Namibian Explorers

We flew to Windhoek, Namibia direct from Frankfurt (9 hours; but overnight). We only managed small moments of sleep but enjoyed watching the African sun rising out our window.

DSC_7118_20190807_065035DSC_7118_20190807_065035_1200
♫…Naaaaa… Savenya…♫

We had two nights in a modern downtown apartment. It was a great base to enjoy a self-guided walking tour of Windhoek…

On our walk, we saw signs for the botanical gardens. So, we decided to check them out. They were on a hill overlooking Windhoek. The gardens themselves weren’t overly exciting but we came across these strange creatures. A sign in the gardens informed us that the rock hyraxes closest relative is the elephant.

On Friday morning, we had an early pick up for the commencement of our 10 Day Namibian Explorer Safari. After picking up a few more travellers our driver dropped us off at the Wild Dog Safaris office where we met many others about to embark on the various tours on offer. The waiting area had a small camp fire which was a pleasant place to sit while the guides got the trucks packed and organised. We were then sorted into our groups and boarded our safari truck. We had a great group of 14 and a friendly guide and cook.

DAY 1:

We drove 300kms north of Windhoek, stopping at a small craft market along the way. We also stopped on the side of the road to stretch our legs and enjoy the scenery.

In the afternoon we reached Okinjima Nature Reserve. We spotted many zebras and warthogs (Pumbas) on our drive towards our campsite.

As soon as we had set up our tents, we quickly made a dash for the swimming pool to cool off before our afternoon activity…

Straight after our swim, we were collected by a local guide who took us on a tour drive through Okinjima Nature Reserve where we spotted some more African animals for the first time…

Next, our guide took us to the Africat Centre in the middle of the reserve. This is the home to cheetahs and leopards which have been rescued, often from confrontations with farmers. We were able to drive quite close to the cheetahs. Some of them had interesting names, the most memorable were; Peanut and Raisin, Hoover and Dyson…

Leopards are much more dangerous so we viewed a leopard being fed from a safety bunker. There were also several birds who came to eat the small pieces of meat dropped by the leopard (a messy eater)…

Our last stop was a visit to the research centre. Here we learnt more about Africa’s big cats and the work being done by the Africat Foundation…

Back at camp we enjoyed the most amazing lamb stew, cooked by our very talented chef. The rest of the night was spent in front of the camp fire under the stars. We fell asleep to the calls of the jackals.


Animals Spotted Today:  Lizard, Warthog, Zebra, Oryx, Dikdik, Springbok, Steenbok, Giraffe, Kudu, Jackal, Cheetah, Leopard, Grey Laurie Bird, Crimson Brested Shrike, Starlings.

DAY 2:

We packed up our campsite and continued driving north (another 300 kms).  Again, we were able to spot more African wild life along the way. Before heading to Etosha National Park we had a supply stop where we purchased 5 litres of drinking water each (as instructed by our guide). The supermarket was massive and seemed quite out of place in the outback of Namibia.

In the afternoon we arrived at the busy Namutoni Campsite. Once again, as soon as we had our tent up, we quickly made our way to the pool to cool down. There were heaps of mongoose around the pool area…

In the evening, our guide took us on a game drive to several waterholes nearby the campsite…

Just as the sun started to set, we finished with a spectacular encounter with a rhino…

After dinner, we headed over to the camp waterhole viewing area (which is floodlit at night for guests). We sat there for a while with nothing happening… we were almost about to leave, when I suddenly saw this big shape moving out of the darkness. A lonely elephant emerged, walked right up to the waterhole and entertained us for a good part of an hour…


Animals Spotted Today:  Zebra (with calf), Warthog, Guinea Fowl, Banded Mongoose, Bateleur Eagle, Giraffe, Grey Laurie Bird, Elephant, Black-face Impala, Martial Eagle, Cori Bustard, Ostrich, Kudu, Springbok, Black Rhino.
Animals Spotted Tonight:  Elephant, Bats

DAY 3:

We packed up camp and headed west across Etosha park on a progressive game drive towards our next campsite. It didn’t take long before we came across a lion and lioness hiding in the grass.

After a while, the lioness appeared from their hiding spot and started to stalk a herd of zebras gathered on the nearby flat open Etosha pan. She was doing such an incredible job, slowly encroaching on her unaware prey… then her boyfriend casually walked over to her looking for some love, which caused the zebras to prick up their ears. The lioness must have been feeling hungry because she decided to give it a go anyway…

It was incredible to watch her pick up the speed and watch the animals scatter (unfortunately, she wasn’t able to secure a meal).

We continued to find many other African animals during our drive, including another lioness hiding in a bush with her cub.

We stopped for lunch at Halali Campsite, which had a great waterhole viewing area. We sat and watched the various animals coming for a drink while our lunch was being prepared…

While we were eating our lunch, another guide came and told us there were about 30 elephants at the waterhole. We quickly ditched our meal and ran back to see… it was an impressive sight; a large herd with several babies. It was the first herd of Elephants we’d seen so we were super excited and watched them for about an hour…

Our guide let us stay longer than intended to enjoy the Elephants. Once everyone was content and all our cameras had had their workout, we hit the road again, taking a few more snaps along the way…

In the afternoon, we arrived at Okaukuejo Campsite. We continued the routine of tents up followed with a quick dip in the pool. This Etosha campsite is well known for its waterhole. We watched the sunset from here with the giraffes and elephants who were having their evening drink…

After dinner, we went back to the waterhole and enjoyed the show for about two hours, it started with the giraffe and elephants. Shortly after a pair of spotted hyenas came along for a drink…

Just when we thought the show was over, a black rhino and her baby turned up… then the rare white rhino with her baby also appeared out of the dark for a drink…


Animals Spotted Today:  Black Rhino, Zebra, Giraffe, Lions (hunting), Gnu/Blue wildebeest, Springbok, Oryx, Impala, Elephants, Lioness (with cub), Hornbill, Red Hartebeest, Egyptian geese, Eagles, Kudu, Guinea Fowl, Squirell, Elephants (herd with calves), Ostrich, Jackal, Sociable Weaver.
Animals Spotted Tonight:  Giraffe, Elephant, Spotted Hyena, Jackal, Impala, Black Rhino (with calf). White Rhino (with calf).

DAY 4:

Before leaving the campground, we had to take a photo of the amazing nests built by the ‘Sociable Weavers.’ When standing underneath their impressive nest they would zoom out and fly off to start their day – the nests have colonies of over 100 birds.

We packed up camp and went for our last game drive through Etosha National Park.

Outside the park gates we stopped in a small town for more supplies. Like many stops, there were plenty of locals selling crafts on the streets. After a quick walk around, we waited for our guides outside a cafe which randomly had a New Zealand flag flying next to the Namibian flag…

Our safari truck had these large windows on the roof at the front, which were unnecessary for viewing anything other than the sky. With the hot blazing African sun beaming down on us during most of our drives we were cooking. So, with a bit of ‘kiwi-ingenuity,’ we fashioned a curtain with the Ikea sheets we bought in Sweden, our clothesline and pegs – it made a huge difference.

DSC_8495_20190812_095947DSC_8495_20190812_095947_1200
Blocking out the sun

Our next stop was to a traditional Himba village. Here a local guide invited us to the village where he taught us some greetings and shared his knowledge of the customs and traditions. We introduced ourselves using our newly learnt phrases to the Himba people…

The children were adorable. They especially enjoyed taking our hats and sunglasses from our heads, patting my hair, and the boys were particularly curious of Kadin’s beard. They wanted to play on our phones; looking at themselves in the photos, and having a turn with our cameras.

The Himba women danced and sung for us – I was even dragged into the entertainment…

We continued our journey into the changing landscape of Damaraland, arriving to the Hoada Campsite late in the afternoon. Tent up and togs on… we headed for the pool which was nestled in the rocks with a view. Unfortunately, the pool was poorly maintained so we decided against swimming in the dirty water. Luckily, there was a breeze up on the rocks to cool us down. We also found a sunset bar to quench our thirst and plenty of lizards living in the rocks to entertain us… and of course there was the stunning views. After dinner, we roasted marshmallows (which we bought in town) on the campfire.


Animals Spotted Today:  Sociable Weaver, Hornbill, Rhino, Brown Hyena, Giraffe (with calf), Male Lion, Warthog, Baboons, Farm animals (Goats, donkey, sheep, cow, chickens), Rock Agama/Gecko.

DAY 5:

We packed up camp and had our last climb around the rocks before hitting the road. There were lots of Rock Hyrax (unusual critters Kadin and I had spotted on our walk to the botanical gardens in Windhoek) scuffling about in the morning…

Early in the drive we spotted a lone Desert Elephant in the distance. We then drove through the Grootberg Pass, stopping for photographs along the way…

The gravel roads on this stretch of the journey were severely corrugated, which made a very bumpy 200km journey. Our guide called this experience our “Namibian Massage.” At times, our guide drove our truck off road because it was smoother.

DSC_8843DSC_8843_1200
Bumping along the dusty roads.

We visited Twyfelfontein at midday. Here a local guide took us on a 45-minute walk to see some rock paintings done by the Bushman people between 2000 and 6000 years ago.

After lunch, we continued our bumpy and dusty journey all the way to Madisa Campsite (also nestled amongst the dramatic rocks). This campground had the best swimming pool, which we jumped straight into after setting up camp. The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the rocks and relaxing by the bar and pool area…


Animals Spotted Today:  Rock Hyrax, Donkey, Desert Elephant.

DAY 6:

With our tents packed away, we had over 400kms of driving ahead of us (most of it along the glorious massage roads). We had a few short stops along the drive to stretch our legs. The first break was to see the largest mountain in Namibia (Brandberg), standing at a not-so-impressive 2600m. The next short stop was in an old tin mining town (Uis) where they also sold numerous semi-precious stones of which we bought a couple.

Around midday we found the Atlantic Ocean and travelled along Namibia’s famous ‘Skeleton Coast.’ It was pretty eerie, as the coast was covered in a thick sea fog. We had a 45-minute stop at Cape Cross to visit the seal colony. The visit was about 44 minutes too long! As soon as we opened the door of the truck we were hit with the most disgusting smell. There are 100 000’s of Cape Fur Seals at this breeding ground. It was completely overwhelming to the senses …seeing the masses of seals on the shore and also swimming in the swell, hearing the cries and groans and I was literally gagging from the (indescribable) smell. Kadin managed to snap these photos…

…we then walked as fast as we could up the road away from the seal colony. We found a lonely jackal waiting for his photograph. While we waited, we foraged for rocks on the side of the road. Many of the rocks were quartz and we found some cool geodes too.

DSC_8960DSC_8960_1200
Jackal with Seals Swimming Behind

We got back on board the safari truck, along with some of the smell. We also regretted not eating our packed lunch before our visit. Further up the road, we pulled over to see a recent shipwreck (only six years old).

In the afternoon we arrived in the town of Swakopmund. Here we had two nights booked in a hotel. As soon as we got to our room, we headed for the shower to wash away the memory of the seal smell. It was the best shower ever! For dinner our group went out to Kucki’s pub. Kadin ate the Oryx burger and I had Springbok schnitzel …both were delicious.


Animals Spotted Today:  Hornbill, Jackal, Cape Fur Seals.

DAY 7:

After an amazing sleep in a bed… we headed out for our chosen day excursion, ‘The Living Desert Tour.’ The Swakopmund tour company collected us from our hotel in their comfy 4WD. We headed for the sand dunes in the desert just out of town in search of Namibia’s smaller creatures. The first find was a Sidewinding adder. The name coming from the way it moves. It was pretty cool how it makes itself disappear in the sand…

Next, we saw a nocturnal gecko. The guide was particularly careful not to expose this little guy to the direct sun light…

We drove further into the dunes. Our guide taught us lots of interesting facts about the desert, plants and dunes – the dunes here were light coloured due to the desert being approximately 5 million years old whereas the deeper Namib desert (we were to visit later) had a more orange-red colour as they are over 20 million years old and have oxidised.

We then found a beetle, the Tok tokkie, that uses his large body to collect condensation in the humid night air then does a handstand so the water trickles down to his mouth…

DSC_9061DSC_9061_1200
Tok tokkie

Next, our guides found a sand jumping lizard. He wasn’t too happy about being caught and showed this by biting the guides hand. He was super quick when he was let back down on the dune…

A real highlight of the desert was finding two chameleons! These small Namibian chameleons can change their colours on each side of their body separately. They change colour to regulate their temperature and also to indicate their mood. The photos on the rock are of the same chameleon, dark grey as we found him on the rock, and lighter brown as he decided to head for the sand…

We also came across another snake, the horned-adder and a friendly little bird, an insect catcher.

Our tour concluded with a ride to the top of the dunes where we stopped to enjoy the views.

In the afternoon we wandered around the town of Swakopmund and bought a few small souvenirs…


Animals Spotted Today:  Sidewinder Adder, Namib Dune Gecko, Tok tokkie Beetle, Sand Diving Lizard, Dragonfly, Namaqua Chameleon, Insect Eater (bird), Horned Adder, Camel.

DAY 8:

We woke up to a sandstorm with the eastward winds blowing off the desert. Our guides returned with a clean safari truck. We checked out of the hotel and made our way along the coast. The roads and dunes looked extra impressive with the sand blowing everywhere…

The wind calmed down further south. We stopped at Walvis Bay to visit the flamingos in the lagoon. They were fascinating to watch and I especially enjoyed watching them fly and land… they looked ridiculous as they tried to stop themselves…

After stocking up on more supplies, once again we headed along the gravel plains. We had another long 300kms of bumpy gravel roads. We had a few quick stops to enjoy the scenery and a group photo when we reached the Tropic of Capricorn…

We stopped in Namibia’s smallest town, Solitaire, for afternoon tea. The town only consisted of a couple of shops, a garage and a bakery, the latter being famous for its apple pie. We shared a generous slice of this freshly baked treat and agreed it lived up to its reputation.

We arrived at Sesriem Campsite late in the afternoon. It took us much longer than we expected to get to our campsite due to our truck getting stuck in the soft sand of the camping ground. Even the 4WD that came to our rescue got stuck. After a few attempts the 4WD managed to pull our 5 tonne vehicle free (this happened two more times during our stay).

We managed to set up camp as the sun was setting. Kadin and I had done a heap of washing in our hotel room back in Swakopmund, but due to the coastal humidity, none of it dried. We managed to string up a few more washing lines (using those Ikea sheets) and the warm desert air had it all dry before bedtime.

DSC_9458DSC_9458_1200
A-tent-tive Laundry!

Animals Spotted Today:  Camel, Pink Flamingo, Seal, White Heron, Oryx

DAY 9:

We woke up in the dark and made our way to Sossusvei to catch the sunrise over the desert from the dunes. We reached Dune 45 with not much time to lose. There were a heap of other groups already climbing the dune. It was a challenging climb along the edge of the dune (only 85m but every step an effort in the soft sand) and hard work to pass people too…

Kadin managed to get ahead and caught the sun rising from the top. I watched it further down the dune with a couple of others from our group. We continued to enjoy the views from the dune in the beautiful soft morning light…

The journey down was much faster! We had fun rapidly descending the dune …and filled our shoes with red sand!

At the bottom our guide and cook had prepared our breakfast. It was pretty cool starting the day in the middle of the dessert.

We then headed further into Sossusvlei. Our truck had to park up and we took the shuttle (a wagon on the back of a tractor). When we got off the tractor our guide gave us two options; we could climb to the top of ‘Big Daddy,’ one of the tallest dunes in the world (over 325 m) or walk along the bottom with him, straight to the Deadvlei.

I opted to go straight to the dead trees with two girls from our group and enjoyed a photoshoot in this scenic spot…

Meanwhile, Kadin and a few others tackled Big Daddy…

It took Kadin 40 minutes to reach the top, and less than 4 minutes to run/fall down the dune face down to the vlei. The walk along the valley of dead trees was harder than the dune climb, without the cool breeze. Eventually, we all met up again for a few more photos…

We drove back to camp for lunch and a much needed afternoon swim. Then after 5pm, when the heat had subsided, our guide took us to the nearby Sesriem Canyon…

We watched the sunset from the top of the canyon…

That night, we were treated to the best display of stars. The milky-way was stunning, and for some, the southern cross was a novel constellation.


Animals Spotted Today:  Oryx, Tok tokkie Beetle. Lizards

DAY 10:

Our final day! We packed away our tent for the last time and prepared for the long 450kms drive back to Windhoek. On the way we tried to stop for a baboon photo out of the window …we only managed to get a blurry shot (partly due to it running away from us, travelling along a bumpy road at high speed, and due to the camera still being set for taking photos of the stars with the autofocus turned off…)

DSC_9740DSC_9740_1200
Artistic photograph of a Baboon

We made it back to the city around 2pm where we checked back into the same airbnb. We had an early night, ready to wake up at 3am for our morning flight to Uganda…


Animals Spotted Today:  Baboon, Kudu, Oryx, Warthog.

We had an amazing time on our 10 day camping trip. Everything went smoothly, and we’d highly recommend Wild Dog Safaris to anyone interested in visiting Namibia and Southern Africa.

Have fun at work!

Gemma

2 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s