Most people think about big animals and dangerous animals when they think of African wildlife... but there's lots more. I will certainly never be engaged by National Geographic as staff photographer for my wildlife pics... but a few creatures stayed still long enough for me to take a picture in which their species are more or less recognisable.
I really wanted to see massive pink flocks of flamingoes while I was there... it is possible, but we were not really in the right places, nor there at the best time of the year. Nevertheless I was so happy when we stopped for lunch near this lagoon and I found these 6 beauties wandering around.
Fondest memory: This lagoon is situated very close to the entrance to the Skeleton Coast park, just off the main road known as Welwitschia Drive. The main place to see flamingos though is Walvis Bay lagoon, which serves as host to 70,000 to 80,000 species of birds.
More info on Namibia's flora and fauna is available at this URL:
This little fella was scurrying around near our hotel at Sessreim, looking for crumbs that had fallen from the breakfast table.
I've looked to see where ground squirrels tend to be seen, and they are frequently seen around the Fish River Canyon in the south of the country, at Etosha and in a certain number of other locations. I could not find a reference to them living in the dune area of the Namib desert... but there you go. There is at least one!
I normally don't expect to see owls. As a rule they are out and about while I'm tucked up in bed. You can imagine therefore what a surprise it was to encounter this chap, in broad daylight and in the crippling heat of Sossusvlei.
Had he been out late the night before and lost his way?
Did he always perch there during the day and laugh at the hosts of tourists exhausting themselves on the dunes?
Who knows? But just looking at his feathers made me sweat even more!
Fondest memory: I have no idea what type of owl this is. He was pretty big though, maybe 60 or 70 cm. If anyone out there is a specialist on these things, I would be very grateful for some information.
In the meantime if you are interested in seeing some of the birdlife of Namibia, look no further:
Pictures of Namibian birdlife
In Namibia you will see nest complexes like this, pretty much everywhere. They are built by the tiny, and wonderfully named sociable weaver birds, and sociable is certainly what they are! Some of these nests are over 100 years old, and some have been known to house up to 300 birds.
Architects can only look askance at the achievements of our tiny feathered friends. The species' survival depends on numbers - huge numbers. In these nests they have everything a self-respecting desert dweller could wish for: air conditioning, entry tunnels that make life difficult for would-be predators, a bit of space to rent out to other species should they require it. The whole structure is held together by its own weight.
Inside the birds create chambers that are about the size of a man's fist. And there they live, happilly and communally. Snakes have a hard job reaching them, but they will persist, so my advice is to think very carefully before puting up a tent anywhere near these nests!
Little-known, and ultimately useless fact about the sociable weaver: it can survive in some of the world's most arid locations because it's consumption of insects means that it never needs to drink water!
Fondest memory: For more photos of these amazing constructions, have a look at this page
Namibia was the experience of a lifetime. There was, in retrospect, no way we would not have loved our trip to this out of the way and beautiful land.
But our guide, Julia Tress, made it so much more special. If you'd like to find Julia, she works for CCAfrica. Contact them at www.ccafrica.com. Tell her that Pete from Florida recommended her.... and tip her well.
There are quite a few very good guides in the area. My advice is to find people who've traveled with guides and ask for names. Word of mouth means more than anything else.
Fondest memory: The bonding that took place between our wonderful guide Julia and my daugher Sara. Julia made the trip special for Sara, and since we went TO Namibia primarily to satiate my daughter's love of wildlife, her contribution was the prime factor in making this trip one of the best we'll ever take.
What for some can appear usual, for others is unique. So were for me the termite mounds - one of the typical features of Namibian savanna. I didn't see the record holders which can reach even nine metres in height, but the ones that I saw were impressive enough for me.
Those huge constructions should be an inspiration for humans - they can teach us what great effects collaboration can have.
It's interesting to know that the greatest enemies of termites are ants, and the fights between the two can be quite violent involving the usage of toxins and irritants. When the mounds are abandoned in the result of the death of the termite queen, they are often occupied by some other animals, for example ground squirrels.
When I am in a country so different from home, what I like best is that any moment I can come across something I had no idea about, something that is a wonder in itself.
A haystack on the tree? I asked myself seeing those big constructions on the trees along the road. They turned out to be the nests made by small brown birds called sociable weavers. Those amazing little builders construct the largest nests made by any bird in the world. The biggest one can weigh even a tone and be 6 metres long. Sometimes they are so heavy that they knock the tree down.
As the name suggests the birds are very sociable - one nest can provide shelter for several hundred inhabitants and can consist of up to 100 chambers. The central chambers are the warmest, while the outer ones are cool, so they can serve different purposes on different days.
The birds make the nest their permanent home, even for next generations. One nest can remain occupied for as long as a hundred years.
Isn't it an ornithological wonder?
first of all,to enjoy sunrise on namib dunes,you MUST spend the night ONLY in sessriem campground (see hotel pic)....
WHY?because the only gates to open one hour before sunrise are campground gates....
BTW,don't forget to buy gate entrance tickets the day before!
if you visit ONE thing in south namibia,here you are!really a must!
huge NAMIB NAUKLUFT (50000 square km) covered by a sea of sandhills...among them,the highest in the world (340m)...
you have to visit it very early in the morning...sunrise among dunes is really A M A Z I N G!...colors are unique....moreover, later,sun can be very,very hot!
road between sessriem and sosussvlei,65km,is not the best one...anyway,no problem at all,excepted the last five km,only for 4x4 ....if you don't have,leave the car at km 60...there, expensive 4x4 (90N$/person) are waiting for driving you the last 5km to sossusvlei .
Fondest memory: grains of sand.....millions years before us and after us....really our life is soooo short!
Namibia is just made to self-drive and explore on your own - it has excellent infrastructure and flexibility as regards how long you want to spend there, what you want to see, accomodation budget etc etc. It makes for a different and incredible road-trip. Take time to plan the route, get hold of a decent map, and I assure you there will be no trouble. If you are visiting and have even the minimal desire to self-drive - just do it, as you will regret not doing it afterwards!
For a better experience I would suggest a good guidebook and lots of research to make sure you don't miss anything that might interest you. If you are off on safari, get an animal guide and familiarise yourself with the animals and their behaviour before you set out for the safari.
Fondest memory: There is nothing more rewarding than spotting the animals on safari on your own, or the sense of freedom whilst driving in the desolate desert roads. Also there is this wonderful feeling of 'getting away from it all', especially while driving certain roads, where it is just you and the desert and rarely another car in sight.
Fondest memory: I know that sunsets are a 'worn-out' topic, that in a way they are kitschy, but somehow I can't help being enchanted by them. And African sunsets can't leave anyone indifferent. Vast skies, open spaces, vivid colours and these fleeting moments of natural transition that you want to keep in your memory for ever. You try to catch all the beauty and emotions that it evokes on a film, but of course it's a futile task. Back at home it looks just pretty as the magic of the moment is gone. So I close my eyes and see again the sky on fire and the burning ball of the sun sinking gracefully behind the horizon. And the photos are just a nice souvenir.
almost mystic landscape of dead trees among the red orange dunes....
and the sensation to be ALONE!
Fondest memory: the highest dunes in the world....an ocean of sand...all is pure orange and red....becoming yellow in the middle of the day;blue of the sky;white of the salt,green of rare plants....
I had forgotten the splendid night sky could be so full of stars!
The sunsets are breathtaking over the sea at Swakopmund. It only occured on a rare occasion as there is mist most early mornings and late afternoons. When the skies are clear the sunset is unbelievable.
Fondest memory: The openess and the beach where you can walk forever, the ships in the mist on the way from Walvis Bay to Swakopmund and the sunsets.
Take a late afternoon walk on the beach. You can walk forever. Seemed like it is the in thing to do for the locals. We met several walkers. The strollers, the serious walkers that doesn't look around but just walk, the animal lovers, everybody just walks. If you're lucky and there are no clouds you will be able to watch the wonderful sunsets
Fondest memory: The atmosphere and the beautiful ocean and dunes
Bushman TV??? Well, of course, there's actually no such thing. Damaraland is certainly not the sort of place that you'd find a plethora of cable channels.
"Bushman TV" is a cute phrase that I heard used more than once on my trip to Namibia. It refers to the practice of taking your evening meal outdoors.
Fondest memory: We enjoyed "Bushman TV" in several places. But, one of the best would have to be at the Mowani Mountain Camp, near Twyfelfontein in southern Damaraland. (Please see my comments about Mowani under accomodations....)
The meal was extraordinary in itself. ANY dinner that begins with a lovely terrine of duck salad is going to be special. But, nibbling the outstanding cuisine on a linen-clothed table, illuminated only by candlelight would have been special enough. Add the Bushman TV aspect, namely dining under a sky literally boiling with stars, and you have the best show in the universe.
As most of Namibia is quite rural, there are not a lot of city lights to obscure astronomical viewing in the evening. With the naked eye, you can literally see hundreds more stars than you'd see back home. I like to describe the Namibian sky as "boiling with stars".
I am not, by nature, into astronomy. But, out in the Kalahari or Namib deserts, it's hard to not be unfettered by the explosive sky above you at night.
Fondest memory: EVERY night outside the city was a celestial treat. But, two star-gazing events stick in my mind as special.
(1) At the Etendeka Mountain Camp, Dennis Liebenberg (the owner) fixed his small telescope on Jupiter and its moons, affording an outstanding view. Looking through the telescope, the largest planet and its circling moons dominated the view. Take away the scope, and you couldn't begin to even imagine where Jupiter might have been among the millions of stars visible overhead.
(2) At the Sossuvlei Mountain Camp, they've hired a resident astronomer. (George Tucker, at the moment). George has a very large computerized scope, and he is very adept at finding and explaining the variety of the cosmos. Among the goodies George served on his universal buffet were :
A look at the space station circling overhead
A look at a collapsing black hole
A cloud of stars at the edge of the Milky Way
A guided tour of Scorpio, the Scorpion
A roadmap of the Southern Hemisphere
I especially enjoyed finding the new positions for viewing "Northern Hemisphere" mainstay constellations in the southern sky. The Big Dipper was just on the horizon, and was upside down.
Thanks for the time, George.
Note to all, if you get a chance to meet George at Sossuvlei, consider yourself lucky. The man enjoys what he does for a living, and would be happy to spend an entire night viewing the starts and planets with you.
We only stayed for one night sadly, as on our return to Windhoek we travelled on to a game farm. But...more
If you want a good campsite at Sossusvlei (Sesriem campsite) you need to book in Windhoek and/or...more
the hotel was well located and the rooms that I had to pass by on the way to mine looked good. Mine...more
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