The language of waves: REST, RELAX and REFLECT!

“You need to lose yourself and disappear in the depths of the repetitions? Find a coast and watch the repetitive waves! Soon your mind vanishes away and when your mind disappears you disappear!” (Mehmet Murat ildan).

But waves are not only what the Namibian coastline can offer. On some of our Nature Travel Namibia safaris, we visit the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, stop over in Henties Bay, see shipwrecks, stay over in Swakopmund and watch birds in Walvis Bay.

The Cape Cross is the largest Seal Colony in world and there are 24 colonies on the Namibian and South African coastline. When one gets here, some visitors find the smell not so pleasant hence wear mouth covers whereas some like myself have become immune to it! Very interesting is the remoteness of the area and thousands of Seals. Their vocals range from goat-like bleating, high pitched cackles to half human and braying laughs. Males have these deep voices sort of a bass developed from years of a combination of smoking, drinking whisky and yelling! However, it creates quite an awesome experience as one gets pretty close to them. A couple of times I have seen guests laughing at the vocals and its best to take a video for memories!

Swakopmund gives one the real beach Three Rs (Rest, Relax and Reflect) feeling. It’s best to spend 2 nights here and get time to go for a morning jogging along the beach and explore the area on foot in the afternoon. The Strand Hotel and Swakopmund Sands Hotel are normally our preferred accommodations, which gives one the town feeling after some time in the real African wilderness offered by Namibia’s remote areas.

Walvis Bay has a lagoon that is a must for enthusiastic birders. Here one could see thousands of Flamingoes showing off their beautiful and contrasting pink, black and white feathers in flight or doing their dance while feeding in shallow waters. Great White Pelicans can be seen resembling an amphibious aircraft taking off and landing both on conventional runways and water. Various other species of water birds can be observed as well depending on the season.

At Walvis Bay, the Catamaran tour is definitely worth it. On one of my safaris with Nature Travel Namibia, we were taken out by a local guide, Peter, who is well versed in the history of Walvis Bay and marine life. We had uninvited guests on the catamaran as well: Seals and Great White Pelicans.  We made a turn to the Oil Rig before enjoying our lunch on the boat, which comprised mainly of sea food. What an experience!

Join Nature Travel Namibia on safari to experience the beautiful coastline and so much more! Written by: Previous Tsvigu (Nature Travel Namibia Guide)

Desert Elephants – Magnificent giants of the desert

An astonishing collection of wildlife has adapted to the arid desert and seemingly inhospitable environment in Namibia.
Although not much different from other savannah Elephants Loxodonta Africana, Namibia’s desert-dwelling Elephants are special nonetheless. They are of high national and international conservation priority and have been designated as top priority for protection by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
In the northern Kunene Region, where rainfall averages less than 100mm annually, Desert Adapted Elephants will migrate long distances in search of food and water. For example, some of the Elephants of the Hoarusib River migrate to the Hoanib River, a distance of over 70 km (45 miles). Typically, the Elephants will drink and eat constantly for a couple of days, then make the long journey across the barren gravel plains in one long push, usually at night when the temperature is cooler.

They have adapted to their dry, semi-desert environment by having a smaller body mass with proportionally longer legs and seemingly larger feet than other elephants. Their physical characteristics allow them to cross miles of sand dunes to reach water. They have even been filmed sliding down a dune face to drink at a pool in a desert oasis. Water, dust, and especially mud are sought out for bathing and coating the skin against the harsh sun and biting insects.

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Elephants eat almost any vegetation, including grasses, herbs, shrubs, leaves, bark, seeds, and fruit. Adult bulls can consume 250kg daily, although females eat less than that. During the wet season they prefer green shoots and buds, but in the dry season desert elephants will eat camelthorn, mopane, and Ana trees and seedpods.

By living in smaller than average family units of only two or three animals, they decrease pressure on food and water resources. Researchers have noted that they destroy fewer trees than elephants living in higher rainfall areas in other parts of Africa.

The Namib Desert Elephant communicates in a highly intelligent way with others of their species. Many of their calls are low frequency calls and rumbles (below the level of human hearing) that can travel 5-10km or more. They can also make a variety of other sounds and calls including trumpeting, snorting, roaring, barking and grunting.
There is only one other group of desert-dwelling Elephants in the world. They live in Mali in North Africa.
Lifespan: 40 – 50 years in the wild
Class: Mammalia
Mass: Male: 6,000 kg (Adult), Female: 3,000 kg (Adult)
Height: Male: 3.3 m (Adult, At Shoulder), Female: 2.8 m (Adult, At Shoulder)

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Join Nature Travel Namibia on safari to see these amazing Desert Adapted animals!

Etosha, Caprivi and Chobe trip report

I met the clients in Chobe after they relaxed at Chundukwa River Lodge near Livingstone, Zambia for 3 nights enjoying wonderful activities that included a Victoria Falls visit, swimming in the Devil’s Pool (on the edge of the falls) and an Elephant Back Safari. We enjoyed a great afternoon game drive in Chobe with elephants all over the place. Chobe has the highest concentration of elephants on earth with a population of more than 120 000 elephants.
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The following morning we were up early and into our open 4×4 safari vehicle for an early morning game drive in Chobe. The early morning game drives is a great time to see some of the bigger cats still out and about and we were not disappointed as we came across an opportunistic leopard feeding on a dead elephant. Since the hyenas and lions have not discovered the carcass at that point the leopard could feed in peace although it had a tough time to get through the very tough skin. We also had great sightings a big buffalo herd, plenty of giraffe and red lechwe that congregate on the floodplain.
After a lunchtime siesta we departed on an afternoon boat cruise which always produces great photographic opportunities. We were again not disappointed as we came across endless numbers of hippo, elephant and buffalo. Giraffes, impala, waterbuck, kudu and baboons were all relaxing on the banks of the river. We were treated to a special sunset.
From here we spend the next few days in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip or Zambezi region as it is now called. This wonderful wildlife area offers a wonderful wilderness experience with the same wildlife and habitats as the Okavango Delta but without the number of tourists as in Chobe and a lot more affordable. It is one of the last wilderness areas of Southern Africa.
From here we made our way to Etosha where we spend the next 4 nights. The first two at stayed at the beautiful Mushara Lodge and we explored the game rich eastern section of the park. This section of the park has a huge giraffe population and we were lucky to see both black and white rhino, the endemic black-faced impala and Damara Dik-dik and this young male lion on the move. The local lion prides have been fighting over territory so there was a lot of lion movement going on which gave us a good chance to see them.
Our last two nights in the park were spend at Okaukuejo Resort inside the park famous for its flood-lit waterhole where we had lions, black rhino, elephant and giraffe drinking on both nights. During the day there was a constant coming and going off gemsbok, impala, springbok, warthog, black-backed jackal, zebra and wildebeest. Etosha National Park is wonderful for lion sightings and we had no fewer than 7 encounters with these impressive big cats including two mating pairs. We also had a few very nice hyena sightings. Another highlight was a herd of Eland which is always a special sighting.
From here we made our way to Swakopmund where the clients enjoyed a few days of relaxing before finishing off at Sossusvlei, one of the most scenic places in Africa. Our Etosha, Caprivi, Chobe and Vic Falls safari is our most popular safari and we have set group departure dates during different time of the year. We look forward to seeing you in Namibia soon.

Solitaire – iconic Namibian desert town

NVM_0155_tonemapped.jpgYou know those movie scenes in which a guy stumbles around in the baking desert sun, heat hazes obscuring his legs, his walk becoming more and more laboured… And then he sees it! A mirage of palm trees, cool shade, blue water, rescue! This is the exact feeling I had when I first laid my eyes on the town of Solitaire in Namibia!

I was on a guided trip with Nature Travel Namibia, enjoying some of the top sightseeing spots that amazing country has to offer, driving through the hot rugged desert landscape that dominates most of the interior of this vast place. Suddenly my guide cheerily announced that we were close to the town of Solitaire. And there it was – a colourful oasis of shade, food, fuel and friendship in the middle of this harsh landscape.

Solitaire is a small settlement in the Khomas Region of central Namibia at the junction of the main C14 and C19 roads, both major tourist routes through the nearby Namib-Naukluft National Park. As the nearest big towns are Walvis Bay (233 kilometres/145 miles away) and Windhoek (251 kilometres/156 miles away), it has been a common stopover and meeting place for tourists from all over the globe for more than 60 years. Solitaire sits just below the Tropic of Capricorn in the middle of the 45,000 acre Solitaire Land Trust, dedicated to preserving the grassland ecosystem and the wild animals that reside here. The surrounding areas include Kuiseb Canyon, the spectacular Spreetshoogte Pass and Namibia’s iconic Sossusvlei dunes.

Solitaire is not only famous for being the only stop between Sossusvlei and Swakopmund, but also for McGregor’s Bakery, where I enjoyed the world-renowned fresh apple pie, espresso, take-away sandwiches and cold drinks.

I also walked around the little settlement and took some fantastic photographs. We also filled up on fuel and made sure our vehicle’s tyres were OK (the Namib desert is hard on tyres!) and then we set off again. I will never forget Solitaire, that movie-quality oasis in the middle of nowhere!

Diamond in the Rough- Shipwreck Lodge and the Skeleton Coast Experience

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What a special area! The Namibian Skeleton Coast National Park is renowned for its cold and unpredictable Benguela Current of the Atlantic Ocean that contends with the dune and desert landscape. It is described as the world’s largest ship cemetery because of various shipwrecks found along the coast. The Bushman called the coast “the land God made with anger” and early Portuguese explorers refer to it as “Gates of Hell”. However, the name Skeleton Coast refers to visible bones of whales that died when they get stranded on this coastline.
The Park is divided into 2 sections: the accessible stretch for Ugab River to Torra Bay and the most attractive parts that are north of Torra Bay which can be accessed through a tour operator with a concession.
In one of my recent trips I was fortunate to visit the newly opened Shipwreck Lodge, located 68 km north of Mowe Bay. We were coming from Palmwag concession and entered the Skeleton Coast National Park through Springbok Wasser Gate. This was a scenic drive as we encountered little herds of springboks and various birds including Ruppell’s Korhaan, Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark and Stark’s Lark among others. After enjoying our lunch packs at Terrace Bay we continued north towards Mowe Bay. There are no signs that tell one how far you are from your destination. The road does have some sandy parts that requires 4 x 4 driving. We parked our car at Mowe Bay then we were taken to the lodge by local guides. We went past remnants of Suiderkus and Karimona shipwrecks, the abandoned Westies Diamond mine and the remains of the Ventura Bomber. The Shipwreck Lodge is designed with wooden cabins shaped like a ship and stuck perfectly in sand.
In the morning our knowledgeable guide, Bravo, took us for a morning game drive in the Hoarusib River. Encountering Desert adapted Elephants next to dunes was a mind-blowing experience and according to Bravo, they do go onto the beach as well. Other wildlife encountered includes Springbok and some Oryx. Quite fascinating geology as well. Rocky islands rise out of the levelled plains are remnants of the Damara Mountains. Coupled with the dune belt and the gravel plains, the rocky hills are the distinctive trademarks for this area. Birds spotted on the drive include Bokmakierie, Rock Kestrel, Augur Buzzard amongst others.

We stopped at the Clay Castles in the Hoarusib River and Bravo told us the Dunedin Star shipwreck story. Despite challenges of getting food to this lodge as it comes all the way from Walvis Bay, their meals are very good! A wonderful safari experience.

Written by: Previous Tsvigu (Nature Travel Guide)