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.
Day 10 brought a drive out of the wild and into “civilization”. We were headed to Etosha National Park (with showers and beds), a 22,270 sq km/8,600 sq mi park which gets its name from the Etosha Pan, a salt pan which covers a quarter of the total area of the park and is so large that it is identifiable from space. Our drive to the park took us through scattered Damara villages, where farmers who subsist on herding cattle, sheep, and goats still live primarily in simple homes constructed from dung and termite mud (collected from MASSIVE termite hills) spread on a wooden frame.
Massive termite hills were scattered throughout the countryside.
Himba Women out for a stroll
Night 9 brought a goodnight and goodbye to the Damaraland (Palmweg) Concession in north-western Namibia, bringing to a close the most primitive wild camping portion of the tour. From here we head back to “civilization” in the form of Etosha National Park.
Click on photo to view an enlarged 10 panel shot of Milky Way taken from the edge of our campsite.
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.
Himba woman in traditional clothing
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.
Twyfelfontein, one of the most extensive galleries of rock art in Africa.
Springbok grazing at dusk (one of my favorite pics from the trip)
Welcome to Aabadi campsite, guys!
Sunset over the Damaraland
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.
Baboons taking shelter from the approaching storm
Bull’s Party Panorama
Taking our medicine: anti-malarial Gin and tonics
Walking on Mars
Elephant Head cliff formation
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.