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Namibian Splendour | July 2017

17 posts in this topic

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Trip Report:  Namibian Splendour

So it has been a full 4 years since I last set foot on African soil, and not a day has passed since that I haven’t  thought about my time there.   I made returning to Africa a priority, and finally, back in July, I was able to return.  Having visited South Africa and the Victoria Falls region back in 2013, I wanted an even “deeper” African experience this time, so I visited the Kalahari region of South Africa and Namibia in hopes of going even further off the beaten path.  Again with this trip, the focus was on time in the bush.  My itinerary was for 16 days, and we were starting in South Africa.   There would be 3 days/4 nights in the Kalahari (at Tswalu) and the remainder of the time was in Namibia.

I had been interested in going to Tswalu for many years, in hopes of having a good chance to see a pangolin (among other rare sightings).  We flew into Johannesburg from U.S. and Tswalu is accessible via private air charter directly into the Kalahari airstrip.   It was clear upon our arrival that Tswalu catered to an upscale audience, the lodge was a traditional BOMA bush camp style structure, but composed of high end elemental affects such as crafted natural stone and timbers. 

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We stayed in the lower end “Motse Suite” but it was uncommonly large, complete with bath, patio and personal refrigerator.  The weather was absolutely perfect for our first game drive with crisp and refreshing air, a pleasing arid clarity of a mild Kalahari winter.  The first drive was outstanding, we had a few “first native sightings” in the wild, including:  Gemsbok (Oryx), red Hartebeest, and ostrich.  We even got a tantalizing glimpse of a young male black rhino in some thick bush, but he was not having it and quickly dashed deeper into the impenetrable thicket.  The best, “first” sighting occurred near the close of the day, when we spotted a lone male cheetah walking alongside the road near a main barrier fence of the reserve.  He was clearly seeking something in the area, and our guide, Sian, told us that he was known as one of a bachelor pair in the territory, so he could have been seeking his sibling. 

 

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Our second day brought even more wonderful sightings including: black backed jackal (BBJ), some springbok, a young giraffe and its mom and several more ostrich.  I found the ostrich quite amusing because they always seemed in a hurry, flying through the bush to who knows where.  Their posture and gait was quite comical to me, and I smiled a little whenever one would fly out of the bush, racing into any direction that wasn’t ours.  Then there was the steenbok, which we had seen before in the Kruger area, and the Kalahari sightings were almost always the same:  a brief moment of pause, then a quick direct stare at you and then off like a rocket into the bush. 

 

 

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Our wonderful tracker, Ben, repeatedly demonstrated his fantastic tracking skills, spotting pangolin tracks and porcupine tracks among others.  During our game drives, I was struck by the diversity of terrain at Tswalu, as it could quickly turn from mountain to semi-desert, to thick bush and then to clearings with open expanses, grassy fields mixed with rocky terrain and hazy blue mountains off on the horizon.  Throughout the open areas, numerous animals could be spotted either lying down or traversing and grazing about.  There were springboks, Oryx, trotting ostriches, and wildebeests in relative abundance.  Other sightings of the day included a small meerkat colony, cory bustard (the largest flying bird in Africa), numerous giraffe, eland and common zebra. 

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On our evening drive, soon after our departure from the lodge, off to the left of the road was a large lizard basking in the afternoon rays, it was a rock monitor!  I had not expected to see many, if any reptiles in the winter, but it looks like we were fortunate.  Sian explained that this reptile was a relative to the Komodo Dragon, and it certainly looked as much.  Evidently, this lizard also possesses poisonous bites similar to the Komodo.  We followed Sian off the vehicle, on foot to get a closer look.  We took a few minutes to snap some pictures and just enjoy the moment of spotting this great reptile. 

 

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Continuing on, we spotted a mongoose, red-crested korhaan, a beautiful tower grouping of giraffe, some bat-eared foxes pouncing and foraging in the grass, more steenbok (complete with trademark pausing direct gaze followed by jet propulsion into the bush), red hardebeest and gemsbok (Oryx). 

 

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The highlight of our evening’s sightings was at the Wild Dog den, just as the sun was setting.  Sian intently ended the evening there, to witness their sundown hunting rituals….which is when they evidently go out to hunt, just as the sun sets.  Although we could not see them, we were told there were a litter of pups in the underground den.  We enjoyed sitting in this tightly shrouded enclave of bush, watching the dogs frolic, wrestle and grapple as part of their evening hunt rituals.  After some time, just before full sunset, we followed the pack into the thick bush to view their hunt…only to lose them eventually in the darkness and thickness of the brush.  Sian talked to us about the species current threats, which I was mostly aware, and how the reserve had completely lost their previous pack, unfortunately, to canine distemper.  It was an honour and another full privilege to have seen these fantastic animals in their natural surroundings.

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Our last full day on lodge, would turn out to be a full 12 hours out in the bush.  I think by the end of the day, Sian and Ben may have regretted the suggestion to stay out all day, but it would be a truly spectacular and memorable African day for us, filled with magical wildlife moments.  Armed with Ben’s superior tracking skills and Sian’s sharp eyesight, we started out on the lion side of the reserve in search of the famed Kalahari black maned lions.  Note: the reserve is divided into a lion side habitat and a non-lion side for the protection of some of the more highly endangered prey species (such as the Tsessebe).  Along the way into the interior of this portion of the reserve, we spotted common zebra, and another small meerkat colony.  Ben got tracking and we could sense we were close…around a curve and high up on a hill, Crystal (my wife) first spotted the majestic male perched on view on a high embankment, casually surveying his territory.  Sian stopped the vehicle, as we took some time to capture a few images.  Sian then moved the vehicle up and around to get a more level view of the lion.  When we came around, a second male was seen nearby standing on another part of the hill.  We spent some time with this magnificent pair, following them as they moved about the area, sometimes stopping to rest in the grass.  They were beautifully intimidating, visibly larger than the typical African lion, looking healthy and well fed, as you would expect from two 8 year old dominant males…in their prime. 

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Moving on, we drove on to a nice sandy and high vegetation area where we spotted more zebra grazing with eland.  We arrived to what we were told was one of the most remote areas of the reserve, in order to have our packed lunch. 

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As we were stopped in a clearing that was, in wetter seasons, a watering hole…we saw several Harteman’s mountain zebra up on the rocky hillside nearby.  We had a fantastic gourmet bush lunch and continued on our way, to yet a different area of the reserve.      

Ben caught sight of some lion pride tracks, and this was to consume our next 1-2 hours, driving off road through thick brush and nearly unpassable terrain.  At a couple of points, I thought of suggesting that we abandon the tracking, but it was clear that Ben was certain we were close.   True to the maxim: “never, ever give up”….our perseverance paid off as Ben spotted the young lions hiding deep in the thicket, lying down.  There were at least four of them, all looking healthy, relaxed and well fed.  We spent some time talking about the pride and enjoying the company of lions before we carried on.

 

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 Driving on, we spotted a herd of kudu and a sable before we got radio notice that a bachelor coalition of cheetahs had been seen nearby.  Sian drove us over to the area, and another ranger had been tracking the cheetah on foot alongside a high ridge thick with brush.  After some brief off-roading and radio communication, we saw 2 of the males lying down in the bush, nearly hidden from sight.  We approached closer in the vehicle, and the cheetah seemed quite accustomed to 4 wheeled visitors, but they were very aware of our presence, taking the time to occasionally stare back in our direction.  After a brief time, they started moving to our left through the brush and shortly thereafter we saw all 4 coalition males in front of us neatly spread out in the brush, all seated and looking in the same direction.  

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It was a truly beautiful sighting.  We then moved on for a visit to one of the largest resident meerkat colonies on the reserve.  Evidently, conservationists had been working to condition the meerkat to tolerate human visitors over time, so that Tswalu visitors could walk amongst the colony as a native.  It was a very fascinating, amusing and informative visit amongst these little animals, which were somewhat paradoxically both adorable and vicious.  We saw them foraging about the ground, sometimes locked in heated battles with one another over an ostensibly empty hole in the ground!  (see photo below).   I was particularly drawn to the sentinel, perched high in a nearby tree as he scanned the horizon in 360 degrees for any sign of predators from above or on the ground.  As Sian remarked, ‘you have to take your job seriously because it could mean the death of one of your mates and it would be on your head’. 

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As we continued on, the day was waning but Sian and Ben made a last effort to find a pangolin before we headed back to camp.  We went to an area where Ben knew there to be a resident pangolin and he hopped off the vehicle to track it on foot while we drove around the area.  After about 1.5 hours, and several radio attempts to reach Ben, we met up with him and he informed us he was hot on the trail of a pangolin.  With indications of fresh tracks, Ben had, amazingly tracked the pangolin down to its home, which was a basketball sized hole in the ground at the top of a ridge behind some large rocky terrain.  We followed Ben quietly on foot to the location, where we hoped to have a glimpse of this magnificent animal as it came out in search for its evening supper.  We watched the hole quietly for some time with no signs of activity, Sian and Ben informed us that the pangolin may not come out at all.  We eventually decided to carry on, but I snapped a quick photo in the dark of the animal’s home.  Even though I had high aspirations of making this rare sighting, one of my personal favourite animals, it was actually very thrilling to see its home.  I had come so close to this truly special animal which was burrowed before us in the ground.

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For our last morning game drive at Tswalu, we drove to a yet un-explored (at least for us) part of the reserve.  After a couple of hours, we unexpectedly came upon one of the large black maned Kalahari lions taking a rest in the grass just beside the road.  Sian stopped the vehicle so we could get a closer look.  Ben jumped off the front into the tall grass to get into the high back of the vehicle.  When he jumped off he quickly jockeyed his gait and leapt onto the vehicle, nearly stepping on the second large male lion that was lying just in the tall grass!  Sian and Ben had a good laugh and some light hearted exchange in Afrikaans, but it was a close call to nearly step on a lion!   We sat, basking quietly in the morning sunlight, taking more photos of these great cats at close range.  Both males had risen to a seated position, one on either side of the vehicle, when Sian instructed us to be quiet. Imperceptible to us, a rival male had made a call off in the distance.  The two massive males started to respond in kind and it was one of the most awesome experiences one could imagine, awesome in the true meaning of the word.  The sheer power of these thunderous roars were deafening, with vibrations that you felt running through your chest, as if you were at the loudest concert with the deepest bass.  The experience was in “stereo” with one giant Kalahari male on either side of us.   The seats of the vehicle were actually vibrating from the roars.  It left me with an immense, profound respect for the outright power of these animals and reinforced in my mind why they are known as the king of beasts, a title that is well deserved.  Even our guides were speechless for some time afterwards and it was clear that we had shared a truly beautiful and unforgettable moment in time. 

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After the “roaring lion” encounter, a guide radioed out that the local pride contingent was at a nearby watering hole taking a morning drink, so we headed over in time to see the matriarch and numerous young cubs hanging out, drinking and relaxing under brush.  It was another great close encounter with the counterpart members of the lion family, and we could see that the adult female still had fresh remains of pink from the blood of the previous night’s kill.  If you look closely on the photo of her below, you can see the pink on her jaw and a spot of red near her shoulder.  

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On Namibian Soil:

 

After our wonderful time in the Kalahari, we made our journey into Namibia.  It became quickly apparent that transportation between the remote camps of the Namibian wilderness could be tumultuous, with light air charter flights serving as the most expeditious transport.  If the winds are kind, the flights are decent, but note that it can be turbulent and not for the squeamish. 

Our first camp in Namibia was the Kulala Desert Camp near the Soussevlei Sand Dunes .  When we arrived on camp, with our new guide Matheus, I was struck how much the lodge reminded me of the first camp we stayed in Africa back in 2013, the Nkambeni Camp near Numbi entrance at Kruger.   We settled in and enjoyed a brief, relaxing afternoon break before our evening game drive. 

 

 

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The evening’s drive was a casual, informative drive around the reserve as Matheus explained the foliage, geology and geography and fauna of the area.  We learned about the soussala bush that shielded springbok and gemsbok from sandstorms.  We learned about the mara bush and the bitter bush (which was the semi-pleasant grassy smell I had recognized from the Kalahari grasslands at Tswalu).  The mara bush, evidently, when rubbed on your skin will protect you from mosquitos for up to 4 hours.  We saw fairy circles, which I had recognized from David Attenborough specials, which naturally form on the ground and which nothing will grow from within the circle.  It is still not fully understood what causes this phenomenon.   You can see some of these fairy circles in the picture below, just above my watermark signature in the lower right.

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Our second day was focused on hiking the sand dunes….and we hiked the highest one, knows as “big daddy”.  We drove ~40km to the highest sand dunes in the world: Soussevlei.  This is a surreal, striking and alien landscape with sand dunes as high as mountains.  The geographic shadows and light over the dunes changes with the angle of the sunlight and the surrounding flat desert terrain is littered with ancient dead acacia trees (known as the skeleton forests).  The atmosphere is other worldly here, and time space seems less defined.  Days in Namibia, as I would come to find, are better defined as simply “light and dark” rather than by clock.  Experiences stack one upon another, and you can hardly believe the asphalt covered world of urban dissonance from which most of us tourists came could exist on the same planet as this.

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The views from the highest vantage point were breathtaking.   At the bottom of big daddy, there is a silt basin with the ancient dead trees seen in the photos above. 

 

 

 

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After the big daddy summit, when we stopped for a mid-day break nearby, an uber-polite young British boy pointed out to us that there was a spotted eagle owl resting in a nearby tree.  I took the opportunity to check it out and got a nice, close view of this fantastic predatory bird.  I was grateful for the tip, as I had previously only seen them in darkness during the night’s hunt. 

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Our evening drive was out to the Sesriem canyon area, which we were told was ~300 m deep.  The area is notorious for horned vipers (adders) which are often blown down into the canyon by the strong desert winds coming off the nearby Naukluft Mountains.  As we hiked through the picturesque and rough terrain of the canyon, our guide looked out for horned adders in the floor.   In the end, we did see a dead one, but luckily (or unluckily) no live ones. 

 

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On this evening, our intended trip back to the camp for our sundowner was cut short because, as Matheus remarked: “the sun is faster than us today”.  We improvised and pulled up to a nice spot on the side of the roadway, listening to the barking desert lizards, unseen but well-heard throughout the vast desert land before us.  These were truly moments of bliss, free from worry as I sat in the fading sunlight, sipping a cold Seagram’s dry lemon! 

 

 

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On our last day at Kulala, we hiked up more sand dunes and then drove to a very remote and stunningly beautiful part of the reserve, where Matheus showed us an example of ancient bushman cave painting…reportedly around 4000 years old.  These paintings were left as markers to indicate some significant direction or sign or to brand the location as having some importance as a reference to other bushmen. 

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The rest of the evening’s drive around the desert was in search of a Hartmann’s mountain zebra viewing…which was realized, but only from afar.   For our sundowner, we went to a simply astonishing viewpoint, overlooking a vast flat plain with rocky mountains out on the horizon.  We could see the small silhouettes of zebra marching across the flats as the sun went down over the distant Namibian cliffs ahead.  It was a fitting finale for our time amongst these trance like landscapes in the Namibian Soussevlei region, with panoramas that collide upon one another, sand to rock, rock to trees, bush to canyons.  Truly spectacular.

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Our next stop brought us to the Hoanib Skeleton Coast camp, which is truly one of the most remote, desolate locales remaining on the earth.  As our pilot remarked when we landed, ‘you are not on the edge of nowhere, you are in the middle of nowhere’.   I couldn’t be happier.  The lodge was a very open, modern and refined design with a backdrop of rocky outcrops and scattered trees whose beauty could not be possibly accurately represented with photography.  Despite its remote locale, this camp is top shelf.  The rooms are just the right size, with just the right amount of comfort and the staff and food service here was fantastic.  

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Much to some’s surprise, however, the Skeleton Coast camp is not actually on the coast, but rather situated ~75km inland from the Oceanside.  Upon our first evening outing, with our amiable guide Mwezi, we could see that the landscape would once again be breathtaking and unimaginably beautiful.  We drove upon a long natural rock wall, as beautiful gemsbok gently scoured the semi-arid ground for green snacks.

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 We traversed forward through the sand and rocks, passing through and unexpected forest of acacias amongst the seemingly lifeless, harsh terrain.  When we reached a high point for our sundowner, it seemed that we could see to infinity over the horizon.  For me, the spot brought thoughts of something off the set of Star Wars.   This was natural, unspoiled desert wilderness like I have never seen.

 

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With its proximity to the ocean, a.m. game drives can often be obstructed with unexpectedly thick fog, as we would discover on our first morning drive at Hoanib, which would land us at the coastline.  Along the way, we had a nice sighting of these desert adapted beauties on top of the hillside as they were browsing for their breakfast in the thick Namibian fog.  

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 As you move to the coast from camp, you pass through an amazing variation of terrain, from expansive deserts with sand oceans, thick and almost impassable brush, rocky outcrops and semi green oases.

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Once at the ocean, you could get an eerie sense of this harsh, unforgiving shoreline and its foreboding beauty which has caused so many shipwrecks of the past.  The one pictured below is the wreck of the Suiderkus from 1977.  There is also a massive cape seal colony that resides on the coastline.  They were amazing, spread out for at least 1 km. 

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While we were on coast, we were fortunate to get a brilliant sighting of a lone long haired brown hyena nearby, ostensibly looking for opportunities to ravage a baby seal pup. 

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Next up was to the Damaraland region and the dusty, harsh beauty of the Desert Rhino Camp [DRC].   The lodge is blessed with a warm and welcoming crew, probably the best crew we encountered at any of our lodges.  The accommodations are rustic and understated, but very comfortable and having a real campground feel.   At night here, you can hear a variety of visitors outside your tent….most vocal would probably be the spotted hyena, which chanted, howled and barked with regularity during our stay.  The night sky at DRC has to be seen to be believed.   The star laden southern heavens are truly brilliant after dark, with the multitude of colours of the Milky Way galaxy revealed in full celestial glory among the unpolluted Damaraland skies.    

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 Shortly after our first excursion at DRC, I was impressed once again how the landscape could change so dramatically in Namibia.  The rolling hills were covered in baseball sized red stones and sandy foothills with low, rocky mountains surrounding on all sides.  It was apparent that the amazing and unexpected Namibian penchant for abundant life among the harsh climates applied here as well.  Milk bushes, acacias, nara bushes, grasses and the amazing welwitschia plant grew throughout.  I was particularly fascinated by the welwitschia plant, which, at first glance seems like rubbish that someone has tossed on the ground. Upon closer inspection, you can see the plant has a woody base and long twisted leaves that grow out close to the ground.  These plants are quite amazing, and endemic only to Namibia and neighboring Angola.  We learned that they can survive for thousands of years, only on moisture from the air if need be.  There is no guarantee you can see one of the rare and elusive namesake desert black rhinos here, but I can almost guarantee you will have an unforgettable experience with natural wonder, regardless.  As you can see from the DRC photos below, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, giraffe, oryx and springbok are prevalent in the Damaraland region.

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Our last stop took us further north in Namibia to the Ongava Tented Camp, a concession bordering Etosha National Park.  The first evening drive revealed that the terrain here was much more vegetative and lush that the Damaraland region.  There were tall reeds and grasses and the trees were higher, although there was still an abundance of arid, desert type plants scattered about as well.  On our first drive at this private reserve, we saw waterbuck, impala, kudu, and a pride of young lion resting in the tall grass. 

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On our first full day, we were headed out of the reserve to tour Etosha National Park.  Shortly before our approach to the main gate, we stopped to enjoy a chance sighting of the dominant male lion and his lioness as they casually kept their eyes on a dazzle of nervous zebra.  It was a wonderful sighting that we enjoyed for some time.  It was a standoff.  The lions moved about a bit and the watchful zebra stood on the ready to take off at a moment’s threat.  

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We moved on to Etosha and through the guarded main gates.  Amazingly we saw quite a few sightings along the way soon after entering the park.  Etosha is a drive only park, and visitors cannot get out of the car or veer off the main roads.  Nevertheless, there were a number of nice birds in the roadside trees and brush, including the yellow hornbill and the crimson breasted shrike (which was a fast flittering bird, constantly on the move and nearly impossible to photograph well!).   

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Moving on towards our first stop in the park, we saw wildebeest, springbok and zebra.  After the first rest stop, we moved further into the interior of the park and towards some watering holes that are strategically situated throughout the region.  As we turned off towards one of the watering holes, Leon (our guide) spotted a black rhino out in the brush to our right.  It would have gone completely unnoticed and hidden to the un-trained spotter.  We watched from some distance as the rhino moved about the brush, well camouflaged, as you can see in the photo below.  It moved a bit closer, but was almost at all times obscured by the thick bush.  Eventually, stereotypically evasive of company, the black rhino moved on deeper into the thicket and completely out of sight. 

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Onto the first watering hole, it was packed with a plethora of herbivores congregating nearby.  This was a stunning array of some of Namibia’s iconic animals all gathered together.  There were gemsbok, springbok, zebra, and blacksmith lapwing, among others. 

 

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We moved on to a second, larger watering hole, which would prove even more rewarding.  Immediately upon our arrival we were presented with a massive bachelor male elephant drinking and spraying himself with water.  He was joined by ostriches, impala, oryx, warthog and common zebra.  It was truly astounding to see the abundance and variety of majestic wildlife all together in one place! 

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On our way out for the day, we spotted a black backed jackal lying in the shadows just on the side of the road….and off to his right sat a spotted hyena beside a large bush.  It continued to fascinate me how these clever animals, often with such bright, beautiful and distinct colours can hide on the terrain.  They are perfectly adapted for their native bush homes.

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Given the fantastic game viewing possibilities and the less public nature of the private reserve, we elected to remain on property for our remaining game drives at Ongava.  We enjoyed some extraordinary drives during our stay, exploring the vast 70,000 acre private reserve.  We also stopped to walk about on foot for a time, seeing a colony of ground squirrels and some photographic remains of wildebeest skeletons from a recent lion kill.  We spotted giraffe, wildebeest, impala, zebra and waterbuck, among others.  Perhaps one the most interesting sightings, was a massive congregation of red billed quelea swarming over a watering hole.  The sound of the massive gathering of birds was akin to a helicopter or small airplane, they were so great in number.  It was truly enchanting to watch them, as they flew about in waves and groups within the massive flock.  I had never seen such a gathering of so many birds in one place. 

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I truly can’t say enough about the beauty and unspoiled majesty of Namibia.  Legitimately, this report and the pics don’t do it justice.  I feel immensely privileged to have witnessed some of the last remaining “wild” still remaining.  The whole experience was just humbling and it underscored, for me, the importance of preserving the wild that remains in our vanishing planet.  The time I was fortunate enough to have there, brought some of the most enjoyable, profound and thrilling moments of my entire life.  It was in many ways, very different from my last Southern Africa trip, but equally as delightful in a contrasting manner. 

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Edited by joliverself
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A beautifully presented trip report, great in depth coverage. Your pics are a credit to you.

It must have been mind blowing to have the lions roaring either side of you!!!!!

Pity about the lack of  a Pangolin, you may have to go back again !!?

Thanks for posting this it gives me food for thought.

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Indeed a very enjoyable trip report, well written, that took us to some places (in Namibia) that are not so regularly visited.

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An excellent, succinct and informative trip report.  I was particularly interested in a couple of your comments about the wild dogs at Tswalu.  First, I was surprised to learn that a previous pack had been wiped out by distemper.  It is my understanding that the reserve is fully fenced and I would, therefore, not have expected any contact with domesticated dogs.  Perhaps there are other wildlife vectors?  Second, I have often read that wild dogs need enormous territories (of several thousand sq km) if they are to thrive.  Tswalu, I think, has a total size of some 1100 sq km and is divided into two fenced halves.  Lions are present in only one of the subdivisions and I assume that the wild dogs are in the other?  The dogs, therefore, are confined to considerably less than 1000 sq km.  I am considerably encouraged that they are, nevertheless, apparently coping well.  This indicates that, given adequate prey and protection from lion predation, their territories need not, after all, be large.  In fact, I think the dog packs at Laikipia Wilderness Camp (Kenya) occupied very small territories due to high densities of dikdiks and impala and lowish densities of lions. Long term, there will obviously be problems with inbreeding (barring human intervention) in smallish fenced reserves.  Nevertheless, it is encouraging to learn that wild dogs don't have an absolute need for vast areas of habitat, given that such are likely to become scarcer in the future.

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Super sighting of the Brown Hyena you had @joliverself - and good photo you acquired as well!

 

 

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@joliverself very good your report

 

Simple and very nice text to read with great photographs. No doubt the Welwitschias are incredible. Concerns about the conservation of certain species in Tswalu are salutary, we can not forget that the financial cost of dividing your area into two is very high. According to studies, the survival rate of wild dogs is directly linked to the density of lions in a given area. Your information is valuable, and Tswalu will be seen with more attention.

 

Since you were in the Hoanib Camp, I feel like going to the Purrus or Sesfontein community camp to try to visualize the rare desert lions, but with the bad news of the past few years the interest has faded away. When I go to visit a region I need to believe in the Project that is being developed for this area, I need to trust its future in the long term ..... for me it makes no sense to visit a region and be one of the last ones to photograph a certain animal that is doomed to disappear by governmental neglect.

 

Congratulations.

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@colbolthanks for the nice comments.  The lions were really astonishing.  I will definitely keep seeking the pangolin, but that is how it goes in the bush...no guarantees, especially for really rare and elusive ones like the pangolin.  

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On 10/2/2017 at 3:44 AM, xelas said:

Indeed a very enjoyable trip report, well written, that took us to some places (in Namibia) that are not so regularly visited.

Thanks @xelas!  I definitely seek out the road less traveled whenever possible!  Namibia is really a special place.

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Thanks @douglaswise  I am not sure about the wild dog's necessity for large territories, they may be able to survive in smaller ranges, but I do know they have a penchant for roaming large areas.  As far as Tswalu, they are well known as a "managed reserve" trying to balance and restore original indigenous species to the property.  This is somewhat controversial, but I was encouraged by what they are doing.  There are still farmers in the general area, who maintain domesticated livestock.  The owners of Tswalu try and buy up all nearby farms and land whenever possible, but it is likely that the former painted dog pack somehow picked up the distemper from a proximity to the surrounding farms.

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21 hours ago, offshorebirder said:

Super sighting of the Brown Hyena you had @joliverself - and good photo you acquired as well!

 

 

thanks @offshorebirder   I was particularly excited to have seen the brown hyena.  His name was "Clyde MacDonald" as I would find out later from one of the hyena researchers.  He has a female counterpart in the area called "Bonnie" and a McDonald's shaped "M" on his right foot.....thus the name.

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thanks @Matias Cox, i understand the sentiment of government neglect and from my anecdotal experience this is somewhat pervasive in most African countries.  My view on touring these natural areas is admittedly self serving, because I want to see it, but I also see it as "tending my own garden" and doing what I can to spend my tourist dollars in support of viewing the last of our wild areas, which are unfortunately sometimes in politically and socially tumultuous areas.  

 

As far as Namibia goes, the human/wildlife conflict with lions is more complex than governmental.  It is really a social and philosophical concern at the local level.  There is a governmental reimbursement program that any farmer can claim if one of his cattle are eaten by a lion, but lions are still often seen as a nuisance and cattle are more valuable to locals than tourists dollars, so it is easier to poison the lions once and for all.  

 

From talking to many people there, this is a hard mindset to change.

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Nice try with the pangolin and great work with the long haired brown hyena who even has locks blowing in the breeze.  I like your signature!  Splendour is a perfect title for Namibia!

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@joliverself, thats a much photographed, and tolerant, Owl at the Dunes, he was sitting right about there in May too, although most people didn't notice. Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp looks great, both the Camp and the location. Two images really grabbed me, those Elephants in the Desert in the Mist is something else and the Brown Hyena, how unique, how lucky.

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very good trip report, great sightings and well written! 

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This was a very enjoyable report. Thanks for sharing it. I've not yet had the opportunity to visit Namibia, but we did go to Tswalu in 2015. It is, indeed, a special place. Like you, we were not successful in seeing a pangolin, but if we had come across a definite known hole where one lived, I think I'd probably still be parked beside it, even now, waiting. We will just have to go back. 

 

Sadly, the wild dog pack, which we were fortunate to see, succumbed to distemper in 2016. I am not sure what the current status of wild dogs is at Tswalu. @Kitsafari was there recently and is currently running a trip report, so she may be able to update us. 

 

Thank you again for this report. 

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Enjoyed your report very much.  We were at two of the same camps this past August (Kulala and Hoanib) and recognized many of the sundowner spots.    

 

Agree with you assessment of Namibia--pretty unique place and one we hope to go back to.  Thanks for sharing.

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Thanks for an excellent report. On the Hoabib camp, did you have a chance to go the coast 75 km away. The original WS Skeleton Coast camp was very close to the ocean and by all accounts truly are extraordinary mostly baedupon its own paralleled location. When it was destroyed WS decided to build their replacement far inland but the camp still looks wonderful. 

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