Damaraland

Nature Travel Namibia offers tours to most parts of the wonderful country of Namibia, but most of our tours go to the area known as Damaraland, and with very good reason!

Damaraland is a region in the north-central part of the country, bounded to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the east by the Kalahari desert, to the north by Kaokoland, and to the south by the Great Namaqualand. It is a visually dramatic area, with rugged rocks, prehistoric water courses, open plains and grassland, massive granite koppies and deep gorges. Get your cameras ready!

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Damaraland is alternatively known as Hereroland, both names being derived from the local people inhabiting the region. The so-called Damara consist of two probably distinct peoples, known respectively as “the hill Damara” and “the cattle Damara,” i.e. those who breed cattle in the plains. The term Damara (“two Dama women”) is of Hottentot origin, and is not used by the people, who call themselves Ova-herero, “the merry people”. The name Damaraland is still commonly used in tourism circles, although the entire region has now been renamed; the southern section now lies in the Erongo region while the north forms part of the Kunene region.
This beautiful mountainous region is home to an assortment of scientifically important desert-adapted wildlife such as Elephant, Rhino, Zebra and Lion, which somehow survive and thrive in this near-barren landscape.

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We offer tours that focus specifically on these incredible animals, tracking them on foot, with our sister company Nature Travel Conservation.

Another not-to-be-missed attraction of the Damaraland area is the picturesque Brandberg (fire mountain), Namibia’s highest mountain at 2573m, which is home to thousands of ancient rock paintings, most notably the White Lady.

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The rocky outcrops of Twyfelfontein is another top-notch attraction, and one of Namibia’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, featuring exceptional Bushmen engravings, which are considered to be some of the best-preserved etchings on the continent.
The Spitzkoppe (sharp head) is one of Namibia’s most recognizable landmarks. It’s shape has inspired its nickname, “The Matterhorn of Africa”, but the similarities begin and end with its sharp peak. It is actually the remnant of an ancient volcano, formed in the same way as the Brandberg and Erongo massifs. It was first climbed in 1946 and is now a popular climbing destination with local and foreign mountaineers alike, with plenty of technical climbs available.

There are several other important geological rock formations nearby that are not to be missed, including the “organ pipes” arrangement (a distinctive series of dolerite pillars that have been exposed by erosion), the petrified forest (believed to be more than 200 million years old) and the much-photographed “burnt mountain” (a flat-topped mountain that derives its name from the piles of blackened limestone at its base).

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Join us in beautiful Damaraland to see all these attractions and make indelible memories on one of our Namibia safaris here at Nature Travel Namibia.

Sossusvlei


Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa (the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. Characterised by the large red dunes that surround it, Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and clay pan and is a great destination all year round.

The dunes in this area are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and provide photographic enthusiasts with wonderful images in the beautiful morning and evening light. The characteristic red dunes of the Namib Desert have developed over many millions of years. The red sand that forms the dunes was deposited into the Atlantic Ocean from the Orange River. The Benguela current then carried this sand northwards, to be deposited back onto the land by the ocean’s surf. From here the wind carried the red sand inland to form the dunes over time.

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Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-end marsh”, as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River from flowing any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. However, due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert the river seldom flows this far and the pan remains bone-dry most years. During an exceptional rainy season the Tsauchab fills the pan, drawing visitors from all over the world to witness this spectacular site. Photographic enthusiasts are spoilt with a glassy “lake” holding reflections of the surrounding dunes. When the pan fills it can hold water for as long as a year.


Despite the harsh desert conditions in the area, one can find a wide variety of plants and animals that have adapted to survive. These include insects, reptiles, birds, mammals and many desert adapted plants, flowers and fruits, like Namibia’s national plant, the welwitschia.
There are a number of attractions around Sossusvlei for visitors to explore, including
• the spectacularly carved-by-water Sesriem Canyon
• Dune 45, the most photgraphed dune on earth, situated 45 km past Sesriem on the road to Sossusvlei
• Hiddenvlei, perfect if you are looking for solitude in the desert
• the magnificently tall Big Daddy dune
• Deadvlei, a paradise for photographers, as it is punctuated by blackened, dead acacia trees, in vivid contrast to the shiny white of the salty floor of the pan and the intense orange of the dunes.

Accommodation around Sossusvlei ranges from camping, through self-catering and mid-range lodges, to the ultimate in luxury lodges. This allows visitors to the area to find accommodation that meets their needs. No matter where you stay, the vastness of the desert allows for ample space and privacy.
As a consequence of its fascinating and surrealistic landscapes, Sossusvlei is one of the most photographed places in Sub-Saharan Africa. The area has been the setting of a number of commercials, music videos, and movies, especially of the fantasy genre.

To see this incredible natural wonder for yourself, visit us at www.naturetravelnamibia.com.  We have numerous guided and self-drive options for you to choose from, and many of our Namibia tours include this famous area.

The Namib Living Desert Experience

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion”.
This famous quote by Edgar Allan Poe reminds us that just because something isn’t what the majority of society would stereotypically deem picture-perfect, like a dry desert or a brown chameleon or a whitish bird, doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful.

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Dry dusty sand. Without a trace of moisture. Dry as a weathered bone.
These terms may be used to describe the Namib Desert (81 000 km2) but amazingly, this unique biome has creatures that have adapted to living in harsh conditions. Everyone here either needs to camouflage themselves or have the ability to fake their own deaths in order to have a meal or avoid being someone else’s meal! The little creatures that inhabit the Namib sand dunes are unique and strange but rather fascinating. One of our tour groups here at Nature Travel Namibia recently had the opportunity to discover some of these creatures on their safari.

The coastal desert environment in Namibia is characterized by paler sand dunes with traces of black shades of magnetite whereas the renowned and older Sossusvlei dunes are brick red in colour and rich in variants of iron oxide. Either way, these sand dunes are strikingly beautiful and offer great photographic opportunities. They also offer spectacular views from their tops, but this has to be earned the hard way, either on foot or by 4×4!
After walking up sand dunes in Sossusvlei and experiencing breathtaking views of the famous Deadvlei on the previous day, we made our way to the coastal town of Swakopmund. On the 3rd day of our recent Namibian Classic Safari, the Living Desert Experience Tour was on the menu. Everyone in the tour group was very excited at the prospect of this!

We were taken on the tour by passionate and experienced desert specialists who are desert conservationists as well.

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Our first interesting creature was the Namib Sand Gecko. This almost-translucent creature avoids the heat of the day in self-dug burrows and is active at night. Its colouring allows it to blend in seamlessly with the colours of the desert sand. Another adaptation is that it has webbed feet, which allow it to burrow in the sand or walk on top of the sand. It also has adhesive pads on the bottom of its feet which allow it to be an extremely good climber.
The Namaqua Chameleon was also nearby, standing still and very well camouflaged. It has the ability to change colour to aid in controlling temperature, becoming black in the cooler morning to absorb heat more efficiently, then a lighter grey color to reflect light during the heat of the day in the desert.

As we continued our desert drive, we spotted some special birds which are very pale in colour blending in with the surrounding white gravel plains. The Tractrac Chat is of the race albicans, almost white and much paler than their counterparts in South Africa. This lighter colour is also believed to aid in thermoregulation. The Gray’s Lark was also spotted from close range and it is one of the Namibian near endemics.

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We also had luck with snakes, and saw Peringuey’s Adder and Horned Adder. An ambush hunter, the Peringuey’s Adder buries itself just beneath the surface of the sand with only its eyes and the tip of its tail exposed. When prey moves by, it is seized and envenomated. The Horned Adder has phenomenal camouflage and its body blends into the environment perfectly.
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Before we returned to Swakopmund for lunch we had some entertainment from the Shovel-snouted Lizard. This guy’s ‘dance’ allows the lizard to travel across the sand dunes but without burning its feet before diving into the sand and disappearing! Also, it is the only member of its family to eat seeds, a very clever adaptation for a lizard living in an environment not particularly rich in insects.

In a nutshell, the desert is alive!
Join us on one of our Namibia tours for an unforgettable Living Desert Experience. Enquire at info@naturetravelnamibia.com or go to www.naturetravelnamibia.com to find out how we can customise the perfect Namibia trip for you.

Independence Day

Today is Namibia’s Independence Day, and the country celebrates 29 years of independence since 21 March 1990. This day signifies the fact that the Namibia has blossomed into a resource-rich, opportunity-filled, talented, passionate nation filled with vibrant people. It has also become a fantastic tourist destination, and we here at Nature Travel Namibia is very proud that we have played our small part in that.

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Tourism in Namibia is a major industry, contributing N$7.2 billion ($500 million) to the country’s gross domestic product. Annually, over one million travelers visit Namibia. The country is among the prime destinations in Africa and is known for ecotourism which features Namibia’s extensive wildlife. Other travel highlights include the capital city of Windhoek, the twin coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, the vast Namib desert (it is the driest country in Africa south of the Sahara), the awesome Fish River Canyon and many many more.

Several things make Namibia a unique and fascinating place to visit:

•  The incredible landscapes, sometimes overwhelmingly vast and huge

•  It is surely the best country in Africa for a road trip!

•  The Sossusvlei dunes – a must see on any traveler’s list

•  Etosha National Park – one of the great wildlife reserves on earth

•  The Skeleton Coast with its bizarre mix of beach and desert

•  The famous desert adapted populations of African Elephant and Black Rhinoceros.

•  The bizarre Welwitschia plant which can live for more than 1000 years

Also, it’s the second least densely populated country on the planet, with only two people per square kilometre! So if you want to see all of the above amazing things and yet still feel like you have the place to yourself to just “switch off”, Namibia is the perfect destination for you.

Nature Travel Namibia is part of the Nature Travel group of companies, and we specialise in safaris in Namibia and surrounding areas. With years of safari experience, our team created guided and self-drive safaris that will tick all the boxes on your list, featuring wonderful wildlife, nature and tourist attractions.

Visit www.naturetravelnamibia.com for all the information or send an email to us at  info@naturetravelnamibia.com and an expert will be in touch.

 

The master architects – Termite Mounds

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When one drives in Namibia, especially areas from the north and central parts of the country, you will encounter towering hard compacted soil structures sprouting across the landscape mostly pointing north. These usually attract our guests’ attention consequently with a question, “What is that?” They are termite mounds, better known as anthills!

Biology of the termites have been thoroughly studied and well documented, of particular interest is the significance of the termite mounds and the social organisation of termites that can be related to real human lifetime events!

Termite mounds are huge thermostats. Temperature and humidity is regulated by opening and closing of openings, which is done by the worker termites during night time, which is why every morning one sees wet patches of repairs done. Climatic change is a global concern, hence some studies in the Otjozondjupa Region reveal that structure of the mounds could contribute to knowledge on building energy efficient houses. This is one of the strategies that could help minimise and protect against the increasing impacts of climate change.   The human equivalent of termite mounds would be buildings that meet all energy, waste management and other needs on site. No other organism on the earth is known to engineer the environment to this level, definitely not humans!

For years, the term “true democracy” has remained arbitrarious or non-existent in the human race. Amazingly it’s real in a termite colony! The king, queen, workers and soldiers are at the same level, there is no superiority, but it is just division of labour, where each has different roles to play. The queen and king have their royal palace underground, mating and managing 2000 eggs per day. The army consists of soldier termites that are strongly built and armed (strong mouth parts), implying a  good ground force to fight other insects. However, termites have a poorly managed air force department for attacking bigger giants e.g. Aardvark, Aardwolf, Bat-eared Fox, insectivorous birds, and hence these prey heavily on them.

Once either workers or soldiers die during the course of carrying their duties, they send a stress chemical signal to the queen, who in turn produces more eggs to meet the daily labour and army requirements. Differentiation into either worker or termite is determined by the population in each group. The workers assignments include being undertakers (remove dead bodies to avoid disease spread) or architects (designing and construction of the colony structure). More importantly they are also mycologist (develop fungi) to feed everyone in the colony. Fungus spores grow into mushrooms which are a local Namibian delicacy known by their Herero name: Omajova. Omajova grow after good rains, offering a convenient food delicacy plus ensuring an income to local sellers who usually stand on the sides of the main roads between cities.

Termite mounds can actually be compared to Windhoek! Streets are in the form of channels underground. The population size is half a million to a million individuals. How do they counter the problems of overpopulation and spread the genes to other areas? Workers and soldiers change into flying forms which appear during the rainy season and attempt to establish their own colonies. 99 % of these do not make it as they suffer predation by a range of animals, more important eaten by humans as well.

The combination of the mineral-rich soils and saliva, and the organic wastes from the fungus colony make termite mounds a very fertile place in an often otherwise infertile environment. Thus termites are actually farmers too, as trees often grow on termite mounds, even inactive ones. In wetlands like the Okavango Delta termites are also very important long-term landscapers. Over the years, termite mounds rearrange the flows of streams and form fertile islands.

They really are incredible insects and as you can see, can be described as anything from builders, engineers, architects, soldiers, farmers and more. To come and see a termite mound and its inhabitants close up, join us on a Namibian safari!

Have a look at the options on www.naturetravelnamibia.com or enquire directly as info@naturetravelnamibia.com