One of the most interesting places in all of Namibia had to be the town of Opuwo, the capital of the Kunene Region. While it is nothing to look at, with its half-dozen or some concrete stores, people watching is absolutely fascinating.
Sit around the gas stations or head into the grocery store and you will have one of the most culturally diverse experiences. People in modern sports wear shop beside ocre coated, bare breasted Himba women as well as Herero women with Victorian era dresses and the most fantastic headgear.
Photography is difficult as people ask for money to have their picture taken (which is something one should discourage).
The images are not up to my usual standards, but these are off the hip, candid snapshots.
If you are passing near the town of Grootfontein, you might want to take a short detour to the Hoba farm, where you can see the Hoba Meteorite, the largest meteorite in the world. It is a chunk of fairly pure iron (87%) that fell to earth some 80,000 years ago.
The best place to watch animals is in the eastern part of Etosha National Park.
Why, because they are used to visitors and are not spooked by them. While is sounds romantic to get out to one of the more remote areas like the western part of the park, Namib-Naukluft, etc., these animals are very wary of humans and will run away as you get closer, while those in Eastern Etosha let you get up quite close.
Another thing to consider, espeically in Etosha during the dry season, is that unlike some of the other large parks, like Kruger, etc. you really don't have to go on a game drive. With limited water supplies, the animals will come to the water holes. Just sit there and wait, as they will come. You will need some patience, as the animals follow their own schedule, not yours. Pick a waterhole that has good sight lines and has no reed growth (predators can hide in the reeds, so the animals will not visit those waterholes).
If you get to a waterhole and the animals are not paying attention to you, you can be fairly certain that there is a larger danger (predator) around. You and your vehicle are quite large and imposing, and if the animals are ignoring you, they likely have a good reason to. You have to be vigilent and patient. The predators are not going to be out in the open, but are will be hiding in the bushes or behind rocks where the prey cannot easily see them. Take your time and you will be rewarded!
In Western Etosha we were litterly sitting about 3m / 10ft away from a leopard. We had to take pictures with medium length lenses, rather than the super zooms we usually use.
We got up early one morning while staying at Huab Lodge to join our host Jan on his daily early morning walk. We set out in the half-light of dawn. It was still pretty chilly so warm clothes were needed. We followed the dried-up river bed for part of the walk and Jan described to us the very different scene in the wet season when for a few short weeks the water (usually) flows through the farm. We also climbed a small outcrop for a wonderful view of the sunrise.
Heading back to the Lodge Jan took us up the hill behind the accommodation bungalows and showed us the extensive solar panel system and small generator that keep all the buildings supplied with light and hot water. We arrived back at the main building just as breakfast was being served, and it really is worth taking an early morning walk just to work up sufficient appetite to do real justice to the wonderful spread that is laid on at a Huab breakfast: home-made breads, fruit, various meats, cereals etc – all served on the terrace under what is by then a beautifully warm sun.
One of the activities on offer at Okonjima Lodge is a bush walk, which I can definitely recommend. You set out early in the morning (so wrap up warmly) and after an early morning snack consisting of tea or coffee and muffins, follow an easy trail around the surrounding property. Your guide will stop in various pre-arranged spots to describe an aspect of the San bushman’s life, such as fire-making, hunting, trapping etc. Although our guide wasn’t a bushman himself, he had lived with a San tribe in the north for about a year while studying and could tell us lots of interesting stories about his time there.
The walk lasts about 90 minutes and you get back to the lodge in time for brunch. This is a substantial meal of maize porridge, muesli and other breakfast cereals, fruit, yoghurt, salami, cheeses and bread, followed by eggs, sausage or bacon. Brunch is served daily at Okonjima and replaces a conventional lunch. We were certainly glad of it after this early start!
Another must-do activity when staying at Okonjima Lodge is a night time visit to a hide. After dinner everyone wraps up warmly for the short drive to the hide. There you need to keep very quiet as you all file into the space. Torches are provided so that you can see where you’re going. Everyone is seated on a long bench, and when you’re all in place torches are switched off and the flaps covering the window slots are lifted. The guides put raw meat in a clearing just in front of you, and you wait…..
On our visit the porcupines were first to arrive – three or four of them came snuffling out of the surrounding trees and nosed around the meat for a while. We all took photos and the flashes didn’t seem to bother them at all – the guide explained that they probably think it’s lightening. But you will need a good flash to get a photo - mine were a little disappointing so I've borrowed the image from the Lodge website (thank you Okonjima!)
After a while the porcupines left, just as the honey badgers arrived. Just one at first, then a couple more. These aren’t anything like the shy, cuddly British badger – in fact I read a description of them as the fiercest animals, for their size, in Africa. Perhaps that’s why the porcupines left!
After an hour or so watching and enjoying, it’s time to go back to the lodge to get warm by the roaring fire, and a welcome warming drink.
While staying at Huab Lodge (see my Accommodation tip) we had the chance to visit a black eagle's nest. There was a chick in the nest but we were reassured that unlike other eagles, black eagles won't desert a nest that has been visited. I stayed below to watch and take photos of the climb, while my husband Chris (who took this great photo) and two other guests joined our host, Jan, for the climb. The nest was perched on a rocky ledge high above the dried up Huab River, and wasn't easy to reach (understatement of the holiday!) but their efforts were repaid by some stunning views of the young chick, who was about seven weeks old and already the size of a hen.
We learnt later that the chick continued to thrive and took to the skies a few months later, none the worse for the invasion of his privacy!
If you get a chance to tour or visit one of Namibia's black townships (see my comments regarding township visits on this page), be sure to get a beer at a shebeen.
Shebeens are unlicensed taverns that operate in people's houses. It's a way that they make additional N$.
The locals are generally friendly, but be sure to go with someone who knows the area.
A couple of km east of Swakopmund is the place known as Moon landscape. Not much can be found about it in the guide books or Internet, but it is so extraordinary that it is definitely worth visiting. Bare rocks with occasional patches of silver green plants look so unearthly and inhospitable that you have no doubts why the place was given such a name. It's said that the place is quite popular with film industry. It's drama and grandeur could be an ideal setting for science fiction films.
An interesting place, that not many visitors to Swakopmund know about, is the cemetery. It consists of two parts standing in stark contrast. The neat German part has even rows of graves set among palm trees. The African part exposed to the scorching sun consists of mere heaps of sand marked with stones and a cross here and there. There are just a few graves with a tombstone and the name of the deceased on it.
In the far end of the African part is a memorial to the Nam and Herero people who died in concentration camps at the beginnning of the 20th century. It's here that I learn about this horrific genocide that happened in 1904-07, as the revenge to Herero rebellion against German colonial rule. After the Battle of Waterberg, where the Herero were defeated, the survivors were put in concentration camps. Malnutritioned, beaten and abused, forced to work like slaves, drinking water from wells which had been poisoned by the Germans, they died every day in big numbers. In result 65 000 Herero (70% of total population) and 10 000 Nama (50 %) died.
This park is 20 km-s from Windhoek. As the park has no dangerous animals you can walk around. When I was there the facilities were closed and I was alone in the whole 100 square km park. I walked to the dam and saw monkeys, deers, warthogs, hornbill birds, gnus, impalas among others. You can see many skeletons around the waters. The scenery is fantastic. You hardly feel closer the nature than walking around without a guide or seeing other tourists. Just as I drove out from the park I saw a beatiful yellow chameleon. Excellent half-day trip from Windhoek.
At the hostel, we met a man working for a desert elephant preservation camp. He explained that it was near Brandberg Rock Art site. Not knowing where that was, we asked for directions. He offered to show us and said we could stay in the camp. Up for the adventure, our citigolf trailed behind his lumbering 4x4. The camp was totally organic, hand made, and very close to the rock art site. We slept in wooden tent shape structures with no doors...completely open to area desert life. hmmm...but it was worth it, and we met amazing people from all over the world, hiding in a small camp buried in Namibia.
Driving around the farm at Huab with Jan we were thrilled to find this bottle tree in bloom. These striking trees are distinguished by their thick bottle-shaped trunk, which is almost branchless until the top. The branches are few and covered with thorns up to a foot long. The flowers appear in the spring, when the tree is leafless, which is why they look so dramatic. Jan told us it was quite unusual to find a tree with as many blooms as this so early in the spring (i.e. mid July).
The Bottle tree is an endemic species of Namibia, growing in semi-desert areas and dry bush, especially Damaraland. Jan described how local people have traditionally used the latex as arrow poison for hunting. In contact with the eyes this latex can produce blindness.
If you’re travelling anywhere in the north/central part of Namibia, e.g. near the town of Okahandja, you’re bound to see groups of Herero women selling crafts at the side of the road. The most popular item is a doll dressed in the traditional Herero costume. If like us you don’t want to buy, it’s still worth stopping and asking if you can take some photos – most won’t mind but it’s courteous to offer them a small tip if you’re not also buying their goods, of course.
The Herero are cattle farmers who measure their wealth in cattle, and the importance of cattle to them is even evident in the women’s dresses. The traditional dress is derived from a Victorian woman's dress, and consists of an enormous crinoline worn over a several petticoats, and a horn shaped hat made from rolled cloth, which is said to represent the horns of a cow.
The Welwitschia Mirabilis is as its name suggests one of the most amazing plants you will see. You can spot it in several areas in the Namib Naukluft Park, or as we did, in the Petrified Forest. An adult welwitschia consists of two leaves, a stem base and roots. That is all! Its two permanent leaves are unique in the plant kingdom. They are the original leaves from when the plant was a seedling, and they just continue to grow and are never shed. They are leathery, broad, and lie on the ground becoming torn to ribbons and tattered with age. And boy do these plants age! Their estimated lifespan is 400 to 1500 years so many that you’ll see are at least 500-600 years old, while some of the larger specimens are thought to be 2000 years old. So these aren't the prettiest plants you'll see, but they are interesting and worth capturing on camera.
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
More Regions in Namibia