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Guidoriccio11
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- INTRODUCTION -

 

Hi to everyone.

Even if probably my trip report is similar to most of the ones I already read in this subforum, I hope to give some informations in particular to those people who want to have a "first trip" in Namibia, since this was the first time there also for us (and the first time in Africa also).

I apologize first of all for my English, since I'm not a native speaker, then for my pictures, since I had a proper photo course only last year and I have also not a powerful camera (not comparable to some spotted in this forum).

 

So, the genesys of the Namibian trip was quite weird. Since my girlfriend can take vacations only during July - August, we were looking for good weather destinations and... in the far east is raining a lot, Middle East is not available and South America was too far for 2 weeks. So, looking for a perfect place, a friend of us (working in the tourism field) said us: "Why don't you go in Namibia? There is almost no time zone changing, it is wonderful and it is the perfect period since it is dry". So... here we go, with no idea it would become one of the best trip ever!

 

We contacted an Italian/Namibian Tour Operator called AfroZapping who provided us the booking of the lodges/hotels, the rented car and some activities to book in advice. We felt comfortable to have an "help on the field"... just in case (luckly we never called them :rolleyes:)

 

But here the details:

 

- 4 July 2014: Flight from Milano MXP by SAA. Night onboard.

- 5 July 2014: Lending in Windhoek and meeting with the Car rental to take the car.

- 6 July 2014: Windhoek - Kalkrand (Kalahari). Afternoon at the lodge

- 7 July 2014: Kalkrand - Fish River Canyon via Keetmanshoop

- 8 July 2014: Fish River Canyon - Ai Ais

- 9 July 2014: Ai Ais - Luderitz via C13

- 10 July 2014: Halifax Island tour + Kolmanskop ghost town and transfer to Tiras Mountains

- 11 July 2014: Tiras Mountains - Sesriem via Duwisib Castle

- 12 July 2014: Visit of Sossusvlei

- 13 July 2014: Sesriem - Swakopmund via Solitaire and Welwitschia Drive

- 14 July 2014: Sandwich Harbour tour (only dunes)

- 15 July 2014: Swakopmund - Twyfelfontein (Damaraland) via Cape Cross

- 16 July 2014: Twyfelfontein - Etosha (Halali)

- 17 July 2014: Game drive east of Halali

- 18 July 2014: Game drive west of Halali

- 19 July 2014: Etosha - Windhoek via Otjiwarongo

- 20 July 2014: Flight from Windhoek by SAA. Night onboard.

- 21 July 2014: Lending in Milan MXP

 

For the accomodation we stayed in:

 

- Pension Bougainvilla (Windhoek)

- Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge

- Fish River Lodge

- Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort

- Luderitz Nest Hotel

- Namtib Desert Lodge (Tiras Mountains)

- Betesda Lodge (Sesriem)

- Stay @ Swakopmund B&B

- Twyfelfontein Country Lodge

- Halali RestCamp

 

The car was a Suzuki Gran Vitara 2x4. Absolutely perfect, with 2 spare wheel (never used). Provided by Caprivi Car Hire

 

As camera I have an Olympus E-400 with Zuiko 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 and Zuiko 18-180mm f/3.5-6.3 (OK, quite poor stuff, but I got anyway really good pictures. Animals were close and the sun was shining :P). Plus I have a Compact SONY Cybershot 18.2 Mp mainly used for recording.

 

Weather was always clear, dry, sunny (except for the morning in Swakopmund [thin rain] and Cape Cross [fog and then cloudy{but the welwitschias have to drink also!}]). Temperature were cold in the night in Kalahari and Fish River (below zero) and OK in the rest of the country (Etosha even above 25°C)

 

In next posts the detail day by day... :ph34r:

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- DAY 1, 2, 3 -

 

I summarize here 3 days since the fist 2 were mainly air transfers...

2014 was a really bad summer in Europe, raining all the days and with temperature below 18 degrees also in July (and we are in Italy/Switzerland)!!!! So the day of departure in Milan we had a delay of 1 hour. We arrived late in Frankfurt and... yep, we missed the plane!!! Frankfurt is a huge huge huge airport. I personally hate it because I always had problems with it... However the good thing is that there are a lot of planes and we were re-sheduled to another plane to Johannesbourg 1 hour later...

The flight by SAA was ok but I'm unable to sleep in any airplane and this made no difference :blink: ...

 

In Johannesbourg 1 hour was enough to catch the next flight to Windhoek and we landed in this small airport touching for the first time the African soil...

Crossed the immigration queue we entered in the luggage room and... YES!!!! our luggages were goggling on the tape!

 

We easly found the car hire guy who drove us to the center city. We spotted some baboons on the road (easly understand why it is better not ro drive during the night) which was the only time we met apes in Namibia...

We took the car at the agency and we had a little chat with the AfroZapping delegate. Then we managed to drive in the "wrong" (right) way and arrived in our hotel.

 

We were quite surprised to find electic fances and the heavy armed guard at the entrance (even if we knew the crime situation of the city).

Pension Bougainvilla is a bit out from the center and has a relaxing small garden. We took some rest while the sun was downing.

 

For dinner we went to Joe's Beer House, booked 2 months in advice from Italy. We drove there and they saved our booking :D.

About this restaurant I realized a theory: 2 and only 2 kind of people can meet here. People just arrived, and people at the end of the trip. Almost none is "in the middle". So it is easy to interact with other guests, because someone is excited about the new beginning, and someone is sad since has to leave but full of experience. Funny thing is that the Beginners become the Experts at the end of the trip (since everyone is having the last dinner here) and the circle of life is closing...

 

Anyway, tired, we eat good game meat and good beer.

 

The 6th July finally the adventure begins. After taking the wrong road, we find the correct "highway" to the south... Other cars almost desappear and the landscape is getting more similar to the savannah I had in my mind.

First stop: Tropic of Capricorn!

 

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Finally we arrived at the entrance of the lodge: the Kalahari Red Dunes is what we exactly imagined! Stunning chalets, friendly welcome and the red dune landscape! And: the meerkat of the lodge, which is now a kind of pet and is coming very close to the people.

Even more perfect: we discovered to be the only guests that night! Since it was 3 o'clock we decided to perform a game drive (only we 2!) plus a sunset drink from a dune. We waited drinking a roiboos in the hall and we started.

The driver/guide was friendly and he described a lot about the nature and the animals of the area.

Thinking now about that game drive, we didn't see much, BUT it was our "first time" so you can imagine we screaming for each ostrich or springbok we spotted :lol:.

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The pet-meerkat of the lodge

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Surroundings of the lodge

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The first Gemsbok

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The first Ostriches

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Sun downing

 

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Sunset gone from the lodge

 

 

 

 

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~ @@Guidoriccio11

 

I like the intense colors of your photographs.

The saturated hues jump off of my screen. Nice!

Your description of the type of guests at Joe's Beer Hose made me smile. That must be a nice atmosphere.

On a first safari one does tend to loudly react at every sighting.

I've found that I still do so after a number of safaris!

Thank you for posting these images and the enjoyable commentary.

Tom K.

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@@Guidoriccio11

 

Great start, I had wanted to go to Joe's but we skipped Windhoek and missed it. I can relate to a few wrong turns having done a few myself. I love you're enthusiasm after a first trip and hopefully like the rest of us here you have caught the Africa bug.

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@@Guidoriccio11

 

Welcome to the rank of trip reporters! Your opening post transferred me back in time to 2014, when we were "in your shoes"!

Your photography is absolutely "up to the task"! I like the two ostriches in the tall golden grass. Kept them coming!

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@@xelas Thank you!

I read your posts about the Kgalagadi: it's gonna be our destination for this August. Your infos will help me a lot on the field :D

 

@@Safaridude it was funny when we sow the meerkat in front of the reception: the guy of the lodge was also there for giving us the welcome drink, but we completely ignored him screaming and taking pictures of the meerkat. ahahah obviously he said it is a common situation.

It was incredible the time before the sunset drive. We were the only 2 guests and for half an hour we chilled out close to the swimming pool drinking the roiboos and with the merkat jumping around!!! This is my concept of peace...

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Welcome to Safitalk @@Guidoriccio11!

 

Liking the trip report so far.

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- DAY 4, 5 -



We woke up in our chalet after a freezing night (it was -5°C), but we could fight the cold with the fireplace and the hot water bottle!


Breakfast was rich and we ate as a proper lunch (in Italy we are used to eat very few in the morning) in order to skip the lunch (well, we usually at midday eat something like bisquits or bread while driving. Sunlight is the most important thing!)


Then we leave the lodge. Even if it was not a real "safari destination" we kept this place in our heart. Don't know why: maybe because it was the first "african style" accomodation, or maybe for the landscapes and the sunsets, but this place pushed us in choosing again the Kalahari for the destination of 2016 (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park)...



Road heading South was quite straight and monotonous. We could consider the perfect paved road, even better than Switzerland!



First stop in the town of Keetmanshoop, where we visited the "Quiver tree forest". It is a rocky area in a private land (we paid a ticket) with dozens of these strange trees all around. Even if we will meet some individual in all the Fish River area, this place is unique for the density. And defenetly deserve a visit (also because it takes not more than half an hour).



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Again on the road, after refuel, we turned west toward Luderitz until we found the sign for the Fish River Lodge, leading the gravel road D463. The first part of the road was quite ok, but the last track toward the lodge was probably the worst road of the trip. Full of holes and stones. BUT we survived with a 2x4, so anyone can... The difficult (and long) road was surrounded by stony hills that created an harsh but sublime landscape.



Finally we sow the main compound and the small airport of the lodge. So we arrived, and after opening the big door (adorned by 2 big Kudu horns) we were friendly welcomed by the staff. The main hall have the landscape directly on the canyon cliff, giving an open view of the area.


Also the chalets have big windows from where you can see the canyon lying down on the bed!!!!!!!!



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Before dinner we took a walk on the west track going towards a cliff with some quiver trees. We sow the sunset alone with the wind.



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Dinner was perfect, 5 star I would say. Then we went to bed.


During the night it was very windy, and the big windows didn't protect the room so well :wacko: ... In any case the alarm woke us up at 2.30 in the morning... WHY??? eheheheh... because we calculated the time of the moonset, and with no light at all, we could see the best Milky Way ever: the stars alone made enough light to see the landscape! That moment was stunning :o .



The morning after we packed again our stuff and we went for a short hike on the eastern part of the lodge. Beyond the wonderful lodge, coming here allows you to spot the canyon from the "other side"



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Ah, it was full of these Rock hyraxes



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Dassie



Well, the bad thing is that you need to drive the same (hard) route to leave the lodge, but there are some possibilities to spot some animals (mainly raptors [at that time I wasn't really interested in birding, so I have no good pics <_< ]). So, leaving the lodge we arrived on the main road and turned east. "Visit the canyon" in fact means (if you exclude the trekking into it for several days) to reach Hobas and then to see the landscape of the main viewpoint.


For the first time I was a bit afraid about gasoline: there are no possibility to reafuel for a lot of km... But when you start to need it, always appears what I call an "harbour". In fact in Namibia, they are not only petrol station, but a real island where the boats (cars) can rest, drink, eat and drivers can chat each other...



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Boats at the harbour




In Hobas you pay the cheap fee and in 10 minutes by car you reach the view. I have to be honest: the view is beautiful, but without staying in the Fish River Lodge it is a too long way for only 1 point of view...


Anyway this is the view:



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And... an extra for the birders (ok, it is not a rarity :D ):



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Pale-winged starling



Left Hobas we went on the D324 until Ai Ais: This was a strange place. Really crowded of people (99% from South Africa) in a small and tight canyon. The restcamp is not memorable, and the restaurant was quite not well organized, but we had time to use the thermal swimming pool (not memorable either). At least we relaxed and here we watched the semifinal of the FIFA World Cup. Germany - Brazil: the german supporters were quite noisy that night :D :D :D .


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Very very good photography! I have somehow missed that this is a TR from 2014 ... How did you manage to survive without Africa for 2 years?! Anyway you wil, enjoy Kgalagadi for sure.

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Some really excellent shots! A big regret for me not going to Fish River Canyon and doing the 5 day hike, that view looks fantastic.

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@@xelas ahahah. I didn't survive! That's why the year after we went to Madagascar and this year in South Africa

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Your pictures are so beautiful..

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The landscape is spectacular. And the meerkat adorable.

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@@Guidoriccio11 Thank-you for this report. Excellent landscape photography and engaging comentary.

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Enjoying this a lot, thank you for sharing! Love the Meerkat pic especially.

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- DAY 6, 7 -

 

The day after we left Ai Ais with direction Luderitz. To do so, the best solution is going even more south, catching the (fabolous) C13. This road lands on the South African border, and, after some kilometers, enters into the Richtersveld National Park. We met these 2 guys at the entrance of the park opening the bar in the middle of nowhere.

I have to admit that this road is one of the best of the trip. The first part is a mars landscape with rocky mountains of several colours, from grey to violet to red until (suddently) we meet the Orange River. To meet this water after the desert is at the same time shocking and fashinating. It is here that I discovered how beautiful can be the water after 5 days of dust!!!! It is really something we don't consider in everyday life...

 

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Then we met the paved (main) road. The last part from Aus to Luderitz gave me a new meaning of "straight road":

 

 

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Arriving in Luderitz we sow the first dunes all around, and some sand occasionally went on the road. If not well maintained, the fight against this harsh nature is automtically lost...

 

Luderitz is a kind of city you just cannot imagine in Africa. We crossed Bissmarck Strasse with all around us building in late '800 German style. With the typical german church on the top of the hill. Bizzarre...

 

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We slept in the (only?) best hotel in town: the Nest, with also one of the best restaurant of the trip: the Penguin.

Before dinner we could watch the sunset directly from the window of our room:

 

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The day after we have an appointment at the harbour: we're going to have a boat trip to the small islands in the gulf, including Halifax Island, where there is an African Penguin colony.

We are only few people on the catamaran and we meet, not too early, at 7.45. The day is perfect, not cold and zero wind...

During the cruise we were able to meet not only the penguins (quite far to be honest), but also some dolphins and a whale.

 

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We couldn't get too close to the island, but it was quite a nice trip...

 

Back to Luderitz, we drunk a coffee at the harbour and we took the car. In fact we had another appointment just out from the city: the ghost town of Kolmanskop. Here, for the first time of the trip, we met quite a lot of people. Also because of this, we didn't enjoy too much the guided visit. Also the history of the place is quite simple: the town born because of the diamonds, but when they finished, the town has been left.... Beyond this, there are really good photo opportunities and it is A MUST if you are in Luderitz...

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Left Kolmanskop we did the road back until Aus (it can be considered another harbour for refuel...). Then we turned north.

This road (D707), probably the most spectacular in Namibia, enters into the southern part of the Namib National Park. We start to spot the high dunes, which in this area are rocky and looks like mountains. The sand start to be orange or red...

 

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In this beautiful area we will sleep!!! We take the private road for the Namtib Desert Lodge and we arrive in this farm owned by a german family very friendly. Before dinner we got a great sunset on our lodge:

 

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The dinner was interesting, since all the guests and the owners ate in the same large table, chatting about their lives so far from any big city and our stressful routines...

Long and full day! We easly felt asleep!

 

P.S. Sorry, few fauna pictures. But don't worry Etosha will arrive :D

 

 

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Fantastic stuff so far. Great scenery and open roads.

That ghost town is really very interesting. Being reclaimed by the sand!

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I agree that D707 is among the most scenic roads in Namibia. Specially when the grass is tall and golden colour. And there is Namtib Desert Lodge ... :) .

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- DAY 8,9 -

 

We woke up not early in this fabolous place and we took our time after breakfast to walk around the farm and enjoy the moment...

I really envy these people who was able to cut off themself from the rest of the world. I don't know if I would accept the harsh country-life for too long :-/ .

 

Anyway, we entered again the Tiras Mountains road heading north.

 

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We made only 1 stop before Sesriem: a really weird one... We visited the Duwisib Castle! This German Fortress in the middle of the desert was built in late '800 in European style using rocks imported from Germany!!! It can be considered a real symbol of the colonialism and deserve a visit (but only if is on your way...)

 

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It is so strange to have a classical european enterior so far away!

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Finally we arrive in Sesriem and we (not easly) find the Betesda Lodge. It is too late to even approach to the entrance of the gate for Sossusvlei, so we just take a look of the sourroundings of the lodge and pat the resident cat :D.

The lodge is not the best possible, but it is at 1 hour from the entrance of the park and the rooms are ok. There are everywhere these huge crickets (quite impressive...) :wacko::

 

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We have an average dinner and the usual roiboos...

 

The day after we wake up really early! At 5.00 we are up and we have breakfast. The sun is not raised yet, so we can see from our lodge the cars that are already in QUEUE!!! So, we considered that it didn't matter to watch the very first ray, so we waited the sunrise before leaving. Doing so we didn't have any car in front of us and after 1 hour we could enter straight into the park.

After the entrance we get the paved road which enters in this valley in the middle of the dunes

 

The first part of the valley is made by a kind of rocky dunes which becomes more and more sandy (and red) going deeper into the valley.

 

Beyond the words, this is what we sow:

 

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The first stop is the famous Dune 45! But... wait... we discovered later we stopped at the "wrong" dune... The one before, the "Dune 44". We have to be honest: doesn't matter the dune, when you see one you like, just stop and climb it!!! And... The dune 44 was UNTOUCHED!!! We were the first to climb it... unforgettable!

 

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Then we ran on the side part:

 

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We stopped to watch few other dunes (but not climbed them):

 

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At the end of the road we could park the car at the 2x4 parking and take the ticket for the 4x4 bus which brought us to the Vlei area (I sow several 4x4 private cars stucked in the sand, so do not underestimate this little trip). Then we just followed the people and we entered in the fabolous Deadvlei. Pictures can speak:

 

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We went back on our steps and then to the 2x4 parking.

It was already the 13.00 o'clock so we ate some bread at the shadow of a tree and drink drink drink!!! The sun wasn't hot, but it dry a lot!!!

Then we followed the path of the "Hiddenvlei": its name is really true! It is not simple to follow the sticks in the middle of the desert.

 

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We walked for 30 minutes within the dunes with NONE with us. I don't know why but this area seems not popular at all. So we enjoyed it even more than the Deadvlei!!!

We just set down ALONE and listening only the wind this is what we sow:

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We come back to the car and we left the park at 16.00. We really enjoyed the day. I think you can pay the whole trip only for this day!!!

Coming back we sow some gemsboks and a group of bat-eared foxes (they were quite far)!!!!

 

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Edited by Guidoriccio11
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@@Guidoriccio11 thanks for the details and photos of Fish River Canyon and Luderitz.

 

I haven't travelled this far south yet, maybe next trip!

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~ @@Guidoriccio11

 

What sort of cricket is THAT!

Like something from a science fiction film.

Thank you for posting it, as I'd never known that such crickets lived there.

I'm glad that there was a resident pet cat. It must be habituated to the immense crickets.

The image of your boots stretched out atop the sand dune ridge is terrific!

Thank you for posting such an enjoyable trip report!

Tom K.

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@@Tom Kellie

The crickets were really big and the area around this lodge is the only place where I met them. Probably there is a colony there!

the resident cat was adorable, but I never seen him to even get close to those monsters...

I've seen these cricket in some other trip reports, like this (post 39, picture 3): http://safaritalk.net/topic/15086-namibia-and-zambia-2015-what-could-go-wrong-this-time/page-2

Or this smaller (I took 1 hour to find it :P) (post 47): http://safaritalk.net/topic/12849-2-weeks-self-driving-and-photographing-in-namibia-may-2014/page-3

I found out the latin name is Acanthoplus discoidalis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acanthoplus_discoidalis) and they are Carnivorous!!!!!!!!

I sow a documentary by BBC about them attacking bird nests. And occasionally they are also cannibals! Not exactly a friendly pet!!!

Climbing the dune is defenetly a MUST do in the lifetime. My girlfriend had dizziness over there!! Actually it seems really to be on a plane.

@Treepol

Going far south was a choice for us: we knew that there you can experience the real openspace feeling and loneliness. Sadly we had to skip the north (and the Himba people…)

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~ @@Guidoriccio11

 

Wow! You went to so much effort to find the links!

Many, many warm thanks for that. Really kind of you to do so.

A student friend, who was my Teaching Assistant last year, is a budding entomologist.

I'm certain that he'll be highly interested in the information and your photograph.

They're CARNIVOROUS ?!?!?! Oh my, no ‘Jiminy Cricket’, it seems.

The reference indicates that its mandibles “give a painful nip”. Indeed.

A type of katydid, no less.

I agree...not a suitable house pet.

Thank you so much for this research and information.

Tom K.

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