Mind-Numbing Namibia

Namibia 242 Namibia was called Southwest Africa when I studied Africa’s geography.  It’s a sparsely-populated (total population of two million) country on Africa’s Atlantic Coast, lying north of South Africa and south of Angola.  We stayed at three different places in Namibia, and loved every minute here.  It was a great start to our time in sub-Sahara Africa, and a country we will definitely visit again.

Namibia 001 The frigid Benguela Current runs up from Antarctica along the west coast of Africa, meaning the Atlantic Ocean water off this coast is quite cold and carries little precipitation.  Consequently, the west coast of Africa gets almost no rainfall, and is desert.  Our first two stops in Namibia were in desert territories, although quite different from each other.  We completed our great stay in Namibia in the Waterberg area, and stayed at a place focusing on wildlife research.

Damaraland

Namibia II 057 We started at a great spot called Camp Damaraland, which we loved.  The land there was gorgeous, the people running the camp so hospitable, and we saw some great wildlife.  Although the area is desert, it was rugged and hilly/mountainous.  We were fortunate to be in this area after a period of rainfall that caused much of the land to covered by grass.  This grass will soon disappear, but the waves of grass, with the mountains in the background, were simply phenomenal.

Namibia II 032 We saw more animals than I can show here in pictures.  We had great looks at the Springbok, Gemsbok (Oryx), Baboons, Kudu and Zebras.   We saw some African Elephants at a distance, which was an exciting first look at these huge but very smart creatures.  It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to find elephant tracks in the grass, follow them, and eventually come across a “parade” of elephants in the wild.  And we never tired of watching any of the different antelopes here, each spectacular in its own way.

We also saw lots of great birds and reptiles, most of which we’d never seen before.  This area is terrific for wildlife, and hardly a minute went by without a great sighting.  But for us the highlight was the gorgeous desert hills and grasslands of this great area.

Skeleton Coast

Namibia 361 The Skeleton Coast lies in the upper northwest corner of Namibia, on the Atlantic Ocean.  This area has lots of great dunes, rugged coast line, canyons, and desert landscape.  We stayed at the Skeleton Coast research site, which was quite basic, but worked just fine for us.  Our guide from Skeleton was Kallie, who was terrific.

Namibia 311 Our highlight was exploring the dunes of the area.  Our first big highlight was when Kallie was driving alongside a dune, suddenly stopped the vehicle, jumped out, and sprinted onto the dune.  He had spotted the elusive Desert Plated Lizard on the dune, chased her down, and eventually caught her.  This lizard was a big hit with Gibson and Sterling, who immediately put this at the top of their “NEXT PET” list.

Namibia 414 We saw some great animals at Skeleton Coast, including fields with Ostriches, Springboks, and Oryx.  It’s impossible to describe the beauty of the wide open hills of Namibia, full of some of the most beautiful wild animals on the face of the earth.  We also got some of our initial good views of  Giraffes in the wild.  These animals are really remarkable, and we could watch them for hours on end.  For their size, they’re remarkably graceful, and seem so calm and dignified.   And we saw at a distance some African Savanna Elephants — truly remarkable creatures. 

Namibia Waterberg 052 We went fishing one morning in the Atlantic, and the kids had great success.  It seemed that as soon as their line hit the water, they got a big bite.  Apparently, the coastal waters of Namibia are very rich in fish, and there’s a fair amount of controversy in terms of managing the fishing done in these waters by foreign nations.  Namibia is a very poor country, so they need to protect all the (meager) resources they have.

Namibia 447 A real highlight of our time at Skeleton Coast was a visit to a very primitive Himba village, inhabited by members of the Himbu tribe.  We got a chance to see, and even crawl in, the huts they live in (think igloos, but made of cow dung and sticks).  We also got a chance to observe the social dynamic of the tribe, with the men huntingNamibia 480 all day, the women weaving and cooking, and the children (of which there were many) being taken care of by grandmothers.  As we’ve seen over and over on our trip, the people with the fewest material possessions are almost always so happy.  They did sell a few items that the women in the tribe made, and that in itself was an interesting experience.  They had a full table of items, but we ended up involved in multiple transactions with different women in the tribe.

Waterberg

In Waterberg, we stayed at a lodge and spent a fair amount of time with people from Namibia’s Rare and Endangered Species Trust, as well as with the Cheetah Conservation Fund.  Namibia has an active non-profit community focused on conservation issues, and these groups were quite interesting, and a highlight of our time in Namibia.

Namibia Waterberg 175 You’ll be shocked to learn that the Cheetah Conservation Fund is focused on Cheetahs :-) .  We visited their facilities, and got a jeep tour of a holding area that is home to a number of cheetahs.  It’s not the same as seeing the animal in the wild, but we got some great looks at Cheetahs there.  One of the big challenges for the Cheetah population in Africa is the occasional attack made by a wild cat like this in farm animals, which invites retaliation by farmers. 

Namibia Waterberg 303 Less obvious is the prime focus of the Rare and Endangered Species Trust, but their passion is vultures.  As a venture capitalist, I can relate to the unfortunate negative stigma attached to vultures.   The organization was founded by Maria Diekmann, who grew up in California, came to Namibia over a decade ago, and is now a Namibian for life.  She fosters research efforts to protect the vulture species in Africa, especially theNamibia Waterberg 280 Cape Griffon Vulture.  Incredibly, vultures are under attach worldwide, and some 10 million were killed in the past decade in Asia!  Vultures are nature’s vacuum cleaner, scooping in on dead carcasses and picking them clean — but preventing the spread of disease in the process.  The problem is that many carcasses are dead due to poisoning, which in turn kills the vultures.  It was fabulous for us to spend time in Waterberg, observe biological research and conservation in action, and meet some really terrific people. 

Namibia II 158 We definitely plan to return to Namibia.  It’s just a fabulous place.  It’s an especially great place to start in exploring southern Africa, since you can see some great wildlife, but animals are much sparser here than in other locations.  Each of the three places we explored is a location we’d highly recommend.  And, on our next trip, tops on our list is the Etosha National Park, reported to be one of Africa’s top sites for game viewing.  The biggest sand dunes in the world can be found at Namib Naukloft Park, where it’s possible to take a hot air balloon safari.  Fish River Canyon Park is the second biggest canyon in the world (after then Grand Canyon), and worth a day’s visit.  And other places we’d love to take in at some point include Swapukmund, Cape Cross, Serra Cafema, and Doro Nawns.  This country, bigger than Texas but without George W. Bush, has so much to offer! 

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