Namibia

Erongo: Our first stop outside of the Namibian capital Windhoek, was at a small lodge in the Erongo Reserve where we had our first introduction to the African sundowner.

Erongo
Erongo
Erongo
Erongo views
Erongo
Erongo valley entrance
Erongo
Erongo

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Erongo Kopjes
Erongo Kopjes

After about an hour and a half’s drive through thebeautiful lodge property we ended up at the foot of the hill where the site of Paula’s Cave can be found. An easy walk up the hill will take you to a National Monument site with some outstanding bushman rock art.

Erongo Cave

Erongo Cave drawings
Erongo Cave drawings
Erongo Cave drawings
Erongo Cave drawings

The drawings cover a long period, including some interesting animal portraits, a pregnant woman and both early (arrows) and late (spear) hunting scenes.

Erongo Cave drawings
Erongo Cave drawings
Erongo Cave drawings
Erongo Cave drawings

Erongo Cave

Erongo Cave drawings
Erongo Cave drawings

It was an astonishing easy and beautiful place to stay

Erongo
Erongo
Erongo Sunset
Erongo Sunset
Erongo Kopjes
Erongo Kopjes
Erongo
Erongo

Most of Namibia is desert or, what to my European eyes, appears to be vast dry and unproductive land spreading as far as the eye can see. And yet in the middle of these vast expanses, huge animals, elephants, giraffe etc somehow manage to appear and disappear like magic.

Damaraland
Damaraland

We moved from Erongo to Damaraland, near the Twyfelfontein UNESCO site and as well as seeing the rock art, we went looking for desert elephants.

Desert, damaraland
Desert, damaraland

It is the most amazing country, unbelievable colours and vistas open up before your eyes, trailing along the dry river beds.

Damaraland
Damaraland

Most of the money seems to come from diamonds, but there are sizable other mineral deposits that turn the land the most amazing shades.

Colours, Damaraland
Colours, Damaraland

Then suddenly someone spots an elephant apparently climbing rocks in the distance. We’ve found a family group with an old matriarch well-known to the lodge guides, complete with baby elephants.

Desert Elephant Spotting
Desert Elephant Spotting

Elephant Damaraland

Matriarch Damaraland
Matriarch Damaraland
Desert Elelphants
Desert Elelphants

damaraland

Then driving along we spot a giraffe trailing an old river bed.

Desert Giraffe
Desert Giraffe

We take a break and go to view the geological features, volcanic pipes created thousands of years ago and on the way back drive over what feels like the back of the landscape.

Damaraland, Desert
Damaraland, Desert
Zebra Damaraland
Zebra Damaraland
Rock Formations, Damaraland
Rock Formations, Damaraland
Desert Damaraland
Desert Damaraland
damaraland
damaraland
Volcanic Pipes Damaraland
Volcanic Pipes Damaraland

In the middle of nowhere we come across a huge herd of zebra.

Desert Zebra
Desert Zebra

Sundowners at the lodge leave you struggling to reconcile a barren moonscape with the memory of all of those huge mammals making their way here.

Sundowner Damaraland
Sundowner Damaraland
Sunset Damaraland
Sunset Damaraland

Twfelfontein has one of the largest concentrations of  rock engravings in Africa.

Hippo, Twyfelfontein
Hippo, Twyfelfontein

Most of these well-preserved engravings represent rhinoceros, . The site also includes elephant, ostrich and giraffe, as well as drawings of human and animal footprints, rock shelters with motifs of human figures in red ochre.

Twyfelfontein
Twyfelfontein
Giraffe Twyfelfontein
Giraffe Twyfelfontein
Rhino Twyfelfontein
Rhino Twyfelfontein
Twyfelfontein
Twyfelfontein
Stylised Elephant Twyfelfontein
Stylised Elephant Twyfelfontein
Fictional & real creatures Twyfelfontein
Fictional & real creatures Twyfelfonteinaraland

The objects excavated from two sections, date from the Late Stone Age. The site forms a coherent, extensive and high-quality record of ritual practices relating to hunter-gatherer communities in this part of southern Africa over at least 2,000 years, and illustrates the links between the ritual and economic practices of hunter-gatherers.

It is amazingly difficult to imagine people making a living in this barren land, yet clearly this is where life began and flourished.

Sunset Mowani Camp

DSC_0303Etosha National Park in Namibia spans an area of 22,270 square kilometres and gets its name from the large Etosha Pan which is almost entirely within the park.

DSC_0370The Pan covers 23% of the area of the total area of the Etosha National Park and for most of the year is entirely dry.

termite, Etosha
termite, Etosha

Waterholes remain even during the dryest season though, and one of the most surreal experiences has to be parking up to eat some sandwiches for lunch, only to find yourself surrounded first  by elelphants and then by all of the other animals parked up waiting for the water to be free. Including the Namibian national animal

Herd, Etosha Waterhole
Herd, Etosha Waterhole

Within minutes of leaving, and in the middle of a flat desert, thirty or more elephants seem to simply disappear

Dust bath Etosha
Dust bath Etosha

and the rest of the crowd gets a chance for a drink.

Crowded Waterhole, Etosha
Crowded Waterhole, Etosha

The most comical at the waterhole were definitely the giraffe.

Giraffe, Etosha
Giraffe, Etosha
Giraffe, Etosha
Giraffe, Etosha

The park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species such as the black rhinocerous.

Zebra Herd, Etosha
Zebra Herd, Etosha

My worst picture is the one I was most pleased to capture – a black rhino visiting the waterhole one eveing, entirely unexpected and really quite remarkable to see.

Rhino, Etosha Night
Rhino, Etosha Night

There are hundreds of herd animals so there are ofcourse plenty of hunters out there as well. It was less than reassuring, to find lions just five minutes away from our camp, no matter how majestic.

Lion, Etosha
Lion, Etosha
Jackal Etosha
Jackal Etosha

The bull elephant staring down at our jeep was a bit dodgy as well.

Bull Elelephant, Etosha
Bull Elelephant, Etosha

By the end we all had our favourite animals., from the various herd animals, the deer and antelopes;

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DSC_0304especially Springbok, jumping all over the place dementedly

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Springbok Etosha
Springbok Etosha

Giraffe, a strange combination of elegant and ridiculous;

Giraffe, Etosha

Giraffe, Etosha

Giraffe Family, Etosha
Giraffe Family, Etosha

Zebra, all black and white spiffiness;

Zebra, Etosha
Zebra, Etosha
Zebra Etosha
Zebra Etosha

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Kudu, with their funny horns

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and gemsbok, the Namibian national animal.

DSC_0305DSC_0317The various birds were astonishing colours, shapes and sizes

DSC_0404 DSC_0409The wildebeest were probably least loved.

Wildebeest Etosha
Wildebeest Etosha

and the elephants the most loved.

Elephant Family, Etosha
Elephant Family, Etosha
Baby Elelphant Etosha
Baby Elelphant Etosha
Etosha Salt Pan
Etosha Salt Pan
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park DSC_0507

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Ostrich, Etosha Salt Pan
Ostrich, Etosha Salt Pan

It was the most amazing place, completely different as a landscape to the rest of our visit in Namibia and certainly like nowhere else I’ve been around the world.

We went to Namibia for the landscape primarily, but found a plethora of animals to enjoy while we were there. Astonishing.

Etosha Salt Pan
Etosha Salt Pan
Elephant Family, Etosha
Elephant Family, Etosha
Mother & Child Etosha
Mother & Child Etosha
Elephant Family, Etosha
Elephant Family, Etosha

Africat is a charitable foundation based in Namibia that looks to the protection of the African big cats. It also allows visitors a chance to interact with them on it’s land since many of it’s rescued animals are released with tags.

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`We came across a juvenile female leopard who quite clearly would have eaten us given half a chance.

Juvenile leopard
Juvenile leopard

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Okinjima leopard
Okinjima leopard

There was also a mature female but she moved with such stealth and speed, it was impossible to get a worthwhile picture. Predators are amazingly difficult to see if they don’t want to be seen.

DSC_0718As well as the cats, the reserve had a few other healthy looking predators and obviously that requires prey.

Jackals, Okinjima
Jackals, Okinjima

DSC_0643 DSC_0710 DSC_0636The cheetahs we found at a kill site, having already enjoyed the innards, purring and licking each other up in satisfaction.

Cheetah with kill, Okinjima
Cheetah with kill, Okinjima

DSC_0667 DSC_0683 DSC_0705Both leopards and cheetahs can be found at the Okinjima site and are well worth waking up early for. Neither of my girls was especially keen on the morning starts so both were reduced to viewing the animals pre-release in enclosures.

Okinjima, rescue Cheetah
Okinjima, rescue Cheetah

DSC_0746One of the more surprising and enjoyable excursions was to see a porcupine duel, much more ferocious than the cheetahs with their kill seen earlier that day.

Porcupine duel
Porcupine duel

DSC_0023And ofcourse it’s always worthwhile looking out for the birdlife at the water hole.

Okinjima
Okinjima DSC_0725

 

Most of Namibia comprises desert and desert-like plains. To the south, the Namib desert stretches out, before your eyes.

Road to Sossusvlei
Road to Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei pan

The Namib desert is vast and glorious, stretching down to the ocean. Annual precipitation ranges from 2 mm in the most arid regions to 200 mm at the escarpment, making the Namib the only true desert.

Namib Desert, Sossusvlei
Namib Desert, Sossusvlei

in southern Africa. Much of the precipitation is in the form of fog that rolls in from the ocean to the west. Mist in the morning or at least a general haze, made for grey and a very delicate pink colour.

Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei morning, grey
Sossusvlei morning, grey

The sand dunes, some of which are 300 metres (980 ft) high and span 32 kilometres (20 mi) long, are the second largest in the world

Sossusvlei, morning
Sossusvlei, morning

This dune sea has crests of the dunes aligned in a northwest-southeast orientation. The dunes act as obstacles, causing the winds to be deflected significantly to the right, in effect reorienting the southerly wind to become a southwesterly wind.

Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei

During the day the changes in colours were difficult to believe, starting almost dull grey in the haze, brightening through the palest of pinks, through orange to an almost deep red of an evening.

Sossusvlei, morning haze
Sossusvlei, morning haze
Sossusvlei, evening orange
Sossusvlei, evening orange
Sossusvlei, evening
Sossusvlei, evening

And ofcourse, like deserts and seascapes everywhere, the sky was huge, the stars bright and very clear.

Sossusvlei, big sky
Sossusvlei, big sky

The dunes are amngst the largest in the world and probably the tallest. It’s difficult to capture the size in a photograph. Occasionally the prescence of trees or people tiny in the scale of things make it more obvious.

Sossusvlei, travelling dunes
Sossusvlei, travelling dunes
Sossusvlei, orange desert
Sossusvlei, orange desert

The shapes are almost abstract mathematics and very beautiful somehow in their sweep and grandeur.

Sossusvlei, serious sand
Sossusvlei, serious sand
Sossusvlei, evening
Sossusvlei, evening
Sossusvlei, abstarct
Sossusvlei, abstarct detail
Sossusvlei, view down
Sossusvlei, view down
Sossusvlei, leewards
Sossusvlei, leewards
Sossusvlei, mathmatical shapes
Sossusvlei, mathmatical shapes

It is difficult to imagine anything surviving in such harsh conditions yet both plant life and animals can be found. Dead Vlei in a pan containing trees, that died when the dunes grew and the local climate was changed as a result.

Sossusvlei, Dead Vlei
Sossusvlei, Dead Vlei

The orignial clay pan was formed after rainfall, when the Tsauchab River flooded, creating temporary shallow pools where the abundance of water allowed camel thorn trees to grow. When the climate changed, drought hit the area, and sand dunes encroached on the pan, which blocked the river from the area.

Petrified trees, Sossusvlei Dead Vlei
Petrified trees, Sossusvlei Dead Vlei
Sossusvlei, Dead Vlei
Sossusvlei, Dead Vlei

The trees died, without water to survive. There are some species of plants remaining, such as salsola adapted to surviving off the morning mist and very rare rainfall.

Shadows, Dead Vlei
Shadows, Dead Vlei
Full Sun, Dead Vlei
Full Sun, Dead Vlei
Lost, Dead Vlei
Lost, Dead Vlei

The remaining skeletons of the trees, which are believed to have died 600-700 years ago (AD 1340- 1430), are now black because the intense sun has scorched them. The wood cannot decompose because it is so dry.

Heading Home, Sossusvlei
Heading Home, Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei, sunset
Sossusvlei, sunset

With an overall area of 49,768 km2 the Namib-Naukluft is the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world.

Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Rand

The NamibRand Nature Reserve is a private nature reserve established to help protect and conserve the unique ecology and wildlife of the south-west Namib Desert.

Ibex Namib Naukluft
Ibex NamibRand

It is probably the largest private nature reserve in Southern Africa, extending over an area of 202,200 ha, sharing a 100km border with the Namib-Naukluft National Park in the west and is bordered in the east by the imposing Nubib Mountains.

Ibex View Namib Naukluft
Ibex View Namib Naukluft
Long road Namib Naukluft
Long road Namib Naukluft

Virtually all facets of the Namib Desert are represented on the Reserve – sand and gravel plains and stretches of savanna alternate with mountain ranges and vegetated dune belts.

Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft

Here, the dunes are static rather than the moving mountainous waves near Sossusvlei.

Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft

There is a surprising amount of wildlife, ranging from herds of desert zebra, ibex and of course the predators, jackals, cheetah etc.

Herd Zebra, Namib Naukluft
Herd Zebra, Namib Naukluft
Jackals Namib Naukluft
Jackals Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Midday Sun Namib Naukluft
Midday Sun Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft

It is possibly the most beautiful place that I have ever been, and I’ve travelled a lot.

Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft

Namib Naukluft

Part of it is the changing light and the way the shadows chase over the landscape.

Namib Naukluft

Namib Naukluft

Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft

Namib Naukluft

And no doubt part of the beauty is the sheer scale of the place, the vast emptiness and huge sky.

Big Sky Namib Naukluft
Big Sky Namib Naukluft

Namib Naukluft

Namib Naukluft

Water Hole Namib Naukluft
Water Hole Namib Naukluft

DSC_0274Driving through the dunes and immersing yourself into the landscape is just a unique experience.

Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Sunset Namib Naukluft
Sunset Namib Naukluft
Heading Home Namib Naukluft
Heading Home Namib Naukluft

The whole of the sky lights up at sunset, to be followed by a sudden sharp and total black before the stars appear.

Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Sundowner Namib Naukluft
Sundowner Namib Naukluft

Throughout the day the colours around move through their palette from pale pastel to intense orange, yellow and red.

Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft

And flying home the utter strangeness of the place makes itself clear, with moonscapes and fairy rings.

Fairy Rings Namib Naukluft
Fairy Rings Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft
Namib Naukluft

All about me!