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Dave Williams

Self driving Namibia...the way to go!

134 posts in this topic

It would be near impossible to top the excitement of the previous day's sightings but Etosha NP had already demonstrated that it can serve up something new every day. Today would be no different hopefully.

Unfortunately it started with the weather, exactly the same as the previous day to begin with. Pretty miserable in as much as it was dull and miserable but at least it was warm. Once again Claire decided the better option was to come back in to the park with me.

First stop had to be the waterhole but to our disappointment the Lions had gone. Oh well, we could check again later.

We headed back towards the causeway that splits Etosha and Fisher's Pan.

Some new species!

Black-necked Grebe

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There were quite a few.

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Couldn't fit them all in one image there were that many!

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You know the feeling when you turn up at a lakeside though?

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Generally no mad panic but everything tends to paddle slowly away giving you the best of rear views!

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That was the closest I had been to Cape Teal though, and the Little Grebe.

Over in the corner of the lake we found some more species, another first in Cape Shoveler

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and I don't recall seeing Red-billed Teal earlier in the trip either.

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Before heading around Fisher's Pan we had a look along the road that heads north.

A Rhino!

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Not exactly a good view but we'd caught a glimpse through the undergrowth.

Driving around the edge of the pan we had one or two interesting views.

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The only Warthogs in the east!

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A seated Giraffe made a change and an opportunity for some more dove shots.

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Both Cape Turtle and Laughing Dove were sat in the same bush.

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Very considerate, saved moving the car.

We also had this new one too, not 100% but I'm thinking White-browed Scrub Robin

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It wasn't very exciting though despite seeing several new species. Maybe the weather was at fault. Still flat and grey.

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We returned to the edge of Fisher's Pan but this time took the road to the far end.

Along the way there were the usual suspects.

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Maybe the chance of a better shot

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Maybe not

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Photography can be so frustrating.

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How do you get a small bird like the Shaft-tailed Whydah fully in the frame without it being very light on detail?

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A bit of wind helps!

It was lovely to see a Cattle Egret in full breeding plumage and in full view too.

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But others like these Maribou Stork were exasperating .

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Mind you they are so ugly I appreciate why they are camera shy too.

Whiskered Tern

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and Glossy Ibis just didn't want to co-operate at all

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and African Spoonbill not much better.

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Still not too frustrating as I have seen them all before.

This one got me briefly grabbing for a shot until I realised it's a juvenile Pale-Chanting Goshawk.

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I have to admit I was actually getting a bit bored.

Sometimes you see something ordinary that appeals though

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Synchronised Ostrich team or was it the head of the Gorgon?

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Time to take a look at the Lion waterhole again methinks!

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Driving alongside a Wildebeest it decided to give us an action shot of sorts.

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and a Golden-breasted Bunting, the second we'd seen was worth stopping for.

The waterhole was empty though.

Shame, but we passed some Bee-eaters that looked nice in the improving weather.

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Time to investigate Klein Nanutomi waterhole, one we hadn't as yet seen.

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Lovely flowers.

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More Springbok fighting.

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Terrapins seem to live in most of the waterholes and I have to say, this one , the waterhole that is, gave great views.

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The White-backed Vulture didn't! It stayed too far to get a clean image in the increasingly hot conditions.

We had a drive around DikDik Drive and yes we saw a diminutive Antelope but I didn't take any pictures because I assumed I already had some.

Mistake, they later turned out to be Steenbok. I should have made better use of my animal guide book. Never mind, something for next time I guess.

Back for a last look at the waterhole, nothing had turned up save a Starling on a tree that looked very appealing.

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"Come on Claire, lets call it a day" I said.

She was only too happy to agree.

We left them to it.

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Some late afternoon sunshine back at the lodge, a cold beer or three and a delicious dinner. All was not lost.

T.B.C.

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@@Dave Williams I really liked the flower carpet behind the Chudop lion photos, a bonus of travelling early in the year.

 

Great shot of the Yellow Bishop (?) and the black-faced impala standing one behind the other.

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The previous evening had been warm and sunny, would Claire get to spend the last day at Emanya@@etosha enjoying the sunbeds by the pool !

Not a chance it seemed.

It was lashing down.

As there seemed little point in hanging around we might as well head off in to the NP again so with Claire once more at the wheel it was up the tar road for one last time.

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Through the gate and into the park, today's objective was to try and find Elephants. So far I had managed a couple but Claire hadn't seen any so I had it my mind it would be a good way to finish. I had read that they tend to move to the north east of the park during the summer so that was the direction we took, taking the road over the causeway yet again and heading north to the King Nehale Gate.

A quick stop for the Black-necked Grebes

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Then on to where we'd seen the Rhino the previous day. Our luck was in.

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A long way off but out in the open and giving reasonable views.The good news was it was probably getting a bit closer too.

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I swopped my 7D and stuck the 1DX on the lens.The light was poor and the 1D is far better able to deal with it although I was down to a slow shutter speed for the slow moving Rhino.

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I reduced the f number by substituting my 2x with the 1.4x teleconverter and I had the ISO down to 200. Despite the big crop the final result is pleasing enough.

A great way to start the day, I was really pleased as Claire enjoyed watching too. I can always tell because she had picked up the binoculars which she doesn't often do !

Moving on we had a Jackal right in the middle of the road.

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It seemed reluctant to move as we approached

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I got some nice shots and some movement in them too.

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The Jackal walked across the front of the car

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but seemed it didn't want to walk in to the grass as it was long and wet following the rains so for quite some distance it trotted on ahead of us before deciding we weren't going to give up following and headed off in to the undergrowth.

It seemed the wet grass was to our advantage, the Jackal wasn't the only one who preferred the road.

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These Red-billed Spurfowl sitting so close was a real bonus.

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Maybe they considered a hasty exit but they stayed put unlike the ones I had seen around the grounds of Emanya which were very flighty.

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Once they had decided we were not a threat they continued grooming until we had seen enough and moved on.

Sandgrouse next!

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They too were avoiding the wet grass and you couldn't blame them.

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The morning was going really well and it was about to get better still!

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This Red-crested Kohraan was my first of the trip and I spied it heading towards the road. We stopped and reversed but so did the bird. It was very suspicious of us and headed back in to the long wet grass. Suddenly I heard a light tap, tap, tapping noise and thought there may be a woodpecker nearby but no, it was the Kohraan. What an amazing call. What followed the tapping was incredibly loud.

I just had to video this and share the sound. Switching from still to video mode the bird duly obliged and let out another ear piercing cry before disappearing in to the grass.

I couldn't wait to hear my recording.

I'd only set the recording in mute mode. Can't share that then!

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By now it had stopped raining and all the creatures in the park were no doubt drying off.

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By lunch time the sun had come out and we were a long way north not far from the gate.

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I offered to take Claire back to the lodge but she decided that it wasn't worth it as the weather looked much cloudier further south and we were probably at least 80 kms away.

So once again poor Claire ended up driving me around whilst the sun beat down outside.

Ironically the afternoon session didn't come up with much either. We took the diversion route towards Onkoshi Camp heading to Stinkwater waterhole. I think the only thing of note we saw was probably a Red-backed Shrike.

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The one and only for the trip.

A final shot of a Crowned Lapwing was probably one of the last shots recorded inside the park. I'd taken lots a week or so earlier but thought I had better take advantage, who know it might be my last ever opportunity.

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So that was it , we exited the park and headed to our lodge to enjoy another excellent meal.

We had spent a total of 11 days in and around Etosha , well I had, Claire had salvaged a day here and a few hours there. I was really disappointed for her although she said she enjoyed it I know how monotonous it can be waiting while someone else is snapping away. That is the danger of the rainy season I suppose, particularly this year as they had some decent much needed rain at last.

My plans to give Claire a nice alternative to driving around all day had all but failed as a result and I am grateful to her for never once complaining because she, like me, was happy for Namibia.

Did the rain effect my enjoyment ? Not really. The Camp waterholes were an obvious disappointment but looking at the photographs I have seen they are all very similar. I think capturing the action at the other waterholes offers more of an interesting challenge so the decision where to stay doesn't come in to play quite so much.

In 11 days we had seen most of what you expect to see I guess, no Leopard,Cheetah,Hyena, Honey Badger immediately spring to mind but we'd seen lots of other things, particularly bird species, to compensate. Of course they don't appeal to everyone.

Night drives and flash photography I'm not really bothered about. Been there, done that and I don't find looking at a couple of reflective eyes picked up by search light worth skipping my evening's entertainment for, but that's just my opinion.

Would I go on an organised game drive within the park? Most certainly no. If you have your own transport you can decide just how long you stay and where you go. I saw so many tour groups depart a minute after arriving at a waterhole. Yes, the guides might be able to share information about sightings but that is the only positive to me.

We drove 2000 kms in 11 days so it's surprising how it adds up but I can honestly say I was as happy as the proverbial pig for virtually all of them.

It was time to go though. Would I come back? I am sure given the chance I will.

For now though we had some thing different to look forward to, first stop back to Erongo though.

TBC.

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Sad to see an end to your Etosha tales, @@Dave Williams, but again you managed to get some really beautiful photographs on your last day. Even for a rainy season it seems you got more water than you bargained for, but I'm glad to hear you still enjoyed it very much!

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Sad to see an end to your Etosha tales, @@Dave Williams, but again you managed to get some really beautiful photographs on your last day. Even for a rainy season it seems you got more water than you bargained for, but I'm glad to hear you still enjoyed it very much!

 

@ PeterHG Not the end of our journey quite yet though Peter, but as I am away for the next week or so I'm afraid the details will have to wait until then.

We had some memorable moments, seeing a Rhino at close quarters, the Lions, just the beauty of driving through some stunning scenery but my favourite day by sheer chance turned out to be our last before heading back to Windhoek and the plane home. A really wonderful experience that I can only recommend everybody takes the opportunity to make.

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Great report Dave, especially love all your beautiful bird shots. Totally get what you say about the danger of forgetting common species, always happens to me with Pied Crows. Very glad you found your lions after nine days, and they performed really well for you. And thanks for all the camp info, very helpful.

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We were up and off from Emanya@@etosha soon after breakfast in what was to turn out to be a glorious day.

Typical, after poor weather for several days we were once again spending a sunny one in the car.

Still, I was ready to leave as I felt I had seen most of what Etosha NP had to offer at this time and I knew Claire must be getting fed up of driving me around all day.

I decided I'd drive us south to give her a change. Most of the journey was on tar roads , the B1 and C33, so it was pleasant driving with little traffic. We were heading back to Otjohotozu Farm in Erongo, the place we stayed on the way north 2 weeks earlier. Looking back it was possibly a mistake to go back to the same place as we could have gone and experienced somewhere different, however it is a good stopover and at the cost of around £70 per night for B&B not too unreasonable, especially when compared with other nearby properties.

Once again we were there for two nights, arriving mid afternoon on the first day. My first disappointment was to find out the the African Paradise Flycatcher nest had been destroyed in the recent storms. What was a virtually dry river bed now had running water in it.

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The much needed rainfall would bring life to so many but sadly the Flycatcher chick was not a beneficiary.

That was one target bird lost but I still had Rupell's Parrot very much in mind. I was however distracted by a family of Cardinal Woodpeckers in the garden.

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I wasn't sure what I was looking at to begin with!

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The juvenile being quite different.

High in a tree I had a new bird for the trip, Red-faced Mousebird

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But what I was really after was the Parrot. I decided to head out towards the river where I duly found one but couldn't get a shot as it kept on moving from tree to tree. I eventually gave up only to return to the garden and hear one happily calling in one of the trees. Once again, frustration!


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Partially obscured views no matter where I positioned myself.

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I eventually gave up and retreated for sundowners.

The next day I was up and out early and went for a wander.

More frustration!

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Another Red-crested Kohraan proved as elusive as the one I saw in Etosha and although I saw some new birds the views were poor.

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and poorly executed photographically.

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Good enough to claim a Marico Sunbird though, another trip lifer.

There didn't seem to be that much about either which was disappointing and getting close was proving very hard anyway. I think this is a Peregrine but I'm not 100% by any means.

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The one subject that gave good views was a little disconcerting. Warthogs are normally very shy but this one came charging out of the bushes straight towards me!

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No need to panic, it wasn't heading towards me deliberately, it hadn't noticed me!

When it did it was back to form.

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A couple of better views had the usual problems, a Scrub-Robin does after all hang around in scrub!

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I could attempt to photoshop the branches but why bother!

The one bird I did reasonably well with was the Cuckoo, same tree as last time and after taking a while to locate it, getting reasonable views.

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The sun was soon unbearably hot so I retreated to the shade of the restaurant area. Claire had a day on a lounger by the pool and I was just as happy playing with some photos on the laptop.

I didn't go out again from what I can recall, well not for long. Early evening it was even quieter than the morning session.

No, I was ready to hit new pastures.

Swakopmund here we come.

We were booked in for 5 nights and all the advice I had been offered suggested we were mad.

Swakopmund is cold, damp, misty,boring etc, etc. Stay only one night , two at the most was the advice.

I had ignored it at my peril! I chose somewhere to stay that didn't have a pool, the only one of our stay. Claire would not be sunbathing here. However, it is Namibia's main tourist resort so I was hoping for some nice meals in the many recommended restaurants, to us a major part of any trip is the dining experience.

With 4 days to fill I wasn't quite sure what we'd be doing but we'd soon find out!

T.B.C.

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We left Erongo in brilliant sunshine and once again enjoyed the stunning scenic drive of the D2315.

This time though we stopped just the once when I spotted a juvenile Martial Eagle by the roadside.

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We eventually picked up the tar road of the B2 and arrived at our accommodation in Swakopmund early afternoon.

And the sun was still shining!

We might not have had a pool but the accommodation choice was excellent. We had chosen a self catering apartment at Villa Sohrada in the suburbs of Swakopmund. The hosts live in one house and rent out the apartments in the one next door. We actually stayed in what appeared to be a garage conversion and very comfortable it was too.

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We were greeted with a fruit bowl, tea, coffee, biscuits etc which was all unexpected. Had we wanted to we could have cooked evening meals there too as the kitchen area was equipped with enough to do so but we were only interested in trying the local restaurants.

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One big benefit was there was an excellent internet connection too, that made a change!

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All this for just £40 or 675NR.

That meant that even including dining out it was the least expensive place we stayed.

A drive in to town and the tourist information centre followed and we picked up leaflets on suggested activities in and around Swakopmund. There is certainly plenty of choice! We had already asked our accomodation hosts to book the recommended boat/dune tour trip and that was one day accounted for, we just had to fill the rest. Back at Villa Sohrada I rang a few options. We decided the 2 hour flight in a small plane was too expensive for us at £500, and besides, Claire hates flying so I think she was relieved to find out how much it cost. I tried to book in for a Living Desert tour but they were all fully booked for the next couple of days but I did manage to get a booking for the last day in Swakop, although not my first choice provider. Tomorrow then, it looked like Cape Cross and the Fur seal colony was the best option.

Tonight though we were booked in to The Tug , a well recommended restaurant in the centre of town, a 10 minute drive away.

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The slightly odd looking building is built around part of a Tug boat, we were lucky to get a table with a sea view and you can watch the sun go down over the horizon and see hundreds of Cormorants and Flamingo's heading to their roosting spots.

The food is inexpensive by UK standards and very palatable too. I would have preferred mushy peas to salad with my fish and chips though!

Once again. our second day in Swakopmund had the sun shining through and off we headed north to Cape Cross.

It's a longer drive than you think and driving through the arid desert scenery does get a bit boring after a while.

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The light was a strange mix too and as you can see in the photo, heat haze made photography difficult again.

There were the odd distractions though, a wrecked boat is probably on everyone's stopping place.

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The Skeleton Coast gets it's name from the number of shipwrecks and perhaps there is evidence of more further north but this was the only one we saw.

Arriving at Cape Cross you pay the same entry fee as Etosha. 80NRpp plus 10NR for the car.

We had already read about the smell from the seals and in fairness it wasn't that bad however, once you have seen one seal

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I don't really need to see this many!


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In fairness, quite a sight though.

There are lots of young ones but the mortality rate is around 20%,

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and the smell comes from the rotting carcasses.

Opportunistic Kelp Gulls hang around for an easy meal and the easy entry point is the trough the eye sockets. All a bit gruesome.

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I decided to leave the seal to their slumber

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and found a stretch of nearby beach.

Gray's Lark , Namibia's only true endemic perhaps?

No chance but I did get decent views of Red-capped Lark.

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and a new species, White-fronted Plover.

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The light had gone quite dull now, not exactly a sea mist but somehow the air was thick.

After an hour at Cape Cross we were ready to return to base. It's a long drive, about 100kms each way and to be honest not really something I would bother with again, particularly as we would see another seal colony much closer to home. I certainly didn't regret not taking a flight along the coast, it was all a bit monotonous. I think the main reason for heading that way is probably the fishing.

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Nearly every vehicle we saw had fishing rods strapped to the car.


Back to base, tonight we were dining at The Jetty restaurant which is at the seaward end of the pier where The Tug is situated. Again good wholesome well prepared food. We both had a trio of differently presented cooked Oysters followed by a seafood on flatbread as a main course.

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Nothing spectacular but, along with a couple of large beers it cost around 600NR or £40. In the UK the beers alone would be about £16 so we think it good value for the price.

The next morning we headed to Walvis Bay, both to check out the birds and to confirm our booking on the combined boat and dune tour we were due to make the following day. Just as well we did as there was no record of it but they did have room for us.

Meantime we headed down to the beach were you will find hundreds of Flamingos.

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Large numbers feed at the outflow from the promenade so you can get very close for photography.

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Sitting on the prom is a good spot for flight shots

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and if you look carefully you should be able to spot a couple of Greater Flamingo in amongst the lesser variety.

This one was actually taken on the road towards the salt works at Pelican Point

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A couple of opportunistic Curlew Sandpipers and Sanderling taking advantage of the flamingo's work at disturbing the sand.

Some Cape Teal gave good views from a similar spot

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but it seems I upset the locals by parking on the edge of this long straight road as one kayak towing vehicle actually stopped rather than pulling out past me and made a show of his disapproval. There were no signs to say you can't though!

It was low tide though so unfortunately most things were a long way out at the waters edge.

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but there were a couple of exceptions besides the Flamingo.

A Grey Plover

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and another "lifer", Hartlaub's Gull

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The sun was still shining so we decided to head back to Swakopmund where Claire had some R&R with a book.

Me?

We had taken the back road back home and passed an interesting pool. I went back for another view!

There were a few Lesser Flamingo

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Some close up Avocet

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and a few small waders but the heat distortions proving difficult for photographing them, all of which I'd seen elsewhere so i just concentrated on the bigger species.

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Back to base, tonight we were dining at The Wreck restaurant which is conveniently within walking distance of Villa Sohrada. It was very smart too. Great food, superb sea views excellent service and no more expensive than elsewhere either.

Dover Sole with Mussels. Yum!

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and Claire had a steak.

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We decided to book the following night too. No issues with driving that way!

T.B.C.

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Posted (edited)

Mouth-watering descriptions of the meals you enjoyed, @@Dave Williams! Excellent photographs again, though I fully understand your frustration with birds making sure there is always a twig between them and the camera ;) . I think your juveline Martial Eagle might be a Black-chested Snake Eagle? We are in the early stages of planning a trip through Namibia for next year, so thanks for all the detailed information on the places you visit!

Edited by PeterHG
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Posted (edited)

Mouth-watering descriptions of the meals you enjoyed, @@Dave Williams! Excellent photographs again, though I fully understand your frustration with birds making sure there is always a twig between them and the camera ;) . I think your juveline Martial Eagle might be a Black-chested Snake Eagle? We are in the early stages of planning a trip through Namibia for nect year, so thanks for all the detailed information on the places you visit!

 

@@PeterHG Thanks, I do believe you are right which suits me 100% !! Another lifer. The illustration in the book doesn't show the front of the adult hence I overlooked it.

You might be interested in my next instalments if you are heading to Swakopmund!

 

PS What do you think to my Peregrine ID?

Edited by Dave Williams

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Along with the Rhino trekking at Grootberg, today's trip was the only other we had booked ( or thought we had) before leaving the UK. Highly recommended on Trip Advisor we decided to go with it despite the cost which was 3600NR or around £230 . Perception of cost and value is a very subjective thing. Being of a certain age I remember when I would pay 25p to go and watch Liverpool FC play, in fact I was lucky enough to be taken by my Dad to see the World Cup final of 1966 at Wembley( the only time England have ever won anything significant) and the tickets were priced at 10/- which in today's money is 50p. My tickets for Anfield next season are £45 per match which is 180x the price in the late 60's. We returned to Wembley last year for a Cup final game and paid £90, again 180x the price albeit in both cases they were for seated views as standing places has been banished in the UK since the Hillsborough disaster. It does give me a sense of perspective on what other entertainment offers as value for money. 90 minutes for £45 at Anfield or a full day out for £115.

The tour has to be considered excellent value then!

We were picked up from our accommodation at 7.00am and driven the 30kms to Walvis, picking others up en route.

The boat sailed at 9.00am and the tour lasted until around lunch time and a light lunch of fresh Oysters, various nibbles and beers, fizzy wine or soft drinks was included .

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There was plenty to go around too so that was good.

The captain stopped on several occasions to come and give a talk about what we were looking at, telling us about the boats in the harbour, why the oil rigs were there and the typical costs involved.

The first cruise liner to arrive last year was charged $65,000US to dock for 7 hours. Interesting stuff.


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All the time we were sailing large flocks of Cape Cormorant were flying around but the party trick was the Great White Pelicans.

Shame they didn't warn you what was going to happen next but on blowing a whistle in they flew.

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right alongside

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One of the deck hands had a bucket of fish!

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I was at the back of the boat and the deck hand was at the front so I missed the first one totally, the second bird I was in the wrong position as someone leant in front of me (Grrrrrr!) but the third time was a bit better.

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I was amazed to see the size of the pouch!

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I only wished I had a smaller lens as the short end of the 100-400mm was still far to long.

To get that right I would need a lot of practice but the birds weren't interested in another offering, well not in flight anyway.

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They landed on the boat preferring to take the fish standing up.

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I'm not sure that this was my idea of wild life watching but the photography was an interesting challenge. Should you go though, be prepared. Something like a 50mm lens would be much better I would think.

Next stop was out at Pelican Point and the Seal colony ( the alternative to Cape Cross)

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There are trips that allow you to kayak amongst them if that's your fancy. On our boat they had another trick. Once more the bucket of fish and whistle appeared and up popped a seal.

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This one was a young one being trained still and everyone was told not to touch it in case it bit them. You can see they have a decent set of teeth too!

Amazing the way they could actually climb on to the boat, they must have amazing strength, but of course they are used to climbing slippery rocks too.

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If I'm honest I didn't enjoy the seal experience mainly because others on the boat wanted to pose for selfies with them and in one case an aged Italian woman kept on going over to the seal and doing her seal talk imitations. Earlier I had helped her climb down some steps from the bow of the boat, now I could have happily pushed her overboard! These are wild animals but somehow, well I'm sure you understand so I won't go any further.

Apparently Namibia's fish quota is 550,000 tonnes of fish a year. They estimate the ever growing population of Cape Fur Seals, a protected species, consume 15,000,000 tonnes a year. Food for thought indeed.

The one thing Walvis Bay is famous for are Oysters. They are imported as tiny oysters from South America (it's too cold to breed in Namibia but the waters are full of food for them to eat) hung on ropes secured to oil drums and left to mature out in the bay. I got lucky and saw an Artic Skua fly past whilst the captain was telling us all about them!

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That was about it for the boat trip, very informative on many aspects and certainly enjoyable but from a wild life perspective not really my cup of tea.

We disembarked the boat and set off for the afternoon Dune tour. This time only four of us from the original boat full of perhaps 16-20.

We drove for 55 kms to Sandwich Harbour and as the tide was out we were able to go the whole way along the beach. We passed several convoys of campers who apparently pay large sums running in to tens of thousands to do these escorted tours from Luderitz or possibly further south. 55kms was enough for me, the view never changed really although when you get towards Sandwich Harbour the really big dunes meet the sea.

We stopped on the beach for more snacks and drinks overlooking the lagoon.

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It's supposedly a very important breeding area for birds but other than a few dozen Pelicans in the far distance and a nearby pair of White-fronted Plover there was little evidence of avian life whatsoever.

Had the tide been in we would have viewed all this from the top of the dunes we were told, there were 4 vehicles of various tours there and some enthusiastic folk claimed to the top, maybe 100m or more above sea level. I drank their beer allocation and watched! We were driven up there next so it was an effort I didn't need to make.

In fairness the views were spectacular.

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Unlike anything I have ever seen before.

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Next we were off for an exhilarating dune ride. It takes a lot of skill and practice to get it right and for the uninitiated it's quite a thrill. Going down the big dunes at slow speed you were staggered the vehicle didn't just drop as they were so steep then at the bottom it was foot flat down to climb up the next one at speed. Good fun for a while but it was a bit repetitive, especially the bit where we drove back along the beach.

All we saw was sand for the most part....hardly unexpected.....but the desert wildlife was nowhere to be seen other than a pair of Ostrich.

And by special request by me, I asked if there was a place to see Dune Lark.

Our driver duly obliged!

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Well it was a bit distant and had I been alone I would have waited for a closer view but I wasn't so I couldn't.

The best I can do is crop the image.

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Is it or isn't it? Well he said it was anyway!

We were driven all the way back to Swakopmund so a total of around 150kms during the afternoon. It was 6.00pm so a total tour time of 11 hours. A long day.

Enjoyable?

Yes, it was different and we were not planning to go to Sesriem to climb the dunes there either so it was a nice taster tour of sand even if I am not a fan of climbing it.

That evening we had booked The Wreck restaurant telling them we might be a bit later than the 7.30 pm we were booked in for. Sure enough we had a reserved table in the window but to our horror the place was packed with large tour groups that night. We were knackered and didn't fancy waiting an age for our dinner. We skipped starters and ordered a main to try and save some waiting and to our delight we were served before any of the big tables around us.

Nice one! We'd have gone again but the following day was already booked at The Tug for our last night and the lovely lady on the desk had promised us a window seat for our penultimate mealiness Namibia.

Our last day was to be spent tmaking the Living Desert Tour in search of the Little 5.

Open verdict on that as we we hadn't too much idea what to expect.

T.B.C.

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Well, you sure are wetting my apetite now Dave!

 

Thanks for the detail. Guess I have a date at The Wreck!

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Once again we had an early pick up at 7.00am, right on the agreed time and there were only two more people to collect and we were off to the sand dunes outside Swakopmund.

My original choice of tour operator had been fully booked for this our last day and in hindsight we were so lucky. Just four of us and as it turned out an extremely dedicated and excellent guide.

This was the company logo

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Taken from the side of their vehicle and those are my sandals!

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Loads of space, a guide between four of us, things looked much better than the other tour operators set up who we happened to pass. They were full to overflowing !

Would our guide measure up?

Well it certainly seemed so. He gave us an introductory talk about the deserts, the source of water from the sea mists, the moisture retaining plants and the "muesli" of seeds and plant fibres that blow about self seeding plants and providing food for a variety of creatures that make what seems an inhospitable environment their home.

I'll never look at sand dunes the same way again !

Look closely and you will be amazed at the number of tracks in the sand, each individual to the creature that left them. Our guide used them all to find our target species. He was better than Tonto ( if you are under a certain age you won't appreciate how good he was!)

First off he found us the endemic Palmato Gecko as shown on their logo.

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He was careful to make sure it found a new hiding place safe from predation before moving on in search of our next target, the venomous Dancing White Lady Spider

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You can see why she is so named when she rears up on her legs as if in a dancing move.

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She's one of a male's worst enemies as she eats her partner after mating. Charming.

Once again Nico, our guide, showed amazing compassion and set up a shield to ensure the spider managed to tunnel a new burrow before falling victim to a bigger predator .

Next up the burrowing Skink. You have to be fast to catch them too, they don't half shift. They look just like the Slow Worms we have in our garden at home.

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Three down , two to go but this one wasn't included.

The Sand Diving Lizard.

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Nico had found a great spot for them. He threw a few meal worms out of the car window and down the dunes they came to gobble them up. Not nearly as impressively as the next one though.

The Desert Chameleon, what a reptile! Not only does it change colour.

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to suit the surrounds

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It's a superb photo challenge too!

All that's needed is a camera that shoots 14 frames per second, a meal worm and a bit of luck!

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That tongue is something else!

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It's all happens in the blink of an eye.

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A great challenge too!

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Having done the single frames I wanted to try video! Not easy as the viewfinder is the rear screen and with the sun behind you it's difficult to see what you were doing. I'll try posting something separately.

If that was fun the next was slightly scary!

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The Peringuey's Adder ( also known as a Sidewinder) hides in the sand with just it's eyes and tip of it's tail showing. It waggles the tail to make it look like a grub and strikes at anything that takes a fancy to maybe eating the said grub!

It's not usually fatal if you get bitten but it's most painful and unpleasant. I kept my distance!

That was the Little 5 completed!

We also came across a new bird for me too, the Tractrac Chat.

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This one too responded to a tossed mealworm, hence the close views!

Our guide was excellent, he told us about the mineral content of the sand and showed us how to extract the iron that gives the sand a dirty appearance in some places and told us about the purple sand which is actually made of tiny Garnet stones. All interesting information.

We also got a dune tour and ride thrown in too!

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Maybe not the high speed or steep drops we had achieved the previous day but in many ways more rewarding to savour the views rather than see them disappear in an instant at speed.

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No for my money, all 700NR or £43pp, this was the highlight not only of Swakopmund but the whole holiday and I think Claire has exactly the same thoughts. The tour only lasts half a day but that's fine, it left us time to pack etc etc but what a great way to end our trip !

Not only that but dinner in The Tug with the best seats in the house, what else could you want?

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Fantastic.

Of course this wasn't quite the last day, we had set aside a whole day to travel back to Windhoek and that I'll keep to tell you about later!

T.B.C

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Dave, you are wetting also my appetite! With rand (and NAD) in a kind of a free fall, maybe The Tug, The Jetty and the rest of them are not that much out of my budget?!

 

BTW, what is that tall black&white tube standing upright in several of your room shots?

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Posted (edited)

@@xelas The NR rose to about 15.65 vs the £ while we were there but it's dropped back to 17 now. The Euro will no doubt be looking very tasty compared to a year ago !

Where you can pay with a credit card that doesn't charge for foreign transactions. We got at least an extra NR to the pound that way. Might not seem a lot but it works out at over 5% which covered the cost of at least one dinner out!

That big tube? Didn't I mention i have a wooden leg? :rolleyes:

Edited by Dave Williams

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Posted (edited)

A wooden leg?! No way! It looks more like an emergency entry tool, aka police door ram :P ! Now I understand why all your birds photos are tack sharp ... they just froze still when they see you pointing that Thing in their direction :D .

I know mrs.Claire is a co-driver. But who is the co-sherpa? Someone has to hold the front part of the Thing when you aim higher then horizontal :blink: ?

Edited by xelas
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What a fabulous day we'd had for our last day at Swakopmund. Those that had warned us off from staying longer really have misjudged what's on offer locally. We could have gone on all sorts of activities from Go-karts to Camel rides, Dune boarding to hang gliding as well as the trips we did take. As for the weather? It was actually pretty good, better than we'd experience for most of the trip with sunshine most of the day.

Our apartment in Swakop had probably been the best value of any place we stayed and despite the fact they only had a smallish garden there were a surprising number of birds visiting, some were "lifers" too.

The Orange River White-eye

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Cape Sparrow

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Common Waxbill

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Others gave the best photo opportunities I'd had too.

House Sparrow

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Laughing Dove

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Cape Wagtail

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and I'm sure that if I'd spent more than a few minutes trying I could have got even better shots too.

Dusky Sunbird

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Too late now though, it was time to go.

We'd allocated a whole day to journey back to Windhoek and an overnight stay at our initial B&B before catching the flight back to the UK the following day. Rather than take the fast route I thought we could take the more scenic (?) C14 and C26 route rather than the B2.

It appeared few others choose this route!

For the first 100kms I doubt more than 2 cars passed in the opposite direction and in a journey of over 300kms in total perhaps no more than two dozen in total before reaching commuting distance of Windhoek.

The scenery was very varied through desert ( with an iPad)

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and with my Olympus Tough.

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You travel over the mountains before reaching the somewhat parched farmlands beyond ( and our last sighting of game, albeit farmed).

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Until you get to greener pastures.

Green means rain and we were about to get some!

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The rains in Namibia were badly needed so welcomed by us once again. All the wildlife benefited.

We had one last photo stop when I spotted my final new bird for the trip.

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A rather bedraggled Southern Pied Babbler

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and that was it.

Driving over the gravel roads our vehicle was totally bespattered with mud so we treated it to a car wash on the outskirts of Windhoek before heading back to the Sunshine Guesthouse and another evening meal at Joe's Beerhouse.

It was at Joe's we had our second remarkable meeting of the trip. Whilst staying the 4 nights at Etosha Village we met a lady that we recognised from our stay in The Gambia last November but here at Joe's the chance meeting was even more remarkable. We had called for our bill and were about to leave when I recognised the couple who were walking within 2 metres of our table but they hadn't noticed us. It was my son's "Best Man" and they had arrived in Namibia that day. Even stranger was he no longer lives in the UK but had been for a home visit the previous week and had been at my son's house a couple of days previously where he had been told we were in Namibia. Together they decided there was little point in trying to get in touch as we would no doubt be somewhere too distant to meet up but here we were , just a few feet away!

It's a small world sometimes. We spent an hour chatting before we headed home to bed and the airport the following day.

A lovely way to end our trip.

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There is no doubt that for any wildlife enthusiast Namibia offers an opportunity to experience game viewing on a limited budget compared to other parts of Africa. I guess the time of year will greatly impact on the numbers and species and their ease of finding as we found to say nothing of tourist numbers and prices.

Our visit lasted 25 nights plus 2 in the plane. Others might not have the time or the money to extend the visit to that length and at a guess our trip cost something in the region of £6-6.5K so not exactly inexpensive but when compared to the original quote of £8k for 7 days guided camping in Botswana ( and that didn't include flights) it's a drop in the bucket. I continue to be staggered at the cost of packages. Typically it seems a 14 night stay in Namibia following a route resembling ours to a large degree would cost somewhere in the region of £11k for two, but then you are part of a larger group and you lose the independence to stop or go whenever you want. It is so easy to organise it all yourself too.

Could we have done it even cheaper? Possibly yes. We could have found alternative places to stay but that would have meant changing the routes, we could have cut our the trips but that would have reduced our pleasure. God forbid, we could have given up the evil drink but it's so inexpensive in Namibia it wasn't a consideration.

How about camping? Well, my brief searches don't seem to make it that much of a saving overall. The cost of hiring a Hillux type vehicle with a tent on top is expensive but with the reduced excess added it seems prohibitive and you are left sleeping in less than total comfort. In the wet season I would definitely advise to think twice. I would also consider that for 7 of our 25 nights we paid less than £50 per night for accommodation, the reduced excess camper insurance costs a lot more than that per day. Yes, places like Dolomite camp are fairly expensive and the alternative of camping in Olifantsrus is £135 cheaper per night so it's a case of swings and roundabouts depending on how you structure your visit.

So how about the downsides ?

Obviously the seasons impact on a variety of aspects but the only real downside I could think of for this particular trip is the photographic limitations of shooting largely from a vehicle. You are not allowed to get out of your car in the National Parks or drive off road. Very sensible but limiting. I guess that's why waterholes are an attraction as you are more likely to have the animals come to you.

I'm sure safari purists would be quick to discount mass tourism as they take their 90 minute turn to have a one on one with a Mountain Gorilla and I must admit, the photographic opportunities when you take an off road and out of vehicle experience appear to be considerably better and more rewarding. That said I hear tales of vehicles jockeying for places around a subject in places like the Mara Mara and having experienced similar in Yala NP,Sri Lanka it's not for me. True wilderness is becoming more difficult to find it seems, or maybe it isn't. Maybe the answer is to avoid the well publicised spots and head elsewhere.

Anyway, whatever your decision I hope I have helped in some small way in deciding on Namibia as a destination and given an insight on what can be achieved.

Good luck and safety in your travels wherever they take you.

Dave

The End! Phew.

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Well, Dave, it has been a delight to follow your travels. I have thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish and really appreciate your details covering costs and standards of accommodations.

 

I wonder where you're off to next?

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@@Dave Williams

 

Really enjoyed reading along with this.

 

Loved the Desert Chameleon pictures.

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@@Dave Williams , the closing of such an enjoyable and informative trip report is always a bit sad. Thank you for all the insights and all the financial details, frugal travellers like me are always looking for them.

 

Namibia, even in the same month/period shows many different faces, so I am pretty sure you will be back for more. South of Namibia with Kgalagadi, and north of Namibia with Caprivi, April/May and September, already the permutation of above can fill next 4 years :) .

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Thank you very much. I really enjoyed this well written and very well illustrated report. the detail is particularly good and useful!

 

I look forward both to my own trip which you have helped improve and which starts early.tomorrow morning, and to your next TR, wherever that may be from.

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Thank you, Dave. I am heading to Namibia in June, and your detailed trip report and wonderful pictures have certainly whetted my appetite for the trip.

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Thanks for such an interesting report, I need to get on with mine now I guess....

 

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@@Dave Williams, a nice report that Ive enjoyed following along, and a bit of a different take on Namibia. Bravo Claire with the driving, I just may have got a bit fed-up, but hey, your next trip must surely be her trip her way, :), lots of pools and sun-lounges. I think you got pretty good "bang for your buck" with your accomodation, they all look pretty good to me and certainly at a good price.

The Desert Chameleon photos are brilliant.

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