peeks at the world through my lens

Posts tagged “Safari

Rainbow Sunset Over Palmweg Concession in Damaraland, Namibia

 

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!

 

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Into the Wilds of Damara Concession D7

Day 7  was when the adventure really  stepped it up a notch. We were now headed out for three nights of wild camping in the Damaraland  (Palmweg) Concession, a massive, roughly 5,500 km2 /2,200 mile2 conservation area in north-western Namibia. This open and wild region is the home to a large variety of species, including lion, elephants, mountain zebra, giraffe, and nearly 70% of the world’s free roaming black rhinos. Traveling and camping in the concession would allow us to experience these animals in their true open and untamed native habitat, unlike what we would later experience in the more commercial National Parks and Reserves. A long and arduous drive on little-used uneven roads, at times through torrential downpours, was worth the surprise we had waiting for us when the rains stopped and we arrived at our remote campsite (see next post!).

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Greater Kudo Male

Two male Greater Kudo

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Erongo Mountains to the Damaralands D6

The Day 6 Namibian agenda called for us to drive out from the Erongo mountains and head into the scenic Damaraland, a massive, untamed, and ruggedly beautiful region in the north-central part of Namibia which is home to one of the oldest nations in cultures in Namibia, the Damara people. Our Damaraland landscape starts with open plains and grasslands, granite hills and deep gorges, but changes dramatically to endless sandy wastelands. Somehow, though, the Damaraland is able to sustain a wide-ranging variety of animals which have all adapted to survive in this harsh and almost waterless desert. Two notable sites along the way were The Brandenburg  aka “Fire Mountain”, Namibia’s highest mountain, as well as a tour of the San (Bushman) rock art in Twyfelfontein, a site that has been inhabited for 6,000 years and was used for a place of worship and a site to conduct shamist rituals.  Throughout the rituals, at least 2,500 items of rock carvings have been created, and as one of the largest concentrations of rock art in Africa, has been designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Click to enlarge.

 

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Himba woman in traditional clothing

 

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The Brandberg ‘Fire Mountain’, from the effect created by the setting of the sun on its western face, which causes it to glow red like molten metal.

 

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Twyfelfontein, one of the most extensive galleries of rock art in Africa.

 

 

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Springbok grazing at dusk (one of my favorite pics from the trip)

 

7. Scorpian at Aabadi Camp

Welcome to Aabadi campsite, guys!

 

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Sunset over the Damaraland

 

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Sundowner at Bulls’s Party, Namibia D5

Our second hike on day 5 sent us straight into a rainstorm as it rumbled towards our afternoon sundowner (happy hour) destination, Bull’s Party rock formation. Bull’s Party formation stems from regional volcanic activity dating back 110-130 million years, followed by erosion of the earth’s surface, which resulted in massive granite blocks being exposed throughout the area. Millions of years of extreme day/night temperature fluctuations caused the blocks to chip off and form rounded boulders, which rolled down into the valley. The formation gets its name from the belief that the boulders resemble a group of bulls facing each other.

We enjoyed our anti-malarial Gin and tonics under cover of the massive granite boulders as the sky opened up and torrential rains created streams and waterfalls where seconds earlier there were none. The Gin Gods were smiling down on us though… for the rains ended as abruptly as they began, and, as the sun set below the clouds, our surroundings were illuminated by an unearthly yellow-orange hue. As we left the protection of the rocks and headed back to camp, the intense colors made it feel as  though we were walking across a Martian landscape. As the eerie colors faded, the clouds gave way to the last rays of the sun and a magical perfect double rainbow over the Elephant Head cliff formation.  As always, click to enlarge.

 

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Baboons taking shelter from the approaching storm

 

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Bull’s Party Panorama

 

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Taking our medicine: anti-malarial Gin and tonics

 

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Walking on Mars

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Elephant Head cliff formation


Erongo Mountains, Namibia D5

 

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.

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Sunrise Hike to the Cave

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Man Hunting Ostrich

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Antelope

White Elephant

White Elephant.

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Men Standing in Cave

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Man Sitting in Cave

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Family Sitting in Cave

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View from Phillipps Cave

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Stone tools dating to 3500 years BC,

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View from Phillipps Cave

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Bearded Dragon protecting the cave

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Ants drying their grass seed harvest, a morning ritual.

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Greater Kudu

Female Greater Kudu welcoming us on our return to camp

 

 

 

 


Tinkas Plains to Erongo Mountains, Namibia D4

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.

 

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Breakfast in Tinkas Plains

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Three generations welcoming the morning sun

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On the road again

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Rock formations in the Erongo Plains

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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.

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The dried leaves also make for great Commedia dell’Arte masks

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Ostriches

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Springbok herd

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Shieldback Katydid. These pests covered almost every bit of foliage and fencepost throughout all of the Tinkas and Erongo plains.

 

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Safari Guide wannabe

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Sacha with his new friend which he narrowly avoided while driving down the road

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Chameleon

 

monitor lizard

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.

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Warthog

Tinkas to Erongo


Sossusvlei to Tinkas Plains, Namibia D3

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.

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Little Sossus Campsite

Upon our arrival to Namibia, we were immediately whisked away for our first big drive into the Sesrium region of the Namib desert. Our first two nights were spent camping at the Little Sossus Campsite, where sweeping panoramic views of the surrounding Namib plains provided an exciting introduction to wildlife watching as well as a few epic happy hour sunsets. Click images to open hi-res version.

Unimog

Our travel vehicle was a Unimog, a German vehicle built by Mecedez Benz which is designed to withstand the most challenging drivable terrain in the world.  Ours had been totally stripped down to the chassis and built back up to be a super long-distance safari machine capable of driving days between fuel refills in the most rugged terrain in Southern Africa. Inside was passenger space as well as food, a small fridge, a freezer, and our luggage. Behind we pulled a trailer with all the cooking and camping gear.

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Our accommodations ranged primarily between campsites like Little Sossus Campsite, which had running water and washing facilities, to remote wilderness camping, where for as far as the eye could see,  there were no signs of civilization. We did make sure to finish the two weeks off with a few nights in proper beds.

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Watching a small nearby watering hole adjacent to the campsite

 

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Namib plains

 

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 Blue wildebeest visit the watering hole

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Springbok and Oryx on Sossusvlei Flats

The drive from Sesriem, the gateway to the region, to Sossusvlei takes slightly over an hour and the park gates are only open between sunrise and sunset. As expected, every km/mile of the drive is breathtaking.

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Springbok

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Oryx

 

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Oryx


Eerie Skeletons and Towering Red Dunes of Deadvlei in Sossusvlei, Namibia

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.

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Epic view from the top of Big Daddy dune of the Deadvlei pan and surrounding landscape.
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Entering the Deadvlei pan

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Skeletal remains of long since dead camel thorn trees

 

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Skeletal remains of long dead dead camel thorn trees

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Some life stubbornly persists in the pan

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Scorched black by the intense sun

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Too dry to decompose

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Barren forest amongst towering red dunes.