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Atravelynn

Deserts, Dunes, Waterholes, Wildlife, Views, Vistas. Namibia.

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Atravelynn

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Namibia has such variety that it is hard to narrow down the choices. For this first trip I was pleased with where I ended up going and with Wild Dog Safaris, who took me there. A solo, privately guided safari is not real common in Namibia because it is easy to self drive and because there are lots of group departures, including several by Wild Dog. But I wanted more time at the various locations than any of the group trips offered and did not want to self drive.

 

WHAT I HOPED TO SEE

1. Animals at waterholes both day and night.

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Chodup Waterhole, Namutoni area Okaukeujo Waterhole at Lodge

 

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Okaukeujo Waterhole at Lodge Okaukeujo Waterhole at Lodge

 

2. Big red sand dunes in nice light.

3. Dead trees on a cracked white surface in front of a sand dune.

 

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Me in the tree

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All of these photos except the top left were taken in the morning at Sossusvlei, the area 60 kms down the road from Sossus Dune Lodge.

Top Left is near Dune 45, which is 45 Kms down the road from Sossus Dune Lodge and the entrance to the park.

 

4. Desert horses of Aus. (The only “wild” feral horses on the African continent are in Namibia).

 

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Garub Waterhole, 20 kms from Aus

 

 

5. Meerkats.

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Meerkats at Rostock Ritz

 

6. Rhino, and with luck maybe even rhino at a waterhole.

 

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Luck was with me at Moringa Waterhole, about a 10 minute walk from Halali Campground. Black rhino.

 

7. Nice scenery (Southern landscapes have the edge in scenery over Etosha region.)

 

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Near Rostock Ritz Lodge in Southern Namibia

 

8. Desert environments (Kalahari, Namtib Desert, Dunes)

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Oryx in Namtib Desert Red Hartebeest in Kalahari (Bagatelle)

 

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Oryx in Kalahari (Bagatelle) Black backed jackal behind small dune at Sossusvlei in sandstorm

 

 

9. In Okonjima tracking a cheetah on foot. (Morning and afternoon cheetah trackings were offered when I was there. Cheetah and leopard outings may alternate, so check in advance.)

 

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Very pregnant cheetah viewed on foot in Okonjima. She had just killed a kudu

in a wooded area, in anticipation of eating before giving birth in this area

protected by brush and trees.

 

10. Also in Okonjima, it is possible to see a porcupine at night, viewed from a blind next to a waterhole, which I was hoping to see.

 

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Mr. Porcupine showed up! Okonjima Hide

 

After getting to Etosha, Guide Ian informed me that another goal had to be finding a white elephant. We found several. They are white due to the light color of the sand from the pans.

 

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"White Elephants" Near Okerfontein Waterhole in Namutoni

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"White Elephants" Near Okerfontein Waterhole in Namutoni

 

These Top 10 are relatively easy, especially in the dry season--with the exception of the porcupine, which is seen on about half of the night hide visits. Rhino (Etosha population is about 30% White, 70% Black) are usually seen if a couple of days are spent in Etosha. Waterhole sightings of rhino at night at Okaukeujo (j is y sound like in Spanish) are fairly common and I saw about 6 rhinos and even witnessed interactions between them. Daytime waterhole sightings of rhino are not as common but I saw one at Moringa Waterhole at Halai Lodge and one at a distance at Nebrownii Waterhole in the Okaukeujo area. Meerkats can prove to be elusive, which was the case this trip.

 

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Black rhino near Nebrownii Waterhole in Okaukeujo area

 

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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Kitsafari

two trip reports on Namibia! I'm a happy camper. :)

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pault

I can picture you with a yellow fluorescent jacket, matching hard hat and a checklist in your hand. It's great you saw all you wanted (and more I am sure) and we are to be treated by two, concurrent Namibia reports. Good morning, Namibia!

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Sangeeta

Elusive or not, those are meerkat I see!! That second waterhole picture is incredible. Looks like a lovely, lovely trip!

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SafariChick

Gorgeous photos already! Looking forward to hearing more!

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twaffle

Looks like Namibia delivered on what you were after.

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Big_Dog

10 / 10 on what you wanted then?
Looks like an epic trip!

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FlyTraveler

I've been waiting for this trip report for some time, @@Atravelynn. Great beginning, will be following closely. Your TR-s are always full with tons of useful information and good photos. Thanks for sharing your experiences and expertise!

Edited by FlyTraveler

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AfricIan

Nice intro @@Atravelynn, We've been looking at a trip to Namibia for many years & it's always lost out but your & Paco's trips are coming at it from two very different approaches so it's going to be fascinating seeing how they both develop.

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Atravelynn

two trip reports on Namibia! I'm a happy camper. :)

I did not actually camp, so hope I don't disappoint you. :blink: My original plan was to camp to save money, but as a solo traveler being escorted, I was advised that the savings would not be that much, especially if there was a camp hand and a guide.

 

I can picture you with a yellow fluorescent jacket, matching hard hat and a checklist in your hand. It's great you saw all you wanted (and more I am sure) and we are to be treated by two, concurrent Namibia reports. Good morning, Namibia!

What a coincidental description, Paul. Can you pick me out here?

 

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This is actually a crew engaged in upgrading the facilities at Namutoni Lodge, which should make that productive area of the park even more enticing to visit.

 

Elusive or not, those are meerkat I see!! That second waterhole picture is incredible. Looks like a lovely, lovely trip!

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These were the more elusive meerkats in a colony that guide Ian had scoped out prior to my visit and took me there during my trip. Fortunately the colony had not moved. These guys were very unaccustomed to people. I did get to see babies and juveniles, in this colony, which was exciting.

 

Thanks for the comments, @@twaffle, @@SafariChick, @@Big_Dog, and @@FlyTraveler.

 

@Africlan, I know what you mean about Namibia losing out year after year.

 

In addition to Paco and my reports there are some other recent Namibia reports that give different angles on this vast and varied country.

Edited by Atravelynn

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Atravelynn

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WILD DOG SAFARIS

Because of late and ample rains in the Kalahari area, finding meerkats proved to be challenging. But due to the combined efforts of Guide Ian and Louise back in the Wild Dog office, we prevailed.

 

When Ian learned he would be my guide and I wanted to find meerkats, he kept tabs on any meerkat colonies he encountered in his travels around Namibia. One of the colonies he had found was still in the same location and I was able to spend a lot of time with it. Ian’s thoughtful advance planning paid off.

 

My itinerary showed that Louise had let Bagatelle know of my express interest in meerkats. I went to Bagatlle because usually there is a colony living near the lodge. But no colony this year, at least not as of mid-June. Nothing was mentioned by Bagatelle about the absence of the meerkats until Ian and I inquired upon arrival about the colony’s location. It would have been nice to know in advance that the meerkats were AWOL so arrangements to look for another colony during the trip could have been made without a mad scramble.

 

There were lots of calls and contacts on the part of Louise to lodges near meerkat habitat. But most of the other likely spots were having the same luck as Bagatelle; the meerkats had dispersed. Meerkat scouting trips in the field and to nearby accommodations occupied Ian’s hours while I was out on game drives with Bagatelle staff. An itinerary change mid-trip at no extra cost included Rostock Ritz where meerkats are acclimated to their natural habitat and then released.

 

So meerkats ended up being a tough assignment, but a good test of the commitment of Wild Dog Safaris.

 

The two visits I made to one of Ian’s previously scoped out meerkat colonies required some backtracking and extra hours on the road and a much later return to Windhoek where Ian could have spent time at home relaxing that night.

 

It is when the unexpected arises and everything does not go as planned that a good safari provider really proves its worth and that was definitely the case with Wild Dog Safaris. They went the extra mile—literally many kilometers—for me so I would not be skunked by the meerkats.

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Meerkats at Rostock Ritz

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Young meerkat on the left. Viewed from behind a rattle bush at 50+ meters. Not the best photo conditions but very cool to see and I had to work for it.

DATES CHOSEN: JUNE 10-30

I wanted a trip within the dry season (June-Oct) so that more animals would be at the waterholes. Prices increase July 1 so that made June very attractive. The grass is higher in June than further into the dry season and that did impact predator viewing, but cats were not a major goal of this trip, just animals at the waterholes and there were plenty of them.

 

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High grass illustration - Reitfontein, one of the lovliest waterholes in Halali area

 

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Lots of animals around the waterholes in June--Okaukeujo Waterhole at the Lodge

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Kudu are regular visitors to Moringa Waterhole at Halali Campgrounds and Lodge

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Klein Namutoni

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Klein Namutoni

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Klein Namutoni

 

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Okaukuejo Waterhole at the Lodge--Black faced impala on the left

 

In Etosha I did see lions on several occasions, including a huge pride through binocs (thanks for spotting them Ian!). At the Okaukeujo waterhole at night I just missed some lionesses coming for a drink on two occasions. I did not miss two lionesses near the Onguma waterhole before dawn. We also saw a leopard along the road in the Halali area. We arrived about 3 minutes after a cheetah had slipped out of sight in the Namutoni area and we were told about 4 cheetahs crossing the road to the dunes shortly after we had passed the location. So there were cats around.

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Halali area

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Halali Area--I like the Etosha pan with wildes in the background and the Acacia Tree. Very few Lone Acacias seen.

 

I think there are fewer people in June than later in the season, also a plus for this time of year, and it is not usually quite as cold as July. Aus was the coldest part we visited where lows were 5-8 C. Otherwise the coldest lows were 10-14 C.

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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Atravelynn

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PRIVATE, GROUP, SELF DRIVE

Here are a few self-drive hints I picked up, though I was always a just passenger, never a driver. Other self-drive comments throughout the report are also in red.

 

-The end of the month traffic is heavier out of because people get paid and head out with their money.

 

- Sunday afternoons are heavier too as people return home to prepare for the workweek. Also truck traffic into Windhoek on Sunday afternoons picks up.

 

-The many picnic stops are a safe area to pull over and rest or eat.

 

- Pulling over along the side of the road just any old place can be dangerous because the high grasses are not always trimmed and the hot underbody of the car can ignite the vegetation. Apparently enflamed cars on the side of the road in the dry season are not all that rare.

 

- If you take your 4-wheel drive all the way to Sossusvlei instead of taking the shuttle or walking in for the last leg, you may want to reduce the air pressure to 1.8 from 2 through the sand.

 

- I met a couple who had cameras and binos stolen from a locked car near Walvis Bay and Swakopmund along “Millionaire’s Row.”

 

- Dik dik Drive near Klein Namutoni waterhole narrows and can pose a problem if eles approach when you are a kilometer or so down the road because there is no way to turn around.

 

- If renting a car at Hosea Kutako International Airport upon arrival, consider your condition if you have been flying for days and nights, especially if you are used to driving on the other side of the road.

 

- Upon arrival at each park, check the visitor guide to see what’s happening where.

 

- Feel free to ask a few questions to guides you might encounter. Ian was always happy to share information. From the client viewpoint, I found the exchange interesting too. Everybody kept their inquiries brief.

 

- It’s hard to miss your turns on the roads because so many roads dead end into the crossroad.

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-Don't do this. Both car and driver were made anonymous. I met this driver later and he was actually a good guy.

 

Group camping trips are an adventurous economical option that I investigated but did not find the perfect itinerary fit.

 

Wild Dog’s group trips went pretty much where I did but just did not remain as long; I encountered them numerous times along the way. In fact, I often dined next to a table of three campers who opted to have meals in the lodge instead of at the campsite, which is an option offered for the Wild Dog camping trips. There was also an option to stay in the lodge instead of the campground and one of the three campers usually chose the lodge while the other two camped. Nice flexibility!

 

I think the camping vehicle might not be as swift as our little truck so lingering at sightings or enjoying them until the last rays of light might be harder in a group camping trip, but you’d still get to see the same areas, observing from seats that are nicely elevated. Here are Wild Dog’s group trips. http://www.wilddog-safaris.com/safari_tours/

 

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Wild Dog's vehicle for group departures

 

Though more costly than a group trip or self-drive, a privately guided Namibian trip compared very reasonably and favorably with private East African trips I’ve taken—even with the waterhole view rooms in my itinerary.

 

In the planning stages of this first trip I thought that once the trip had ended I might say to myself, “I should have just driven myself,” and that for any future Namibia trips I would rent a vehicle. Quite the contrary! My experience being guided by Ian has confirmed that’s how I want to go.

 

MY VEHICLE

It was a 4-wheel drive. This truck worked great for me. If a photographer with lots of equipment wanted to slide back and forth in the back seat from window to window, that could be a tight fit. I slid back and forth easily with my puny camera and short legs. Plenty of room for legs and equipment in the front seat though. Ian had garbage bags to slip the luggage in while traveling. Even though the vehicle was completely enclosed, it was very dusty in that back section.

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Rented by Wild Dog Safaris

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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Kitsafari

@@Atravelynn wow! that is a stunning panorama of Okaukeujo waterhole with the myriad of different animals there! that's an amazing shot the impala and zebras with their respective reflections too.

 

Meerkats are so endearing. so glad Wild Dogs safari delivered for you.

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PT123

@Atravelynn

 

Thanks for another great report Lynn. I'm glad that you were able to see meerkats - that would have been a real bummer if you missed them. Great photos - I particularly liked the white elephants. Also, thanks as always for sharing the practical details about planning for the safari and alternatives accommodations, etc. Very useful and very much appreciated.

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twaffle

So much worthwhile information already and although all the photos are interesting, I was particularly impressed by your leaping kudu in the water.

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xelas

@@Atravelynn Hey, your great photos shows us that it is not all about the camera! It will be a great week following your trip report daily.

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Atravelynn

Thanks @@xelas, @@PT123! @@Kitsafari, What makes the Okaukeujo Lodge waterhole so attractive to the animals, I was told, is it is so open that there is not a fear of hiding predators and there are not a lot of other attractive alternatives. The waves just sweep in and out. But other than the eles, I was surprised how little time the animals spend at the water. Often the front end of the herd is heading out by the time the back end gets there.

The most kudus I have seen anywhere, @@twaffle, with herds of 30+!

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Atravelynn

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ITINERARY IN TABLE FORMAT

 

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*WiFi

Because I had a June 30 work deadline to meet which required Internet connections during my trip, I can comment on WiFi availability.

 

WHAT DID NOT MAKE IT INTO THE ITINERARY

Not much culture in this itinerary. If I had gone to Damaraland or toward Caprivi, I would have done more cultural activities. There was a bushman walk offered at Bagatelle but I did other activities.

 

No Coast

I did not include Swakopmund and the coast which most itineraries would include. It would have logically fit between the south and Etosha portions on the trip on June 21. I skipped the coast because: (1) My guide stayed at his house in Windhoek making the savings substantial by going back to Windhoek instead of the coast. (2) For me Swakopmund and environs deserves more than 1 night and I had only 1 night I could allot to it. (3) I’d like to visit Swakopmund and Skeleton Coast plus neighboring Cape Cross in Nov-Feb when there are seal pups. June is not pup season. (4) Planning for the next destination in my itinerary of Okaukeujo in Etosha, I calculated Windhoek to Etosha is a shorter drive by 1.5 – 2 hours than the Swakop to Etosha drive. So more time for the famous Okaukeujo that first day was gained by staying in Windhoek over Swakop.

 

No rhino or desert ele tracking on foot in Damaraland

This omission pained me but I wanted to spend 5+ nights tracking and could not fit in with everything else. Originally I had worried that my timing was not ideal in June and that later into the dry season (Aug-Sept) would be better because there would be less scattered water puddles. But after taking to Guide Ian who had spent a lot of time at Palmwag (known for rhino tracking) I think June—especially the latter half--is fine. In fact if it has been a very dry year and the normal waterholes are empty, then by Aug and Sept it can mean the rhinos and eles spread out looking for water, which makes them even harder to find. So too much water and they don’t congregate near the waterholes. Too little water and they head out of the entire area in search of it. But from what Ian said and what I heard from other guests, most people see desert eles and rhinos in Damaraland throughout the dry season if they devote a couple of days to searching for them, regardless of the rains.

 

No Quiver Tree Forest or Fish River Canyon

These are frequent inclusions to the southern route and would have required as little as just two more days in the itinerary. But I was at my max # of days, so sadly no room. Ian knew where there were some accessible and photogenic Quiver Trees on our route. Still, a forest full of them at sunset would be impressive.

 

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Quiver Tree twins looking into the sun. Quiver Tree in foreground, edge of the Kalahari in background

I asked them to move, but to no avail.

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL ITINERARY COMMENTS

Choices in Etosha

I definitely wanted all 3 well known areas in Eastern Etosha: Okaukeujo (the j pronounced y like in Spanish) , Halali, Namutoni. Western Etosha has Dolomite Camp, which would be very interesting, but the Dolomite area is much further away, about 175 km from Okaukeujo. In contrast, the distance between Okaukeujo & Halali; and Halali & Namutoni is about 75 kms for each leg. There is a new camp option in the far east part of the park, Onkoshi that I don’t know about.

 

If you only had time for 2 sections of the park, the one that tends to be omitted is Halali in the middle because that general area can be visited enroute between Okaukeujo and Namutoni.

 

I’ve heard and read arguments for different areas being more productive or less productive, but I had highlights in Okaukeujo, Halali, Namutoni and enjoyed them all. I think Ian’s knowledge of where to go helped bring out those highlights.

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The sheer numbers at the Okaukeujo Waterhole were a highlight

 

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The frequent zebra activity at the Okaukeujo Waterhole was a highlight

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The shy oryx in the Okaukeujo Waterhole was a highlight. Black rhino near Nebrownii Waterhole in Okaukeujo was a highlight.

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Black rhino at the Moringa Waterhole on Halali grounds was a highlight. Leopard in the Halali area was a highlight.

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Kudu herds at Moringa Waterhole on Halali Grounds was a highlight

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Ele herds of 250 were a highlight at Klein Namutoni Waterhole

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A mongoose colony sunning itself in Namutoni near Klein Okevi Waterhole was a highlight.

 

A week in Etosha would not be too much in my opinion or even longer if you also included the western part and Dolomite Camp.

 

Onguma vs. Namutoni Lodge

The upside of Onguma Camp outside the Von Lindquist over Namutoni Lodge inside the gate is Onguma is smaller, more intimate, less bustling, with gorgeous rooms, exceptional dining and highly attentive staff. Though I cannot comment on Namutoni’s rooms I would not imagine them comparing to the lovely accommodations at Onguma. Namutoni is undergoing some big upgrades, though.

 

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Namutoni Lodge upgrades in progress

 

You can do activities such as walks at Onguma and you can track rhino from the vehicle in an area otherwise off limits to guests. Both Namutomi Lodge and Onguma offer night drives. Black backed jackals seemed to be more prevalent in Onguma and though I did not see any, I think Onguma’s black rhino population is greater per sq km than Etosha’s. The waterhole at Onguma Camp is very picturesque and you can get close. I saw only birds at the waterhole, but two lionesses one morning and a half dozen jackals the next morning were not far from the waterhole. At Namutoni the waterhole is more distant less visible.

 

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On the left is Onguma's waterhole. In the center is Namutoni's waterhole. On the right is the hide overlooking Namutoni's waterhole. The sign reads "Silence Please."

 

The downside of Onguma is price by around $120 USD/nt I believe when I went, for single accommodations with a waterhole-view room. Also you must allow another 15 minutes to/from the Von Lindguist entrance gate. Strict rules require being out of the park at sunrise and sunset--not at dark--so minutes can count. If self-driving I would err on the side of getting out ahead of time, which was not Ian’s approach because he was familiar with the roads and timing. Our exits were down to the wire, maximizing park time.

 

Onguma states it has the same animals as Etosha, which is true for zebras, giraffes, warthogs, jackals, and antelope, though all but the jackals were less visible in Onguma. But for large predators or eles, it is only when these creatures slip through, knock down, or crawl under the fence between Etosha to Onguma that they can be seen in Onguma. I saw two lions in Onguma.

 

Waterberg Plateau vs. Okonjima as a stop between Etosha and the airport

I had just one night to spend at either. I thought I’d want two night for Waterberg—one for hiking and one for game drives. Waterberg has species like roan and sable. I thought one night at Okonjima would be just the right amount of time there for my interests. For anyone who wants to track a variety of animals (leopard, cheetah, hyena, and I think lion) or wants several tries at interesting nocturnal animals at the night hide/waterhole, then more days are needed.

 

Because Namibia has so much to offer I ended up omitting a lot of great places, especially because I lingered in the areas I chose to visit. In the end, very happy with my choices.

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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FlyTraveler

What a nice trip you had and as usual lots of useful information! Quick question about your vehicle - what make was it? From the photo it looks like you can not roll down the side windows on the back seat? Was this the case? The back seat side windows also look quite a bit smaller... Was it Toyota Hilux or a Nissan?

Edited by FlyTraveler

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Atravelynn

@@FlyTraveler, I don't even know what kind it was. The windows rolled all the way down in the back. I usually put a beanbag on the frame of the completely rolled down window.

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Wez

Wow wow wow! Loving reading about & viewing Namibia….thankyou

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Geoff

Some excellent images with this TR. I especially like the elephant rushing into waterhole.

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Marks

The meerkats must have been so rewarding after everything that went into finding them. I also like the portrait-oriented shots that showcase animal reflections.

 

Your Klein Namutoni eles are my favorites so far, though!

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Big_Dog

Awesome shots at the busy waterhole, and some nice ones of the cats too.
Looking forward to more, busy itinerary it seems!

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Atravelynn

Thanks @@Wez. @Geoff and @@Marks, the elephant activity at Klein Namutoni was a tremendous show that lasted about an hour. The waterholes seemed to be busy or bust, @@Big_Dog.

 


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WHAT TO WEAR

There are no color rules or restrictions that I could tell for driving around and I encountered no blue-loving tse tses. The luxury of a heated and A/C’d vehicle reduced the need for lots of layers. Even for the Okonjima cheetah tracking on foot, I saw a variety of clothing styles and colors, including a short little outfit with nylons, which were ripped soon into the walk. Boots for the many hiking opportunities are a good idea.

 

It was very cold viewing the horses when the sun was low in the sky (about 12 C but lower with windchill and there was plenty of wind) so I wore a hat and gloves and lots of clothes that got peeled off as the day warmed. Many who passed through the horse viewing hide in the morning and evening brought thermoses of hot drinks.

 

The absolute coldest part of the trip was during the open vehicle night drives in Etosha, so I was glad I wore every layer I had plus hat and gloves.

 

When climbing the dunes, something beige or brown hides the dust better. Same for photographing the dunes outside the car, especially if you’ll be kneeling. Some people took their shoes off to climb the dunes to avoid getting sand in them.

 

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Fashionably outfitted for posing with the termite mound on a morning walk at Onguma.

Fleece jacket and warm pullover on top. These are zipoff trousers, but I never zipped them into shorts.

A might chilly in June.

 

PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT

For my super zoom non-DSLRs, I brought a bean bag and a monopod-tripod combo. In the vehicle I mainly used the bean bag that sat on the rolled down window. For the dunes I hauled around the tripod as I walked around on foot. There were times the wind was so strong at the dunes that only a tripod could steady the shot. Sitting at the waterholes during the day I alternated between the monopod and tripod and sometimes even just the beanbag on the substantial rock ledge surrounding the Okaukeujo waterhole. I brought my own homemade beanbag which was dry beans in a hand-sewn canvas casing.

 

At night at the waterholes I used the tripod and a hot shoe flash but with bad results because the animals were too far on the opposite side of the water. At the Okonjima hide I used the hot shoe flash and a bean bag with good results because the porcupine was near. No room for a tripod in the Okonjima hide but the ledge and bean bag worked better than a monopod would have.

 

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The rhinos were with a hotshoe flash. Still too far for good photos, at In contrast, the porcupine was 10 meters or less and the

least with my camera. Only making them tiny hides the very poor quality. quality using the hotshoe flash was much better.

 

 

********************************************************************************************************************************************************

THE ALL IMPORTANT ADAPTER

 

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The adapter I used is I believe Type M, the same for South Africa.

 

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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