As promised (Heather!) I have been able to get online at last and share some thoughts about our recent trip to Namibia. This isn't the place write a review but while certain things are fresh in my mind I will hopefully be able to fill in a few gaps for others who are thinking of booking. (and I hope you do.) As Other Dave in our party would say,'Is this the best trip I have ever been on. Probably. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely- go for it.' I will not spoil your experience by telling you all about mine, so look at the Trip Notes to find out what you will be doing in Namibia- it is all great, and every day and experience lived up to our expectations. There was a great deal of schadenfreude, certainly, for me, to be had whilst watching other tour groups up at 4.30 wearily struggling to get their tents down in the pitch dark and again, at the end of a long and tiring day, having to put them up. (ha ha ha)Fully serviced camping- what a luxury. Accept nothing less.
Now for things I wish I had known beforehand that were only discovered through experience.
Clothing and equipment- I wish I had brought fewer shorts and a pair or two more of long or zip off trousers, as well as more three quarter length trousers, not for evening warmth particularly but as mozzie repellers. On game drives too, the early morning air struck very cold whilst only wearing shorts and sandals. Also I wish I had brought more long-sleeved shirts and fewer t shirts for exactly the same reason, and don't forget the Deet and bite and sting cream. You will need your fleece in April especially in the early morning. Your hat and sunscreen are vital. A sheet sleeping bag was also vital for me whilst camping in the desert areas as the temperature in April did not go down at night as we thought it would. There will be hardly any opportunity to use a hairdryer, so forget it. I know this sounds frivolous but as the mother of three daughters over 16 this had been a concern expressed beforehand.
Food- Namibia is a carnivore's paradise. If you were strictly vegetarian our excellent cook Jonas would have made sure that there was something you could eat but I think your diet would be far more restricted than ours was. Our tour leader Sam told of one trip where 10 of the 12 guests were vegan and he was reduced to serving 'salad for breakfast- salad for lunch- and salad for dinner, and all the guests turned their backs on me while I cooked my meat.'
I have saved my major concern until last: MONEY, and, specifically, how to pay for various trips and experiences whilst in Swakopmund (and whether or not you bother with some of them after reading this.) Nothing of what I am going to say reflects badly on either Exodus or Sam our tour leader. Ten of our party of 12 enquired about a 45-minute balloon flight over the coastal dunes at Swakopmund. Sam rang the organiser who offered what seemed like a fair price and indicated that all forms of payment were acceptable (as you'd expect from any reputable firm.) Bearing this in mind we all booked. There were 4 in our family wanting to fly- expensive- so we asked specifically about paying by either debit or credit card and Sam was told that it would be ok.
On the day, it was very foggy (happens every day and the balloonist MUST have known) but instead of the operator cancelling or waiting we were driven miles to a piece of featureless desert ground next to a railway line where we had a quite enjoyable but mainly static ascent with little to see. Instead of a 45 minute flight the operator stretched it to 1 hour. He then refused to accept the agreed price and said that it had 'just' gone up (to a price far in excess of a balloon flight in the UK.) To our dismay he also refused our credit cards as payment and said that although he had applied for credit card payment facilities, he was not bothering with cards because of unspecified 'difficulties'. This meant that some of our party did not have enough money on them to pay him. He drove us to an ATM machine in Swakopmund and he and his three assistants stood over us while we all attempted to withdraw more funds. It was as a result of this that some in our party discovered that their Maestro and Mastercard cards either would not work in Namibian ATMs or only allowed one withdrawal of 50 Namibian dollars per day depending upon the machine. The balloon operator had to return to our hotel with us where he then trousered most of our family's holiday money (over £800 for 4 flights.) This certainly soured my mood for a few days, until we could get to a bank in opening hours to try and sort it out. (we didn't- my daughter managed to.)
I might add that I HAD told our bank we were going away AND my credit card company, but I found out when I got home that the credit card company had stopped my card because the call centre person I had informed had put some misspelt nonsense like 'Nambia' on my file - she didn't seem to be English, did appear confused at the time, and obviously hadn't known where Namibia was or how to spell it- this also happened to my daughter who had 'Southern Africa' put on her file and also had her card stopped. I had a letter waiting for me at home telling me that I had been the victim of attempted credit card fraud. Please do NOT rely upon ATMs to dispense all your holiday money in Namibia (as I have seen recommended in guide books), nor credit cards to pay for anything, and double check with your bank/card provider on the day you travel- we thought we would be ok and we weren't, and it has never happened before. Needless to say I can't recommend the balloon operator, and some female members of the party felt his behaviour in and out of the balloon verged on the inappropriate. (stroking and touching.)
Hope you find this useful. I am sure that other members of the group who travelled with us can add far more than me- but I'll write a glowing review of the trip when Exodus ask me to.