Namibia 2019
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10 April 2019 - 1 May 2019   >   22 days


First time Namibia, a self-drive safari in this east-african country. We actually started our holiday on the 9th of April because we had an evening / night flight to Namibia. But we will count the 10th of April as the first day because then (at 10:38 am) we arrived in Windhoek.

Don't forget to click on the maps to open very detailed Google maps (created using a Garmin GPS tracker) of the specific days of our holiday.

Just started ...


Day 1  -  Arriving in Windhoek, pick-up of our car and our first night in Namibia.

04/10/2019

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Today we arrived at the international airport Hosea Kutako in Windhoek after our flight from Amsterdam.

The first thing we had to do was pick-up our rental car, a Toyota Hilux, from Avis. We expected a car with closed canopy and long-range fuel tank so were a bit disappointed when a "regular" Hilux was ready for us. As Avis did not have the car we expected, we couldn’t upgrade. The main thing that worried us was fuel, especially shortage of fuel. Avis had marked the petrol stations on the map and there were fewer than expected. We discussed this with the Avis guy and apparently only the petrol stations on the beaten track were marked on their map. We decided that this car would do the job and might even be very comfortable. The second spare tire was ready (better be safe than sorry) so, after filling the tank to the max, we went on our way.

We bought some groceries at Maerua Mall and got our permit voor the Namib Naukluft park at the MET. And then we drove a bit through this part of Windhoek. After this, we checked in at Londiningi Guest House and had a bit of a rest in their garden, enjoying the birds and the peace.

We had dinner at La Marmite and sat outside in the back where locals were trying to set-up a big screen for an important football match. We had chicken livers with garlic for starters and highly recommend it! We were exhausted after dinner and went straight to bed.


Day 2  -  Driving from Windhoek to Swakopmund via Tinkas Plains.

04/11/2019

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Our first real drive in Namibia, we're excited! We drove off at 8:48 in the morning and reached our destination (347 km) at exactly 18:00. Great timing.

We had decided to take the scenic C28 to Swakopmund because we wanted to visit Bloedkoppe and the Tinkas. It was easy to get out of Windhoek and we were on our way to adventure! Soon we reach the gravel road and spot Chacma baboon and a Steenbok. A small Leopard Tortoise is crossing the road and we help it along. Some Gemsbok cross the road in front of us in a hurry.

Around halfway we reach the steep gradients (20%!) of the Boshua Pass. We see so much wildlife and we’re not in a national park or even a wildlife reserve. When we enter the Namib Naukluft NP, we go right on the 4x4 trail and find some interesting wildlife, mainly birds, all adapted to the harsh conditions of this desert. The scenery around the Tinkas Plains and Bloedkoppe is stunning with very interesting rock formations. Next time we really should camp out here!

As it is already getting late we skip the Welwitschia Drive and drive directly to Desert Breeze Lodge. We enjoy the view of the desert in front of us with a glass of wine and the last light. We have dinner at The Tug Restaurant, which is in a great location but after dark there is no view, only the black of the ocean. The complete opposite of the view from our room at Desert Breeze - the desert sand kind of glows and it’s not dark at all. With this great view we go to sleep.


Day 3  -  Living Desert Tour and birding in the afternoon.

04/12/2019

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The next morning after breakfast we are picked up by Grant from Living Desert Adventures.

" .... While Douglas explains how the wind shapes the Dunes and how the food chain works in this desert, Grant is searching for reptiles. Soon he finds the Namib Sand Gecko. A nocturnal Gecko, almost transparent with huge eyes to see in the dark. After taking pictures, a hole is created for the Gecko and we watch him dig a new tunnel. Meanwhile we see different Tenebrionid Beetles, known as Tok Tokkies. We’ll see many more this holiday. ...."

Other finds are FitzSimon’s Burrowing Skink and no less than 5 different Namaqua Chameleons! The best sighting though was that of the Dwarf Beaked Snake, a tiny but beautiful snake.

In the afternoon we go birding by ourselves. First we drive to the Swakopmund Saltworks, north of the town. We find Greater and Lesser Flamingo and other birds but we don’t like the scenery. We decide to go to the Walvis Bay Bird Sanctuary but can only find a big shopping mall on the spot where it is supposed to be. We find no signs to direct us so we decide to drive to Walvis Bay Lagoon. We enjoy watching flamingo and some other birds and head back to Swakopmund as we do not want to drive in the dark.


Day 4  -  Driving to Terrace Bay via the Dead Sea and Cape Cross Seal Reserve

04/13/2019

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Today we have a long day ahead, driving to Terrace Bay in the Skeleton Coast National Park. We rise early and after breakfast we drink one more coffee, enjoying the spectacular views from Desert Breeze Lodge. We stock up with petrol, groceries and lots of Biltong (beef, oryx, kudu, springbok and different spices) and leave Swakopmund behind.

After a short visit of Henties Bays our Garmin gps beeps and signals that we have reached the turn-off to the Dead Sea. We’ve read that it’s a quirky and off-the-beaten-track point of interest but that’s all we know about it. After driving a flat expanse we reach an area that is less flat. We stop the car to explore. We find rosy stones and small plants and lichen. It’s beautiful. We we don’t see anything that looks like a dead sea. We decide to check the Garmin and apparently we have reached an old rose quartz mine. A bit further on is a mica mine and still a bit further is the dead sea. We explore the area and are happy we took the turn-off.

Next stop is the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. We were warned that it would be very smelly and noisy. The noisy part is true but we did not mind the smell that much. There were thousands and thousands of seals - sleeping, bobbing on land and in the water. They drape themselves on and around rocks and look adorable.

Just before 3 pm we reach the gate of the Skeleton Coast NP and check in. Next stop is the wreck of the South West Seal. There is not much left of the ship but it’s a good reason to have a coffee break and take some pictures.

Next we explore the abandoned oil rig and make a very short stop at Toscanini, an old diamond mine. What impressed us most is the subtle changes in the landscape. The dunes change colour all the time and are sometimes pure sand, other times rocky. In some areas there are bushes, in other areas only very small plants or (seemingly) nothing at all. And when you see a green carpet of dollar bush, you know you are crossing a river mouth.

We reach Terrace Bay at 18:00. The rooms are pretty simple but are spacious and clean. In a way it’s the perfect accommodation for this place. No luxury, no frills, just wind and the ocean and the pebbles on the beach.


Day 5  -  Driving to Etendeka Mountain Camp via Palmwag

04/14/2019

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After breakfast we walk to the ocean beach to see if we can find some interesting stuff and we bump into a black-backed jackal. We’ve seen many of them but never with the ocean as a backdrop. After filling up with petrol we drive back to the junction with C39 where we turn left and head towards Damaraland. It’s an abrupt change of scenery. Greyish dunes and rock are replaced bij reddish rocks and flat topped mountains. A lot of Welwitschia plants grow close to the road. The plants have only two leaves but they are torn up by the wind. The female plants have a few big conical flowers and the male plants have lots of small flowers. We get out to try and track down the Welwitschia bug.

Entering Damaraland we see the first giraffes and springbok. We stop for coffee and explore the bushes for creepy-crawlers and find a couple Giant African Millipedes. We park our car at Palmwag Lodge where we will be picked up at 16:00 and transferred to Etendeka Mountain Camp. We have lunch at Palmwag lodge and get company from a lovely Bokmakierie. We’re happy to leave Palmwag and head for the remoter Etendeka Mountain Camp. It’s a 1,5 hour scenic drive and the scenery is amazing. We see many Steenbok which aren’t skittish at all. After checking in at this amazing camp we walk up ‘Sundowner Hill’ to enjoy the views of the Etendeka mountains. We are welcomed back with G&Ts and after a lovely dinner we go to sleep.


Day 6  -  Nature walk and scenic game drive at Etendeka

04/15/2019

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After breakfast we enjoy a second coffee while watching the birdbath. There are many different birds but the highlight of this morning is seeing a Sengi, or elephant-shrew! It’s a funny looking creature with big ears and a long nose. When doing a guided safari the guides always ask you what you want to see, expecting to hear lions and leopards. We always say: an elephant-shrew, a checkered one if possible! And now we have seen one and really have had the time to observe.

On our morning walk we do not see much wildlife but the walk is interesting nevertheless. The rocks are glittering and on closer inspection we find many crystals.

Afterwards we sit by the birdbath - a daytime bush-tv. We have lunch and take a lovely outside bucket-shower and head straight back for coffee and more bush-tv. A bird hops by and Bo, our host, tells us afterwards that this is a big tick for many birdwatchers - the Benguela long-billed lark, endemic to this region.

After tea we had out on an afternoon scenic drive. Due to the drought there are not many animals around. The scenery is beautiful though and we relax and enjoy. We stop for a sun-downer and it is so tranquil in this flat-topped mountain area. Before dinner Bo is entertaining us with great stories around the campfire. We have seen a Sengi today, a day to remember.


Day 7 - Driving to Khowarib Lodge

04/16/2019

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After a scenic drive back to Palmwag lodge we get back in our own car and head north for 75km to Khowarib Lodge. We check in and explore the area. Our tent’s balcony looks onto the Hoanib river which is just a little stream. We head out to explore the Khowarib Schlucht. It’s a 4WD trail which loosely follows the river. It’s amazing scenery but it soon gets very sandy and we don’t have a compressor so we decide to head back. Next we visit the hot spring at Warmquelle. It’s not very well signposted but that makes us feel a bit adventurous. When we find the spring, which isn’t much to look at,  local boys are enjoying the warmth of the water and we have a chat. Apparently the water is hottest in the morning but that may have something to do with the difference with the outside temperature which decreases during the day.

Back at the lodge, the tables are set for dinner under the stars. There is much attention to detail and the tables are all set with wooden figures and decorated with green leaves.


Day 8 - In search of Desert Elephants down the Hoanib River

04/17/2019

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Today we will drive through the Hoanib riverbed in search of Desert Elephants. This seasonal river flows only every few years but stores water in the sand and creates a ribbon of green in the otherwise dry country. The river is the boundary between Palmwag Concession area and Sesfontein Conservancy and we criss cross the riverbed as we go. We encounter some springbok, giraffe and gemsbok but this drive is mainly about the views. Beautiful River Thorn (Ana) trees, rocky outcrops, mountains and dunes.

We haven’t found the elephants yet but this excursion is worth your money even if you don’t find them. We have lunch and move on. A guide from Hoanib Valley Camp told us they are far down the river today so we move on in the direction of Skeleton Coast National park. We cross the border and find them after 3 kilometers. It’s a small family herd. They are shaking the Ana trees to get to the pods which according to elephants are delicious food. We watch them for a while until they move on.
The scenery is amazing. On the way back we spot a giraffe walking the river bank with a backdrop of mountains. I’m sure our pictures can not do justice to this experience. The warmth on your skin, the wind through your hair, the smells and the emptiness that isn’t empty at all.

In the afternoon, back at the lodge, we explore the hoanib river on foot. There’s birds and insects and the best thing is, all other people are at the pool so we have the place to ourselves. As we follow the river we startle something, it’s a beautiful Spotted Bush Snake that swims to the other side. At that time we didn’t know the species so we didn’t dare to come close and look for it on the other side. We move on but tread a little more carefully :-)


Day 9 - Tracking Rhino in the Palmwag Concession

04/18/2019

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Today we visited the Palmwag Concession to look for Hook-lipped (Black) Rhino. We are warned that chances of finding a Rhino are slim due to the drought. We pick up a ranger of Save the Rhino Trust, Fred, who knows where they were last seen and knows how to read the tracks.

The ranger has found tracks, we just have to do a little walking. We put on sunscreen, take a bottle of water and off we go. Fred is as agile on the rocks as a klipspringer and we see him on the next hill, beckoning us to walk just a little more. Anxious to see the Rhino we follow him, hill after hill. When we meet up with him, he tells us they are in the gorge and we can’t follow. We have to go back to the car and drive around to the other side of the gorge. Suddenly we feel how hot it is and how little of our water is left. When we finally reached the car we had walked 6  kilometers in 39 degrees Celsius!

We drive to the other side of the gorge but no luck. We drop off Fred and drive back to the lodge. Although we didn’t find rhinos, it was a great experience. Exciting and very exhausting.


Day 10 - Driving to Epupa Falls

04/19/2019

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Today we drove to Epupa Falls Lodge, approximately 340km, which will take 5,5 hours according to tracks4africa. We aren’t in a hurry so we drive slowly and enjoy the changing scenery. After 4 hours we reach Opuwo (which means The End). This is the last petrol station on our way to the North so we fill up. While waiting there are a lot of people begging us to buy stuff that we don’t need or want but we feel guilty for just ignoring them. We decided not to stay for lunch and move on. After driving 4,5 hours, with regular stops for birdwatching, we arrived at Epupa Falls Lodge. The location is amazing, right on top of the falls.

We settle in and enjoy the views of the falls from the deck, with mist spraying our faces which is very refreshing on this hot day. We make arrangements with Kaokoland Guides for an early morning birding walk the next day.


Day 11 - Birding on the Crocodile trail, a scenic drive and a goat in our car

04/20/2019

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After breakfast we meet up with Kamburu who will guide us along the river in search of endemic birds. It is quiet on this riverine forest trail. We spot a violet-backed starling! It’s high up on the tree and difficult to get decent pictures but a beautiful bird it is. Kamburu spots some small birds on the other side of the river and think they might be the Cinderella Waxbill, a very elusive endemic species. Back home we realise we have seen the Common Waxbill - as the name says, not an uncommon bird at all :-). We move on and find a Congo Rope Squirrel and a family of Rüppell's Parrot.

Back at the Lodge Kamburu introduces us to Malawi shandy - a very refreshing drink. It’s a mix of ginger ale and bitter lemon with a few drops of Angostura bitter. We love it!

In the afternoon we decided to visit Epupa Falls View Point but we forgot our wallet so instead we drove upstream along the Kunene river. When the sun is setting we decide to go back to the camp for a sundowner. On the way back we are stopped by 3 men and a goat. They are on their way to Epupa village and would like a lift for one of the men and the goat. We ignore the advice of many people and decide to do what we would do at home and that is help out. The goat is roped and put in the back of the car and after we clear the back seat there is room for everybody. Could we please stop and unload the goat at the police station which is where they work. We’re glad we did not have paranoia and trusted our gut feeling.


Day 12 - Visit a Himba Village with Koos and watching the Falls

04/21/2019

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Today we have booked a day-trip with Koos, the owner-manager of Epupa Falls lodge, and his adopted daughter Juanine to visit a Himba village. We turn off an unmarked gravel road and head towards the Zebra Mountains.

Our first stop is the Village of Chief Kapika. Juanine entered the kraal first to announce our visit. In the meanwhile Koos teaches us how to say hello (Moro) and Thank you (Okuhepa) in Ovahimba. We enter the village and shake hands with the men and women. We are allowed to take pictures but we don't feel very comfortable doing this so we have just a few. Koos leads us through the kraal and shows us the homes of the adults. Chief kapika has many wives but at the moment only two live in the village. They both have their own home and the chief is building a new home for himself. He explains he is getting old and doesn’t want to be in the way if his wives want to entertain guests. Before we move on we unload bags of mieliemeel, the staple diet of the locals.

Our second stop is the kraal of a very old Himba man. He’s inside his hut with the door closed. Koos asks why, it’s hot, why a closed door. Well, because he doesn’t like the chickens to come in! We have a chat with the old man and Juanine translates. He hasn’t seen a drought like this before in his lifetime. When it was dry in one place, they could move to another place where there was grass. Today, there is no grass, nowhere.

On our return to the lodge we stop in a dry riverbed for lunch - boerewors and braai brood. While Koos and Juanine are cooking, we are strolling along the dry river to look for birds. We find Meve’s starling and a golden-tailed woodpecker.

Late afternoon we drove up to the viewpoint. The falls are so wide, it’s difficult to capture them in one shot. It’s a breathtaking sight.

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