Paola Sartori is a guide with Canada's Gray & Co, who has led tour groups on cycling trips around the world. She describes her traveling style as "curious, active, engaged; I want to see it all, to experience everything." Paola came to Namibia in November for a ten day introductory tour of the country, and says it is a "vast, passionate, surprising" country. Here she shares some of her thoughts about Namibia:
For me, the highlight of the trip was the overall experience. Every day offered a surprise. It is a country of a beauty that is not obvious, it takes time, observation and patience to get it. Flying in a tiny airplane so close to the ground that you could spot animals. Seeing the landscape change from the air, from urban to harsh dry desert to rich orange dunes. Finding exquisite accommodation with everything the modern traveler needs but respecting the environment. Visiting schools where teachers devote their lives to create better future citizens with opportunities, seeing the joy in the faces of children when they dance or sing. Observing a small example of the daily life of the Himba, their talents, their ancient rituals and traditions. Walking in search of a rhino knowing that an organization is there fighting for their right to continue being on this Earth.
Headteacher and pupils of Grootberg Primary School
And the views. ...the glorious views of dunes, valleys or roaming animals, what a joy to wake up to this amazement! Exploration with the field guides awakens us to the reality of the Namibian people, wild life, flora, the political situation. They are the ones that can transmit that to the visitor and is their responsibility to do it in a sensitive way.
Flying over Sossusvlei in a light aircraft
Prehistoric engravings, oversized boulders that magically balance and frame scenery and lodges. The continuing efforts of devoted people to defend big cats, creating tools for locals and foreigners to understand their fragility and absolute need to preserve them to keep the balance of life.
Ancient rock engravings at Twyfelfontein
The innovative ways lodge staff find to exploit their properties (in a good way!): enjoying unique sunrises and sunsets during breakfast or a cocktail; the hidden nook for a boma (a corral) that blew people’s mind with the warmth of the fire and of the staff, with candlelightand the traditional flavors.
Observing my own thoughts, I guess I come to realize that the country’s beauty is undeniable; but what makes it touch the heart of those who visit is the passionate, friendly, open spirit of their people.
What surprised me most about Namibia was the vastness; the colors; the friendliness of the people; the not-so-used-to-seeing-people animals; the incredible lodges lost in the middle of nowhere; the commitment to conservation.
People should come to Namibia to respectfully and carefully appreciate and enjoy one of the last countries where the experience is truly close to the wild, without a dozen other vehicles waiting their turn. Where travelers can learn about conservation and conscience, about the importance of the efforts to keep these animals around. To experience the traditions of the native groups. To realize that Namibia is a country on its own with a rich history and natural beauty that can be enjoyed as simply or as luxuriously as the traveler demands.