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Well, our trip to Namibia is over, and we had the time of our lives, thanks in large part to the suggestions and experience of the posters here. Originally we planned to do a small group tour of Namibia. However, the ones that interested me were all booked until the end of October at the earliest. So, I posted in these forums and got the suggestion of a private guide another poster has toured with. So, we had a privately guided, 12-day, 11-night tour of central Namibia. We let our guide know what sights and areas interested us, and he booked our lodges and activities, after okaying his selections with us. We were in Namibia from June 11-June 22--midsummer at home; midwinter there. June 11 John and I arrived in Windhoek a few minutes early at 10:15 a.m., after our overnight flight from Frankfurt to Johannesburg, from where we caught the short flight to Windhoek. Fortunately, we had both slept several hours on the overnight flight and were ready to go and beyond excited to finally be in Africa. We travelled with carryon luggage only, so it didn’t take long for us to leave the secure area and meet our guide, Francois, who was waiting for us. We went straight out to the vehicle and Francois drove us out of Windhoek by a back road, avoiding driving through the city. We stopped at one of the “tree” rest stops, and Francois gave us sandwiches, fruit, and personalized water bottles that he filled for us. He showed us the map, and we discussed the itinerary and our travel style. Coming from the Canadian foothills, we are used to long drives, so our guide knew we would be all right with taking the “scenic route” when the opportunity presented itself. (We learned from our guide that the sign is shaped to point to the side of the road where the rest stop will be. In this case, the rest stop will be on the right.) There was a huge corn cricket at the rest stop. This was my first "wildlife" sighting in Africa. I am insect phobic, so I was thinking, "Uh, oh. What have I let myself in for?" Fortunately, that was the worst thing I saw the whole trip. Our first night was booked at Bagatelle Kalahari Game Ranch. On the way, we stopped at a sociable weavers’ nest. We couldn't believe how busy and noisy it was, with all the birds and the bees. On the way, we also saw mongoose, steenbok, springbok, kudu, giraffe, a crimson-breasted shrike (aka “executioner bird”), a kori bustard, ostrich, elands, and termite mounds. We didn’t take many pictures, as most of the animals were a bit too far away for good shots, and our guide said we would have better opportunities later on. We also saw some people driving a “Kalahari Ferrari." At Bagatelle, we had a dune chalet, and it was gorgeous. It was spacious, beautifully decorated, and had a lovely view of the dunes and a small waterhole with springbok, donkeys, and an eland. There were ostrich on the property, as well. The chalet, the lodge, and the scenery were all so lovely that this is among the top 5 places I’ve every stayed, and I wish we’d had more than one night there. We got settled and then left the chalet. On our deck was a shovelnose lizard. Beside our deck, munching on a bush, was the lodge’s tame springbok, Skunky. We met the lodge’s guide and driver for the cheetah feeding. Bagatelle is part of the cheetah conservation effort, and they are host to two 14-year-old male cheetah that were “problem” animals and cannot be released into the wild for that reason. We went in an open-sided vehicle with a group, and once at the cheetah feeding site, we were allowed to get out of the vehicle once the cats were feeding. One of the cats does not do well with humans, but the other is approachable while he is eating. I got to go close to him and touch him. After the cheetah feeding, we went for a sundowner on top of a dune. John had a Meerkat Sauvingnon Blanc. I had water, as I don’t care for wine, and I was too busy taking pictures of the sunset, anyway. Afterwards, we had dinner at the lodge. Dinner was indoors, as it was too “cold.” (Note: winter in Namibia is warmer than summer where we live. Ha. Ha.) We had our first taste of African game: oryx and kudu, and it was delicious. Skunky, the springbok, kept trying to come into the dining room, and peered at us pleadingly through the window after he was banished. By this time, travelling and not quite enough sleep was catching up with us. We went to our chalet to sleep. I had one of the best sleeps of my entire life; it was so quiet and cool, and the bed was cozy. We slept almost 11 hours. June 12 We were up early for 7am breakfast, followed by our scheduled walk to a demonstration village with a San Bushman. On the way, we saw an eland who had a thin rope tied to his horns. We asked about that and were told he is sometimes "naughty" with the tourists. He certainly seemed to give us a mischievous grin. We were the only two who had booked the Bushman walk, so it was just us, Erastus (Black Mamba) the interpreter, and the San (!Koon (Tall Tree)). !Koon acted out some of the traditional ways that the San people survived in the Kalahari. He told us (using gestures and click language) about termite hills and anteater hunting, about snaring small birds, about the uses of the blackthorn tree (e.g. for stomach ailments), about caching water in ostrich eggs, and about trapping ostriches. He showed us how they started fire, and then we walked to the demonstration village. The women were sitting around a fire making beads from ostrich shell. There were children sitting with the woman and then playing. Then, Erastus brought us to meet the “chief.” He told us about foraging for caterpillars, making rattles, and the mini bow and arrow used for courting (still used today). There were three huts, and there was some ostrich shell jewellery on display. We bought an ostrich and porcupine quill bracelet. Then Erastus and !Koon walked us back to the lodge, and !Koon’s cute little daughter insisted on coming along. On the way back, we chatted a bit about our own heritage (Cree), and the commonalities among Indigenous people in Namibia and Canada. We really felt we had made a connection in our short time together, and it seemed that !Koon and Erastus felt the same. We had heartfelt goodbyes with both !Koon and Erastus, who both told us that they had sincerely enjoyed their time with us, and we said the same. We freshened up at the lodge, and then we were on our way to Sesriem. To be continued.
We're two birders and mammal-watchers planning to go to Namibia this August. Nature Travel Namibia was able to book the following self-drive itinerary for us, modified from a slightly smoother one that we requested. Do you have any suggestions as to how we could improve it, given the difficulty of booking accommodations? (Thanks to those of you who posted in my Etosha-specific thread! After asking my booking agent again, we were able to get two nights booked at Halali. As this is a more general question, I decided to post it in a new thread). In particular: 1. August 1-3 is three nights at three lodges. Is there a better way we could use this time at one location, taking into account the difficulty of booking accommodations? This was originally supposed to be two nights at Namutoni, and one more night at Rustig Toko (for Aardvark and Aardwolf). 2. I think we have too time at Sossusvlei. We're mostly interested in wildlife, and one full day should be enough to enjoy the scenery. Does that make sense? Where should we move the day? Erongo is fully booked, otherwise we'd want one more night there (or at Brandberg). One option with availability would be to add a night at Kunene (it is a very long drive), and do Brandberg after Erongo Wilderness Lodge. 3. Is three nights too much at Walvis Bay? We are planning to drive there from Brandberg via Cape Cross, and spend our time there split between birding (waterbirds and Dune Lark), herping, a boat trip for Heaviside's Dolphin, and searching for Brown Hyena (any tips?). One option would be to provisionally book this itinerary, and try to improve it in a month after possible cancellations. 27-Jul-16 Arrive 14:10, night Windhoek 28-Jul-16 Okaukuejo 29-Jul-16 Okaukuejo 30-Jul-16 Halali-Campsite 31-Jul-16 Halali-Campsite 01-Aug-16 Eldorado 02-Aug-16 Hobatere 03-Aug-16 Oppi Koppi Lodge 04-Aug-16 Rusti Toko Lodge (for Aardvark, Aardwolf) 05-Aug-16 Rusti Toko Lodge 06-Aug-16 Kunene River lodge Campsite 07-Aug-16 Kunene River lodge room 08-Aug-16 Brandberg White Lady Campsite 09-Aug-16 Erongo Wilderness Lodge Double Tent 10-Aug-16 Erongo Wilderness Lodge Double Tent 11-Aug-16 TBA - Walvis Bay 12-Aug-16 TBA - Walvis Bay 13-Aug-16 TBA - Walvis Bay 14-Aug-16 TBA - Sossusvlei 15-Aug-16 TBA - Sossusvlei 16-Aug-16 TBA - Sossusvlei 17-Aug-16 Depart Windhoek 15:00 Thanks, Ben www.tremarctos.com
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