The clay pan of Sossusvlei in the heart of the Namib, surrounded by the highest dunes on earth, has turned into a big lake. A few days ago those who wanted to see this rare spectacle of nature had to walk for 5 km because the seasonal Tsauchab River, which flows into Sossusvlei, had swept away part of the gravel road to the vlei. The eastern fringe of the Namib Desert, which you pass on the way to Sossusvlei, has turned into a vast silvery-green sea of grass. At Namib Desert Lodge, nestled at the foot of the fossilized dunes, a bank of sand had to be heaped up to protect the lodge from flooding.
The Kalahari Desert in eastern Namibia is also decked out in greenery and blooms. The Auob River flooded the depressions near Stampriet and enclosed the rise on which Kalahari Farmhouse is situated. At times guests had to park their cars at the riverbank and climb onto a hanger to be taken through hundreds of metres of shallow water by tractor. At Aus in the south-westerly parts of the country a kayakist used the opportunity for a trip on the seasonal river in flood.
The monthly figures have beaten all records, at least since the time that rainfall results were recorded. Here are this season’s figures (from 1 September 2010):
Etosha Safari Lodge & Camp at Etosha National Park – 274.8 mm (annual average: approx. 300 mm; in February alone: 99.8 mm).
Damara Mopane Lodge near Khorixas - 306 mm (approx. 150 mm / 139.8 mm)
Kalahari Anib Lodge northeast of Mariental – approx. 300 mm (approx. 250 mm / no data available). Kalahari Farmhouse near Stampriet – 275.4 mm (approx. 250 mm / 112.0 mm).
Namib Desert Lodge north of Sossusvlei/Sesriem – 258.6 mm (approx. 100 mm / 160.6 mm).
Cañon Roadhouse east of the Fish River Canyon – 74.7 mm (approx. 80 mm / 64.6 mm).
Klein-Aus Vista near Aus – 103.4 mm (approx. 80 mm / 97.8 mm).
The rainfalls have washed away parts of gravel and tar roads and caused potholes. A roughly 50 metre section of the B 3 main road between Karasburg and Ariamsvlei in the southeast has been eroded. Repairs are expected to take two to three months. In the meantime travellers have to make a detour. Some passes on the escarpment between the central plateau and the coastal plains of the Namib can only be negotiated by four-wheel drive at present.
In Etosha National Park a bus with a tour group got stuck in a waterhole and had to be pulled out. Damara Mopane Lodge near Khorixas had no problems with flooding but there were constant power failures. Guests nevertheless had a pleasant stay thanks to the lodge’s own generator - and candles.
The dams have filled up. The sluice gates of Hardap Dam near Mariental, the country’s largest reservoir, had to be opened several times already to avoid overflowing. Hardap dams up the Fish River which nevertheless flowed in full width several hundred kilometres further south, in the Fish River Canyon. South Africa has also had a lot of rain. When the Gariep/Orange River, which forms Namibia’s southern border, burst its banks several weeks ago lodgings and fields of grapes were flooded, and the ferry service at Sendelingsdrift had to be suspended.