This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Secret Compass Adventure Academy expedition to Namibia.
Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your team place with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit. Our Get Ready section is also useful.
Arrive: by 1700 on 14 May into Windhoek.
Depart: leave any time from 0900 on 28 May onwards.
Insurance: ensure you have comprehensive cover.
Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
Balance due: 60 days before departure on 14 March 2017.
The aim of the 2017 Adventure Academy expedition to Namibia is to learn the ancient art of tracking from Namibia’s San bushmen and to become a certified Adventure Tracker. The course is based at a bush camp in the heart of a wilderness area and will see you undertaking extended foraging treks and adopting the ancient nomadic lifestyle of those who have for centuries survived in the harsh Kalahari desert.
This is so much more than just a ‘learn to track’ experience. With each step you’ll gain a deep understanding of the bushman culture. You’ll learn to read the land and to identify the surrounding flora and fauna. You’ll also understand the intricacies of tracking and moving around big game, akin to being on an extended, real-life safari.
Learn the ancient art of tracking from the best in the world.
Gain a unique insight into the San Bushman’s way of life.
Go on extended, overnight tracking expeditions deep into the bush.
Spend the whole time on a walking safari.
Learn about the flora, fauna and big game present in the bush.
Be part of a growing eco-tourism project: Nanofasa.
Team closing date
This team needs to be confirmed by 14 April as we must confirm some things in-country at this point. (Later bookings can be accepted as there isn’t a protracted visa process for Namibia but, if serious about joining this team, do send in your application as soon as possible and before 14 April so that we can consider you in our initial planning.)
You need to organise your own international flights.
It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed for fee or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. Read our Terms and Conditions online.
You need to be at the team hotel in Windhoek by 1700 on 14 May 2017. The expedition officially ends after breakfast on 28 May 2017 though you are free to depart anytime as there are flights departing early in the morning.
Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).
Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad: at least $500,000.
Activities: ensure that any activities carried out on the expedition are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
Geographical region – check the geographical region you are going to is insured (often the USA, Canada or Afghanistan aren’t).
Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and Travel Aware.
Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country. Many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose them to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.
Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit the Insurance page in our Get Ready section.
Visas are your responsibility. British Nationals can enter Namibia for a holiday or private visit of up to 90 days without a visa. Before leaving the immigration desk on arrival in the country, please check that you have been given permission to stay in Namibia for the duration of your intended visit up to the maximum allowable of 90 days and that you have been given a correctly dated entry stamp by Namibian Immigration officials. There have been cases of visitors only being given permission to stay for much shorter periods than 90 days. Please check with your nearest embassy or consulate for the latest advice.
You should have a passport valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Namibia, with at least one completely blank page for Namibian immigration to use. If you are also going to travel in South Africa, you should be aware that although South African authorities state that they require one blank passport page for entry, some officials insist on two blank pages. If you plan to take this route, make sure you have a total of three blank pages. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.
Day 1: May 14 – Windhoek
Arrive in Windhoek and make your way to the team hotel by 1700 to meet your leader for a welcome meal and expedition briefing.
Day 2: May 15 – Barefoot Academy
Today is a long but scenic drive from Windhoek to the Barefoot Academy (600km, 10 hours). On arrival, set up basecamp for the following training days and meet your instructors.
Day 3: May 16 – Barefoot Academy
Today’s focus will be building a rapport with the bushmen, with the morning spent within the community exchanging dances and games. The first training session involves a lesson in tool-making in preparation for your bush expedition.
Day 4: May 17 – Barefoot Academy
Continuing your preparations at basecamp, today will involve lessons in shooting with a bow and arrow as well as instruction in gathering bush food. There will be the opportunity to participate in a Junior Tracking Session, where the elders of the San community teach and test the youngest generation about tracking.
Day 5: May 18 – Barefoot Academy
Your final day in basecamp before your bush expedition. Today will consolidate all of the skills you have learnt so far and culminate in a night sleeping out in the bush.
Day 6: May 19 – Bush Camp
Today the team will leave basecamp and trek out into the Namibian Bush. There will be a long day’s walk to reach Noma Pos; a pristine wilderness area and the favourite hunting and tracking ground of the Nyae Nyae people. Here you will put up a temporary camp with the San and cook the food you gathered on the way.
Day 7-9: May 20-23– Bush Camp
The next three days camping in the bush will be spent gradually developing your hunting and tracking skills from the basic spoor to more difficult, intricate tracks, all under the expert guidance of the San Bushmen. You will be living in a basic camp and hunting and gathering to supplement your meals.
Day 10: May 24 – Bush Camp
Today will be your tracking exam under the watchful eyes of four Master Tracker Bushmen, the final chance to put all of your lessons and hands-on experience to the test and hopefully qualify as a Cybertracker Evaluator.
Day 11: May 25– Barefoot Academy
Returning to the Barefoot Academy basecamp, the rest of today will be a ‘sustainability day’, during which the team and the community will have the chance to exchange knowledge, games, ideas and techniques.
Day 12: May 26 – Harnas Lodge
Say goodbye to the San Bushmen and drive back towards Windhoek. To break the drive up, the team will stay at a comfortable lodge which will feel even more luxurious after many nights of sleeping in tents!
Day 9: May 27 – Windhoek
Complete the drive back to Windhoek for a final, celebratory team dinner and night in a comfortable guesthouse.
Day 9: May 28
Flights home. The expedition officially ends after breakfast although you are free to depart any time as some flights leave early in the morning.
About Secret Compass itineraries
Please remember that the itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but it will not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team will adapt, flex and change the plan depending on numerous frictions that you will encounter along the way.
All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you will be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration. Please ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go. You must be fit enough for the following.
Daily activity: walk/ track for up to eight hours per day.
Terrain: low, vegetated dunes common to the Kalahari Desert.
Climate: from 24-28°C falling to around 10°C at night.
No previous experience of sub-tropical desert conditions is necessary to join this expedition. That said, team members would benefit from trekking practice, camping out and being used to carrying 10–15kg for multiple days. This expedition will teach tracking skills on the assumption that team members have no previous knowledge of the subject.
Vaccinations. Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS website Fit For Travel and Travel Health Pro are useful sites. Yellow fever vaccination certificates are required for travellers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission, please check Fit For Travel for further information on this subject. Although Yellow Fever has now been deemed to be valid for life by the WHO, an up-to-date certificate showing current validity will be required.
Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.
Credit cards and Cirrus bankcards can be used in some Namibian cash machines although the charges for withdrawing cash can be high. The Namibian Dollar is tied to the South African Rand, which is also legal tender in Namibia.
This expedition is all-inclusive once it begins and until it ends at the hotel, so you won’t need much money, just for a beer in the town and some souvenirs on the way or for (discretionary but always appreciated) tips.
The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2017 expedition to Namibia. You will only be required to carry a small daypack during the trekking section of the trip.
Secret Compass has arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire. Details will be sent through on booking.
Baggage and sleeping
RUCKSACK: 40-50ltr, all your personal gear needs to fit easily into this pack and have enough room for a tent and share of group equipment provided by Secret Compass.
SLEEPING BAG: rated to at least comfort +5C.
FULL LENGTH SLEEPING MAT: bring a repair kit.
LONG SLEEVE SHIRT: 2 x quick drying long sleeve shirt or top (not cotton) for sun and insect protection.
TREKKING TROUSERS: 2 x quick drying and comfortable trousers.
SHORTS: or combine with the above using zip-off trousers.
WARM LAYER: it may get chilly in the evenings so a fleece or lightweight insulated jacket is suggested.
WALKING BOOTS: comfortable, well-fitting and worn in. These should offer ankle support. If possible, avoid Gore-Tex or similar waterproof membranes as they restrict breathability.
SANDALS: for around camp. Not flip flops.
WALKING SOCKS: that fit well with your boots.
WIDE-BRIMMED SUN HAT.
WATER BLADDER OR ROBUST BOTTLES: You need to be able to carry at least two litres of water during the day.
Health and hygiene
WASHBAG: this shouldn’t be large, only bring the essentials.
SOAP: anti-bacterial and BIODEGRADABLE.
WET WIPES OR BABY WIPES.
ANTIBACTERIAL HAND GEL: bring enough for the entire trip.
SANITARY PRODUCTS: bring zip-lock bags for carrying out.
LIP SALVE WITH UV PROTECTION.
VASELINE: Keep readily available on to prevent chafing skin and heel friction blisters.
FACTOR 30+ SUN CREAM.
Small first aid kit
A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will also be carried.
A WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: Keep kit dry and safe.
PAINKILLERS: Ibuprofen and paracetamol.
ZING OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS.
MELOLIN DRESSING PADS x 4.
2 x CREPE BANDAGES.
COMPEED BLISTER PADS: Please note that Compeed produce several similar looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard/original item.
DIARRHOEA TABLETS: Imodium.
DIORALYTE SACHETS OR SIMILAR REHYDRATION PACKS: Nuun or Zero tabs are great for maintaining electrolyte levels – avoid ones containing caffeine.
PIRITON TABLETS: for allergies.
EURAX CREAM: for bites.
ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: find out the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to source more in-country. Please also check that your medication is legal in your destination. You must make Secret Compass aware of any medical conditions before you travel.
HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES: Petzl Tikka heard-torch or equivalent.
SUNGLASSES: with UV-filter lenses.
PENKNIFE: don’t pack it in your hand luggage.
GAFFER TAPE: For emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit.
SPARE BOOT LACES.
SMALL SEWING KIT.
RE-SEALABLE PLASTIC BAGS: for dirty washing, wrappings etc.
Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims.
Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.
Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.
Local partners and bureaucracy
Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours.
Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.
Infrastructure and natural events
The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.
In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs)
Part of a team
Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.
There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more.
What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.
You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.
Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.
We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.
Incident management and medical
As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.
It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to 2 days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.
Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.
Traditionally, the San are hunter-gatherers. They live in small communities in the Namibian bush. The men track and hunt game whilst the women gather fruits, nuts and roots. They have unique skills and intimate knowledge about the land that they live on. Both men and women should wear loose fitting clothing that covers their knees and shoulders mainly for comfort and sun protection.
Namibia is a Christian country with a small percentage practising traditional religions. There are no specific cultural issues or restrictions. Extended greetings and handshakes are very important in most Namibian cultures. When food and drink is offered, it is polite to accept. There is a general emphasis on emotional restraint in public, and public displays of affection are frowned upon, especially in rural areas.
There are no formal rules limiting photography by tourists in Namibia but there have been incidents of people being detained for taking pictures of the State House and properties where the president is residing. Always check before taking photographs, particularly if the army or police are protecting the location. If in doubt, don’t take pictures. Be careful not to purchase any endangered animal products when buying souvenirs. Namibia is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which bans trade in ivory and rhino horn.
Terrain and weather
The terrain is over low, vegetated dunes common around much of the Kalahari Desert. May is a lovely month to visit Namibia. It is the end of summer with average daytime temperatures between 24-28°C, falling to around 10°C at night. The average rainfall for May is 6mm.
Windhoek airport is located outside of the city and team members are responsible for their own transfers between the airport and the accommodation at the start and end of the expedition. Taxis, buses and shuttle services are available, depending on your arrival time. You will travel from Windhoek to the Barefoot Academy by Toyota Hilux Double Cab truck. There will be vehicular support during the trekking section of the trip in the wilderness, but you will move from the Barefoot Academy to Noma Pos on foot.
The team will stay in a comfortable guesthouse in Windhoek at the start and end of the expedition, rooms will be on a twin-share basis. Any extra nights outside of the Secret Compass itinerary can be booked directly with the hotel.
At the Barefoot Academy, the team will be staying in large communal tents with mattresses and sleeping bags provided. Once out in the bush, tents will be necessary in certain locations, but in others you will be able to sleep out under the stars. Tents will not need to be carried as there will be vehicle support during this part of the expedition. At the end of the trip, the lodge has a few cottages, each with a different layout, so room options will depend on group size and set up.
In Windhoek, the team will eat in local restaurants. While at the Barefoot Academy and in the remote camp, delicious meals will be prepared from indigenous plants, nuts and fruit as well as from birds, antelopes, springhare or porcupine if the team have luck with hunting. You will be staying true to the hunter gatherer diet. At the Harnas Lodge you’ll eat well at their rustic restaurant. Dietary requirements can usually be catered for but should be discussed with Secret Compass in advance. It is recommended that you bring a favourite snack or cereal bar for each expedition day as a morale boost.
Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.
Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.
Cell Phone. There is cellphone reception in Windhoek and at the Barefoot Academy, so you are likely to have signal on the days at the camp. It is unlikely you will have signal in the wilderness for the trekking days.
Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Questions that are specific to this expedition will be added here in due course. Can’t find an answer to something? Contact SCHQ we’ll be pleased to help.