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Jochen

Namibia 2012

95 posts in this topic

In this thread (sooner or later); a trip report of a self-drive through Namibia.

But a self drive with a twist; we drove from one location to another, but once there always used the services of the lodge or of specialized companies. You'll see what I mean. The purpose was to use our time in the best possible way, and to get the most out of every day.

Areas visited;
- Kalahari
- Sossusvlei
- The coast
- Damaraland
- Etosha
- Waterberg

I composed this trip myself, but with the help of Sun Safaris. In some places I had a fairly good idea what lodge to pick. But in other places I had absolutely no idea. Sun Safaris proposed some lodges, we agreed, and then they made all the bookings for us. We pre-booked almost all activities, and the car as well.

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PART 1: Kalahari

 

After a red eye flight with Air France we arrived in Jo'burg early morning. I managed to get some sleep, which is just as well as I needed to do quite a bit of driving later that day. First time we tried "Premium Voyageur", a class between business and cattle class. I'm a fan!

 

Over noon; connecting flight with Air Namibia to Windhoek. Then straight to the rental company (Budget Car) where our car was waiting for us. It was a Nissan X-Trail. Nothing special, but very roomy for two people (easy photography) and high on it's wheels (good to avoid the stones that fly about on the gravel roads). We also asked for a 2nd spare wheel. The thought being; if I get a flat tire, at least I don't need to find a garage asap and in the mean time worry about getting another flat.

 

On the road!

 

My first time driving in a car with the steering wheel on the right, and on the "wrong" side of the streets. Nothing special really, and you get a bit of time getting adjusted to the gear shift being on the other side, as the airport is 30kms+ away from Windhoek.

 

But in Windhoek; better not drop your guard. Traffic lights. Pedestrians. Traffic signs. And lots of them. You should know; I arrived without a map and without GPS. All I had was a txt file on the iPad with some general directions written out. The thought being; Namibia's got 10 roads, how on earth could I ever get lost?

 

Well, what I thought was correct; you can't really get lost in Namibia. But in the city, you must keep your eyes open for signs pointing you in the right direction. And if that fails, use plan B: orient yourself by means of the sun, and drive in the general direction of where you want to go. After all, I thought, there's only one main road going out of town in a southerly direction. And I thought correctly. The signs wouldn't have helped me anyway, as I failed to write down any names of en-route towns. So we followed signs saying "Rohoboth", or rather "Robocop" as we named it, and would you know it? After a while Hardap was mentioned as well.

 

We didn't need to go as far as Hardap though. After a few hours of asphalt we saw a sigh directing us to Bagatelle Lodge. So we took a right onto a gravel road. It was a different road as the one I had noted down in my txt file, so I hoped the signs further on would be just as clear.

 

About the roads;

- tar is no fun in Namibia, as it's all as straight as an arrow. Which makes you let your guard down. But you can't do that as everyone is going 120km/h and the lanes are rather narrow, with little margin for error. In comparison; a 2-lane tar road like in Namibia would have a"max 90" sign in Belgium. And roads where we drive 120 have at least 4 lanes, which are about 1,5 times as wide as in Namibia. So for those who think driving on tar in Namibia is more relaxing than on gravel; think again.

- gravel roads have signs saying "max 80" and at first you think "are they nuts? Who drives more than 20km/h on such roads?" But soon you realize that, while gravel roads may be full of potholes in your own country, in Namibia they are very flat and smooth. Plus, they are as wide as a 4-lane roads here in Belgium. So you learn to drive them how it's supposed to be done; you keep to the middle, and only slow down and move to the side to avoid the car coming from the opposite direction. And to avoid any stone that this car might throw in your direction. Driving on gravel is like driving on ice/snow. So the goal is to avoid abrupt movements. So; accelerate slowly, brake with moderation, and don't do crazy stuff with your steering wheel. And keep your RPM low. At 80 I was in 6th gear.

 

While I liked driving on gravel roads, I must admit this first drive was rather tiring. Because I had no regular bed to sleep in the night before. And because it was all uphill-downhill (so at every hill, since I could not see what was coming, I had to slow down). We were still driving while the sun went down. And I wasn't too keen on driving on gravel at night, certainly not on my first day. It was a bit cloudy that day, and right after sunset the clouds produced the most stunning sunset I've ever seen. But because I wanted to get off the road asap, I said "not gonna stop, we'll take pictures of the sky tomorrow evening"

 

* FACEPALM *

 

Needless to say but of course the sky was completely devoid of clouds after that evening (except… well you'll see).

 

We came at the gate of Bagatelle Lodge (which you have to open & close yourself) and after two more kilometers arrived at the lodge itself. Here we were going to spend our first three nights.

 

A47.jpg

 

The houses on the dunes are the nicest here (yes the pic was taken the day afterwards) but we got a regular room, as those were fully booked at the dates we wanted, even though we booked way in advance. So if you want these; be sure to book way in advance! And by that I mean; 6 to 9 months in advance.

Not that our room was bad. OK, not much of a view, but the room was big and airy, and the beds were comfy. Behind that red wall in the back; a bathroom with sink and walk-in shower. We liked it.

 

A02.jpg

 

The lodge has a few fun inhabitants. Most fun are the black headed weavers. But then there's Rusty the cat as well, and Skunky the springbok. He's got pieces of garden hose over his horns, as he starts play-fihting with guests when they go for a walk (there's paths you can follow if you want to go walking, and Skunky often follows you). And there's an oryx as well, with idem don to her horns. But I forgot the name.

 

A03.jpg

 

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Dinner is in a boma with a firepit in the middle;

 

A46.jpg

 

Now, as I said this whole trip was pre-arranged and pre-booked, and I crammed in as much activities as possible. Which, in retrospect was perhaps a bit silly - but more on that later. This means that we had plenty of things to do at Bagatelle. But we found out very quick that they are not used to getting customers like us. Most people stay for one night, just "en route" to other places, or at most two nights. This means they only do an afternoon activity, or sometimes morning + afternoon activities. But never the same thing twice (like; two morning game drives). So, the lodge started explaining what activity they were planning to give us, but mentioning every activity just once, even though we booked (for example) multiple game drives. If I'd let them do what they wanted, we'd be sitting on our bums for 7 hours the first day we were there! So it took a bit of effort but we made them understand right away that we were not there to sit at the bar or at the pool and that we wanted to be "out there" as much as possible. They got the message, and threw things around so that we got what we paid for.

 

Our guide was Pedro, a guy from Angola. He was very knowledgeable, but he came across a bit "stiff". I assumed it was just because we came across as "tough customers" when discussing our shedule. And that must have been it because after half a day or so he clearly relaxed.

 

The lodge is on one end of the road, on a big plot that not only harbors the lodge, but also lots of springbok and oryx, and camping spots for self-drivers. But a much bigger plot (30000Ha if I remember correctly) is on the other side of the road. Both sides are fenced. You'll find that in Namibia everything is fenced. As to keep their own animals in, and keeping other animals out. Of course, it doesn't really work. Kudu go over the fence, warthogs go under it. Elephants trample fences with ease; most are not even electrified.

 

A10.jpg

 

The Kalahari, or at least the part owned by Bagatelle, is flat, but there's "waves" of dunes, each about 200 to 300m apart. The flat areas contain lots of grass, and sometimes bushy areas and even trees. But the dunes themselves are not completely covered in vegetation, so often the red sand underneath the vegetation is showing. Water is provided with pumps. There's also a big pan on the property. But unless you come within two months after the rainy season, you'll find it completely empty. At least three other neighboring properties provide the same services as Bagatelle, on similar plots. But strangely enough there's fences between every property. At one point we found giraffe on either side of a fence, clearly wondering why they could not get to each other, and looking for a way around the fence.

 

There's plenty of game on the plains. Oryx, springbok, kudu, steenbok, zebra, eland, blue wildebeest, giraffe, red hartebeest, and so on. No elephants. Predators; cheetah and leopard, but they are rarely seen. There's also meerkats, in fact one of the major reasons I wanted to visit the place as I had never seen these before. Game is a bit skittish. We thought it was because the vehicle has to roar up the dunes every time, to get into the next valley, and that the engine noise scares the animals. But according to Pedro because there's simply not enough game drives being done yet (most people barely have time for one drive in the afternoon). Now, this all doesn't mean however, that you can't have good sightings. As always, the key is to spend enough time. We certainly never got bored. And in retrospect; the best place to get your "oryx on red dune" shot is right there in the Kalahari. A couple of pics:

 

Eland right after dawn:

A08.jpg

 

Springbok running:

A11.jpg

 

Some oryx shots:

A12.jpg

 

A13.jpg

 

A25.jpg

 

A31.jpg

 

And some more inhabitants:

A21.jpg

 

A26.jpg

 

Bagatelle also has three cheetah from CCF. Specimens that cannot be re-wilded unfortunately. They are kept in an 2Ha enclosure next to the lodge, and are fed every evening. You can join at that time. They drive the game vehicle into the enclosure, and then drive around a bit as to give the cheetahs some exercise. Apart from the very good photo opportunities you also get plenty of good knowledge on cheetahs and their behavior, which is great certainly for people who have never seen cheetah before.

 

A32.jpg

 

It's not "the wild" but at least the animals are given a place to live and are in good shape. It was a lot of fun photographing them running. But a word of warning; it is over in no time so make sure you have the right zoom lens mounted (preferably not too much tele but rather a 70-200mm). Luckily we were there 3 nights and could do this thing twice, as the first time I only managed to photograph tails. And out of focus.

 

A38.jpg

 

A40.jpg

 

A41.jpg

 

Apart from the self-guided walks the lodge can also provide guided walks. I assume these are not requested a lot, as most people probably think "why pay for something that I can do myself, for free?" Well, we found out they make something special out of it; we had three san accompanying us. It was extremely funny hearing their clicking language and watching them mimic animals and human behavior. At one point I nearly lost it when one of the San guys decided to explain that some bush caused constipation when you ate too much of it, but that the same bush also contains something that makes you empty your bowels in a rather exploding fashion. The guy mimicked it all, and is hilarious. Our guide Pedro translated for us, but strangely enough I understood most of it just by watching the San guys.

 

A48.jpg

 

A50.jpg

 

We found Bagatelle to be quite fun, and a perfect start for our holiday. Food was incredible too. We'd certainly recommend it to other people. But to appreciate what it has to offer, please stay at least two nights.

 

Funny anecdote; we had to leave at noon, and after our walk with the San, were saying our goodbyes, when Pedro asked "what did you think of Bagatelle". I said all had been great but just too bad we had only seen meerkats only once, and from rather far away. To which he answered "oh you want to see meerkats? Follow me then!" We followed him through a gate at the back of the lodge and came into a yard containing chickens etc and two horses as well. Guess what; meerkats had decided to make their burrow right there, next to the fence. So just before leaving I got good pics of the species I came here for. No close-ups, as these were animals were not used to animals that much. But good pics nonetheless. Maybe I'll clone the fence poles out.

 

A53.jpg

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A very good start, Jochen!

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I'm enjoying this, Jochen. It's fifteen years since I was in Namibia, and loved it then .Travelling on my own these days I'm not so adventurous. I shall be following your report closely.

Jan

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Cheers Jochen, I'm very much enjoying this. Sounds like a terffic trip - I admire your confidence in your navigation skills (using the sun vs. a map!).

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Very interesting to read about a different side of Namibia than I see as a volunteer. Looking forward to reading more.

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Posted (edited)

Great beginning. That's two recent Bagatelle reports. Yours and Treepol's. I think 3 nights for you both. Bagatelle is going to want your sunset shot of their camp for their promo materials. I'd go just for Rusty the cat! What was your drive time from Windhoek? Can you also tell me, when you get to that part, the drive time from Bagatelle to Sossusvlei?

 

Your San lecture was a lively one.

 

Can you give me an outline of your 3 days at Bagatelle?

 

I just looked at your itinerary again and it is exactly what I want to do. I was working on a Namibia itinerary for this past Aug but it fell through. It was just what you had without Bagatelle, which I'd now like to add.

Edited by Atravelynn

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very enjoyable reading, look forward to more! My husband, a surfer, is interested in possibly visiting the Skeleton Coast some day and surfing there, so I am especially interested to read the coast section of your report.

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Great report so far. I haven't been to Namibia since 2001, so anxious to read more....

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Posted (edited)

Fantastic report so far J,who's the blonde. :D

Edited by A&M

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Part 1 was interesting Jochen. I have always been too chicken to self-drive, and even in Etosha I had a Guide from the safari camp. Your story is starting to make me feel I should return and do a self drive.

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Thx all!

 

@Lynn, I think it took us 20mins from the airport to Windhoek. There we stopped for some drinks and to draw some money. Then on to Bagatelle; about 3h30mins if I remember correctly.

 

Ican already tell you now; our drive time from Bagetelle to Sossusvlei was about the same. Well perhaps a bit longer. 4 to 5 hours? I remember we left Bagatelle at about 10AM, we stopped for gas in Mariental and then took the road to Sesriem via Maltahohe. There's other ways to get there but we took this road as then you have tar until Maltahohe. We also stopped for lunch (a lunch pack from Bagatelle) somewhere en route to Sossusvlei, so we "lost" at least 30 mins there as well. Plus you have to count all the photo stops. I remember stopping at least twice to photograph the landscape.

 

Our 3 days at Bagatelle;

- day 1; eat & sleep, lol

- day 2: morning game drive, afternoon game drive & cheetah feeding

- day 3: idem

- day 4: morning walk & then on to Sossusvlei

 

@John; you should! Driving on gravel is actually quite fun, once you get the hang of it.

 

@André; the "blonde" is called pepper. He's one of the three cheetahs. B)

 

@Safarichick; you may be a bit disappointed as we're not into surfing at all so we didn't do that.

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This brings back some happy memories. I've never been anywhere quite like Bagatelle - a strange but very engaging place. The skittishness of the animals might be partially due to the fact that they (used to?) hunt there in the off-season. I am glad to see the meerkats are still there and still not a tourist attraction - they were making some attempts to habituate them when we were there in 2007 but I think I am glad they appear not to have been successful (or perhpas they just gave up). The rooms on the dunes are the ones to get, as you said. From your picture I think they added one or two more of those since we were there.

 

Is the owner still managing the place? he wasa really friendly and interesting guy.

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Jochen,

 

I was delighted to find that you had started your TR and I saved it for this evening when I could relax with a cup of tea. You bring back happy memories of Bagatelle. Did you see the creche of young oryx? There was a group of around 15 in the care of 2 adults when we were there in early August - I've never seen such a large group of young oryx and I didn't know about the 'creching' - has anyone else heard of this?

 

I'm surprised that you had to chase activities - we booked a FB package with 2 activities per day and Charl or Enrico always checked what we wanted to do at breakfast. I did have a smile because the 'scenic drive' and 'game drive' seemed exactly the same to me, also the drive to sundowners was quite familiar. I agree with you when you say that most people only stay 1 night to see the cheetah before continuing south and this short stay may explain the lack of planned activities that you experienced.

 

Had the new owner arrived when you were there and did you have any idea of the number of new staff? I know that Charl the manager was leaving and also Enrico the office manager - not sure about the guides but I don't remember a Pedro. The game is skittish because they still 'hunt for the pot' and I think this happens in the area behind the lodge, rather than the larger land holding over the road. Charl told us that a game capture team had been working on Bagatelle in the previous couple of months and the animals were still nervous following that experience.

 

pault - Bagatelle has recently been sold, and the owners Fred and Onie Jacobs have moved to Swakopmund. The new owner is the guy from Intu Afrika which is a game farm down the road. The takeover had been delayed due to the new owner's ill health. The Jacobs were retaining part of Bagatelle on which to run a game farm and Charl, the Manager was going to work on the game farm. Enrico, the office manager was leaving to work on cruise boats. Fred Jacobs was returning to Bagatelle shortly after we left in early September to keep an eye on the place in the new owner's absence. Given these major changes, it is to be hoped that the high standard of accommodation and game viewing that we enjoyed are maintained.

 

 

Regards,

 

 

 

Pol

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Hey Pol,

 

Thanks for all that info!

 

Been discussing with Pault via PM; the hunting for the pot is still taking place but not on the plot where they drive on, as far as I understood.

 

The attempts to habituate meerkats were certainly stopped. Otherwise we would have been able to approach them much closer. Just as well, as I prefer nature to be as nature is supposed to be.

 

About the planning of activities; my wife came up with an alternative explanation; the day they tried to keep us in the lodge for 7 hours, there was already a game drive with a group of Germans, filling the game drive vehicle to the brim. Maybe they weren't too keen on sending out a 2nd vehicle. Well, that didn't work, so we ended up going out with a "private" vehicle :) . Here's another thought; we haven't seen anyone of management the whole time. Maybe they just tried this because management wasn't there? Maybe they just wanted a lazy afternoon? Well if so then I sure hope they don't try that anymore because management is sure to find out, and/or they're going to get more customers like us, that take no BS. :P

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Thanks for the Bagatelle info.

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Great start Jochen. Looks like we have good no. of visitors from ST to Namibia this year. I just started my report (finally), and its so good to see the places that I couldn't make it to myself.

Agree with your points on the self-drive and the roads in Nam. Have to give it to the govt. of Namibia on maintaining even the smallest patch. We found a lot of road maintenance activities all along the way till Caprivi. The gravel roads of Etosha are superb, but its a different story in Damaraland - we had some bitter experiences with the potholes and the unpredictable depth of sand.

Thanks for sharing, and look forward to more.

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As excellent a report as I expect Jochen, and that night photo of the cabins on the dunes was spectacular. I like the idea of a simple remedy like garden hose to protect visitors from the the horns of the springbok.

 

Namibia is the only place really on my bucket list for a self drive and all the recent reports have increased its standings. Hopefully I have enough years in me.

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Well only the husband surfs, so I'm interested in hearing what else you did on the coast since, if we ever go, I'd be doing whatever that is, presumably!

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Crayfish,crayfish and more crayfish,the best crayfish in the world,if you enjoy sea food the West coast is the place to go to.

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PART 2: Sossusvlei

 

So we left Bagatelle a bit before noon, and I drove to Sossusvlei, again just by following that little txt file I compiled on the iPad. We drove back to the main road, then to Mariental, where we stopped for gas, and then to Malatahohe. Here the tar ended again.

 

After that, a bit of a sad part (very flat land, ans a straight road). We ate our lunchboxes from Bagatelle at a pick nick spot (a huge tree with a pick nick table in concrete underneath it).

 

B01.jpg

 

B02.jpg

 

Then it goes downhill. Rather steep, a few turns... and then straight again but still going slightly downhill with a really nice view on Sossusvlei in the distance. In all honesty; one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. And the closer we got, the nicer it looked. Pano shot:

 

B05.jpg

 

You know; throw some cows in there, and a few cowboys, and you'd have the perfect "Far West" setting.

 

Again by following my txt file, we got to the entrance of our next lodge. Well... not quite. Oops.

 

As I said; I compiled the txt file at home, from a quick look at Google Earth. I just followed the "roads". But it seems I must have been following the wrong road. There we were, parked before a rusty old gate. With a heavy chain around the poles. Damn.

 

I got out of the car to have a look at the gate. The chain had a lock, but it was unlocked. "Adventure!", I thought. I opened the gate drove through, and closed it again. I remember saying to Mira "This must be the back door. We'll follow the electricity poles. It should bring us to the lodge." The road was merely a track. Very thick stones. At one point I could go left or right, but took right as that's where the electricity was going.

 

We came to a small rocky hill. The road went up. So did we. Then the road ended. Seems the hill was in the middle of the valley. Huge mountains on either end, yellow grass in the middle. The view was absolutely stunning. Then I saw the lodge, next to the dry riverbed, not far from the mountains in the south. We should not have followed the poles (they were going further on, perhaps to some pump or something), we should just have taken the other track.

 

Where were we standing? Well, by accident, we found their sundowner spot.

 

Now perhaps you're thinking "enough bla bla mate, show us the pic, show us the view!"

No chance, brothers & sisters. Not gonna do it. The reason is that I don't want to spoil it for you. You'll understand what I mean if you read on.

 

We got back into the car, and drove to the lodge. The owner, Thomas, welcomed us, but was absolutely surprised. "Where do you come from?". Well Thomas, like my gay friend always says: "a good friend comes through the back door". (No of course I did not say that. It might have scared him just as much as I get scared when I hear it).

 

Thomas is Polish, his wife is South-African. The lodge is six years old now. Before that they were working as a management couple for Wilderness Safaris, at one of the Kulala lodges. Let me show you how the place looks. This is the main building:

 

B08.jpg

 

Inside (salon);

B10.jpg

 

Connected to this building is a huge rondavel with an immense fireplace in the middle. This is where meals are served. I forgot to take pics of that.

 

A room:

B12.jpg

 

And inside:

B11.jpg

 

Behind the bedroom; a bathroom with shower, but behind that; an outside bathroom as well:

B14.jpg

 

 

 

The place looked amazing. The view from was amazing. And we soon found out; the service was amazing too. And the food. And the trips too! But I'll write about those in the next post. Off to bed now. More tomorrow!

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Nice photos J. How much did you pay Mira to pose for you. :P

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Next time I'll let Michele pose.

Towel optional.

 

 

Jeez, I really should not be posting trip reports after a long day of work and the obligatory Friday night bottle of rosé! I forgot to mention the name of our next lodge! It is...

 

Hoodia Desert Lodge

 

 

Actually, I should let you guys know a bit more of this place. You see, when I was composing my itinerary, and looking at Sossusvlei, I didn't like the places I found. Basically, you have two options:

- Stay in a lodge in or near Sesriem. This is where are the people stay who think that you absolutely need to stay as close to the gate as possible, to get on that one particular dune ("dune 7" or something like that), to see the sun come up ...and as a consequence they trample over each other trying to get on top of that dune, and in the meantime miss plenty of other good opportunities for good shots. Most lodges in Sesriem look OK, and are affordable, but the view isn't much, and most are close to the road.

- Stay in a lodge further away, in one of the valleys nearby. Typically, these lodges either are located away from the crowds, have stunning views, and they are rather expensive. Or they are more affordable, but then right next to the road again.

 

I found one place called "Mountain Homestead that was affordable and not next to the road, but it was fully booked. So I asked the opinion of Sun Safaris (Celeste) and she said: "Hoodia! You're gonna like the place ...a lot!"

 

Well she was absolutely right. I think you can judge from the pics above that the place looked absolutely stunning. No surprises there; Thomas is actually an interior decorator.

 

But equally important is the location. Check this map (it's from their own website and I asked if I may use it here):

hoodia_map.jpg

As you can see it's located in between two of the taller mountain ranges and next to the river, plus it's actually not that far from the road going through Sesriem and into Sossusvlei (so it's actually the closest "non-Sesriem" lodge).

 

So it's got the right price, the perfect location, and at a very good price. But where Hoodia really scored is with the level of service. Thomas was pretty straight forward about that. He learned from his experiences at Kulala, and - to use his own words - wanted to provide a better product than that, something really fantastic, but at an honest price. His idea was to get occupancy levels above 20-40% (apparently Kulala is not doing that good; there used to be 4 lodges now there's only two), he figured that by asking a fair price people would come. And come they do. The lodge was almost full. Thomas said his average is 80% occupancy rate. Lots of returning customers as well.

 

We experienced that evening what he meant with "something fantastic". They took us back to the sundowner spot. But this was no regular sundowner. You get the place completely for yourself! And the guide leaves you, only to come pick you back up about 30 mins after sundown. A table was waiting for us, with a bottle of wine of our choice (yes, that's included)in an ice bucket, and a zillion snacks. Candles in paper bags all around. Most amazing of course, is the view. I've seen a lot of the world, but this was one of the most amazing views so far. And the reason I'm not going to show the panorama shot I made there, is because I do not want to spoil it for you. If you ever get to Hoodia, book that sundowner! And go see for yourself.

 

I'll give you some other pics though. Here's a detail shot;

 

B19.jpg

 

And these guys kept us company:

 

B16.jpg

 

They are called "dassie rats".

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If the above pics don't convince you yet of what Hoodia has to offer; here's some more info on the trips we did there. We were there three nights so the first day was the obligatory Sossusvlei trip.

 

Wake up call somewhere after 5, a quick breakfast, and off we went. Everybody is rushing to Sossusvlei in the morning, driving rather fast on gravel roads. For some, the purpose is the sunrise. But to be honest I'm not so sure why that is necessary. I mean it's always nice to see the some come up, for sure. But I don't think it's the best sunrise for photography, the light being very strong from the second the sun shows herself. So; no big red sun, but a yellow and bright sun straight away.

 

Still, I managed to make something out of it:

 

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But only because of the tree in front (good luck finding a tree to do that for you while standing on a dune, however). I really would like to see what other people make of that sunrise there, be it on dune or not.

 

Now, the purpose of all that fast driving was not the sunrise in our case, but rather to get to the red dunes while the shadows were still strong, which results in amazing pictures. Here's where our guide, Angula, really shined for the first time; he knew all the right places. While everyone was speeding on, only looking ahead, he stopped the car at various places and told us: "look behind you, see the curves of that dune". By the 4th or 5th time he did that, I really started feeling sorry for all those speed freaks rushing by. Here's one of the results:

 

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(thanks, ostriches!)

 

We also saw our first jackal here. It would not be our last.

 

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One of the views that's more known (to people who have been there for sure):

 

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So you see, we weren't too late for seeing the more popular dunes while the light is still good.

 

After lots more stops, we came to deadvlei. We skipped some popular dunes for obvious reasons; way too many people. Whole buses dropping their "cargo" while ruining the view of the dune. Lots of people were on top of those dunes, or on the way up. Again I was thinking; it takes about an hour to the top and back, how many places have they missed seeing in good light in the mean time?

 

Here's a pano of deadvlei. Me and another guy walked to the top of the dune, the rest of our little group went straight on to the dead trees.

 

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Walking uphill in sand is tiring, but going back down isn't any more fun, unfortunately. You make big steps and dig your heels in. Lots of sand gets in your shoes, and even in your socks. We saw some fools running down. Crazy! You could break your neck doing that. Our guide shook his head in disbelief. Maybe they were going for the Darwin awards.

 

Here's some of the obligatory dead tree shots:

 

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Very weird observation; most visitors stay at the beginning of deadvlei. While the nicest views are at the back, where you can single out a tree for your shot. Well, their loss!

 

Also saw this guy:

 

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And some of these fellows;

 

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We visited some more places, like a little dried-out pan, and by then it was past noon, so we drove back out of Sossusvlei, and then took some side road. Under a big tree, our lunch was waiting for us. Special delivery from Thomas! The food was incredible. Little chicken wings. Pastas. Fried fish cookies. Salad with sun-dried tomatoes. Little quiches with tuna. Freshly baked bread with olives in it. Fried veggie cookies. And of course; wine! it was all so delicious. I ate much more than I should. :unsure:

 

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After lunch; a visit to Sesriem Canyon. Here, of all places, we found a puff adder. I only had my wide angle with me, but tried a shot anyway, arm stretched out, and keeping a good distance. The snake didn't mind; he was very relaxed. But the pic's nothing to write home about. Mira's got it on film though. That footage was way better than my shot.

 

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Tomorrow I'll write about our other trip @ Hoodia; to Namib Naukluft!

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OK, on to our trip to Namib Naukluft.

 

Ever tried this? : go to Google Images and look for "Namib Naukluft". You'll find plenty of pics of red dunes, because indeed, sossusvlei is part of Namib Naukluft. But it seems to me that most people think they're one and the same (otherwise why would these red dune pics make top of the list when doing a Google search?) I guess it's because most people only visit the sossusvlei-section of the park, but don't go in the park anywhere else.

 

Well, what you should know is that there's another section of the park, much less known, that you can visit.

 

On maps, it's the "little" part that sticks out to the east. So it's actually the only part away from the red dunes. Entrance is at the very east. So you have to drive north from the crossroads where A Little Sossus Lodge is. Here's another small advantage you get when staying at Hoodia: their back door (the gate we entered) brings you straight onto that road. So Hoodia has the best location of all internationally known lodges to get to Namib Naukluft!

 

This is the entrance of the park. As you can see the road goes into the mountains:

 

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From you car, you get to see the usual suspects. Warthogs, mountain zebra, kudu, etc... but you need trained eyes sometimes!

 

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Morning light was absolutely perfect on these mountain zebras. Also; lots of quiver trees.

 

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After a while you come to the park's offices, and a bit further is a camping ground and a pick nick spot. Here, the road ends. The rest is on foot. It's actually one trail making a huge circle. Our guide, Angula, has only done it once in his life, with people who are very fit. Still, they arrived back at the pick nick area after dark, and all water was gone (even though he thought he had brought enough).

 

Most people only do part of the trail, going counter-clockwise, following the river, trying to get as close as possible to it's source. Or rather; as close to where the last water can be seen, before it goes underground. We got to that spot, but it took us almost four hours to get there and back. So, say we left at 10, that means we only had lunch at about 2PM.

 

This is the beginning of the trail, a tunnel cut through the reed beds at both ends of the little stream:

 

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The first two hours is lots of climbing, with some flat areas to catch your breath. It's not that steep, but you do need to have some level of fitness. And you have to make sure where you put your feet. The path is full of loose stones, some as big as bricks. Mira pointed something out while she continued walking and fell on her bum. But apart from a big bruise, she was OK.

 

Lots of little waterfalls on the way up. You cross the stream multiple times:

 

 

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The place looked fantastic, and to us it was quite unbelievable to find such a green habitat, teeming with wildlife, while on the other side of the mountain all is dry and sandy. Speaking about wildlife; lots of birds here, but difficult to get on picture. They're not that used to people. Not a lot of tourists come here. During our whole walk, we only passed one other group of three people (when we were almost back at the beginning of the trail).

 

These rosy-faced lovebirds were very noisy, and at one point gave me a fairly decent photo opportunity:

 

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This is a pano of the area; huge rocky mountains all around you, with steep cliffs, and the riverbed cutting through, like a green snake.

 

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Another view;

 

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Angula pointed out a lot of wild life on the way. Lizards, turtles, toads, lots of birds, and even crabs. Then we ran into baboons.

 

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A bit weird perhaps, but we found a Cape Eagle-Owl there. We couldn't locate it's mate though. I had to look this one up in my bird book at home, to make sure. And indeed, although it can be found in much of southern South Africa and in the south of Zimbabwe as well, the map also shows a little spot in Namibia where you can find it ...right there in Namib Naukluft.

 

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When it got a bit hotter, the rock dassies came out to sun themselves;

 

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Lots of big trees and shady areas as well.

 

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More baboons on the way down, raiding a fig tree (and having lots of arguments).

 

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We also saw klipspringers.

 

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Finally, we were back at the pick nick spot, and had worked up a bit of an appetite. But Thomas has a way of dealing with that. A smorgasbord of delicious treats awaited us, just like the day before. Only this time we were the only ones to dig in. While we were having lunch, we both voiced our surprise to Angula; "why don't more people come here?!" Angula says most just stay for two nights and do Sossusvlei, then they move on. We were one of the few that took "the full package", including the sundowner in that spot with the amazing view.

 

If I can give but one tip; if you ever go to Sossusvlei, stay a day longer and do Namib Naukluft.

 

And if I may add a second tip: Hoodia desert Lodge! It is one of the best places we ever stayed at, high up there with nThambo in Klaserie ans Shindzela in Timbavati. We were deeply humbled by the whole"Hoodia experience".

 

Outro; a grey lourie was above our heads, having lunch as well:

 

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Coming up next; Swakopmund and Walvis Bay!

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