Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tour you can't miss!! - Namibia Reservations

FACES of the NAMIB - To book this tour contact us at

Discover this desert’s unique treasures…

A world of infinite horizons, dramatic vistas and fascinating flora and fauna…

Reported to be the oldest desert on earth, the Namib is approximately 80 million years old.  Completely devoid of surface water, it is bisected by several dry riverbeds and is characterised by extensive, undulating dunes. The Sahara may be larger and Gobi more isolated, but the Namib is the very oldest, so on this trip, prepare for the best desert experience possible!

The Living Desert:  At first glance, the Namib’s interior appears totally devoid of fauna & flora but look closely and you’ll finds that apart from the diamonds and uranium that have been mined here, the desert’s unique plant and animal life is definitely another of its infinite treasures. One outstanding living wonder is the famous Welwitschia mirabilis, a plant that can live for up to five hundred years. Although its tenacity and longevity are remarkable, the fact that it has the appearance of a heap of garden refuse means that instead of an earth-shattering visual experience you may want to concentrate on its remarkable age when taking pictures!

The “Sheltering” Desert:  At the start of the Second World War, German Henno Martin and his colleague and friend Hermann Korn, feared internment in a camp for Nazi’s. Consequently, they escaped into the Namib Desert. For two and a half years they eked out a living in this harsh environment. In later years, Martin published his account of this experience, titling his book, The Sheltering Desert and later their story was also made into a film. As you drive along, or when setting up camp, imagine trying to survive here without the luxuries offered to you on this trip. You may see the Namib in a different light!

* The Desert of Diamonds: The discovery of diamonds in 1908 around Kolmanskuppe initiated an uncontrolled rush of prospectors into the region. The German Government was forced to establish the so-called “Sperrgebiet” between 26-degree line of latitude and Namibia’s southern border, stretching 100-kilometres inland. As a result, independent prospectors were forced to turn northwards beyond this area. This resulted in the discovery of diamonds at Spencer Bay and between Meob and the Conception Bay area (Diamond Area no. 2) during December 1908. A total of 5000 diamond claims were registered in 1909 and hopeful fortune hunters tried their luck at Saddle Hill and Spencer Bay, also traveling via Swakopmund and Sandwich Harbour southwards towards Meob Bay. However, the small yields of diamonds from these claims meant few were successful in their pursuit of riches.

(This adventure has been developed as a joint venture between the Topnaar Community, URI Adventures and Live the Journey)

DAY 1:  Overnight Solitaire
We assemble at Solitaire, preferable by nightfall. This is the time to get last minute supplies and fill fuel tanks to the brim. Remember-you need fuel for six days. Since many group members may have been to Sossusvlei (one of the highlights of Namibia), a visit here not included in our current itinerary. Tonight you will have the opportunity to meet guides and fellow travellers. After a detailed briefing of what to expect the next couple of days, you will be treated to a lovely meal around the campfire.

DAY 2:  Solitaire to Kuiseb River Canyon
We depart from Solitaire and enter the Namib Nauklüft Park, 35kms north of town - restricted Namib area. This is the start of a unique adventure offering you aspects of the Namib seldom experienced by the “normal” tourist. We cross the Namib plains more or less on the same ox-wagon route followed by early settlers, German Schutztruppe (on horseback & camels) and ‘transport ryers’ in the late 1800s.
The route leads to the Kuiseb River. The landscape gradually changes from the typical Namib Plains into a colourful landscape of red sand dunes separated by grassy plains. The Kuiseb Canyon offers unique scenery. Its southern bank is formed by massive red sand dunes and northern bank by pitch black rock formations, while the riverbed itself is    overgrown by massive endemic trees. The dry sand bed creates a kaleidoscope of green and white tones. We now proceed westwards along the edge of the canyon until we reach a spot were the dunes falls right into the river, near Homeb.

Depending on the status of the river (which may be in flood) we will ‘slip’ into the river enjoying its unique eco- system. This includes a variety of trees and an abundance of birds. We will cross over onto the northern bank of the Kuiseb Canyon, enjoying breathtaking views. On the northern side of the Kuiseb we will come across the southernmost examples of the Welwitschia mirabilis plant, endemic to the Namib Desert. Although the plant looks as if it has many leaves, it has only two, shredded by the wind over the course of centuries. The plant’s scientific names are a combination of the first European to describe it, a Slovenian botanist named Friedrich Welwitsch, and “Mirabilis” which comes from Latin and refers to its marvellous ability to survive in harsh, apparently waterless conditions.
The night is spent under the desert sky!

Day 3:  Desert Crossing!
The Namib Desert follows the coast of Namibia for approximately 2000 kilometres. It varies in width from 80 to 200 kilometres where it meets the Namib Escarpment. The most important climatic feature of the Namib Desert is its sparse and highly unpredictable annual rainfall which ranges from 5 mm in the west to about 85 mm along its eastern limits. Our aim with this trip is drive across the desert from east to west experiencing the dramatic change in the environment. From Homeb, we head southwest into the “sand sea”. On the way to Conception Bay massive dunes are negotiated. Once again ever-changing scenery and beautiful landscapes are enjoyed.  Drivers’ skills are bound to be improving as the dunes offer greater and greater challenges. The dune straits are massive, and the dunes themselves even more impressive.  Most are in excess of 150m high. We once again make camp amongst them, enjoying the unique thrill of desert camping.

Days 4 & 5: Conception Bay and Ghost Towns
In the area between Conception Bay and Meob Bay the mining settlements of Holsatia, Charlottenfelder and Grillenberger were established during the heyday of diamond mining. No form of engine-driven transport was available during the first 15 years of exploration. Transporting supplies and mining equipment happened mainly by ship from Swakopmund or using the cutter, Viking, traveling via Sandwich Harbour, Conception and Meob Bays. Various shipping casualties occurred, such as when the Eduard Bohlen was stranded near Conception Bay in 1909. This rusty wraith is something exceptional to behold! During 1912/1913 a light railway from Conception Bay to Conception Water, and an 80-kilometer pipeline linking the settlements, were constructed. It is not clear how many pre-fabricated buildings were erected at the various settlements, as only the foundations of some of these are still visible today.

The exploration of Namibia by Europeans commenced from this coastline as early as 1485, although the inhospitable Namib Desert barred access to the interior. Probably the first European to set foot on Namibian soil was the Portuguese explorer, Diogo Cao or Diogo Cam, followed by Bartholomew Diaz two years later, on 8 December 1487. This date represented the holiday of "Maria's Conception". Therefore the bay received the name" Santa Maria da Conceicao" (Conception Bay). Today you will most likely see vast flocks of birds, drive past Cape Fur seal colonies, visit the wreck of the Eduard Bohlen near Conception Bay and see various relics dating back to the diamond mining era. In November 1914 all the people in this area were requested to stop operations and to proceed to Swakopmund. This order came as a result of an expected invasion of allied troops. This part of the journey is something history buffs will particularly enjoy…Keep a look out for wandering ghosts!
Tonight you will be camping in the Conception Bay area, either at “Leeukoppie” (Lion’s Head) or at “Conception Water” – depending on progress and/or weather).

Day 6: “Langewand” to Walvis Bay
The dune belt opens up between Meob Bay and Conception Bay, but immediately after Conception it stretches right onto the beach. From Conception Bay you will be driving on the beach. Scenery is truly magnificent.  You will also experience driving freedom – BIG TIME!! We are heading northwards towards Sandwich Bay passing the wreck of the Shawnee and negotiating the famed Langewand where massive dunes come straight down into sea. There are only two or three places in the world to see this natural phenomenon. Due to the tides, there is only a very limited time span to negotiate this stretch of beach. After Langewand the trail once again leads into the dunes, circumnavigating the salt pan ‘extensions’ of Sandwich Harbour. The dunes are still getting progressively larger, offering drivers an ever-changing dune driving experience.

from Sandwich Harbour the trail enters the roller coaster, a series of massive ‘roaring’ slip faces, not only giving you a thrilling experience but also offering breathtaking views of the harbour and a panorama of sandscapes on the way to Walvis. The trip concludes over dinner at the Yacht Club. Accommodation in Walvis Bay is included in the package. The time has sadly come to say your good-byes to new friends made during this adventure of a lifetime.

**Please note: Although some experience of dune driving and previous ‘wild camping’ (no formal facilities at camp) are recommended this does not mean that this will be a “Dakar Rally”. The emphasis is definitely on what the Namib has to offer but crossing massive dunes and doing a lot of off-road driving forms a large part of this experience. Participants must definitely have off-road endurance and a taste of adventure. The emphasis of the tour is not only on the adrenaline thrill of dune driving, but a huge part of its focus is studying the plants, small creatures and wildlife all of which make this desert their home. Enjoying the Namib’s incredible views and history is also emphasized.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

New look for Namibian resort - Windhoek Country Club Resort

The Windhoek Country Club Resort, which is owned by Legacy Hotels and Resorts, has recently refurbished 26 of its bedrooms.
The bathrooms have been rebuilt and all rooms now have separate bath and showers. The rooms have new furniture, a fresh coat of paint, new wallpaper and fittings.
The remaining rooms will be refurbished in stages over the next few months to ensure guests’ comfort is not compromised.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Naankuse News

A constant need... for collars
It’s been yet another busy month for N/a’an ku sê’s rapid response team. Answering the call of the wild (and local farmers) the intrepid team leaped to action on 1 June, rushing to a farm where a resplendent leopard had been cage trapped, waiting to be fitted with a GPS collar and ultimately released back on the farmer’s land.  Weighing in at a whopping 85kg, this magnificent male soon joined the annals of our collared cats, his feline movements and behaviors being constantly monitored and shared with the landowner concerned.
The number of calls N/a’an ku sê receives is on the increase, the demand for collars growing by the day. Without these tracking devices we simply cannot keep up in our fight to prevent the unnecessary and tragic persecution of Namibia’s big cats – big cats who cannot speak for themselves, cannot stand up for their rights – their right to co-exist peacefully on the land they call home.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Winter – an ideal time to travel in Namibia

It’s that time of year again when Namibians pull out their winter woollies and seek the sun. Fortunately there’s plenty of sun at this time of year, because Namibia enjoys a summer rainy season, which means our winter days are clear and cloudless. 

Only a few tough farmers and lucky tour guides who have the good fortune to travel up north to warmer climes still bravely don their shorts in the morning. The rest of us dress up for the cold, but by midday we’ve all shed a layer or two and found a spot for soaking up the sun.

Our nights can become really cold though, with July usually being the coldest month in the interior. Right through winter you might well experience the famous east wind at the coast, which brings really hot weather.
There is lots to do in Namibia during winter and it’s a great time for travelling, so here are some tips to make the most of your stay and keep you warm, healthy and safe.

  • Insulate your geyser with a geyser blanket, then switch it off after showering in the mornings.
  • Pack a hot-water bottle for travelling. These are great for cold toes, as well as for stiff necks.
  • Open windows and doors by mid-morning to let in natural warmth, and close again before sunset.
  • Buy BUSHBLOK compact logs for your indoor fire, cooking or barbecue. Classified as smokeless fuel and manufactured by the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Otjiwarongo, you’ll be helping to conserve the natural environment for cheetahs in Namibia.
  • When staying in serviced accommodation such as hotels, let the staff know that you don’t need fresh sheets and towels every day. Because of our poor rainy season this year, Namibians are currently under pressure to be sparing with the country’s water resources.
  • Pick up at least one piece of litter a day – the more the better! Wild animals and birds are desperate for food after this year’s poor summer rainfall and will eat anything, which could end up killing them.
  • Even though it’s winter, because Namibia is very dry and since it’s sunny most of the time, you still need to keep well hydrated. Remember to drink water regularly, because as little as 2% dehydration can affect your concentration.
  • Pack in a good moisturiser for your face, hands and body, or buy one of the eco-friendly options available at Maerua Superspar’s health section. Better still, try Namibia’s own !Nara oil body (and food) products manufactured from cold-pressed !nara melon seeds, found in the Namib Desert.
  • Get enough exercise, especially when you’re sitting at a desk or in a car all day. Exercise enhances your mood, which counteracts the gloomier effects of the winter cold and the shorter days.
  • Even though this year has had a poor rainy season, we still need to be aware that there could be a risk of malaria. In certain areas a new generation of mosquitoes will have been bred, so it’s best to observe the prescribed prophylactic measures, particularly when travelling to northern Namibia.  

Etosha received late rains over Easter this year, so the area remains a risk zone.

–       Be sure to cover up after dark, especially your feet and legs (95% of mosquito bites are in these areas, and are inflicted while you’re standing or sitting).
–       Slap on mosquito repellent if you’re going to be sitting outdoors.
–       Sleep under a mosquito net if you can.
–       Consider taking oral prophylaxis if you’re visiting malaria areas.

  • Make sure your barbecue or braai fire is thoroughly doused before you go to sleep. The slightest breeze can scatter sparks and possibly cause a veld fire, especially now in the dry winter and upcoming spring months.
  • Always carry extra water in your vehicle, as you never know how long you may have to wait for help if you break down in a remote area. Exposure to sun and wind will dehydrate you quicker than usual at this time of year.
  • Always travel to remote areas in two vehicles. Hiring a 4×4 can give travellers a dangerously false sense of security and tempt them to leave the main track.
  • On gravel roads, keep a safe distance behind the car in front of you, as the dust can completely obscure your vision.
  • Remember that in Namibia we drive on the LEFT side of the road!

WINTER SHOPPING One of the things I love about winter is that I can make endless soups with the veggies that abound this time of the year. Pumpkin, butternut, courgettes, broccoli and cauliflower come to mind.

The climate in winter is pretty consistent in Namibia. It really does have a bit of everything except rain. Having said that, if you’re visiting the extreme south, you might well encounter some of South Africa’s winter rainfall spill over.

Throughout the rest of the country, nights can be bitingly cold, especially if there’s a slight breeze. Days are generally warm, especially at lunchtime. The coast is often misty and cold, but could have very hot east-wind conditions.

For the most part, however, a typical winter’s day inland would need the following wardrobe:
  • Winter pyjamas (warm socks if you’re camping!)
  • Beanie, scarf and a warm jacket for early-morning walks and drives
  • Closed shoes and socks for travelling and walking; flip-flops for relaxing
  • T-shirt, shirt, light jacket and jeans (for layering during the day)
  • A swimming costume for when you visit the northern regions
  • Sunglasses for the glare and a sunhat to prevent sunburn
  • Sunscreen – we have between 10 and 11 hours of sunshine per day in winter with no clouds, so there’s nowhere to hide!

After the rains that fall to a lesser or greater extent during summer, the grass by winter has become quite flattened and the bushes thinner, resulting in better visibility for spotting game along the roadsides throughout Namibia. Because of the drought this year, towards the end of winter you may see nocturnal creatures such as bat-eared fox and aardvark foraging well before sunset. Add to this the fact that animals in Etosha must visit waterholes every day to drink and there’s no better time for game viewing.

Dolomite Camp in the west has a microenvironment all of its own. Shaded by beautiful trees and home to some great birds, you can sit on your deck above the plains and spot the wildlife. The Dolomite environs are especially good for:
  • elephant herds, giraffe, zebra and other plains animals;
  • Leopards have been seen on the dolomite ridge and lions sometimes visit the waterhole;
  • This is the one place in Etosha where you can see baboons – they sleep on the neighbouring koppie;
  • Another special for Etosha is the mountain zebra, which you will often see here with Burchell’s zebra.

Okaukuejo Waterhole is a great place if you just want to sit in the camp and watch the passing parade – people, birds and animals. The antelope visit in large numbers when it’s mid-morning, and it can become quite busy.

Okondeka Waterhole in the north of Okaukuejo Rest Camp is great for seeing the resident lion pride. I counted 18 members at Easter and the second pride male was not at home. The plains animals have to drink at this waterhole, so just sit and wait for the action to come to you. I’ve seen a caracal hunting here mid-afternoon, and in March rare sightings of brown hyaena and honey badger were also recorded.

Halali Camp in the centre of the park offers accessibility to different kinds of waterholes.
  • If it’s cheetah you’re after, head 9 kilometres down to the pan and turn left following the pan edge to Sueda. If at first you don’t spot any cats, retrace your route on the way back to camp. This is a consistantly good area for cheetah sightings.
  • Or you could spend some time at Goas – a double waterhole east of Halali Camp that is often frequented by elephants, hyaenas and giraffe. Most animals come here to drink at some time (leopard, lions and rhino), so patience and a picnic are recommended.
  • Head from here north to Nuamses and wait quietly for the resident leopardess and her new cub. I saw and/or heard no less than four leopards around Nuamses late one afternoon in November last year.
Namutoni is feeling the drought this year, with Fischer’s Pan drying up and becoming somewhat smelly. Only a handful of permanent flamingos are holding out here – the breeding season never took place this year due to poor rains.

The 15 kilometres of sandy track through the forest to Onkoshi Camp is a delightful secret place and we’ve recently seen fresh tracks of lion, elephant and rhino here. Fellow visitors spotted a leopard just outside the camp before sunset. Apart from the big boys, it’s teeming with warthogs, kudu, steenbok, zebra and giraffe, to name a few. Drive slowly to take it all in.

  • Acacias!
  • If you see small acacia bushes in bloom with their bright yellow balls you’re looking at Acacia nebrownii, unaccountably called the ‘water thorn’! These bushes are often found in such dry areas you would never guess their presence indicates underground water.
  • Euphorbia damarana, which starts flowering in May, and is seen in the desert en route to Swakopmund
  • Combretum platypetalum (red-wing combretum), conspicuous in the yellow winter grassland in Caprivi
  • Dombeya rotundifolia (wild pear), seen flowering (covering the tree ) at the restaurant of the Waterberg Plateau Park well into winter.

  • Aloe dichotoma (quiver tree) during June and July
  • Aloe gariepensis, which starts flowering in July to September
  • Aloe littoralis (Windhoek aloe), which flowers in April/May in Windhoek, later in other parts
  • Aloe hereroensis, which flowers from July onwards
  •  Aloe asperifolia, seen along the road to Swakopmund, can flower as late as July

  • Aloe chabaudii, which flowers from May to July
Look out for the small population of blue cranes that live in eastern Etosha. They can often be seen near Salvadora waterhole or along the pan towards Namutoni. They will be foraging at this time with one or two chicks from the summer breeding season. Their numbers total a scant 65.
After summer a small population of flamingos remain year round at Fischer’s Pan. This year the rains were insufficient to initiate the migration from the coast and subsequent breeding. So this year is a good time to see thousands of flamingos in the Walvis Bay Lagoon!
Winter birding is generally good in Namibia even after the summer visitors have left. When the trees are bare and food is scarce, it generally becomes easier to spot birds.
Look out for some of our endemic species:
  • Monteiro’s hornbills at Waterberg Plateau Park
  • Bare-cheeked babblers, Carp’s tits and White helmet-shrikes in Halali Rest Camp
  • Dune larks at Elim Dune, east of Sesriem Camp, early in the morning
  • Damama terns at the coast around the Walvis Bay Lagoon
  • Hartlaub’s francolins at Dolomite Camp, western Etosha