It breaks my heart to say that this is my LAST post from my trip to Africa. It was truly the trip of a lifetime, both as an incredible family adventure as well as a photographers dream destination.
Days 13-15. As mentioned in my previous post, the tail end of our trip was in Etosha National Park. The last three days were spent in the Erindi Private Game Reserve with such creature comforts as a cool bed, air conditioning, and all you can eat buffets surrounded by clean smelling tourists. It really felt odd to be experiencing Africa in this manner, and we frequently longed to get back to the true bush. The morning and evening driving safaris were now with the private Erindi team (our FANTASTIC guides Sascha and Jimmy from Southern Cross Safaris had left us in Erindi and headed back home to prepare for their next trip). These tours now felt a little more like theme park rides in that many of the larger animals were radio tagged for easier tracking, and there was often a number of vehicles surrounding the larger animals. Overall, it was still a fantastic experience and we were treated to a huge and diverse variety of animals on every tour.
Finally, I want to thank Southern Cross Safaris for an epic experience. Sascha and Jimmy made us feel like family, and their wilderness knowledge and experience opened up a world to us that few get the opportunity to see. We can’t wait to return!
Click to enlarge images.
Days 11-12. When planning our trip, we designed the last few days to be a little on the easier and more comfortable end of the safari spectrum. Rather then set up our own tents and cook our meals while isolated in the deep wild, we decided to stay in two different safari lodges (complete with hot showers and beds…and crowds of clean tourists and all you can eat buffets overlooking watering holes). It was a bit of a shock, and we felt awkward experiencing Africa in this more controlled and catered manner. The first two days were spent at the Halali Camp, and luckily our original guides stayed with us at this camp and also took us on the early morning and evening game drives in Etosha National Park. Click to enlarge images.
The long day 7 drive through the concession area was a slow, difficult, and at times uncomfortable (very steep terrain mixed with heavy rains) journey. As we arrived and searched out a campsite, the clouds began to clear and we were treated to a spectacularly beautiful double rainbow sunset over the camp. We were now as far out of touch from the rest of the modern civilized world as I have ever been. Over dinner our guide Sasha described the “lion” protocol for the camp (imagine him telling us this at night as light from the small fire flickered on half of his face): Never leave your tent alone at night. Need to pee? Take the bucket from outside your tent door into your tent, pee, put the bucket back outside of the tent. Need to do a #2? Wake the three men up and walk as a group to the makeshift toilet as you scan the surroundings with headlamps for reflective “eyes” around camp. Hear something at night creeping outside your tent? Don’t move, make a noise, or turn on your light. Do not call for anyone. Follow these rules, and you likely will not get eaten. We all slept great after that. And for the record, we did hear some hyenas not too far from camp as we were falling asleep.
This is my favorite photo from the entire trip. Click to see it in full resolution!
Day 5 in Namibia found us setting out at sunrise on a hike through the Erongo plains to visit Phillipps Cave, a shallow cave hidden in the steep granite cliffs of the Erongo mountains. The cave, which is a national heritage site, is famous for it’s cave paintings by the nomadic San People (Bushman), which include hunting scenes, antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, ostriches, antelope, springbuck, kudus, zebra, the famous white elephant, and 6 imprints of human hands. Some of the paintings date back to approximately 3368 BC. As always, click to enlarge.
Sunrise Hike to the Cave
Man Hunting Ostrich
Men Standing in Cave
Man Sitting in Cave
Family Sitting in Cave
View from Phillipps Cave
Stone tools dating to 3500 years BC,
View from Phillipps Cave
Bearded Dragon protecting the cave
Ants drying their grass seed harvest, a morning ritual.
Female Greater Kudu welcoming us on our return to camp
Day 4 in Namibia had us setting out from our first wild campsite in the Tinkas Plains and driving to the Erongo Mountains. Throughout the day we were treated to extraordinarily beautiful landscapes and the most amazing wildlife. As always, click to enlarge.
Breakfast in Tinkas Plains
Three generations welcoming the morning sun
On the road again
Rock formations in the Erongo Plains
Quiver Tree, a succulent plant indigenous to Southern Africa, get its name from the San people practice of hollowing out the tubular branches to make quivers for their arrows. Quiver tree numbers are in decline as a result of climate change.
The dried leaves also make for great Commedia dell’Arte masks!
Shieldback Katydid. These pests covered almost every bit of foliage and fencepost throughout all of the Tinkas and Erongo plains.
Safari Guide wannabe
Sascha with his new friend which he narrowly avoided while driving down the road
This massive monitor lizard strolled across the road an hid from us in this tree. Our guide Sascha says that this was one of the largest monitor lizards that he had ever seen.
Look who came to camp this morning to wish us well on the next leg of our journey! A cute little ol’ Puff Ader, a card carrying member of the venomous viper snake species which is considered responsible for the majority of snakebite fatalities in Africa.
Night three found us in our first remote (very remote!) wilderness campsite. Namibia is one of the darkest locations on earth, and the desert’s extremely dry weather and pristine skies make for the most astonishing views of the heavens. Here is my shot of the Milky Way over a rock arch and cave in the Namibian desert. The girls and Sascha can be seen contemplating life in the cave. Their pow-pow was soon cut short when Shayna found a large scorpion crawling nearby.
Day three in Namibia had us setting out from the dunes of Sossusvlei and headed to our first wild campsite in the Tinkas Plains. Our path brought us through Solitaire, a “settlement” that consists of a general store, a small lodge, the only gas station for miles, and the world famous “Moose McGregor’s” bakery. Located on the crossroads of long dusty roads from Sossusvlei, Swakopmond, and Windhoek, Solitaire was the perfect spot for the scottish adventurer and baker Percy “Moose” McGregor to open a bakery and begin to sell, among other delicious desserts, his (soon to be legendary) German style apple pie made from an old family recipe. After hours of dusty and bumpy driving on endless rutted desert roads, a piece of his pie (à la mode, of course!) came in as one of the most delicious and gratifying meals (yes, meal) that I have ever eaten. Pie score: 11 out of 10.
Deadvlei (Dead Marsh) is a white clay pan in the Sossusvlei area of the Namib desert, Namibia. Surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world, Deadvlei was formed when the river Tsauchab flooded it’s banks and formed shallow pools. Camel thorn trees once grew in abundance here, but decades of drought and the advancement of the nearby dunes ultimately blocked the water source, and the trees in the vlei were unable to survive. The trees are believed to be up to 900 years old and have been dead since the 14th century. Scorched black by the intense sun and able to stave off decomposition due to the arid climate and lack of insects, these bizarre skeletons along with the white clay pan and surrounding red dunes together make for one of the most unique and beautiful landscapes on earth. Click on any image to view Hi-Res version.
Sossusvlei, with it’s massive red dunes and bleached salt pans, is Namibia’s most recognizable landscape. Big Daddy, the tallest dune in the Sossusvlei area and one of the highest dunes in the world, towers over the surrounding dunes at 325m (1,066ft). Extremely high heat and perpetually cloudless skies makes for an extraordinarily arduous 2 hour trek to the top, however climbers are rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Click on any image to open Hi-Res copy.
Extreme temperatures and long travel time to the dune mandates a very early predawn start to the trailhead. To grasp the scale of the dune, click on the above image to open a larger image, and look for the specks of people over our heads that have started up the ridge.
10 minutes down, almost 2 hours to go.
Almost to the summit, but about to get sandblasted by heavy winds.
Epic views of the Deadvlei and surrounding landscape.