Saturday, November 25th 2017.

Destinations

NAMIBIA - Beauty on the Skeleton Coast

 

By Raymond Desmet, Managing Partner @dmire

 

Initiative, the Belgian Association of Qualified Incentive Organizers, planned an Eductour to Namibia in 2010. Because a Qualified Incentive Organizer works tailor-made, this trip was planned to have some out of the blue details in it, making it different and more personal than the standard overall programs of some TO’s. Without revealing all details right now (I will tell you about some of them further on), I must admit that with the help of all partners and the DMC Abenteuer Afrika Safari it became a “mission accomplished”.

Why thank you, Eyjafjallajokull!

The start was rather difficult though. The trip was scheduled to take place in April. Remember the volcano? So do we, as our departure had to be postponed due to the eruption of our Icelandic friend. That’s how we came to the new dates Dec 10 – Dec 18.

After an ICE train ride to Frankfurt we were told by the people of Air Namibia that due to a technical problem, the flight probably would have to be cancelled. It took us less than 30 minutes to be absolutely certain we would indeed have to stay in Frankfurt that night. Air Namibia took great care of its unlucky passengers, arranged a hotel and a dinner for them and made sure they were on the next day’s flight. It was an early morning flight (not the usual night flight) which made us arrive, after a wonderful 10 hours business class experience, at night in Windhoek. As we lost day one in Namibia, our program was rescheduled and some road transfers were replaced by charter flights.

Wildlife in the National Parks

Whoever says Namibia, thinks about the Etosha National Park, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay and Sossusvlei. The question is: how do you witness these places? How to be different from the everyday programs? A great number of our transfers were made by Cessna 210 and a Beech 18 (built in 1957), which got us there immediately in a truly adventurous shape. What a great feeling to be taken in the air by such a wonderful airplane! For those who want to include a game drive in their Nambian stay, Etosha (in the northern part of Namibia) is a must.

We added a quick visit to the Namutoni camp and a lunch at the Mokuti lodge, followed by a snake training show before being hosted in the Epacha Game Lodge with magnificent views on Etosha. Belgian Chef Louis (remember “Made in Belgium” ?) was a perfect host and explained a lot about the delicious local food and South African wines. He took us for a short ride to the sister lodge called the Eagle tented lodge, which appeared to be an outstanding place for small groups to spend the night in luxurious but uncommon style.

Sand boards and Quads in the dunes

On the next morning our marvelous Beech 18 and the much younger Cessna flew us to Swakopmund. No time for lazy strolling though as we immediately drove into the dunes, looked for (and found) the Gecko, the amazing shiny little creature. The most adventurous amongst us climbed the highest sand hill and then zoomed down, head first on a Swakopmund sand board.

For those willing to give it a try: watch out cause you’ll eat sand on the way down! The finger lunch buffet was highly appreciated before exploring the Swakopmund dunes on quad bikes. Great adventure, wonderful feeling, 01h30 that felt like 5 minutes, smiling faces all over: do I need to tell you more? Dinner was served at the Tug restaurant with a great view on the Ocean. Here you mix in with local people giving this place an extra value. The Swakopmund Hotel, built around an impeccably restored train station embraced us for the night.

From dolphins to the townships to the African sunset

On the next morning we went out for a private marine cruise with snacks, sparkling wine and oysters. On our trip we met with friendly but hungry pelicans, dolphins and seals (some visiting us in the boat, but a large colony of them laying on the sand). We even spotted one small penguin amongst them. It seemed a bit lost though… Back on shore we departed for a cultural township tour which is very enriching and very touching. In this township live all those who can’t afford to live in the city. Electricity and water is provided to them and they live in small simple houses. We went from the Owambo areas to those inhabited by Damara and Herero and met with their female leaders in their houses.

Some of the ladies in our group even got dressed as local inhabitants, be it for the pictures only. We carried on to a local café (Back of the Moon) where the lady of the house served us a local dish for tasting: roasted larva’s. Bon appétit! Although I must admit that it tasted quite good. Time was a real pressure as we had to leave these amazingly friendly people to be on time at the Namibian canyon valley, to watch an African sunset over this incredible landscape. You get a shock here. Coming from the townships you arrive in the middle of nowhere to see a well dressed table full of oysters and sparkling wine awaiting you. And no, it wasn’t finished yet. On the way to the hotel we were overwhelmed by hundreds of candles in the dark desert night. A wonderful sit down desert dinner made this day end in a true “bouquet”. Rarely before, have we had the opportunity to live all these different experiences in one day. These are the experiences one has to cherish, and believe me, we all do.

Apple Strudel in the desert

After a short night’s sleep we departed for a day drive to the Sossusvlei region. We had a few stops alongside the road and had lunch at the Rostock Ritz Desert lodge. From there on it took us about 21/2 hours to Solitaire, where it is said you can eat the best Apple Strudel in the world. Well it’s up to you to decide on that, but believe me: it is also very close to being the largest piece in the world you can get on your plate. Apart from diesel oil and strudel you also find a small bookstore in Solitaire. Do not forget to buy the pocket book ‘The Sheltering Desert’ which tells you the amazing story of two young men hiding themselves from war in the same desert you’re in.

From there on it took us little time to arrive at Le Mirage Desert Lodge, also one of the leading lodges of Africa. Olivier (Belgian) welcomed us with a part of his very dedicated staff and would show us to be a perfect host during our stay. Le Mirage looks like a castle, completely isolated in a great surrounding. We decided to explore the neighborhood on quad bikes and didn’t feel sorry about this for one single moment. Exceptionally beautiful landscapes where one can see 60 km’s in every direction. Desert and canyons all along interrupted by the famous Namibian circles, a place where you have to halt and cut the engines of the quads to be embraced by silence and beauty. A champagne cocktail and again a wonderful dinner at the end of which the hotel staff members sang and danced on Namibian music, made us realize that this day as well had come to an end.

Saying goodbye in the Vlei

Next morning we drove to the Vlei, a huge clay pan enclosed by giant dunes and therefore difficult to climb (some of them are as high as 300 meters). Don’t miss Dead Vlei, wonderfully kept and astonishing to see. You can’t imagine being here on your own in the middle of summertime… As we had an early start from the hotel, they prepared us a wonderful brunch in the middle of these dunes. Believe me, this is another place you can’t let go from your mind that easily. After having visited the Sossus Dune Lodge and the Sossusvlei Lodge we drove back to Windhoek on the next day. Some idiot remembered we had a plane to catch….

Namibia has a lot to please each and everyone. How you explore it is up to you; you can do it as a mass tourist or you can do it filled with personal and emotional highlights. That’s what we, members of Initiative, did. We will be most happy assisting you in experiencing our feelings. See you soon.

 

www.initiative-group.be

 

Initiative’s reason for being: to upgrade your "incentives" by providing them with such a superior, personalized quality label that they are experienced by your customers as a lingering positive memory.

 

Organizing an incentive trip demands specialization.
That’s why the Initiative members are carefully chosen as true artisans. Their specialization is synonymous with an exceptional competence. Their commitment to quality is confirmed by the Belgian professional label "Qualified Incentive Professionals", which was created by Initiative as national association. In the same sense, the exchange of knowledge between the members of the association and the on-going training of the personnel should be emphasized. These guarantee an up-to-date and evolving service and provide you with the  guarantee on financial insolvency and the risks inherent in this activity.

 

What influence does such personalization of offer and services have on prices?
A customized "incentive" proposal requires a significant time investment. It presumes an intellectual demarche with a creative and operational contribution that must benefit the client.
Every job deserves to be paid, they say. So, an honorarium or a "management fee" is considered appropriate. This cannot be compared to the commissions that a tour operator pays upon the sale of a package tour.

 

Conclusion
An incentive trip has nothing to do with a traditional group tour. By contrast, it’s an integral and conspicuous part of the marketing of a company.
Therefore, a specially adapted approach and budgeting are necessary, whereby one acknowledges that quality must take precedence. The members of Initiative endorse this position and consciously distinguish themselves by this from those who choose ready-made solutions.

 

Members overview

@dmire
A.C.T.E. Travel & Events
Antares
ATB Incentives
De Buck Incentives
In Search of Excellence
Incentive Destinations
Preference Travel Team
Tellus Incentives
Ycare

 

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