Wildlife & Sand: Namibia

Posted by  Daniël Cronk   in       10 years ago     290 Views     Comments Off on Wildlife & Sand: Namibia  

I arrived in Windhoek, Namibia on the 3rd of April and relaxed for much of the day while making some last minute preparations for the safari on the next day. For the most part, Windhoek appears to be a fairly unattractive city. But the one thing that it is not lacking in is crime, which has been on the rise. As I was checking into my guesthouse I was informed that I should not take anything valuable off the premises. No bags, no money belts, no cameras, nothing, unless you want it to be stolen. Pleasant thoughts. All of the buildings & houses throughout the city have various levels of security - from home security systems to electric fences which are placed on top of the fences around the entire perimeter. For the time being the crime is mostly petty, but the owners of the guesthouse are saying that there have been other forms of crime in the past. I never realized how large Namibia really was until the past few days. Namibia is not your average tourist destination, in the sense that there is very little public transportation (why should there not be as there is only an estimated 2 million people living in the whole country - by comparisson there are 3,500,000 people living in the twin cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul) and there are very few towns which are setup for tourism, so one is left with either booking package tours or self-driving. I chose to do a "6-day taste of Namibia" tour, which included 3-days to Etosha National Park an overnight in Windhoek and then continuing on to Sousessvlei & the Namib Desert for 3-days. Etosha National Park or "Great White Place of Dry Water" is a park of more than 20,000 square kilometers surrounding its namesake, the vast white and greenish-colored Etosha Pan. It is home to more than 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 16 reptiles & amphibian species, one fish species and countless insects.

Cheetah in Etosha National Park

The journey from Windhoek to Etosha National Parks took approximately 6 hours. Once we arrived at the park we immediately began our first game drive. It was not as rewarding as it probably could have been. It was the middle of the afternoon and it was HOT, so most of the animals were playing either hide-and-go-seek or lounging by the waterhole sipping a nice margarita. But with persistence we were met with our first glimpse of wildlife - springbok. An almost deer like creature, the springbok got their name because of the way they spring about when they run. To watch them is actually hilarious. They may begin to run but soon after they begin to spring like a rabbit. We also saw some zebra's and a couple of giraffes.

A bull giraffe

Hyena

The second day was much more rewarding. In fact we saw just about every kind of animal there is in the park with the exception of the elephant. The morning brought out countless springbok, zebras and gemsbok (oryx). After a few hours the giraffes seemed to be popping out of the ground like daisys. It seems every where we looked there was another giraffe. Some even had their kids with them. The zebra's had their kids with them also. They're so cute when they're young. As we're driving down the road the guide stopped, did a 3-point turn and went back only to show us that he had seen a chameleon. I always wanted one of these. They're so cute and they walk really funny in a back and forth motion, really slow- almost like they're "walking like an egyptian". As if the day couldn't get any better one of the passangers in our car spotted something in the bushes up ahead. The excitement began to rise in the car as we realized that it might be a big cat. Sure enough it was a cheetah. It was so exciting to see this cheetah in the wild. And as if that wasn't enough excitement as we're driving down the road we looked off in the field and noticed something else moving, could we possibly be that lucky to see something more exciting than a cheetah. Sure enough, it was 2 lionesses. What luck we had. On top of that as we were checking out on of the waterholes we found a group of giraffes (about 20), zebras, and a lonesome black rhino, who was lounging by the pool and was not about to get up for a bunch of camera snapping tourists. Late that night as we were eating our dinner by the fire a group of jackals approach us and tried to steal our food.

Giraffe reflection

The last day of Etosha was equally rewarding. We were out in search of another rhino which we had been told earlier in the morning had been spotted not very far from our camp. But alas we did not find him. We did however manage to see more springbok, imagine that; as well as the typical zebra & giraffe. I hate to sound like a snob at this point but we were having undulate fatigue at this point. As we were driving down the road we noticed about 8 cars sitting on the side of the road so we went and had a look and we were in shock to see a pride of lions - there were 10 adults and 2 cubs from what we could see. They were quite a distance off the roadway but it was still great to see. Also in the same area a group of spotted hyenas. It was a great safari, just missed the elephant. The second part of the trip included 3-days in the Namib & Naukluft Park (Sousessvlei). The ride once again was long. It took about 5 hours to get there but the drive was spectacular. The roads winding through some very impressive rock formations, the Naukluft mountains rise sharply from the gravel plains.. It's impossible to even describe the beauty in words or photos. We were even treated to a very rare showing of, yup you guessed it, cheetahs. We asked our guide if it was common to find cheetahs this far south and he said no. Only on a couple of game reserves. We counted 6. What a week.

Straddling the Dune 45

Trying to contain my excitement for sitting on a Dune that was at least 160°F. The Namib Desert stretch from the Orange river to Kuiseb River, which is collectively referred to as the "Dune Sea" and from Torra Bay to Angola's Croce river in the north. The dunes are made up of colorful quartz sand, which can vary in their hues. From cream to orange to red to violet. The hues also change, obviously, as the angle of the sun changes. I must say, however, the dunes leave you grasping for breath. Perfectly sculpted sand dunes which are dynamic (meaning they change with the wind and are always being sculpted and resculpted). The first stop was Dune 45. A spectacular dune which is a great hike to the top. The name of the dune is actually rather boring. It is called Dune 45 because it is approximately 45 km from Sessriem and 45 dunes from Sousessvlei.

Dune 45

Dune sea

Sousessvlei is a large ephemeral pan which is set amid red sand dunes that tower up to 200 meters (656.17 feet) above the valley floor and 300 meters (954.5 feet) above the strata. Sousessvlei contains the world's oldest, highest and arguably most picturesque dunes in the world. I must say the dunes were certainly beautiful and the temperature arguably hotter than the sun, at approximately 105°F / 41°C. But what I ended up doing was enough to kill you. Along with 3 other guys we decided we were going to hike to the summit of the worlds highest sand dune, "Big Daddy" as it is called. It is 300 meters high and stands at the base of the Dead Vlei. Equiped with 2 liters of water we set out for the summit. We walked along the tops of the dunes, taking occasional breaks to empty our shoes of the sand, reapply sun screen or to wipe the sand from our faces as it whips across the dune surface at bullet speeds. After 1 hour 20 minutes we reached the top and were rewarded with spectacular views out over the dune sea. The best part is it only took us 5 minutes to get down. As we ran at full force down the face of the dune, a mere 75 degree angle, and down into the Dead Vlei. We were later told that we were the first people in many years to climb the dune, in such harsh temperatures, and in such short time. Note: I'm happy to say that I was the 'leader of the pack' such as it was. The other guys said that if I hadn't kept going they surely would have gone down.

Dune 45 in reflection

Deadvlei

The Traveler at the Tropic of Capricorn

Tomorrow is a rest day and then in the evening it's the last overnight bus. Next stop: Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe!.. stay tuned.



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I am very passionate about traveling. My goal is to visit as many places and experience as many things as I can during my short journey on this earth.