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Atravelynn

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

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TonyQ

@@Atravelynn

I have really enjoyed this - with lts of practical information as we expect from you! (and which has just been of great benefit in the Pantanal)

I am interested in they way you have travelled - we are not keen on self-drive but also like to set our own itinerary. It sounds like your company worked well.

Some superb pictures - I am amazed at the sheer number of animals at the waterholes. The elephants running towards the water is a great picture.

I am pleased you got to see your meerkats!

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Atravelynn

Thanks @@TonyQ. Going with a guide I think you forfeit a sense of adventure and freewheeling independence but I felt I gained far more from my guide's knowledge and experience and I had no worries besides, "I wonder what will be served at our next meal?"

 

12 JUNE ~ ARRIVAL

First impressions of Windhoek always include admiration for how clean the city is. Almost no litter! Galton House had lovely wildlife murals in the dining room and guest rooms. I found myself intrigued by what was on the wall in each room and strolled around peeking into rooms with open drapes. I hoped I would not get arrested as a Peeping Tom (or Tina) before the safari even started.

 

 

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First animal sighting. Ian always offered to stop for animal sightings along the road.

 

13 JUNE ~ WINDHOEK TO BAGATELLE

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Seen at Bagatelle

 

All game drives in the private reserve are done in Bagatelle’s open vehicle; no driving around on your own.

 

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Bagatelle's vehicle Ostrich Art at Bagatelle

 

15:00 – 17:30 Nature Drive, Cheetah Feeding, Sundowner (3 of us went)

The drive portion went to about 16:30. Then the Cheetah Feeding. Three male cheetahs that had been abandoned as cubs, each under separate circumstances, had become “brothers,” living together in a giant enclosure. They predictably appear near the entrance to the enclosure each evening when they are fed. Guests can descend the vehicle and observe the feeding at ground level. The feeding lasts until about 17:00 but good views occur just for the first few minutes. Then two of the shyer bros head into high grass with their meal. After the cheetahs were fed, it was off for sundowners.

 

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One of 3 cheetahs at Bagatelle

 

20:00-20:15 Abbreviated Night Drive

Night drive was cut short when the spotlight malfunctioned. No wildlife spotted under the bright, full moon. Night drive rescheduled for the next night. It was just me on the drive, so not a big inconvenience to reschedule.

 

14 JUNE ~BAGATELLE

06:00-8:30 Game Drive (about 5 people)

Catching animals with the vibrant, brick red sand underfoot or in the background makes for nice photos of this area.

 

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Oryx on vibrant red soil at Bagatelle

 

What to do during the day between activities:

- If meerkats had been around, they would have occupied a lot of my time.

 

- The cottages were delightfully cool in the midday heat and did not even need a fan, so a little jetlag napping was welcome.

 

- You could drink the welcome bottle of complimentary wine, wine glasses supplied.

 

- I watched the ground squirrels, eland, and springbok that roamed near the lodge and surrounding grassy areas.

 

-There were some interesting domestic animals to observe and they even enjoyed being petted. Rusty the giant orange cat generally followed the sun and chose the most comfortable furniture for naps. Lots of horses meandered around. Schätze, a springbok that had been raised from a baby, wore a protective spongy coating on her horns. She loved to be fed granola bars and biscotti when she grazed near the lodge. At times she ventured off to join the wild springbok and even raised a fawn or two of her own. In the evening after dinner she strolled through the dining room for extra treats and attention.

 

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The ground squirrels use their tails as an umbrella to protect them from harsh sun. Bagatelle Lodge

 

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Rusty, the domestic cat, at Bagatelle A non-domestic oryx at Bagatelle

 

 

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Schätze,the very habituated Springbok that made the lodge grounds her home., mingling with the horses.

 

In addition to these non-scheduled activities, here are some of the scheduled ones. Reasonably priced, I thought. June 2014 prices. Wild Dog provided me two activities of my choice each day and one day I added a third.

Mornings:

07:00-09:00 Morning Scenic Drive N $275 (my morning drives differed from these times a little)

07:00-07:30 Cheetah Viewing N $165

08:00-09:30 Bushman Walk to the Demonstrational Traditional Village N $280

07:30-09:30 Horseback Safari and Refreshing Drink N $350 (Good for beginners)

 

Afternoons:

16:00-18:00 Horseback Safari and Refreshing Drink N $350 (Good for beginners)

15:00-18:00 Nature Drive + Sundowner N $295

15:00-18:00 Combination Drive of Nature Drive, Cheetah Feeding, Sundowner N $450

16:30-18:00 Cheetah Feeding and Sundowner N $195

 

Night:

20:00-21:30 Night Drive includes a night cap N $200

Flexible Time Observatory Star Gazing N $50

 

15:00-16:30 Nature Drive Only (about 4 people)

The vehicle passes by the lodge after the nature drive, on the way to the cheetah feeding (good time for bathroom stop), then on to sundowners. I hopped out when we passed by the lodge, after the vehicle stopped, of course.

 

18:00-19:30 Night Drive. The time was moved earlier than normally scheduled to coincide with the dark sky before the full moon rose. It was a good decision because we saw 7 bat eared fox and a genet. Then the moon appeared, signaling time for dinner. Just me again on the night drive.

 

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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Atravelynn

What a nice trip you had and as usual lots of useful information! Quick question about your vehicle - what make was it? ...Was it Toyota Hilux or a Nissan?

Nissan Double Cabin 4x4 - I asked Wild Dog Safaris what kind of vehicle I had. From the looks of your questions on renting a vehicle in a different thread, it appears you are really doing your homework for your upcoming trip, FlyTraveler.

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? ...Was it Toyota Hilux or a Nissan?

Nissan Double Cabin 4x4 - I asked Wild Dog Safaris what kind of vehicle I had. From the looks of your questions on renting a vehicle in a different thread, it appears you are really doing your homework for your upcoming trip, FlyTraveler.

 

 

Thanks for the info @@Atravelynn! I thought that it was a Nissan, but couldn't be 100% sure because of the angle of the photo.

 

With zero self-driving experience in Africa, I'd better check all aspects of vehicle rental details. Your report is really nice to read and watch the photos + all the practical information that you are providing. Looking forward to seeing the next installment.

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Atravelynn

15 JUNE ~ BAGATELLE to KLEIN AUS VISTA, EAGLES NEST and the DESERT HORSES

06:00-7:30 Game Drive (about 5 people, all were departing early, so the drive was shortened.)

 

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The lifespan of the Angolan Giraffe is 5-10 years less than other species because the diet is solely acacia. The acacia nettles sting the tongues of the giraffe, causing swelling, which means over time they cannot eat adequately and do not live as long. On that sad note, bye bye to Bagatelle.

 

Off to Aus on a most scenic drive, arriving early afternoon. (Exact times are in the itinerary in Post #20 on the previous page).

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Tiras Mountains between Bagatelle and Aus

 

The secluded Eagles Nest Chalet (mine was The Wall) is about 10-15 minutes’ drive of 7 km from reception and the main dining area at Desert Horse Inn. Fantastic setting.

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View from Eagle's Nest Chalet

 

 

15:40-16:05 Drive time from my chalet, past Desert Horse Inn reception, to Garub, 20 km west of Aus, where the waterhole and hide is.

 

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Scenery across the road from the Garub waterhole for desert horses. Road is visible.

 

16:05- 17:30 Garub Hide. We viewed 8 horses.

 

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In addition to the road that lead to the hide, there is another nearby short dirt road off of the main road which may allow some closer views of the horses. We used this road a time or two.

 

Most visitors stopped at the hide for about 45 minutes and within that time saw several horses or more and left happy. The 3 ladies of the Wild Dog group trip stopped along the road after returning from a Luderitz daytrip and the 4 of us enjoyed a couple of horses in the setting sun for about 15 minutes.

 

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I wanted to see a variety of equine behavior and get some interesting pictures, so I allowed 2 days at the hide, which is longer than normal. Most 2-night itineraries would spend one day at the ghost town of Luderitz, about 120 km away from Aus.

 

Theories on how the horses got there include:

- Survivors of a shipwreck, then they traveled inland

- Escapees from a baron’s stud farm

- South African Army horses lost in battle

 

 

16 JUNE ~ DESERT HORSES

To think of the challenges these horses face--sparse terrain and extremes in temperatures--it was a thrill to see healthy herds of beautiful horses. Even visitors who are not enamored with horses would appreciate these magnificent survivors!

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08:30 – 12:35 At the Garub Hide.

There were only two horses in view when we arrived. The herds were enjoying the protection of the distant mountains until the day warmed up. Eventually we saw about 90 horses and 20 oryxes. By 12:15 the waterhole was dead so we decided to return to the chalet and have our boxed lunches there and relax. I appreciated the opportunity to remain at the hide all day, which Ian would have done, and that’s why we had boxed lunches.

 

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Very interesting behavior to watch. The stallion was herding two mares by pushing them along with his lowered head. He was stealing them from a rival stallion.

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My favorite picture of the horses--this was actually the stallion that lost the mares. He looks very majestic here, not like a loser at all.

 

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Here come the oryxes

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Harsh light is evident in the morning. But it illuminated the teeth nicely.

 

15:30-17:15 At the Garub Hide.

We saw a total of about 30 horses and 4 ostriches.

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The late afternoon light tends to be better than morning at the waterhole.

 

It was interesting to note many of the horses approached the waterhole apprehensively, circling it first, to make a predator check. The previous year the rains never came which weakened the herd and emboldened the hyenas. Twenty horses a month or more were killed by hyenas during the drought with the waterhole serving as a productive hunting ground. A lot of the horses remembered the threat and continued to check for hyenas. The brutal conditions of the previous year also killed off the foals and resulted in mares too weak for foals this season. So almost all the horses I saw were full grown.

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This frisky yearling was the youngest horse I saw

 

Desert Horse Photography Challenges:

- The cement waterhole and terrain immediately around the waterhole are not very picturesque.

 

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- The waterhole is far from the hide, understandably so the horses are not spooked by the visitors.

 

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That dot out in the open in each photo is a horse.

- Horses along the road with grass underfoot and mountains in the back were in a better setting than at the waterhole. During cold spells that typically last the month of June the horses like the shelter of the mountains, which are far from the road and they take their good old time in the morning to depart the mountain and head to the waterhole. I did not see many roadside horses.

 

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Compare at the waterhole

vs.

From the road

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- The horses are very interested in the dung that extends around the entire waterhole area; and in fact they consume 7x more dung than grass for nourishment. So a lot of the photo ops were horses with their noses in dung—an accurate depiction of their behavior, but not very aesthetic.

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This handsome guy is ready for a bite of horse dung.

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A dung sniffer, here. In very nice late afternoon light.

 

- There numerous are electrical power towers (or some kind of structure) in the distance that can find their way into your pictures.

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- The waterhole and hide are positioned better for the evening light/sun than in the morning.

 

All these challenges mean extended time at the hide and surrounding areas may be necessary for nice horse pictures. The region is so breathtakingly beautiful, you could just base yourself in Aus and enjoy the horses, numerous hikes, and some day trips for a week’s worth of holiday.

 

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On hike from Aus, near the desert horses.

 

Other Desert Horse Photo Comments

- During the cooler months, the horses may not drink twice a day, reducing numbers at the waterhole. During the rainy months, they have other water sources, reducing numbers at the waterhole. After the rains, the horses like to eat the grass that grows along the roadside. During the cold months (such as June) the horses like the shelter and protection from the cold and wind, provided by the distant mountains.

- Although you cannot approach the waterhole and need to remain back at the hide, you can sit to the right or left of the hide, outside, on boulders, which can be helpful to avoid shooting into the sun.

- There is a public toilet near the horse hide.

- Tripods or monopods work well at the hide. There was a nice ledge for a beanbag too, good height.

- The hide is covered but it seemed as though it offered little protection from the rays of the sun that always angled in, under the roof. Sun screen needed.

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To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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Bush dog

Well, what can I say, as usual an exhaustive and attractive trip report

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xelas

@@Atravelynn Just lovely photos, and detailed report. I need to find and read your other reports also. Could you add two more pieces of info: the photo of your non-DSLR camera, and the roads taken from location to location. I am interested for the part between Windhoek and Sossusvlei, yet others might benefit from the description for your whole itinerary.

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Atravelynn

Well, what can I say, as usual an exhaustive and attractive trip report

 

@@Bush dog, thanks much. The exhaustive part occurs in the next installment when I get lost in the mountains and was roam around about 4 hours. Fortunately I didn't get too exhausted and the roaming was very scenic.

 

@@Atravelynn Just lovely photos, and detailed report. I need to find and read your other reports also. Could you add two more pieces of info: the photo of your non-DSLR camera, and the roads taken from location to location. I am interested for the part between Windhoek and Sossusvlei, yet others might benefit from the description for your whole itinerary.

 

@@xelas

 

Attached is camera info and pics of the cameras. For most of my pics I used CanonSX50 with 50x optical zoom. I just saw that Oct 21 there will be an SX60.

 

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The route from Windhoek to Sesriem (from where you go to Sossusvlei) was outlined in orange highlighter by Ian on my map. We did Sesriem back to Windhoek, stopping at Rostock Ritz. But reversing and omitting Rostock Ritz it would be:

 

 

 

From Windhoek, take B1 south to Rehboth.

Go west and slightly south on C24 to Solitaire. Ian said everyone who goes to Sossusvlei passes through Solitaire.

At Solitaire head south on B19 to Sesriem, the entrance to the dunes. This part is around 5 hours I believe.

 

Now to get to the entrance to Sossusvlei, it is 60 Km down the road from Sesreim. At the entrance to Sossusvlei you can continue driving the last 6-ish km in a 4-wheel drive or you can walk in or you can take the park shuttle. At the end of those 6-ish kms is Sossusvlei, an area that consists of several dunes you can climb and Dead Vlei.

 

 

I'll stick in something here that will be part of the report when it covers the dunes, but it may be helpful here.

 

 

Sesriem is the town where you go to see the dunes. You enter at the Sesriem Gate. Very near the gate there is the Sesriem Canyon, which you can check out in 30-60 minutes, maybe less. Most of it is very easy walking, including the stairs to descend into it. For more of a challenge there were places that could be climbed. The name Sesriem is interesting. Ses means 6. Riem means rein, as in horse reins. To scoop up water from down in the canyon by bucket took 6 reins tied together.

 

Sossusvlei is not the name of a Big Red Sand Dune. There is a whole road lined with big red sand dunes that stretches 60 kilometers from Sesriem at one end to the other end of the road and the entrance to Sossusvlie at the other end, where the last 6 km must be traversed with a 4-wheel drive, a park shuttle, or on foot. Near the end of those last 6 km is an area known as Sossusvlei, a clay pan created by the Tsauchab River, which only occasionally floods the area. Rising up from this clay pan are the biggest dunes in this region and they go by the names Big Daddy and Big Mama. The very biggest dune in Namibia is Dune 7, near Swakopmund, not at Sossusvlei. These dunes can all be climbed, unlike most of the dunes.

 

Also in Sossusvlei are two pans of white cracked clay within view of each other with 500-600 year old dead trees--Dead Vlei. Dead Vlei should not be confused with the Petrified Forest near Twyfelfontein by Damaraland.

 

Along the paved road from Sesriem to Sossusvlei are lots of picturesque dunes. One of the most famous, most photographed, and most climbed is Dune 45, which is 45 kms down the road from Sesriem. Ian said that the serious photographers seem to prefer the dunes from Dune 45 to Sossusvlei.

Edited by Atravelynn

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xelas

Thank you very much for all your info! They will be of great help to us next April. That is (was) one serious collection of bridge cameras!

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twaffle

Those are tough horses! Loved the vanquished stallion, he looked very serene despite losing his mares and perhaps he's glad of a rest.

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Atravelynn

@@twaffle, you know your horses, so I am going with your speculation.

 

@@xelas, in April you may be able to get by with few or no reservations and just go with the flow!

 

17 JUNE ~ MOUNTAIN HIKE, DESERT HORSES, FARM NAMTIB

A couple hour hike at dawn before horse viewing seemed like a wonderful plan for my last day in Aus. I checked with Desert Inn reception to be sure it was safe for one person to go. They assured me there was no danger so I bought the required park permit at a nominal cost. Ian knew where I was going and how long I’d be gone. I was all set.

 

Somehow I got off the 2-hour trail and ended up on the 4-hour trail and encountered steep, sheer rock faces. The trail was not marked that well so backtracking to pick up the trail markers took another hour. Retracing the path in which I had slid down rock faces was a little scary because scrambling back up those faces was much harder than easing down them. A wrong move would have resulted in a disastrous plummet. The actual trail was not dangerous, but trying to find it on the mountainside had me covering some scary slopes.

 

Anyway…several hours later after a formidable workout, some klipspringer sightings, lovely vistas, a few scary moments on slippery rock slopes, and concern from Ian who was waiting back at the lodge, I emerged from the mountains in one piece and ready for whatever time I might salvage with my horses.

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At the start of the hike at Aus, some fences had to be climbed Nice scenery on the Aus hike.

with the help of this conveniently placed ladder.

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The little white patch of paint is the trail marker. Unfortunately it looked very similar to white bird poop.

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This arrow is easily seen.

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Losing the trail in this part was treacherous.

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There is a klipspringer here.

.

 

11:45-12:30 We saw a few horses near the road and a few at the waterhole, 5 total.

 

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Two bachelors hanging out together

 

After lunch at Desert Inn, we headed to Farm Namtib in the Namtib Biosphere Reserve owned by Thorsten and Linn. During our orientation visit with owner Linn, she mentioned their clearly marked on-site hiking trails. That comment generated spontaneous laughter from Ian and me, due to my recent misadventure hiking in Aus. When we explained what was so funny, Linn replied that other guests arriving from Aus had mentioned trail mixups like mine, which made me feel like less of a doofus for getting lost.

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Road leading to Farm Namtib in the Namtib Biosphere Reserve, the oldest desert in the world.

 

14:00-15:50 We walked along one mountain trail and I marveled at the distinct and frequent trail markings, in stark contrast to Aus.

 

I had wanted another desert spot in my itinerary, along with Kalahari and Dunes and Louise at Wild Dog had suggested Farm Namtib, a lovely place where one can experience farm life in the world’s oldest desert.

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Dusky Sunbird on a Quiver Tree Blossom at Farm Namtib

The farm’s Anatolian Shepherd Dog had retired from the range only two days earlier because the sheep were being sold so that the farm could concentrate on wild animals rather than domestic livestock. The first order of business for the dog was to make friends with the farm’s resident pot bellied pet pig. It was a rocky start. One of their little get-acquainted sessions left the dog with minor abrasions to his mouth.

 

Unlike the pig, I was eager to make quick friends with the huge friendly dog who showed his affection with lots of kisses—jowly drooling, slobbering kisses—in this case laced with blood from the recent spat with the pig. A few minutes into our playful hugging session, I noticed my pullover was wet and rather bloody. I had truly immersed myself in farm life! Fortunately the pullover cleaned up nicely with soap and water, and so did I.

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Resident Pot Bellied Pig at Farm Namtib

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Resident Pot Bellied Pig at Farm Namtib

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While strolling the property of Namtib, we found these artistic abandoned cars Anatolian Shepherd Dog and me

 

During our excellent dinner Thorsten explained his restorative farming practices. Most fascinating, especially his observation that the oryx embodies the soul of the desert. I’ll always think of that statement when seeing an oryx from now on.

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"The oryx embodies the soul of the desert"

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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KathBC

A simply outstanding trip report and photos!

 

So glad to see another bridge camera fan - they really do take some amazing photos without all the fuss.

 

I was at Okaukeujo in May and the animal numbers at the water hole were no where near as plentiful as you witnessed.

 

Thanks Lynn!

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TonyQ

@@Atravelynn

I am pleased you managed to find your way back so that you can share this with us :)

 

I would not have thought of horses being that interesting - but you have shown me that I was wrong. It is fascinating seeing them living wild in this harsh environment - and you have beautiful photos of them. The oryx is a beautiful animal and that phrase goes with it so well.

 

And the landscapes are wonderful.

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Marks

 

The lifespan of the Angolan Giraffe is 5-10 years less than other species because the diet is solely acacia. The acacia nettles sting the tongues of the giraffe, causing swelling, which means over time they cannot eat adequately and do not live as long. On that sad note, bye bye to Bagatelle.

 

 

How interesting. Do you know if it's a matter of preference or just a lower availability of alternative browse?

 

Great updates, I love the landscape.

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FlyTraveler

Fabulous landscapes! I especially liked the photos of Namtib Biosphere Reserve.

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Atravelynn

@@Marks, I think the Angolan Giraffes around Bagatelle and similar areas, are just stuck with that environment. At least they aren't aware of their cousins who have a more amenable environment and longer lives.

 

@@TonyQ, it was the thought of not being able to report back to safari that kept me going as I staggered through the mountains. :o I had to find the path to return to the forum. I am a horse fan and have enjoyed seeing wild/feral horses in other locations too. These in Namibia were much more similar in color than those Out West in the US.

 

@@KathBC, thanks for sharing your May experience. I think May is prime time for the southern part of Namibia, while Aug/Sept is prime for #s at the waterholes.

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michael-ibk

Great reading, Lynn, a captivating report with tons of useful information as has become your unique trademark trip report style - bravo!

 

So, it seems, this is only the "first" of many trips, are you already in planning mode for more?

 

Great pictures, I especially enjoyed the waterhole settings. Truly, lots of highlights there. Love the mongoose! The jackal peaking out. And the Kudus! And the dunes are of course just stunning.

 

I´m glad you found your meerkat, that must have been a bit of a downer when you found out they had moved out from Bagatelle. WD Safari have gone to extra lengths apparently for you to find them, good.

 

I assume "Schätze" would actually be "Schätzle", because that´s a German idiom for "(little) darling".

 

Didn´t quite get why you would sacrifice so much of your time for some horses when you told me about your itinerary. Now I do. Very impressive how they survive here, and they are looking very elegant. (Except for the dung eating part....;))

 

Oryx, the soul of the desert - that´s how I think of them as well, the guides in the Kalahari called them that.

 

Looking forward to more!

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pedro maia

I´m enjoying this TR, very nice pictures and the horses are amazing.

 

Namibia is high on my list, when I have achance to go back to Africa it will probably be to Namibia, although it won´t be next year.

 

It´s a pity that airfares are expensive and it´s not easy to get direct flights from Europe, I think only Air Namibia flights from Germany and those are really expensive.

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graceland

Oh so happy to see a "Lynn" report upon my return from Zim. Craig, our guide would like us to go with him to Namibia next...this is a great resource.

 

Even better, your dates were in June and your report in Sept. so I am feeling NO stress over waiting to write up my recent trip. whew... :rolleyes:

 

You are an angel for this....I was in deep stress mode! really.

 

Amazing photos and reviews as usual.

 

Will definitely give this deep thought. 2016 "Maybe"....2015 already taken with travel in states and a George Cloony type wedding. Without Celebs.

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Atravelynn

No stress @@graceland. Get them to have the Cloony type wedding in Namibia and kill 2 birds with one stone. There is a flurry of Namibia info of late. What's nice is different time frames, different areas, and different travel styles are all covered. In all Namibia comes out looking mighty attractive.

 

@@pedro maia, right on about the airfares. The highest I've paid for the commercial round trip, I believe. Now if one self drove from Joburg, that would cut down the costs considerably.

 

@@michael-ibk, thank you for the "Schätzle" correction. She was adorable and very sweet natured, so I am sure she would not be offended by my error in her name. I have always been a fan of horses and even though they look pretty much the same in a barn as in the wild, I find the wild ones to be fascinating.

 

Thanks all!

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Edited by Atravelynn

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Atravelynn

17 JUNE ~ FARM NAMTIB, SESRIEM, SOSSUS DUNE LODGE & THE DUNES

08:00-08:45

We did a flower walk, guided by an informative laminated notebook with numbers that matched with the marked flora from the trail. (Such precision in contrast to the previous day.)

 

The morning of our departure I noticed the shepherd dog looking wistfully out of the gate and into the pasture at his sheep being rounded up and loaded onto a truck. He seemed to know that his life’s mission was changing before his eyes. I had to go cheer him up, slobber and blood be damned. His mouth had healed overnight, so I contended with just slobber.

 

The dog only played with and drooled on people who initiated contact. Otherwise he minded his own business.

 

We traveled through the NamibRand Nature Reserve (rand means edge, as in edge of the Namib desert; the South African rand is a different word) to Sesriem. After seeing so many fences earlier, it was nice to view wide unfenced spaces of NamibRand where animals could roam free.

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Enroute to Sesriem from Namtib

Our destination of Sossus Dune Lodge was beautiful and beautifully positioned, the only lodge inside the park. The usual plan is to park under a tented structure at the foot of the hill leading up to the lodge and a Land Cruiser shuttle will take you and your luggage up. Sometimes the shuttle was present and sometimes not. Ian was comfortable driving up and down the hill when the shuttle was not around. If you self drove I don’t know that you’d want to advance up the hill. Not that it was real dangerous, but it was a little sandy and and could be tricky maneuvering. It also might be against the official rules.

 

Here are a few dune facts and vocabulary.

 

Sesriem is the town where you go to see the dunes. You enter at the Sesriem Gate. Very near the gate there is the Sesriem Canyon, which you can check out in 30-60 minutes, maybe less. Most of it is very easy walking, including the stairs to descend into it. For more of a challenge there were places that could be climbed. The name Sesriem is interesting. Ses means 6. Riem means rein, as in horse reins. To scoop up water from down in the canyon by bucket took 6 reins tied together.

 

Namib Naukluft Park encompasses the Namib Desert and the Nauklift Mountains along the coast and stretching inland. @@Jochen offered some good info in his Namibia report http://safaritalk.net/topic/9681-namibia-2012/

 

From his report:“Ever tried this? Go to Google Images and look for "Namib Naukluft". You'll find plenty of pics of red dunes, because indeed, sossusvlei is part of Namib Naukluft. But it seems to me that most people think they're one and the same.” But the dunes are just one small part of the entire gigantic park, which extends south to include the wild horses at Garub near Aus.

 

Sossusvlei is not the name of a Big Red Sand Dune. There is a whole road lined with big red sand dunes that stretches 60 kilometers from Sesriem at one end to the other end of the road where the last 6 km must be traversed with a 4-wheel drive, a park shuttle, or on foot. Near the end of those last 6 km is an area known as Sossusvlei, a clay pan created by the Tsauchab River, which only occasionally floods the area. Rising up from this clay pan are the biggest dunes in this region and they go by the names Big Daddy and Big Mama. The very biggest dune in Namibia is Dune 7, near Swakopmund, not at Sossusvlei. These dunes can be climbed, unlike most of the dunes.

 

Also in Sossusvlei are two pans of white cracked clay within view of each other with 500-600 year old dead trees--Dead Vlei. Dead Vlei should not be confused with the Petrified Forest near Twyfelfontein by Damaraland.

Blasé

 

Along the paved road from Sesriem to Sossusvlei are lots of picturesque dunes. One of the most famous, most photographed, and most climbed is Dune 45, which is 45 kms down the road from Sesriem. Ian said that the serious photographers seem to prefer the dunes from Dune 45 to Sossusvlei.

 

15:00-17:00 Dune 45 and surrounding area.

Enroute to Dune 45 were the mysterious fairy circles. Scientific consensus was that termites created them, but in just the last couple of months apparently new research has questioned the termite theory.

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Fairy circles

 

It took about 40 minutes to get from Sossus Dune Lodge to Dune 45. The weather conditions were perfect.

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Dune 45

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Near Dune 45

 

There are pros and cons of visiting around the shortest day of the year, like I did. You don’t have to get up as early to make sunrise in mid-June, but the hours of viewing the dunes are shortened. No lingering in the evening until 8:00 pm like you could do in December. In fact by 5:00 pm the shadows overtook the dunes near 45 so we called it quits. I had wanted to see big red sand dunes, and I sure did!

Edited by Atravelynn

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xelas

@Atravelynn: does Ian have a list of "photogenic stops" he mentioned? In April we will have 20 min more daylight ... yet I think this time a tripod will be that annoying item to lug around, if we wanted to have similarly beautiful photos as yours.

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Bush dog

Lynn,

 

I really like "Near Dune 45" and the trilogy of dunes (post#47)

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Atravelynn

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Thanks @@Bush dog!

 

@@xelas, First a case for bringing a tripod: If you have winds like I did, nothing but the steadying base of tripod will keep the camera still. I suppose you could sit down to steady the camera. That works under most conditions. But the winds I dealt with for all except the first afternoon visit and the first 1.5 hours the next morning would not allow a steady camera. Many of the dune shots were not from the car window. I liked walking closer. In those cases, no window frame/beanbag combo to steady the camera, making a tripod useful.

 

As for photo stops, Ian made sure I got to two particular places. 1. Dune 45, which is easy to see because it is at the 45 km marker and there is a sign, plus restrooms visible from the road but located out of photo angles. Actually I took one Dune 45 restroom shot to show the extent of the sandstorm. 2. Sossusvlei.

 

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Dune 45 and Dune 45 loos in sandstorm

 

Other than those two particular spots, Ian just stopped when I asked. There are beautiful dunes all along the road from the entrance of the park (near Sossus Dune Lodge) all the way to Sossusvlei.

 

To get the best photos in this area, I think you need to allow a few days for these reasons:

1) You might get obscuring winds like I had and they can last a few days. Less chance in April, though, I believe.

2) Because optimal lighting and shadows is limited, more days are needed to pair best light conditions with the variety of attractive dunes.

3) I found that walking toward the dunes gave me a better angle/perspective. That took up a lot of time. We did not just drive down the road, stop, and shoot out the window, for the most part. Though there was some of that.

4) More days lets you figure out which areas you like best at which times based on your own personal preference.

 

I talked to a serious photographer who held the dunes in highest priority who was staying a week. On the other hand, with just under 4 hours of good photo conditions during 2 nights in "dune-country", reduced from 3 nights in order to look for meerkats, I was really happy with the dune photos I got. I'm sure you'll be happy too, xelas.

 

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Near Dune 45

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Dune 45

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Near Dune 45

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These are called "shark fins" near Dune 45

 

MORNING 18 JUNE ~ SOSSUSVLEI (60 kms from SESRIEM) OTHER DUNES and a SANDSTORM

About 2:00 in the morning the winds started to howl intermittently outside Sossus Dune Lodge. A sandstorm was ‘abrewin.

 

Here is our schedule, which would be considered “early bird” in the month of June. It brought us to Dead Vlei over half an hour before anyone else. In months when the sun rises earlier, the times would need to be shifted even earlier.

 

The night before we had ordered our breakfast and lunch boxes from Sossus Dune Lodge so they’d be waiting for us.

 

04:45-04:50 With our food boxes in hand, we left on foot down the hill to our vehicle parked under a tent. Either the shuttle was not running that early or it was unmanned at the moment. Whatever, we did not want to waste precious time, so we walked the road to our vehicle, a 5-minute walk through gusting winds.

 

04:50-05:50 Drove 60 km on the paved road to the entrance to Sossusvlei where non-4-wheel drive vehicles must halt. If you were self driving, it would probably take a little longer. Be careful for animals crossing the road. Then we continued driving the last 6 km through thick sand, which only 4-wheel drives or the park shuttle could go through. (There was also an option to hike in.) There was no park shuttle operating when we arrived; in fact there was nobody. Ian said that driving in was not that hard but driving out was more difficult because the vehicles that traversed this area made grooves and troughs in the sand that were tough to drive on, even with 4-wheel drive power. Sometimes “downshifting” or similar is required to get out. This is where it was suggested to reduce the tire pressure from 2 to 1.8. Ian left our tire pressure alone.

 

05:50-06:25 There were toilets available near the final parking area, about 15 minutes walk from Sossusvlei. We had breakfast from our box, then we walked to Sossusvlei, directly to Dead Vlei. The air was completely still, a stark contrast to the howling winds around the lodge. Nobody was around. I had wanted to experience Dead Vlei when it was truly dead and I did. Even as the hours passed, only a few people showed up the whole morning, which Ian attributed to The World Cup.

 

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Nobody else around at Dead Vlei at Sossusvlei. Ian at the "Guide Tree" where the guides sit and wait for their clients at Dead Vlei. No one around.

 

06:45 First Light

07:30 The sun, no longer blocked out by dunes, could shine onto Dead Vlei.

08:30 Light started getting harsh

 

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Dead Vlei in Sossusvlei

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Dead Vlei in Sossusvlei

 

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Dead Vlei at Sossusvlei

 

 

Sometime about 7:45 the howling winds and sand devils arrived at Sossusvlei, same weather as at the lodge. Walking back to the vehicle was slow going and arduous against the strong winds. It was getting dark and hard to see more than a few meters. Our plans to spend the day at Sossusvlei, which is why we brought lunch boxes, changed and we headed back to the lodge.

 

A black backed jackal endured the sandstorm.

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Black backed jackal at Sossusvlei

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Sossusvlei's Big Momma in high winds

Even descending into Sesriem Canyon did not offer respite from the whipping winds that channeled through the canyon.

 

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Sesriem Canyon, where we spent just under an hour

 

To be continued

Edited by Atravelynn

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TonyQ

@@Atravelynn

You have stunning pictures of the dunes and of the landscapes generally. Dead Vlei looks wonderful.

The sandstorms look tough!

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