I’ve seen 10 times more table mountains than Cape Town, Canyons bigger than the Grand Canyon in America, Sand Dunes higher than the Pyramids in Egypt and 1000 more seals on the beach than Kangaroo Island in Australia!
Where have I been? Namibia!
When you think that nothing more can move you, when you think you’ve seen it all – then go to Namibia and prepare to be overwhelmed.
Namibia was colonised by Germany for about 30 years – and the German influence is obvious – their architecture, their town planning, their efficiently run restaurants and hotels. German is almost a second language to the local Namibians and there are many farms and guesthouses still owned and run by expatriates. Swakopmund was delightful – excellent accommodation and restaurants – a welcome respite after our 100kms drive south on Namibia’s desolate and stark Skeleton Coast.
The shimmering sands shifting from the desert to our left, and the vast grey/green Atlantic on our right – the Skeleton Coast image is exactly what you conjure up from its name. Whale bones on the beach, and shipwrecks, stranded and stuck in their tilted pose as they ran aground – doomed to sail no more! I came across a huge colony of seals – they clustered together on the beach as far as the eye could see – mostly asleep, looking exhausted! Some babies and juveniles clamoured over parents, and some seals were out in the waves – tossing and diving. I walked among them and said hello but my voice was lost in the din of barking and snorting from all around me. What a noise!!
My scenery changed dramatically as I headed inland from the Atlantic coast to Sossusvlei to the desert and the most famous Red Sand Dunes of the Namib Desert. My lodging was like a castle in the desert with turrets and open air rooms on the roof to literally, sleep under the stars! There was an ‘upside down’ new moon and a clear sky and I was able to see a line of planets – Mars, the closest to the moon, Venus and across the sky was Jupiter – clearly visible with the naked eye.
Have you ever tried to climb a sand dune? It’s impossible! Two steps forward and three steps back! You sink into the sand and balance precariously on the sharp edge which the wind has kindly shaped for you – but it’s a sheer drop on one side! So much better to take a dawn hot air balloon and glide over the desert as the sun rises and look down to see animals, stark trees, the mysterious fairy circles and yes, the odd sand dune too! I really enjoyed my open air breakfast after the balloon gently landed – champagne and all!
All this scenery, but what about the animals, I hear you ask? Etosha National Park is filled with game – all the Big Five – Elephants, Buffaloes, Leopards, Lions and Rhinos – plus all the Antelopes, Impala, Springboks, Kudu, Bushbucks, Eland and Oryx – not forgetting Zebras and Giraffes, Warthogs, Hyenas and wild birds galore! You pay an entrance fee to enter the park, but the facilities are great – gravel roads to waterholes to check out who’s thirsty, and plenty of bush to encounter animals close up. You must stay in your car at all times – so toilet stops are enclosed, fenced and gated for your safety. There are marked lookouts and scenic spots and camps inside the park, quite basic but no one seems to mind. Their reward? The bush experience! Safaris are exhilarating and fun! Prepare for early mornings, afternoon naps and night drives – you never know what you’ll see but you can be sure every drive will be different – and if you do park quietly near a family of lions or some elephants wallowing in a mud bath – it’s a privilege to share their company for a little while. The animals are not just confined to Etosha – we saw oryx everywhere, under shady trees along the way – desert elephants (bush elephants who have made their homes in the Namib desert) and we had a very exciting day tracking rhino in Damaraland. I stayed in a lodge, perched on the edge of a plateau with spectacular views of the valley below. It was in this valley we took a 4x4 safari jeep with a driver and 2 trackers. In this wilderness of 400,000 hectares of dry riverbeds, stoney paths and bush we looked for prints, dung or any other clues in our quest to find our elusive rhino. The driver and trackers told us about how rhinos are endangered to the brink of extinction, but now thanks to extensive conservation, rhino numbers are rising. They told us about poachers, and I was incensed by the greed and ignorance of these poachers. They told how their whole village wept if one of the rhinos was found slaughtered and de-horned. It was like losing a child they said. Rhinos are gentle giants, vegetarians who do not kill. For some reason, some humans mistakenly believe their horns are a cure for cancer, impotence, hangovers and fevers – and for this they are hunted, poached and killed. It’s pointless and tragic. Thanks to Save the Rhino Trust, we are all being made aware and rhino numbers are recovering.
We spent twelve hours on our trek and we did find a rhino, we stood quietly about 50 feet from him, downwind, and watched as he ambled, chewing roots and grass – a goose-bumpy experience. He had been de-horned when he was young, for his own safety. And as I left him quietly grazing I said ‘Goodbye Mr Rhino, you may not look very pretty but you are safe – have a long and happy life! Goodbye!’
I can tell you so much more about my trip to Namibia – crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, and looking at a giant Welwitschia, (a plant that is 1,500 years old) – I can recommend restaurants to dine in, lodges to stay at and tours that bring Namibia to life!
It’s a bucket list holiday destination, so if you’re thinking of Namibia – think of me and call Hallmark Travel first!
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No, I'm not a Travel Guru, but I have loved travelling since I was five years old, and more than love travel... I love to share my experiences... and show you our Wonderful World through my eyes!