Namibia 2013

09th September 2013
We started our adventure in Windhoek, heading immediately to Sesriem more commonly known as Sossusvlei. Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. "Vlei" is the Afrikaans word for a shallow depression filled with water (In this case a depression that occassionally fills with water!). "Sossus" is the name for "no return" or "dead end". Sossusvlei owes its name to the fact that it is a drainage basin without outflows for the ephemeral (transitory) Tsauchab River. This particular "Vlei" is actually a more-or-less circular, hard-surfaced depression that is almost entirely surrounded by sharp-edged dunes, beyond which lies a formidable sea of rolling sand, stretching in unbroken immensity all the way to the coast. The spectacular sand dunes at Sossusvlei are best viewed close to sunrise and sunset; the colours are strong and constantly changing, allowing for wonderful photographic opportunities. There are a number of well known dunes:
Dune 45: So called because it lies 45 km past Sesriem on the road to Sossusvlei. It is also known as the most photographed dune in the world because of its unusually simple and fascinating shape, and its proximity to the road.
Big Daddy: This is the highest dune in the area at 325 metres and faces "Big Mama".
Big Mama: Popular to climb and the view is spectacular. At the foot of "Big Mama" is DeadVlei, another clay pan, about 2 km from Sossusvlei. Deadvlei used to be an oasis with many trees but after the river changed its course the trees died and it is now a stark dry pan punctuated by blackened, dead preserved camelthorn threes, some over 800 years old. The vivid contrast between the shiny white of the salty pan floor, the intense orange of the dunes and the blackened skeletons of the dead trees produces a fascinating and eerie landscape! We rose early and watched the sun creep across Deadvlei, the shadows and colours changing by the minute - an amazing experience! A short flight across the dunes to the Atlantic Ocean was also a brilliant experience and put the extensive mass of sand into context. The sea fog that rolls across the dunes from the Atlantic Ocean is a source of water for Sossusvlei vegetation and wildlife.

Those magnificent sand dunes at sunrise was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I hope that the images presented here have captured just a tiny moment of this experience!

Leaving the sand dunes behind we travelled northwest towards the coastal town of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. At Walvis Bay I saw my first Flamingos - amazing birds in huge flocks all moving in unism and they were spectacuilar as the sun set below the ocean!

Etosha National Park
From the Atlantic coast we headed northeast to Etosha National Park - one of the world's most amazing wildlife regions. We spent 6 days in Etosha at a varity of lodges (Okaukuejo, Halali and Mushara Bush Camp) and saw an abundance of wildlife mostly around the waterholes. Night viewing was spectacular with floodlit waterholes a speciality - Black Rhino guaranteed!

Okonjima - Africat
The Africat Foundation at Okonjima is dedicated to the protection and long-term conservation of all large carnivores in Namibia - however it started off as a sanctuary for Cheetah and Leopard rescued from irate livestock farmers. We saw Cheetah and Leopard up close - they were hand reared and quite tame so it was lovely to enjoy them at our leisure. Beautiful accommodation - well worth a visit!

Twyfelfontein - Himba
We travelled by road from Okonjima to Twyfelfontein in Damaraland and stayed at Mowani Lodge which was truly unique in this wilderness location. Each "hut" has moulded into the amazing natural rock formations and sundowners were sipped on the top of a massive boulder overlooking the entire region - this was a moving end to each day - most of us sat quietly reflecting as the sun slide behind the red, dry African earth.

With Mowani Lodge as our base we explored the surrounding countryside including a visit to the semi-nomadic Himba people. It was a long drive up into the hills and eventually we arrived at our Himba settlement near Grootberg, north east of Palmwag. The Himba men were away with their cattle but the Himba ladies and children made us very welcome. They danced for us and posed endlessly for photos. They are very warm and welcoming people and I have yet to see more beautiful skin - all nature - no cosmetics!
The Himba wear little clothing, but the women are famous for covering themselves with otjize, a mixture of butter fat, ash and ochre, to protect them from the sun. Anklets protects their legs from snakebite and rubbing ground sage around their neck acts as a deodorant as there is no water for washing. The hairstyle of the Himba women indicates age and social status. Children have two plaits of braided hair. From the onset of puberty the girl's plaits are moved to the face over their eyes, and they can have more than two. Married women wear headdresses with many streams of braided hair, coloured and put in shape with otjize.

The entire African trip was organised and coordinated by Julia, Darran and Pierce Leal of World Photo Adventures, an Australian Photographic Tour Company. It was a fabulous tour and everything went like clock work!(Link to their web site is included under "Links"). I made new friends, rekindled old acquaintances, learnt a lot more about photography and saw some fascinating scenery as well as some of the most amazing wildlife in the world in their natural environment - life's good!