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EverGreen Escapes travel series - Ultimate Namibia Safari

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On Thursday, Mar. 13 EverGreen Escapes hosted its monthly travel seminar, this time entitled "Namibia: Up Close & Personal". The presentation, led by naturalist Tyler Davis, was designed to specifically market a pre-set itinerary, the 13-day Ultimate Namibia Safari, scheduled for Nov. 3 to Nov. 15 of 2014. The tour is offered by EverGreen Escapes International in collaboration with Ultimate Safaris, a Namibian-based ecotourism safari company.

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To start, Tyler showed a map of the African continent highlighting Namibia’s location - directly northwest of South Africa, west of Botswana and south of Angola and Zambia. Namibia in recent history was a German colony, then an administrative colony of South Africa, then finally an independent country only since 1990. The country celebrated its 24th birthday on May 21.

Namibia is unique in that it is one of few countries that specifically address conservation in its constitution. Namibia boasts 79 communal conservancies covering 20% of its land. Additionally, in 2010 Namibia became the first and only country to have its entire coastline protected through a national parks network. Due to the strong wildlife protections in place, Namibia is now a world-renowned destination for safaris and ecotourism and is also home to the world’s largest population of free-range black rhinos.

The Ultimate Namibia Safari conveniently begins and ends in the country’s capital city, Windhoek. The tour begins with a short city tour, then overnight. Important local attractions include include Christ Church (Christuskirche) and Reiterdenkmal, the controversial German Equestrian Monument which was removed overnight on Dec. 25, 2013 and whose future remains in question. From here, the tour spends a day visiting the AfriCat Foundation, the largest cheetah and leopard rescue program in the world. Activities include leopard tracking and a visit to the cheetah welfare project. Overnight at the Okonjima Bush Camp.

The next day you will travel to Etosha National Park for 3 days searching for the iconic wildlife of South Africa, including lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, giraffe, zebra, ostrich and more. Explore the different sections of the Park, Namibia’s largest, with daily game drives and visits to known watering holes. Etosha is home to 114 species of mammals and over 340 species of birds. Stay 2 days at Mushara Outpost, then visit Ongava Private Game Reserve and overnight at Andersson’s Camp.

The following day you will visit a Himba settlement en route to Palmwag Concession. The Himba are an indigenous, semi-nomadic group of herders who number somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000. They are most well-known for their “red women”. All women apply otijze to their skin and hair each morning. The substance is a mixture of butter, paste and red ochre, and it gives the women a signature red hue. There is speculation that the tradition developed as a way to protect against the sun, but the Himba view it also as a form of makeup. The Himba women are also known for their elaborate braided hair.

Since the Himba typically are always traveling, it is necessary for the group to “call ahead” through local guides Ultimate Safaris in order to connect with the tribe. It is customary for tour groups to bring needed supplies to the tribe and perhaps a cash offering. The tribe is happy to share its culture and lifestyle with visitors, but gift offerings are also an important means of survival for the tribe. The day finishes at Desert Rhino Camp, where you will stay the next 2 nights. Here, you will focus on tracking the famous black rhino.

From Palmwag Concession, visit the Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), then see the Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain, before enjoying one of the most magnificent views in Namibia. You will spend 2 nights in Twyfelfontein in Damaraland at the Mowani Mountain Camp. A highlight of this portion of the trip is searching for the area’s unique population of desert-adapted elephants. From here, pass by Namibia’s highest mountain, the Brandberg, on the way to Swakopmund. Explore the historic town on foot and enjoy and dine at a famous local restaurant. Overnight at the Hansa Hotel.

The next morning enjoy a marine cruise within the outer lagoon and harbor. This presents an excellent opportunity to see Cape fur seals, Heaviside and bottlenose dolphins, pelicans, flamingos, a variety of sea birds, and the possibility of whales and leatherback sea turtles. Afterward, travel in the afternoon by private charter flight to the NamibRand Nature Reserve, where you will search for more desert-adaped wildlife and plants and explore the world’s tallest sand dunes. You will stay the next 2 nights at Wolwedans Dune Lodge. Finish your Namibia tour with a charter flight to Windhoek. Spend some time shopping at the renowned Windhoek Craft Market before transferring to the airport for your return flight home.

The Ultimate Namibia Safari does not come cheap at $8,750 per person, which does not include flights from the U.S. However, any African safari is an expensive proposition and Namibia more so, as it’s more off the beaten bath. For most people, a trip to Africa is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. With that in mind, I can see traveling with Evergreen Escapes International, as the tour seems meticulously planned, with the intent of maximizing every opportunity to learn about natural wildlife and plants and the indigenous people. Also, the tour does include all meals with beer and wine and traditional “sundowner” drinks during the evenings, in addition to luxury accommodations along way. For more information, contact EverGreen Escapes International with their online inquiry form, or call them direct at 866-203-7603 or 206-650-5795. They may also be reached via email at escape@evergreenescapes.com.

The Escape Your Everyday Travel Series takes place at Columbia Sportswear in downtown Seattle on the second Thursday of each month, although the schedule can vary. Attendees receive complimentary beer or wine, are entered in giveaways and receive 25% off store purchases during their visit. The featured winery on Mar. 13 was Sozo Friends, who provided tastings of 1 white wine and 3 reds. Several prizes were also drawn in a raffle, including gear from Columbia Sportswear and a grand prize of $750 off the booking price of the Ultimate Namibia Safari.

The next seminar in the Escape Your Everyday Adventure Travel Series is scheduled for April 10 at Columbia Sportswear. The event is titled "Adventures in Antarctica" with Jen Martin and starts with free drinks and networking at 6:00 pm, with the presentation at 6:30 pm. As with all seminars, there will be a drawing at the end for EverGreen Escapes travel experiences and Columbia Sportswear gear. The following month’s presentation is scheduled for May 1, entitled "Myths & Truths of International Travel Medicine" with Dr. Ari Gilmore.

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