garito01

namibia
Namibia 2017: firsttimers a bit rushed trip

47 posts in this topic

Hi to everybody. I'm Greg and obviously I am new to the community. I've been hanging around the safaritalk for a year or so and now I would like to become a part of it.

I am fairly inexperienced a safarist as I've done only 2 trips to Africa. My real first time was in Botswana in 2008 along with my wife and recently we have finished the trip to Namibia with our teenage kids.

 

As I've learnt a lot from this forum not only by reading all the reports, but also by viewing beautiful images, now I would like to reciprocate the kindness of all good people contributing to the safaritalk  content and share my recent trip experiences along with some pictures I took on the way.

Be warned, though, that I'm not a good storyteller and might not put up a thorough and addicitve report. Still I will try to do my best to convey a basic story and illustrate it by some pertaining pics.

 

OK, here it goes. The first idea to travel to Namibia was born at the time we came back from our Botswana trip back in 2008. From fellow tourist we met there we heard great stories about Namibia and all the cool stuff it had to offer. But there was never a compelling reason to design such a trip.

Finally we decided that we would shoot for it just to show a real Africa to our kids as long as they were still willing to join us on a journey. As they are 13 (daughter) and 17 (son) right now I'm pretty sure that maybe in 2 years time it might be impossible to travel in such companion. We started a planning process around August last year and after a month we had our itinerary pretty much fixed. As many times it is a case for a newbie also I committed a mistake of planning the trip without much of listening to all experienced users here and on TA. This resulted in a package that contained all the items I wanted to be covered, but in a far too short period of travelling time. Although I was warned by the agent I was cooperating with that the intended itinerary would be too rushed for a relaxed trip I was just rationalizing to myself my unfortunate (kind of) decisions.

Our trip took the following shape:

 

Day 1 July 14 flight from FRA to WDH

Day 2 July 15 from Windhoek to Mushara Bush Camp

Day 3 July 16 from Mushara Bush Camp to Okaukuejo

Day 4 July 17 stay in Okaukuejo

Day 5 July 18 from Okaukuejo to Doro Nawas

Day 6 July 19 from Doro Nawas to Spitzkoppen Lodge

Day 7 July 20 from Spitzkoppen Lodge to Swakopmund

Day 8 July 21 from Swakopmund to Sossus Dune Lodge

Day 9 July 22 stay in Sossus Dune Lodge

Day 10 July 23 from Sossus Dune Lodge to Klein Aus Vista

Day 12 July 24 from Klein Aus Vista to Fish River Lodge

Day 13 July 25 stay in Fish River Lodge

Day 14 July 26 from Fish River Lodge to Mesosaurus Fossil Camp

Day 15 July 27 from Mesosaurus Fossil Camp to WDH and flight home

 

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's too rushed, hence the report's title. Only 3 places of 2 nights and all the rest were just single nights. Of course it's doable, but definitely it was a stretch. Since for me 2 weeks is a maximum period of holidays we could not make it longer. But we should have made it shorter in terms of distances to be travelled. Probably we should have stopped at Sesriem dropping FRC and Mesosaurus and add some night to Etosha and possibly somewhere else. But after approving the itinerary and transferring downpayment it was too difficult to make dramatic changes to our trip. So, it stayed as above. But honestly, I do not regret it. With mistakes or not still we enjoyed it quite a lot and the way we did it leaves the chance to come back and make it even better. That's how I look at the bright side of it.

 

tbc

Greg

 

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Hi @garito01 good to see you are taking the plunge to tell us about your trip. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

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Welcome to "active membership", Greg, I look forward to your report. About rushing - it's often inevitable, there are too many places to see and just too little time to fit it all in.

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29 minutes ago, garito01 said:

tbc

Greg

 

@garito01 I'm looking forward to the next installment. Welcome to Safaritalk and a Namibia trip report is a great first post. Now, get uploading those photos... ;)

 

Matt

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Looking forward to reading how you got on, you saw twice as much of Namibia than we did and you only had half the time. 

This report may well prove to be invaluable to so many as a warning about distances and times!

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Welcome, and thanks for sharing!

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Hi Greg! That is such a nice surprise! Please do add your singing rocks performance 😀 ! Yes, welcome to Safaritalk.

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Hi all and thanks for kind words. Later today I will try to post some pictures. @xelas, as far as the 'rock music' is concerned I checked the card and the recording was there, only cut in the middle by my son :(. Anyway I will try to post whatever was left.

 

Greg

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Hi greg,welcome to safari talk mate. Thanks for sharing your safari report.

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Hi again. Here comes first part of our story.

 

We landed in Windhoek early in the morning, so by 7.00 am we were already in the office to pick the car up. Having completed all the procedures and going through a meet & greet stuff by our agent we finally sat in our Toyota Fortuner 3.0 and off we went. I was a little stressed when started driving as there were 3 new elements that I had to embrace somehow. First, it was a left hand side driving. I did it once long time ago in Ireland, but there was no print of this past experience burnt in my brain. Second, the car was with automatic gear box while normally I drive manual gear box vehicles. Third, I was supposed to be driving gravel roads and my record on such surface was close to nil.

At least our first leg was a tarred road, which gave me some comfort and time to adjust to the new driving conditions and get some new habits and reflexes. Still in Windhoek we stopped to stock up some necessary items including 5l bottle of water, 5kg of rice for my bean bag and insect repellents. Then we filled up our car at a nearby gas station knowing that we should do it whenever we could. As per recommendation of many users we were sticking to this practice on our entire route and never had we got into any sort of problems with a fuel shortage. Right across from the gas station there was MTC premises where I headed immediately to buy our local sim card along with an aweh gig package for a week. It took some effort to the guy at MTC to activate it, but finally everything was in order and we were ready to move out of town ripping down the road to the Mushara Bush Camp.

Now, honestly, to call my driving ‘ripping down the road’ is an absolute abuse of this term ;) as hardly ever did I go close to 120 km/h. Also, I duly obeyed any other speed limits or sign posting that we came across on our way. As I did not sleep too much during our flight I felt sleepy a couple of times over 500 km we had to drive on this day. But then we would stop at a rest place and take in some fresh air and do some legs and arms stretching. At Otjiwarongo we had lunch at Casa Forno which turned out to be a really nice place. We had our first oryx there (burger and Stroganoff) and that was delicious. Prior to that when we left the car I gave 10 NAD to a security guy at the restaurant as we had been warned by the car rental owner about thieves in Otjiwarongo. But this was the first and last time I did it because getting slowly the hang of Namibia we felt more and more secure. In fact over our trip we have never had any incident that would suggest any sort of hostile or unfriendly behavior by the locals. On the contrary, they were always smiling, waiving hands on the road and very helpful when asked for anything. At Tsumeb we filled up the car again and after 4 pm we arrived at the Mushara Bush Camp.

Having checked in and drunk our welcome drinks we then were showed to our tented chalets. Those were really nice and comfortable. The whole camp felt very cosy and so quiet. As it is located in the bush our views at sunset were not so good but we saw a few animals here and there wandering in a distance. We all tried to have a bit of rest and then we had our dinner. It was truly excellent. It has proven what we could read beforehand about the Mushara cuisine. That was a nice end to a long day we had.

 

Greg

 

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@garito01, 500 km on your first day ... luckily you have stayed on boring but tarred road all the way!

How do you recognise a right-hand side driver in Namibia?! By windscreen wipers! They are alway on when turning left or right :D!

 

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Xelas,

 

You hit the bull's eye with the wipers ! For the first 2 days every Namibian that happened to see me turning this way or another must have been thinking I was going through some isolated T-storm :D

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And that was our tented chalet at Mushara:

 

Untitled_1.1.1

 

When we woke up it was extremely cold. By extremely cold I mean a temperature around 5 degrees Celsius.

Shortly after breakfast, as we decided to stay in beds longer, we began our drive towards Okaukuejo. There was no specific plan on how to do it. There were no specific hopes for anything to be seen. We just thought whatever animal came our way we would be glad to watch it. Obviously we were about to visit the waterholes where animals tend to concentrate, hence we grabbed a map with waterholes in the area and tried to follow it. At first we went to Klein Namutoni and heading there we were surprised how dusty the environment was at this particular time. Clouds of dust were settling on the bushes and ground all around whenever there was a car passing by. Everything looked sort of greyish and if there was any greenery to be seen it seemed like being subdued. It was clear to see how arid, dry  and harsh the climate could be. At the waterhole we were greeted by a lilac breasted roller that we could see so often when we were in Botswana.

 

 

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There were a couple of animals drinking water or just hanging around there.

 

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Oh yeah, I forgot to say in Etosha I was taking pictures with the Nikon D750 paired with the Sigma 150-600 Sport. My other camera (D500) I was using with the N16-35 f4 or other lenses, but mostly for filming. At times I was missing the reach on the D750 but did not bother moving the lens to a crop sensor body. I decided I would prefer a better noise performance on a full frame. With windows rolled down I was using my bean bag to support the shooting rig. Frankly, it was not all that convenient to place it first, then to remove it while driving and likewise over and over again. But it helps, it keeps your camera steady especially if you drive all day long and point your equipment at animals/landscape for prolonged periods. So, it’s a hard work, but overall it pays off, I guess.

 

After Klein Namutoni we moved to Chudop. On the way we saw lots of animals sometimes in big numbers.

 

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Chudop had better lighting conditions. They were far from optimal as we were already late, but still tried them to work to my advantage.

 

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We then proceeded to Kalkheuwel seeing ostriches on our way.

 

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It took us longer than expected to Kalkheuwel. The reason was an elephant that stood in the middle of a way about 1 km from the waterhole. There were 4 or 5 more on the side of the road. Two other vehicles were in front of us waiting patiently for the big guy to move on. Some more were lining up behind us as well.

 

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And then I spotted in a mirror a vehicle approaching from a distance trying to overtake all the other cars standing still. He continued past our car and I saw it was a Zambian bloke (or at least with ZA registration plate). He drove up to the front of the queue, but did not stop. Guess what, he wanted to go past the elephant ! The elephant turned towards him and then only the guy stopped. The animal seemed irritated as it started waiving ears and lowering its forehead while rocking its head and trunk from side to side. Then it sprayed dust both on the car and itself. I kept my hand on Reverse prepared to go back as long as the others would do the same. The elephant kept making some nervous movements for a while but finally decided to give it up and disappeared in the trees. We could not believe how stupid and lucky at the same time the guy was. For us it was extremely irresponsible behavior. To provoke the biggest animal in such way was like committing a suicide. I was dismayed and appalled at the conduct of this pseudo safarist. I just hoped afterwards he had to quickly get his pants changed ! Altogether it took good 25 minutes. When we got to the waterhole there were lots of cars all around the parking space and we could not fit in at all. There was quite a big herd of Gnus and springboks there but waiting a while without any progress we decided to eventually leave.

 

We went in a direction of Okerfontein. When we got there we saw only a single elephant quenching his thirst with available water.

 

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We continued our way to the Etosha viewpoint. It is amazing how something like this (a big nothing):

 

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can quickly turn into something like that:

 

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On our way out I saw a pale chanting goshawk (I reckon juvenile).

 

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and a Northern Black Korhaan

 

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From there we wanted to reach Halali, but we realized it was taking us more time than expected. So, that’s how we started making compromises on our trip. And there were at least 3 more of them still to come.

On our way to Okaukuejo we were driving through Salvadora and Sueda but we were not lucky enough to see any animals there. It was completely deserted.

 

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It improved when we came to Nebrownii

 

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And later at our home stretch about 4 km from the camp we also saw a hyena having a rest and not willing to move anywhere.

 

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We checked in at Okaukuejo, quickly dropped our luggage at W32 and went straight to see what was happening at the waterhole. The sun was already setting and there was not much action going on there. Therefore we decided to unpack and go for a dinner. Overall the camp is nice but too big and too busy to our liking. Also, as it is NWR camp the air of bureaucracy is kind of pervading all around. Not that it was a problem for us, but we could see and feel a difference compared to Mushara.

 

tbc

Greg

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12 hours ago, garito01 said:

Xelas,

 

You hit the bull's eye with the wipers ! For the first 2 days every Namibian that happened to see me turning this way or another must have been thinking I was going through some isolated T-storm :D

And finally you get used to that, return home and the same thing happens all over again...;)

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11 hours ago, garito01 said:

I was taking pictures with the Nikon D750 paired with the Sigma 150-600 Sport.

The combination delivered fantastic rendering/3D looks! Is it possible to leave the EXIF file intact with next posted photos? Learning by watching, you know :D

 

11 hours ago, garito01 said:

Frankly, it was not all that convenient to place it first, then to remove it while driving and likewise over and over again.

We have just lifted the window so it hold the beanbag; worked while driving but it has the tendency to fall out when lowering the window again :huh:.

 

Beautiful colours, @garito01! Dust helps at golden hour :)!

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3 minutes ago, xelas said:

The combination delivered fantastic rendering/3D looks! Is it possible to leave the EXIF file intact with next posted photos? Learning by watching, you know :D

 

We have just lifted the window so it hold the beanbag; worked while driving but it has the tendency to fall out when lowering the window again :huh:.

 

Beautiful colours, @garito01! Dust helps at golden hour :)!

 

Xelas, which pics do have the 3D look to you ? Just for me to be able to assess. And I will try to include the EXIF.

Lifting window with +5 kg on it could be harsh to it, no ?

Thanks for comments.

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An enjoyable read @garito01 with lots of beautiful photos! 

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Thank you Peter. I will try to come up with more.

But honestly, I've seen so many magnificent pictures from all of you guys here that it is difficult match it. I was doing my best, but still failing many times.

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1 hour ago, garito01 said:

Xelas, which pics do have the 3D look to you ?

 

All large mammals, specially elephants! I will have to try 200-500 on D610 next time! But what to bring for to satisfy my "need for reach" :o

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A very nice report and lovely photos @garito01.

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Thanks Dave, appreciate it.

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Day 3

 

We woke up at 6 am to be able to depart as soon as the gate was open, which at this time was 6.30. We were first trying to reach Nebrownii, but about 2 km before turning right in its direction we saw a vehicle pulling over. We did the same and after a moment we could see 2 male lions laying in a beautiful morning light. Still, they were not too close to take a nice closeup shot. One of them was roaring from time to time, the other one only yawning. For kids it was the first close encounter with lions, so they were pretty thrilled especially when hearing calling that was loudly resounding all around. After 20 minutes or so we moved on as the lions were definitely taking their time.

 

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At Nebrownii there was not too much action, but the light was really great.

 

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A couple of minutes later we were on our way to Gemsbokvlakte. With 2/3rds of a distance behind us I spotted some silhouettes in a distance to our left. Quick parallel inspection through binoculars by 3 of us brought us to a common conclusion: these were lions. Some other lions than those we saw first today as they could not have walked such a distance. We could clearly see 2 males, though. There was no road in a line of sight that I could take to approach them, but having a look at the map got me thinking they could be moving towards Gemsbokvlakte waterhole. So, my idea was to move towards Gemsbokvlakte and kind of cross their way if possible. They were moving against the sun, so if I could find a nice place to stop and they kept going straight I might have a nice backdrop with a warm, soft light. OK, let’s try it. Coming to the waterhole we saw immediately 2 females with a cub. The little one was really cute.

 

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Putting all puzzles together it was clear the family was going to meet in this place. So, I was taking pictures of females and the cub and in the meantime the males, as expected, started to show up. In fact there were 3 of them. Their approach kept me busy shooting at different distances and finally they paraded just in front of our car. I deliberately left them some space beforehand, yet one of the fellow drivers reduced it considerably trying to get his position as well. By the time those males reached the water the 2 females moved aside and vanished. Then we had a nice welcome of a youngster by the males, a little bit of play and caressing, common drinking etc. We really enjoyed that time. Absolutely fantastic.

 

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We proceeded afterwards to Olifantsbad and further to Gaseb, but we found nothing there. As it was already 8.30 we decided to go back to the camp for breakfast.

 

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After the breakfast I felt sick and had a headache. I had to stay in our chalet to recover a bit. In the meantime the rest of our family sat at the waterhole and watched the animals coming and going to their hearts’ content.

 

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Closer to midday I was getting better, but still not perfect. We then had a lunch and about 3 pm we hit the road again. We went to the Pan viewpoint in hope for more lions to appear. We read somewhere that they liked to roam around this area. The road up there was quite miserable and we were virtually crawling. Having reached the place there was absolutely nothing on a horizon, neither people nor animals, but it started to get pretty windy instead.

 

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This time we aimed at Leeubron, Wolfsnes and Okondeka. At Leeubron everything was completely dry and no single animal to be seen. The same history repeated at Wolfsness, so we targeted Okondeka. On the way there we saw plenty of springboks and they looked gorgeous in a longer yellow grass.

 

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Arriving at Okondeka we saw 3 cars parked to the left from the waterhole up on a hill. We stopped right behind them. There were a couple of lions bathing in a sun and having siesta. At first we saw 3 of them, but later we saw another 2. Viewing conditions, however, were not good as the sighting was partially obstructed by hills and grass. Mostly they were laying, sometimes only raising their heads.

 

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Half an hour later still nothing was happening, so we went to the waterholes parking space. It was our third meeting with lions on that day and it was something we could not have imagined at all earlier.

The background at Okondeka was just awesome. There were oryxes, giraffes and gnus there, but some already leaving. Here the reach of a lens is crucial and I was missing that badly.

 

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Perhaps we stayed there a quarter and finally we started going back to Okaukuejo. But wait ! We had to stop once gain at Nebrownii:

 

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Before we reached Okaukuejo we had our final meeting with lions. To be precise it was a lonely male. We found him exactly in the place we had visited early in the morning (I think it was the yawning one).

 

tbc

Greg

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Incredible sightings, incredible light, incredible photography! Isn't Etosha a magical place?! And one can see all these wonders without any guides and trackers and drivers ... just by herself/himself. That is the best thing about Etosha and the public parks I have visited so far (Kgalagadi and Kruger).

@garito01 one more tech question: which PP software are you using?

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Indeed, Xelas, it was an incredible experience to us. Selfdriving is the way to go. Thanks for your nice words concerning pictures.

I'm using ACR along with PS. In fact, I've been using it since the first CS version. Right now I'm on a CC subscription plan.

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24 minutes ago, xelas said:

Incredible sightings, incredible light, incredible photography! 

 

Did I say this is music to my ears ?:)

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