Etosha National Park
We stayed in a campsite in Divundu on the way to Etosha after crossing the border. This campsite was on the banks of the Kavango River – notorious for its crocodiles which inhabit the river.
We arrived at the famous Etosha National Park. Before we came to Africa we had heard of the ‘Big 5’ (Water Buffalo, Lion, Elephant, Rhino and Leopard) and how great it is to see those animals. What we didn’t realise is how hard it is to catch a glimpse of the Leopard, the animal we hadn’t yet seen properly to complete the Big 5. We had seen one in the Serengeti in a very distant tree, but here in Etosha, our 7th safari, we finally saw one properly! We watched it drink at a waterhole and then stalk its way up behind a log to wait for its dinner time opportunity – an antelope taking a drink. It was incredible.
We camped in two different campsites in Etosha, each one within walking distance to a floodlit waterhole where you could sit (behind a fence) and watch all sorts of wild animals as they come to drink throughout the day and night. The diversity of animals here (and at other waterholes) was incredible! We are right in the middle of the dry season so the park is bone dry except for the waterholes that are vital to the animals. Watching them in silence at night time and hearing their noises was surreal and felt very intimate.
Not long on the road after Etosha, we were lucky enough to stop at a Himba village (overland tourist trucks normally do not visit these). The Himba women of northern Namibia are famous for their use of otjize, a paste of butter, fat and red ochre (mud), which they cover their entire body and hair with. The tribe lives a nearly traditional lifestyle, with boys circumcised at the age of 10, women receive a head piece made from baby goat skin at puberty which they wear on their head, they cover their ankles with heavy ankle bracelets, and the only piece of clothing they wear is a skirt made from cow hind. The women here have never washed with water, instead they have a daily ritual of using the steam from burning otjize to clean their body. At the age of 10 each person in the village has their bottom 4 teeth knocked out buy the witchdoctor, to symbolise their tribe.
The tribes people were incredibly welcoming and friendly despite the complete language barrier (apparent from the local guide).
Right near our campsite at Kamanjab we visited a Cheetah Park that looks after orphan and injured cheetahs, some which remain tame from young, others get released in their 70,000 acre property.
We were able to walk with and pat the tame ones who were mainly around one year old, although one cheetah locked Danielle’s arm in its mouth and she had to wait for the owner to come to her rescue!
In the late afternoon we were driven out into the property and watch the ‘wild’ ones get fed. About 8 showed up for food out of around 17 – who show up for food only when they haven’t found food themselves. It was amazing to see them up close like this and devour their food!
Cape Cross Seal Colony
Cape Cross is along the Skeleton Coast in Namibia, with the biggest breeding Cape Fur Seal colony in the world (around 100,000 of them!) The smell from the seals is absolutely gross, but the numbers of seals playing in the ocean and basking on the land is amazing.
What a funny little town this is. We stayed in Swakopmund for three nights, and each day I think we grew to like it more and more. Swakopmund is an old German colonial town, right on the Atlantic Ocean and is surrounded by the desert dunes of the Skeleton Coast. The streets are wide and it has an almost empty feel to it at first, but when we walked around we discovered lots of crafty shops, nice restaurants, and more.
During our stay here we booked onto a two hour quad biking experience in the sand dunes. The bikes were suitably fast, especially Ian’s as he went with the manual! We spent the two hours fish tailing our way through the dunes, stopping to take in the views and some desert creatures such as a side-winder snake and a lizard.
After an all-day drive taking in the views through the Namib-Naukluft National Park (and crossing the Tropic of Capricorn!) we arrived in Sesriem.
We arrived at the campsite in time to walk to the Sesriem Canyon at sunset, but the main reason to stop in Sesriem (which is barely even a town) is the amazing contrasting scenes of sand dunes and dry clay pans at Sossusvlei.
So, the next morning we were up at about 4am to head into the Park to see the sunrise over the famous (and popular!) Dune 45. We watched as the sun rose, changing the colour of the dunes into the deep reds they are famous for. We then continued on to Sossusvlei – the dead trees rising out of the clay pans with the dunes as a backdrop made for some great photos! When the pans have water (which is very rare), apparently the water is an amazing aqua blue colour which must be amazing.
Fish River Canyon
On the way to our campsite we stopped at Fish River Canyon. They say that this canyon is second only to the Grand Canyon in terms of size, and equal in terms of awe. Some of the guys that had been to the grand canyon before agreed. The Fish River weaves (only flowing periodically) through the bottom of the canyon. It’s an amazing scene that a camera will never do it justice.
See next: South Africa