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

Looking for Leopards

This young male was spotted on the first afternoon drive of a recent Birding Namibia safari in the Waterberg area of central Namibia. We stopped to photograph a very relaxed Red-crested Korhaan close to the road and after spending about five minutes at the sighting we happen to turn around and see the leopard about 30 meters behind the vehicle. He was also very relaxed and not worried about our presence at all.

Then after dinner that same day we departed for a night drive with the main focus on Owls and other nocturnal birds. We stopped when we heard an African Scops Owl and while searching for it with the spotlight we saw the eyes of this young female leopard. She was actually very inquisitive and came quite close to the vehicle to investigate. Everyone enjoyed the close-up views until she disappeared behind our open 4×4 safari vehicle and we lost her in the spotlight when you suddenly feel very vulnerable. Luckily she just continued walking down the track and we left her in peace to continue her search for prey.

The third leopard sighting was very special. It was towards the end of the safari and we were staying at Erongo Wilderness Lodge in the Erongo Mountains of western Namibia – a very special place. Most of the other guests were out on a drive or walk and we were at the main deck overlooking a small waterhole enjoying the displaying Freckled Nightjars when we suddenly saw an adult female appear at the waterhole for a drink. The amazing thing about this sighting is that although this is a wilderness area it is not a game reserve or national park. We are very fortunate to have a very high population of free ranging leopards and cheetahs in Namibia.

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Off course the opposite also holds true in that we normally see all the endemic and sought after birds on safaris with clients that have absolutely no interest in birds whatsoever. So in future when you feel that you have been very unlucky with leopard sightings just tell your guide to focus on finding rare birds – you might just be lucky enough to see one of the beautiful elusive spotted cats.

Predators Galore in Etosha

Although Etosha has had a lot of early rain this year with the park green and beautiful we still had excellent wildlife sightings. The highlight was definitely spending the last few minutes of daylight yesterday with a very relaxed young leopard. After giving us excellent views close to the vehicle she had to get out of the way of an approaching Hyena before she moved off after a herd of Impala.

Another fantastic sighting was first finding a pride of lions on the move just before a huge thunderstorm hit and then finding the same pride the next morning with two Zebra kills. They must have used the approaching storm and strong winds to ambush the Zebra as they were killed not far from where we had to leave them as the camp gates were closing. With the two carcasses lying on both sides of the vehicle and close to the road everyone had excellent views of the pride which consist of a big male, 5 lionesses and 4 sub-adults feeding, resting and then deciding to drag one of the carcasses to a shady spot.

A personal highlight was a rare sighting of a very relaxed African Wild Cat in broad daylight at about 09h00 in the morning near Okondeka Waterhole north of Okaukuejo. After the initial sighting of this normally shy and secretive nocturnal cat and expecting it to move away from the vehicle, we were surprised and very happy as the cat approached our vehicle to within a few meters searching for potential prey all the time. A truly magical sighting that does not happen very often.

Other predator seen during the few days in Etosha include a female Cheetah with cubs, plenty of Spotted Hyenas and then finding the dens of Cape Fox, Bat-eared Fox and Black-backed Jackal within a few kilometers of one another. A truly great time to visit Etosha with plenty of baby animals around and very few other people.

Besides the predators seen on this trip we also had great sightings of Black Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Damara Dik-Dik, Banded Mongoose and a great variety of bird-life with all the European migrants present. Etosha National Park is open throughout the year and is part of our Classic Namibia, Etosha, Caprivi, Chobe and Victoria Falls and Namibia, Botswana and Victoria Falls Spectacular Safaris. We hope to see you on safari very soon!.