: “And, Bernie, you can drive the backup Land Cruiser.” Having had two of my own 4.5-litre EFI Cruisers in the past, I was now as bok as the first guy ever to pick up a diamond in the Namib Desert!
This new six-day route between Luderitz and Walvis Bay was finally approved by the Namibian government in 2015, along with Namdeb, thus clearing the way for Desert Magic Tours to pass through their diamond concession area between Luderitz and Hottentots Bay/Gibraltar area for the first time since 1909.
All Luderitz-to-Walvis-Bay crossings have to make a detour via the Koichab Pan, which involves approximately 70km of road-driving before the vehicles are able to enter the coastal area in the late afternoon of Day 2. With the new route, one is able to enter the coastal dune belt an hour into the trip via Kolmanskop, and have the first shipwreck hove into view an hour later.
Volker was born and raised in Luderitz and has an extensive knowledge of the Namib Desert − from its fauna and flora, to the history of the diamond-mining activities that took place from the early 1900s. He is the pioneer of almost all Namib Desert routes, making him a true legend in his own right. His company has now joined with Popyeni Safaris, who are the official concessionaires for this route – an assurance that this new route will become a world-class adventure product, with nothing to beat its diversity, scenery, history and wildlife… And providing a dune-driving experience second to none.
Tour cost: R9800 per person
Times: Throughout the year (some time slots have been pre-booked)
Best time to go: No specific time; Namibia weather changes fast
Road conditions: Excellent road, both gravel and tar; beware of going too fast on the gravel
Max. number of vehicles: 12
Contact: Bernie Williams
Tel: 078 630 2853
• Two-way radios in all vehicles
• Guide and guide vehicle
• Wind shelter, shower and toilet facilities
• One vehicle to carry supplies
• Two meals per day (hearty breakfast and dinner)
• Water (for kitchen/cleaning only)
• Dinner in Luderitz and lunch in Walvis Bay (meal only!)
What to bring
• Tent, mattress, sleeping bag, chairs
• Own cutlery and crockery
• One bag of wood per vehicl
• Water for own consumption (minimum 20l) & for showering/washing
• Beverages, drinks and lunch snacks
• Strong garbage bags (all waste to be taken out at Walvis Bay)
• Sufficient fuel for 700km (Guideline: petrol vehicles 3km/litre; diesel vehicles 4km/litre)
• Personal items such as medication, sunblock, torch, camera, batteries, etc.
Important:Clients must provide their own travel insurance and medical evacuation service in case of a medical emergency.
• Vehicles must have low-range gearing and high ground-clearance
• Vehicles must be mechanically sound
• High flotation tyres must be fitted (no tube-type tyres)
• Recovery points/hooks must be fitted front AND rear
• Emergency gear, tools and spare parts must be included
• A tyre pump and pressure gauge must be included
• Roof rack: maximum weight 50kg; only one rooftop tent permitted
• You must have the correct insurance for your vehicle
• No trailers are allowed
Places to stay
Namibia is a massive country. Consider these stopover options when planning your trip. All have restaurants, and most offer camping facilities.
Ais-Ais Hot Water Springs
(Camping available as well.) The Fish River Canyon is a short drive north from Ais-Ais and a must-visit destination. (Camping available.)
Namibia Accommodation Website: www.namibiareservations.com
Awesome restaurant with a museum. Accommodation available.
Canyon Roadhouse Website: www. gondwana-collection.com/thefish- river-canyon-experience/ accommodation/canyon-roadhouse/
Klein Aus Vista
A full-day’s drive from Ais-Ais; great accommodation, including camping, and activities.
Klein Aus Vista Website: www.klein-aus-vista.com/
Kratzplatz Website: www.kratzplatz.info/
Swakopmund Rest Camp Website: www.swakopmund-restcamp.com/