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)

Mr Namutoni- The prince of Klein Namutoni Waterhole

As we spend time in Etosha National Park on our Nature Travel Namibia and Nature Travel Birding Safaris, we as guides get to know the individual Leopards we come across based on facial and coat patterns and on the fact that we have seen the Leopard in the area before.

For us as guides it’s like connecting with a longtime friend who we have not seen in a while, however these meetings between Guide and Leopard make our guests very very happy.

This individual male Leopard hangs around the Klein Namutoni waterhole on the Dik-dik loop close to Namutoni camp, and has now been sighted on 3 of our Nature Travel Namibia safaris. The beauty of spending time in Etosha- the great white place or as I say the magical game reserve in Africa!!

Written by Marc Cronje – Nature Travel Guide

Leopard strikes twice in Etosha National Park

On one of our latest private Nature Travel Namibia safaris with awesome clients from Australia we had an incredible time in Etosha with not one but two amazing Leopard sightings in the Park

On our first morning we set off on the Dik-dik drive to check out Klein Namutoni waterhole. Just past the waterhole we had an incredible sighting of a young female Leopard spotted right next to the road by our guest with her keen eagle eyes.  We watched the Leopard grooming and moving around and eventually she tried to make a kill of a Dik-dik but narrowly missed. We spent over an hour with this female. It was a real treat and privilege to see such a beautiful animal. Leopard are not easy to see in Etosha so it was a real lucky sighting!

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Our second sighting came on day three at Kalkheuwel waterhole, when our guest shouted “Leopard!” This lead to us having the most amazing sighting of 2 sub adults all to ourselves for about 20 minutes. Both of them came really close to the car and we got brilliant views as they crossed the road in-front of us. Another very fortunate sighting for our wildlife tour in Namibia.

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Leopards are known to have remnant populations in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, eastern Ahaggar (Hoggar) massif in Algeria, and the coastal ranges of South Africa. Elsewhere, it occurs widely in the Middle East and Asia, extending into China. The Leopard is one of the five extant species of the genus Panthera, which also includes the Jaguar (P. onca), the Lion (P. leo), the Snow Leopard (P. uncia) and the Tiger (P. tigris). These amazing cats are such great hunters. They can run up to 36 mph (58 kph), jump forward 20 feet (6 meters) and leap 10 feet (3 m) straight up. Leopards’ ears can hear five times more sounds that the human ear. The Leopard’s spots are called rosettes because they look like roses. In my opinion one of the most beautiful cats to see on safari and it is always a very special treat when we do see them. What are you waiting for? Join us on Namibian wildlife safari today!

Written by Marc Cronje – Nature Travel Guide

Namibia Vet Safari Trip Report

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Day 1:

Our yearly Namibia Vet Safari trip with vet students from Murdoch University (Australia) is currently underway. The first stop was CCF (Cheetah Conservation Fund) in central Namibia where the students learned about Cheetah conservation, farming with predator methods, conservation tourism and guard dog initiative. They got to see and experience an annual health check of a female Cheetah done under anaesthesia. On our last morning it was time for the Cheetah Run activity where they get their exercise by chasing a lure. These captive Cheetahs came to CCF as orphans with their mother shot and although they cannot be released into the wild they play an important role in education. Was amazing seeing them run. I love how they use their tails to balance when turning at speed. CCF plays an important role in the conservation of these beautiful cats on Namibia’s commercial farmland. Next stop Etosha!

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Day 2:

Etosha National Park was the next stop on our ongoing Namibia Vet Safari. We had a wonderful time and were treated to some brilliant game viewing. One of the highlights were our last evening at the camp waterhole where we first watched a breeding herd of Elephants drinking at sunset, followed by Spotted Hyenas, 2 young male Lions and 4 Black Rhino. We ended up with sightings of 14 different Black Rhinos of which 7 were seen during the day. What a fantastic place to learn about conservation tourism. Next stop N/a’an ku sê Foundation.

Day 3-5

We had a very exciting first couple of days at N/a’an ku sê Foundation with the current Namibia Vet Safari trip. After the introduction and a tour to meet all the resident animals at the sanctuary the students joined a Baboon Walk in the morning and Cheetah Walk in the afternoon which offers both species extra stimulation. The following day was all about wildlife vet work with a few fascinating presentations, a dart gun practical and a health checkup on one of the resident Cheetahs.

Day 6

Today the students learned more about the role of the wildlife vet in research. After an introduction on telemetry tracking, the students got to experience and practice in the field as we tracked the recently introduced African Wild Dogs onto the neighboring reserve. These dogs came to the sanctuary as puppies and now that they are big enough they were given a second chance in the wild with the introduction. They managed to make a Hartebeest kill only a few weeks after being introduced. We managed to track them down and spend a couple of hours with them.

Day 7

We started the day by treating an injured Meerkat before assisting with a Baboon castration. In the afternoon it was time for a health checkup on one of the resident Caracals. Not often you get the chance to get this close to one of these beautiful cats. Tonight it was time for a bush braai. Nothing better than sitting around the camp fire listening to a lion roar.

Day 8:

Today was one of the highlights of the trip. We had to move 10 African Wild Dogs to a new enclosure before they will hopefully be released later this year. With so many dogs it was all hands on deck and well done to all for ensuring that everything went well and the dogs are happy in their new temporary home. There was time to dart and treat an injured Impala as well. Tomorrow this adventure comes to an end but before we say goodbye it is time to do a health check on one of the Cheetahs before fitting a collar and releasing it back into the wild. What a great way to finish. We look forward to welcoming this group back next year!