Tok Tokkie Trails

NamibRand Nature Reserve, Sossusvlei & South, Namibia

Superbly crafted walking safaris offering a unique insight into the hidden world of the Namib desert, five hours SW of Windhoek
There are few travel experiences quite so remarkable as walking through the desert and sleeping beneath the stars. The desert is slow to reveal its secrets: travelling on foot you'll get to see a whole lot more of its hidden life. And the expertise of Trailhopper's guides coupled with the surreal beauty of the Horseshoe Wilderness Area and NamibRand Nature Reserve ensures this will be a journey that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Their most popular trail is a 3 day event for a maximum of 8 people. After meeting the other group members and trading suitcase for day-pack, you depart by jeep to the trailhead. A 2km walk through red dunes and desert scrub leads to Horseshoe Camp and a first night beneath the stars. This part of Namibia has some of the clearest night skies in the world and there's no better way to experience them than by sleeping out in the open. The following day, an easy 10km hike takes you over a high pass and down to Schafsberg camp, where you spend a second night flycamping in the dunes, before the final 7km hike back to base. It's wildly beautiful, inspirational and educational - read our review - and if it leaves you wanting more, their colleagues at Trailhopper offer more demanding 5-7 day hikes.

Why we chose this partner

  • The Trailhopper team have finely tuned their trails through the Namib over 20 years
  • Owners Kerstin Klein and Thomas Soutschka are passionate hikers. Both have guided tours in southern Africa, so they have that great mix of in-depth knowlege of the region plus professional organisational skills
  • They only employ qualified and experienced multilingual guides who have proved their ability to guide safely in difficult terrain
  • Their guides enhance your experience with information and anecdotes that you won’t find in a book
  • In their small groups (maximum 8 hikers) you can savour Namibia’s empty landscapes
  • If managed well, hiking is a very eco-friendly and non-invasive way of travelling. Keeping their footprint in Namibia’s unspoilt landscapes as small as possible is of utmost importance to the Trailhopper team

Please be aware

  • For the duration of the trail, you become part of a group and so you have to be sociable
  • Long-drop toilets, bucket showers and simple bed rolls won't appeal to everyone (and they are absent altogether on the more challenging trails), but no creature comfort can equate to the joy of sleeping beneath the stars
  • You have to carry your own personal gear - typically a 5kg daypack for water, lunch, sunlotion - and on the 5-day trip, that rises to 15kg, plus 7 to 9 hours of walking per day

Best time to go

From March through to mid June is a great time to be in the desert with daytime temperatures around 20-25ºC (but can go up to 30-35ºC), cooler in the shade and night temperatures can fall to 5-10ºC, with a very very low probability of rain.

If you come between June and August you should be prepared for similar daytime temperatures, but a big fall in night temperatures which drop as low as minus 5ºC (though you can still sleep snugly beneath the stars in your bed roll).

September to November temperatures are around 20-30ºC during the day and nights are 5-15ºC but can go down to 0º and occasionally below, with a possibility of rain. The milder nights make the al fresco dining and washing arrangements that much more enjoyable.

Tok Tokkie shuts up shop from early December through to mid February, when the soaring temperatures of the southern hemisphere's high summer make walking impractical.

Our top tips

The 3-day trip is OK for any reasonably fit person - you have a total of 22km to cover over 3 days - but remember that walking in the sand is surprisingly tiring. The 5-day trek is only for those used to hiking long distances on a fairly regular basis.

Tok Tokkie no longer supply plastic water bottles but you can buy stainless steel bottles at reception, or bring your own (it is advised that you bring 1x2litre bottles).

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
Room:

Lodging

The most popular and the most comfortable route is the 3-day trail which we tried out and which is described here; the others are more adventurous, involving backpacking (carrying your own overnight gear, including sleeping bags).

SLEEPING

The first night of Tok Tokkie's three day trail is spent at Horseshoe Camp, a magical spot wrapped round by jagged granite peaks with vast views eastwards across the rippled red dunes. Your second night's camp, approached along a dry river bed, is on the northern side of the Horseshoe Wilderness at Schafsberg and looks out to the Losberg and Nubib mountains.

Your sleeping spot at both camps will be a sheltered dip amongst the dunes a full 50 metres from your nearest neighbour. On a simple stretcher bed you'll find a towel and your canvas bed roll containing a soft sheeted mattress, duvet and pillow with the addition of a hot water bottle during the colder months. Next to your bed will be fold-away table for your clothes, water bottle and torch as well as a woven floor mat rolled out on the sand. And secreted away in the dunes at both camps are two long-drop toilets and simple bucket showers surrounded by pole fencing.

EATING

I couldn't find fault with the food arrangements. Before we set off on the trail a light lunch of pizza and salad was provided at the Tok Tokkie base whilst on arrival at both camps you find one long table up in the dunes laid with a linen table cloth and napkins with bright blankets draped over the fold-away canvas chairs.

Supper on our first night began with a Greek salad followed by oryx goulash, then an île flottante for dessert; the following evening's starter was spicy vegetable soup and the main course chicken served with new potatoes and broccoli. Let Tok Tokkie Trails know if you have any specific dietary requirements - vegetarians can be catered for.

It felt fabulously indulgent to be drinking South African red wine à volonté so far from anywhere - there's even the offer of a G&T and nibbles before dinner - whilst coffee and talk of stars, planets and expanding universes wound both evenings up on just the right note. And the staff in charge of the camp kitchens could not have been nicer.

Breakfast is eaten, like supper, at one long table set up between the dunes about an hour or so after sunrise: you'll already have had tea delivered to your clearing in the dunes shortly before dawn.

A cold buffet is laid up on the table which will include a choice of cereals, fruit, ham and cheese, and (carton) orange juice : expect bread rather than toast and a good selection of jams and spreads as well as marmalade. This felt like a great start to the day with the surrounding sand glowing rusty red in the early morning sunshine.

Your second day's lunch (you'll be back in camp by late morning on the final day) takes the form of a long lazy picnic made up of a slice of quiche, a sandwich, a boiled egg, fruit and a snack bar: you'll have had the opportunity to replenish your water bottle before departing from camp. This is followed by a siesta in the shade of a huge acacia.

Activities

On the first day we set out at a cracking pace but it soon slowed to a steady plod through the sand as Rene got the measure of the group. And there are plenty of stops along the way to slug from your water bottle and to listen to Rene or Mike, TT's resident guides, talk about all things related to the desert: whether it be geology, weather, fauna or flora these guys really know their stuff and their easy, proactive manner was perfect for an adventure of this sort.

Be aware, too, that your guide is in radio contact with base camp so if for any reason you feel the need to drop out, a vehicle can reach you within less than an hour.

The sheer beauty of the dunes, the grasses, the insects, lizards and rippled red sands also serves to slow progress to some extent: everywhere you look there's a photograph in the making and all the more so at dusk and dawn.

Don't expect to see the same amount of game as you will come across in the northern game parks; nevertheless, it's still a richly rewarding trail. You're bound to see several types of buck, scarab beetles, dune crickets, barking geckos, spiders, snakes and lizards - and may be lucky enough to see golden moles and hyena moving across the distant plain.

Activities include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Photography tuition
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Wildlife
Activity:

With Kids

Children over the age of 12 are welcome to join any of the walking groups provided they have some experience of walking. Over 8s can also be accepted though only as a part of smaller, bespoke groups. 8-12 year olds are charged 50% of adult rate.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Transport

Tok Tokkie Walking Trails have several itineraries to choose from, but the most popular - and the only one which we have tested out in person - is the 3-day one. This is also the most comfortable, as Tok Tokkie provides bedrolls and stretcher beds, romantic 3-course dinners out in the dunes and a backup team. Your main luggage will be transported by back up vehicle during the day on the Tok Tokkie Trail.

All expeditions have an English- or German-speaking guide accompanying them and all meals are provided. Full details will be provided when you book through i-escape.

Transport:

Our guests' ratings...

This operator has not yet been reviewed by guests

Itineraries