Himba Tribes and Desert Adapted Wildlife in the Hoanib Valley
August 3 – 7, 2024
This is an extension to our July 2024 Namibia Safari.
In a country jam-packed with vast, spectacularly beautiful landscapes, Kaokoland may just be the most incredible of them all. Deep in north-western Namibia, the area is filled with towering mountains, sand dunes, and vast expanses of desert, scattered with unique wildlife and the nomadic Himba settlements. It’s also one of Namibia’s most remote, wild environments that few will get the opportunity to experience in a lifetime. Our camp is an elegant, intimate affair that will immerse you in the wilds of the desert. Its rooms blend seamlessly with the environment, offering a simple aesthetic that matches the rugged landscape down to a tee.
Learn photography techniques on portraiture, landscapes, and wildlife, and have loads of fun too! We’ll feature our signature image reviews and post-processing instruction, of course. This extension to our Namibia Safari is all-inclusive, so you don’t have to worry about paying for anything. You can focus on photography and the magic of wild Namibia.
A Photographer’s Guide to Namibia
The diverse combination of desert landscapes, wildlife, abandoned buildings, and culture make Namibia a bucket-list destination for photographers. Learn why we love traveling to Namibia.
About the wildlife: This workshop offers significant opportunities for photographing wildlife, and while we do our best to maximize our wildlife encounters—based on past experiences, local knowledge, and the current conditions—we need to impress upon you that the wildlife really is wild and that we don’t control it.
This itinerary is subject to change due to weather, local conditions, and other factors.
August 3, 2024: This morning we have a short drive to the nearby airstrip to board the light aircraft flight to one of the remotest parts of Kaokoland. Our guides will meet you on arrival at the Orutjandja Airstrip and for transfer through the scenic landscapes to the secluded Hoanib Valley Camp, a joint venture between the local community and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. Afternoon at leisure, with the option to head out on a walk or nature drive, if desired.
Hoanib Valley’s six guest tents blend almost entirely into the rugged environment. The tents’ design is inspired by the Hoanib—the rich ochre of the dunes, the geometric patterns of the Himba people, and the giraffe that inspired the project.
August 3–6, 2024: Deep in the north-western corner of Namibia, Kaokoland is one of the most remote, wild and marvelously unique areas of the country. It’s a land characterized by rolling dunes, Rocky Mountains and desert plains all crisscrossed by ancient, dry riverbeds, the roads of the area. The wildlife of the Hoanib Valley is perfectly at home in the arid environment and learning about their survival techniques is fascinating. Game drives will reveal desert-adapted elephant, as well as stately desert-adapted giraffe, and, if you’re very lucky, desert lion. Zebra, klipspringer and kudu move freely through the mountains, and you’ll find hardy herds of springbok and oryx, as well as steenbok picking their way across the dust-blown landscapes. The region is home to the largest population of free-ranging black rhino, and a day (or even a morning or an afternoon) tracking the magnificent beasts is an absolute must. Bird watchers keep your eyes peeled for Monteiro’s hornbills or Ruppell’s korhaans in the valleys, and the imperious Verreaux’s eagle in the mountains.
Hoanib Valley Camp: Hoanib Valley Camp is “clean and green”, leaving virtually no footprint on this fragile eco-system. The camp has been built in partnership with the Sesfontein Community and the most successful long-term giraffe research organization in the world, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The Hoanib River Valley Concession teems with resident desert adapted wildlife such as elephant, giraffe, zebra, lion and rhino which roam freely through this vast, mountainous and wild landscape. Although parts of the land have been designated ‘concession areas’ tourism is still limited, making a visit to this unspoiled corner even more memorable.
Desert Adapted Elephant: In habitats with sufficient vegetation and water an adult elephant consumes as much as 300kg of roughage and 230 liters of water every day of its life. Consider what a herd of them would eat and drink in a week or a month or a year. Finding an African elephant in a desert? Well, yes, and not only elephant, but other large mammals as well, such as black rhinoceros and giraffe. Their ranges extend from river catchments in northern Kaokoveld as far south as the northern Namib. Apart from the Kunene River, seven river courses northwards from the Ugab provide them with possible routes across the desert, right to the Skeleton Coast. The biggest are the Hoarusib, the Hoanib, the Huab and the Ugab Rivers. Desert adapted elephant in Kaokoland, and the Namib walk further for water and fodder than any other elephant in Africa. The distances between waterholes and feeding grounds can be as great as 68km. The typical home range of a family herd is larger than 2,000km², or eight times as big as ranges in central Africa where rainfall is much higher. They walk and feed at night and rest during the day. To meet their nutritional and bulk requirements they browse on no fewer than 74 of the 103 plant species that grow in their range. Not a separate species or even a subspecies, they are an ecotype unique to Namibia in Africa south of the equator, behaviorally adapted to hyper-arid conditions. Elephant in Mali on the southwestern fringe of the Sahara Desert are the only others known to survive in similar conditions.
The Himba: The Himba, Tjimba and other Herero people who inhabit Namibia’s remote north-western Kunene Region are loosely referred to as the Kaokovelders. Basically, Herero in terms of origin, language, and culture, they are semi-nomadic pastoralists who tend to tend from one watering place to another. They seldom leave their home areas and maintain, even in their own, on which other cultures have made little impression. For many centuries, they have lived a relatively isolated existence and were not involved to any noteworthy extent in the long struggle for pasturelands between the Nama and the Herero. The largest group of Kaokovelders is the Himba, semi-nomads who live in scattered settlements throughout the Kunene Region. They are a tall, slender and statuesque people, characterized especially by their proud yet friendly bearing. The women especially are noted for their unusual sculptural beauty, enhanced by intricate hairstyles and traditional adornments. They rub their bodies with red ochre and fat, a treatment that protects their skins against the harsh desert climate.
The homes of the Himba of Kaokoland are simple, cone-shaped structures of saplings, bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung. The men build the structures, while the women mix the clay and do the plastering.
A fire burns in the headman’s hut day and night, to keep away insects and provide light and heating. A family may move from one home to another several times a year to seek grazing for their goats and cattle. Men, women and children wear body adornments made from iron and shell beads. A Himba woman spends as much as three hours a day on her appearance. First, she bathes, then she anoints herself with her own individually prepared mixture which not only protects her skin from the harsh desert sun, but also keeps insects away and prevents her hair from falling out. She uses another mixture of butter fat, fresh herbs and black coals to rub on her hair, and ‘steams’ her clothes regularly over the permanent fire.
Men,women and children adorn themselves with necklaces, bracelets, anklets and belts made from iron and shell beads. With their unusual and striking designs, these items have gained a commercial value and are being produced on a small scale for the urban market. Sculptural headrests in particular are sought-after items.
August 6, 2024: Scenic transfer back to the Orutjandja Airstrip after breakfast. Private charter flight back to Windhoek, and a final dinner at a favorite restaurant. If we’re not too exhausted from travel, we’ll have a final image review session.
August 7, 2024: Today you will be transferred out to the Windhoek International Airport in time to check-in for your onward flight.
Moderate: You must be able to handle drives in Land Cruisers, and get in/out of Land Cruisers. We also have hikes of up to 1 mile in sand.
Arrive Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH), Windhoek, Namibia anytime on August 3, 2024. Flights out can be made anytime on August 7, 2024. Air travel delays are common. Please arrive early, possibly even the day prior, so you don’t miss any of the workshop.
What to Bring
Please see our page How To Prepare For Your Workshop. We will send you a detailed information document 90 days before your workshop. This document will include specifics of where and when to meet, gear and clothing recommendations, and more.
- Double occupancy lodging. Single available for $1,500 supplement. (Limited availability.)
- All meals, soft drinks, and snacks during the workshop.
- All permits and park fees.
- Internal flights during the workshop.
- All transportation during the workshop.
- Tips for crew, drivers, and local guides.
- Photographic guiding and instruction from Jeff Wendorff.
- Image reviews and post-processing instruction.
- Adventure, fun, inspiration, and a great time!.
- Travel to and from Windhoek, Namibia.
- Passport and visa fees (if applicable).
- Any meals or accommodations before or after the workshop dates.
- Items of a personal nature.
- Medical Evacuation Insurance (required).
- Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended).
- Unscheduled airport transfers.
- Anything else specifically not listed as included.
- Your non-refundable deposit of $4,995 will hold your space in this workshop.
- Further non-refundable payment of $0 is due by , .
- The non-refundable balance is due not later than April 1, 2024.
- In addition to our standard Terms and Conditions, for this workshop all payments are non-refundable, and this is why we recommend comprehensive travel insurance including trip cancelation.
- Need special payment arrangements? No problem, just ask us.
“This was my third workshop with Jeff and I'm going to Africa with him in January. His workshops are very well organized as he pays attention to small details like the setup in my photo. I'm an experienced photographer and I learn something new and valuable at every workshop in addition to getting great photos.
John Klingel - Texas Birds 2021 ”
“My husband and I took Jeff’s Kenya Workshop in February 2020 and we cannot imagine a better leader and safari. Jeff is personable, knowledgeable, intuitive and downright funny. Jeff is very observant and will casually offer suggestions like “be mindful of your background” when you are too darn excited to notice; and when asked a question, he will answer to any depth you require or want. We are now planning to sign up for another trip with Jeff. I would even do the same one again!
Patty Bachman - Kenya 2020 ”