Okavango Delta, Etosha, Cheetah Park, Spitzkoppe, Cape Cross, Swakopmund
30.07.2011 - 11.08.2011
I think we are in Bethanie at the moment on our way to Fish River Canyon tomorrow, the 2nd largest in the world behind the Grand Canyon. It has been a really great couple of weeks and Namibia is just an amazingly stunning country and so different to everywhere else we have been.
Back to Botswana…..
The Okavango Delta was one of the highlights of my trip, I am sure I have said that about a few things now but it was just simple yet somehow so enjoyable. We arrived at our pick up point and the local polers assign themselves to you and one other person. Our poler was Cross and he turned out to be so lovely. Some people you meet just really stick with you. He was SO smart but as we found out had only had a primary education and you can’t help but imagine how far he could have gone. Anyway, we loaded our Mokoros to take us to one of the palm islands where we were camping for the 2 nights. The trip in the Mokoro was, although initially nerve-racking as they don’t appear all that sturdy and we had all of our cameras etc so relaxing paddling gently through the reeds. The only downside was the spiders which jump off the reeds onto you. Over the 2 days we did relaxed a lot in the sun, had a go at poling which is a LOT harder than it looks, and did a couple of game walks which I was not all that comfortable with knowing there are lions in the area. At one stage we were watching a couple of elephants fighting, and I finally had let my guard down and felt comfortable, and then something just sped through the bushes behind us and I swear I almost needed a change of pants! Turned out to just be a warthog thank god. We had to race back to the mokoros when a large herd of elephants started heading towards where they were parked, then paddled to the hippo pool…me+hippo+paddle boats=not a good mix. Cross was under strict instructions to make sure we were in a position where the hippo would go for another boat before us. We had a sunset cruise and stayed up around the fire at night with the polers learning a few games and jokes they have obviously picked up over many campfires. Then went to bed and listened to elephants and hippos in the distance. It was so sweet when we tipped Cross I went for a handshake and he just grabbed us both and hugged and kissed us both and wouldn’t let go.
When we got back to Maun a couple of us did a flight over the Delta in a 7 seater plane which was great to put into perspective what we had seen from the ground and more. The desert plains meeting the mouth of the Okavango River, scrub fires and wildlife.
We had a couple of long drive days to get us to the Namibian border, one place we stopped at was Tsodilo Hills. The four hills (Male, Female, Child and North Hill) rise abruptly from the desert and are spiritually significant to the San people, who believe this was the site of creation. The next day we crossed into Namibia, drove through Mahango National Park along the way and bush camped near the what is supposed to be the largest Baobab tree known to exist. It was massive and since I love Baobab trees so much I gave it a big hug.
We then continued on to Etosha National Park, which is meant to have one of the highest density of wildlife population in Africa. Within the first 10 minutes of entering the park we came across a black rhino which was not even shy like the others we have seen. We had a laugh in our big truck at the cars nervously turning their cars on as it came right up to them. We had a full day game drive there in the truck which was good to be able to see from the height we were at. We also saw a leopard not in a tree for the first time…they are beautiful. The scenery was amazing as it was so varied, from dry grass savannah to scrubby desert to salt lakes to water holes. The camp we stayed at in the park had set up a floodlight and rocky stadium on one side of a watering hole so we took our sleeping bags down there in the night and watched rhino’s and hyenas completely undisturbed. After watching the sunrise on our morning game drive leaving the park, we drove on to our camp at Cheetah Park. We stopped in a small town called Outjo, and saw the many Herrera tribe women and men around town. The women wear huge puffy dresses made from all this colourful material and the men smart suits and little hats. It looked like we had gone back to the 50’s or something.
The owners of Cheetah Park have set up a Cheetah breeding and protection program as they were being killed by local farmers for killing their animals. The original 3 they have from taking them in when their mothers where killed are tame and so we got to spend the afternoon with them. We then went out in the back of utes and trailers to the wild cheetah section for the afternoon feeding which was very cool. Later on we got to try some puff adder….interesting.
The next day (this brings us to Saturday 6th) was I think my favourite drive day to date and favourite camping location. The drive was past scrub covered desert surrounded by amazing rock formations including the Brandberg range and we set up camp at a community run bush camp at Spitzkoppe, another range of rock formations. We had time to have a walk around and then sat up on one of the rocks watching the sunset after our Eland steak dinner.
On our way to Swakopmund on Sunday we stopped at Cape Cross seal colony along the southern end of the Skeleton Coast. A lot of that drive was fogged with thick ocean mist as the cold waters hit the desert coastline. We could smell the seals before we could even see the ocean. There were thousands and apparently supposed to be up to 200-300,000 of them. We arrived at Swakopmund in the afternoon, and didn’t have to pitch our tents! Nope, we had dorm rooms with PROPER matresses!!! Heaven! And ensuite bathrooms! And endlessly hot showers and found out we could now drink the tap water!!! And a bar 10m from our door without even having to leave the hotel!!! What more could overlanders want. Amazing seafood for dinner. Swakopmund is on a tourist town on the coast built as the gateway to this ‘adventure capital of Namibia’. All the buildings are really modern and the town really clean and nice but as we arrived on Sunday when most places are closed it was like a really foggy ghost town. The fog at night is so thick that it feels like it is raining and was colllllllld!
On Monday I went out sandboarding on the dunes. I opted against the snowboard and went for the sheet of wood to lie down on instead as I figured that would be how I spent most of the time anyway. It was so much fun apart from the initial fear of flying head first down sand dunes at my top speed of 71km p/h. Lots of fun besides then having to walk back up the dunes after 8 weeks of sitting on my but on a truck. We went out for a really nice dinner (Springbok…..delicious!) for one of the girls birthdays then continued on until 6am, spend most of the next day taking advantage of the free wifi and then pretty much repeated the previous night. Yesterday we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and then stopped at Sossusvlei and climbed Dune 45. These are those sand dunes you see of Africa that are nearly bright orange-red in colour and are stunning. We watched the sun set (you may notice there is a slight obsession with sunsets and sunrises) from the top of the dune which was beautiful. Went to bed to the sounds of jackals and some other unidentified sounds and same with tonight. We have just the net on our tent tonight and no cover so we can hear more and making the most of the warmer Namibian weather and 2nd last camping night.
Also considering dying my hair dark as whenever there are traditional dancers performing for us, I am always the first and/or only one to be picked out…either that or gotta work on my moves.