Charlie Versfeld tells us all about his Namibian experience after winning our #PortfolioLifestyle competition held at the end of 2015. The epic trip was a long time coming but as you’ll see, well worth the wait…
After never having won anything of great significance before, I was beyond delighted to receive the email from Portfolio stating I’d won the grand prize of this awesome competition: an all-expenses paid trip for two to beautiful Namibia. I would be travelling at the end of 2016, so now it was all about the planning with the help of Portfolio’s Lauren.
Fast forward nine months, (yes, nine whole months!) and the alarm clock on my phone is going off. It’s 5:30 am. Despite it being the crack of dawn, I’m pumped since it's the much anticipated day of departure. My bags are packed, my passport is at the ready and I just can't wait to get going. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime where my good friend and I would be jetting off to Windhoek to begin our long-awaited adventure.
We arrived in Windhoek at around 10:30am on the Saturday morning where the temperature on the tarmac was already hovering just above 30 degrees C. After collecting our wheels from Europcar, we headed out to the city situated about 45 minutes from the airport. We were going to be staying in Windhoek for the first two nights and I was excited to see what Namibia's capital city had to offer. We checked into the exquisite Olive Exclusive All-Suite Hotel and I was taken aback by how amazing the suites were.
In total there are seven suites with each one decorated to depict a different region of Namibia. Apart from the beautifully decorated room, the view as you walked out onto the balcony was truly stunning. You would have no idea that you were staying in a capital city because as you step outside, you have an olive orchard in front of you and beyond that a few hills with some residential buildings surrounded by trees. The air-conditioned room provided some much needed respite from the Namibian summer heat and luckily the hotel swimming pool was located just below our room, so we didn’t have to wander very far if we felt like cooling off.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served in the hotel’s restaurant where we were looked after very well by the friendly staff at the hotel. Breakfast was definitely one of our favorite meals of the day, particularly the breakfast platter that featured a wide variety of different delectable goodies. One thing that I just have to mention is how friendly the Namibian locals are and how happy they are to welcome people from other countries.
During our stay in Windhoek, we visited the Okapuka Ranch, not too far outside the city, where we enjoyed a buffet-style lunch made up of all types of different local foods and ingredients. Sitting outside we watched the warthogs grazing on the lush grass as we sipped away on our drinks. Our last evening was spent watching the sunset from the bar situated on the top floor of the Hilton which provided an amazing view of the city centre.
Monday arrived and we had about a five hour drive ahead of us as we set the GPS to guide us to our next stop in the Etosha National Park. For me, this was probably the most exciting part of the trip as I had never been on a bush trip before and I had been told all my life that Etosha was one of the best places to go and see wild life.
We took to the B1 road that takes you through towns like Okahandja, Otjiwarongo, Okaputo and Otavi before arriving at our destination. There was no rush to get there so we took our time driving up, making sure to take in all the surroundings and beautiful landscapes we passed along the way. What is remarkable is how the landscape changes all the time – it’s totally fascinating.
Driving in through the main gate you get that feeling that you’re now really in the bush and even before we got to Mushara Lodge where we’d be staying, we managed to see three oryx and a couple of smaller duikertjies. We were greeted at the reception and taken straight to the bar to enjoy a refreshing drink while our luggage was taken to our chalet. After a cold shower and change of clothes, we headed to the lodge for dinner. It was a clear, cool evening and we were pleased to see that the staff had set up the tables outside on the patio for dinner under the stars. Needless to say, the first impression and night’s stay was definitely top-notch.
The next day we felt like treating ourselves to a little pampering. We set off for Makuti Lodge about 7km down the road to indulge in full-body massages. Afterwards, feeling considerably more relaxed, we headed over to the pool bar where we grabbed an ice cold Tafel Lager and enjoyed watching the game roam around the lodge buildings.
Day three at Mushara Lodge started off with great excitement. The previous day we had booked a game drive through the park and we were given the option to either do an early morning drive or an afternoon one. Both sounded great but the afternoon drive would end with some sundowners in the park and we were both convinced that this would be a great way to end our stay at this mesmerising place.
After some lounging by the pool, 3pm finally arrived and we got ready for our game drive. We were joined by a German couple and set off excited to see what the Etosha National Park had to offer. The first thing we noticed was how dry it had been in Namibia. The north usually receives more rain than the south during the rainy season, but one could see that it had not rained there for quite some time. We drove to a popular water hole where we viewed a tower of giraffe all gathered around the watering hole where they were awkwardly doing their signature front-legged spread as they tried to get their tall necks closer to the water for a sip.
We also spotted a cheetah mother with her two adolescent siblings, probably waiting for an unlucky bokkie to come close enough for them to pounce. The three of them were huddled up in the shade of a termite mound trying to stay cool while the warm African sun scorched the plains.
A little further on, we were blessed with the opportunity to see a black rhino. With the amount of rhino poaching that has been happening, one doesn’t know how much longer these great animals will be around to be observed in their natural habitats, so it was a real treat. Following the rhino sighting, we drove past a massive herd of elephants. There must have been around 20 of them but they soon disappeared into the thick brush and out of sight. A few minutes later we saw a massive bull standing next to the road. It looked right at us and flapped its big ears, letting us know of its presence. It stood there for a while before majestically crossing the road and disappearing.
On our way back we stopped off for sundowners at the Namutoni Fort situated in the park. The fort was constructed by the Germans between 1902 and 1903 and after being destroyed by the Ovambo, rebuilt in 1906. It has since been declared a national monument and in 1957, the fort was opened for tourism.
The next day saw us hit the road again bound for the third and final destination of our trip. The road would take us about four and a half hours south west of the Etosha National Park into the Erongo region. Once again, you will see the landscape transform from savanna type woodlands and grasslands into a semi-arid landscape, and with its rocky outcrops, it makes you feel like you’re on the moon or Mars! This was the feeling we had, especially when we drove into the Erongo Wilderness Conservancy in Amaruru where we would spend our last night at the Erongo Wilderness Lodge. Here, the luxury tented chalets are set on stilts against the enormous granite outcrops but don’t worry, there’s a shaded parking area where you can leave your car and they come and collect you with a 4x4 to take you to the lodge.
One can easily see why this is rated as one of Namibia’s number one holiday destinations and why people sometimes have to book two years in advance to secure a spot during the high season. After checking into our chalet, we headed straight to the pool to cool off. The restaurant and pool area are situated next to one another high up on one of the outcrops offering incredible views of the surroundings. Naturally, a G&T quenched our thirst after we had taken a plunge in the pool. We sat on the viewing deck and toasted to an amazing journey through a beautiful country and watched the sun go down on our last evening in Namibia.
Dinner that night was absolutely incredible: seated on the deck under the stars and with the full moon shining brightly, the kitchen prepared a breathtaking meal for us. After dinner and a bottle of red wine, we headed over to the bar for a final night cap before returning to our chalet. We sat on own private balcony, sipping our whiskey and appreciating the deep silence and clear star-lit skies that are only experienced in special places like this.
It was truly the trip of a lifetime and an experience that I won’t ever forget. I was sad to leave such a beautiful country and the next day as our plane taxied onto the runway, the heavens opened up and the rains fell as if to say Namibia was sad to see us go too.
I’d like to extend a huge thank you to all the places along the way that made our trip that much sweeter and of course to Portfolio for making it all happen. Special mention must be made to Namibia itself – what a gem of a country and one I would gladly return to again and again.
Words and images (except one of Mushara Lodge room) by: Charlie Versfeld | Follow him on Instagram @charlie_cpt