Planning a trip to southern Africa quickly gets difficult and complicated if you intend to see many different places, especially in remote areas. If you do, it’s best to consult a specialist travel agency. On a personal recommendation, we used Safari Experts (www.safariexperts.com), run by Tim Lapage, an old Africa hand (born in Kenya, and a former bush pilot) now based in Utah. He produced a three-week itinerary for South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana that was dauntingly complex but proved consistently well chosen and was executed from start to finish without a hitch. The plan mixed city stopovers in Cape Town, Windhoek, and Johannesburg with a variety of wilderness camps—some basic, some luxurious, all of them comfortable.
For hotels, we especially enjoyed the Cape Grace (011 27 21 410 7100; www.capegrace.com), a handsome new property (Oprah stays there, one is told endlessly) in Cape Town’s restored waterfront area, with what locals say is one of the city’s best restaurants. In Windhoek, the otherwise unremarkable Hotel Heinitzburg (011 264 61 249 597; www.heinitzburg.com) has a lovely view of the city, and of the mountains beyond, from its restaurant terrace. See the agency’s Web site for pictures and information about camps in the desert and bush.
Safari Experts’ greatest service by far was to introduce us to Skeleton Coast Safaris (www.skeletoncoastsafaris.com), a family-owned and -operated venture, for the four-day journey in and over the Namib Desert. We had two pilot-guides: Bertus Schoeman and his wife, Helga, whose knowledge of the geography and geology of the Skeleton Coast is based on decades of familiarity with the area. They are a charming couple and great company—as they had better be, since you see a lot of them. If you can, see the Skeleton Coast at the end of your visit, not, as we did, at the beginning: It eclipses everything else.