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Atravelynn

Every safari is an adventure, but this one had an extra measure of adventure.

 

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This photo is a compilation of my hopes for the trip. (1) We found desert-adapted rhino in the beautiful and remote Palmwag concession;

(2) We observed the rhino on foot; (3) Nobody else was around; (4) The rhino was undisturbed; (5) As a bonus a ,a Welwitschia mirabilis,

Namibia’s national plant appears in the photo; (6) I was capable of sitting upright.

 

In June 2014 I booked a wonderful Namibia trip with Wild Dog Safaris that included Aus for the feral horses; Bagatelle in Kalahari; Sossuslvei; other Namib desert locations; Okaukeujo, Halali and Namutoni in Etosha; and a stop at Okinjima for cheetah tracking on foot. I thought Damaraland deserved a minimum of 5 days but I could not fit it into that 3-week itinerary. So I came back in June 2016.

 

This is a link to the 2014 trip.

http://safaritalk.net/topic/13187-deserts-dunes-waterholes-wildlife-views-vistas-namibia/

 

Why June? Prices increase in July and so do the # of visitors. I thought June would be late enough to see animals (though not necessarily predators) at waterholes in 2014 and to find desert-adapted rhino and elephant (and just maybe lions) in Damaraland in 2016. Success on all accounts.

 

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Elephants at Hoanib River, viewed from high on the riverbank (on foot)

 

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Rhino tracking in Palmwag, viewed from about 100 meters (on foot) Our Save the Rhino Trust Ranger, Manne, found lions while tracking rhino and we

viewed them from the vehicle at about 40 meters at the closest and also much farther

 

--------------------------These 3 sightings were during the “wild camping” part of the trip.-----------------

 

Too early in the season at Palmwag and the abundant water sources make finding rhino harder because the animals have so many choices, so I didn’t want to go before June. But too late in the season, especially during drought times, such as 2016, there are fewer natural springs running in Palmwag so the rhinos really spread out in search of water, making them harder to locate. The big thing I learned is to go with knowledgeable guides from Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) and it is likely a rhino can be sighted most any time of year. The eles are an easier species to find.

 

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Near Palmwag Lodge Hoanib River

 

Itinerary

 

12 June Pension Thule – arrival transfer. Pronounced Too-Lay.

 

13 June Okonjima Plains Camp standard room – afternoon cheetah tracking + night drive Pronounced O (long O) Con JEE Mah

 

Okonjima to Hobatere: 7:30 am- 2:25 pm with 80 minutes of stops; 325 kms

 

14 June Hobatere Lodge Pronounced Hoe Bah Tare Ah - PM nature drive, 4:00 pm- 6:00 pm

 

15 June Hobatere Lodge – Morning drive 6:00 am – 9:00 pm, mid-morn at hide 10:20-12:10; early aft at hide 2:30-3:45; (could have done the afternoon drive but I did not); night drive 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

 

Note: each outing at Hobatere must be paid for, they are not automatically included. The 5-minute hide transfer and time at the hide is free. It worked out well to have paid in advance for my activities because then they went with just one person. If you book on arrival, then the activity goes with a minimum of 2 people. I think a single could pay for 2 spots and go.

 

16 June Hobatere Lodge - day in Etosha, 6:00 pm – 4:15 pm. 30 minutes/ 20 km from Hobatere camp to the Hobatere Gate, then 3 km from the Hobatere Gate to the Galton Gate of Etosha.

 

Hobatere to Palmwag Lodge, with 2 hours of stops, including Grootberg for lunch:

8:30 am – 2:00 pm, 200 kms

 

 

17 June Palmwag Lodge – stop at Grootberg Lodge for lunch—my request. A stay at Grootberg did not work out, so I wanted to see the view, therefore we stopped there for lunch. Then an afternoon nature drive at Palmwag, not rhino tracking and we saw no rhino, 3:00 pm – 6:30 pm.

 

18 June Palmwag Lodge Pronounced Pal Um Vhaghh – Morning rhino tracking 5:50 am - 11:30 am, small breakfast served at 5:30 am; afternoon walking on lodge grounds by myself.

 

Note: each outing at Palmwag Lodge must be paid for, they are not automatically included. It worked out well to have paid in advance for my activities because then they went with just one person. If you book on arrival, then the activity goes with a minimum of 2 people. Once I paid for 2 people and it went with just me—the rhino tracking I had not booked in advance.

 

 

19 June Palmwag Concession Wild Camping at Kai-Ais camp area. Pronounced Ky (rhyming with my) Ice if memory serves me – desert rhino and desert lion tracking.

 

Depart Palmwag Lodge at 6:10 am – arrive Aba-Barab for lunch at noon; 1:20 leave lunch spot and arrive Kai-Ais camp area at 4:20.

Total distance from Palmwag Concession to Kai-Ais = 70 kms.

 

20 June Palmwag Concession Wild Camping at Hoanib River camp area. Pronounced Hwee Nib – desert rhino, desert elephant tracking.

 

Kai-Ais camp area to Hoanib River camp area: 7:20 am – 3:25 pm, 90 kms

 

21 June Supposed to be Palmwag Concession wild camping but technical difficulties beyond our control meant we went to the lovely Khowarib Rest Camp instead, just outside Palmwag Concession near Sesfontein – desert elephant tracking.

 

Khowarib Rest Camp to Camp Kipwe with 20 minute stop at Palmwag Lodge,

then a 45- minute visit to the Damaraland Living Museum,

arriving Kipwe in time for lunch: 8:00 am – 12 pm, 180 kms

 

22 June Camp Kipwe Pronounced Kip Way to visit Twyfelfontein Pronounced TWI (usually short i, but also heard long i) Fell FON taine area for rock etchings

 

Normal routine at Kipwe if using their guides and vehicles is depart 6:00 am for 4-5 hours to find desert eles, then an afternoon trip to Twyfelfontein for rock etchings, petrified forest, pipe organ rocks. Each outing is paid for separately and not included automatically with the lodging.

 

Since we had seen such great desert eles, I did not do the morning ele trip at Kipwe. Ian was able to take me to the Petrified Forest, and Twyfelfontein and a local expert guided at each location. We looked at the Pipe Organ Rocks ourselves. All this is very near Kipwe.

 

Camp Kipwe to Erongo Wilderness Lodge:

stopping at Twylfelfontein for an hour - 15 minutes from Camp Kipwe

stopping at Petrified Forest for 30 minutes – an hour from Twylfelfontein

stopping at Organ Pipes for 10 minutes – very near Petrified Forest

other stops, including lunch, took up about hour

8:00 am to 3:10 pm, 270 kms.

 

23 June Erongo Wilderness Lodge – pm nature drive that included a steep walk to cave paintings, 3:30-6:15 pm.

 

To encourage guests to walk in this fascinating environment, the morning escorted walks are offered, no charge. Other activities must be paid for. It worked out well to have paid in advance for my activities because then they went with just one person. Since I had a doctor appointment in Windhoek, I skipped the walk the morning of the 24th.

 

 

24 June 2016 Depart Namibia

 

Erongo Wilderness Lodge to Wild Dog Safaris in Windhoek: 8:00 am – 11:15 am, 220 kms

National Museum in Windhoek

 

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Klippan Waterhole, Western Etosha Palmwag Concession during our wild camping

 

This itinerary was fully escorted by Ian as I am not a solo self driver, and especially not a solo wild camper. But here is 1 of 2 hints for self drivers. Self Driving Hint #1: Don’t drive over elephant dung because it may contain undigested sharp thorns.

 

This is the vehicle which I did not self drive:

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Our rented 4x4. 2.26 speed was printed on the side.

 

It appeared my arrival in Namibia and transfer to Pension Thule had gone smoothly, save for a lost bag that Air Namibia assured me would be available the next day. Then at 3 am I awoke in pain and could barely bend my right leg. An MRI when I returned home indicated it was a sciatica attack caused by a herniated disk. Poor timing. I always pack a pharmacy so I started downing pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatories with some crackers and energy bars. For anyone wanting more detailed health/sciatica on safari info, please pm me. I want to keep my ailments and remedies to a minimum here and will use gray for that topic. The drugs helped the pain, but presented side effects. When I could not figure out how to work the remote for the TV, I hallucinated that my husband was present in the room. “Honey, will you get this thing to work?” I called to him.

 

Another hallucination occurred at breakfast, where I thought the young male waiter was the 91-year old woman that I help with her computer. But after some food in my stomach, the hallucinations ended and the safari began.

 

Guide Ian Brown arrived at 8:00 am and we headed to the airport to retrieve the lost bag that was supposed to arrive that morning. No bag yet. I was reunited with it the next day, so no big deal. How nice to see Ian again, who was doing great. But I had to explain my health predicament.

 

Our airport excursion was the only time I sat like a normal person in the passenger seat. For the rest of the trip, pain forced me to the back seat. Often my head was on the floor behind the driver's seat and my right foot extended out the open window, maximizing the available space and ability to stretch out in the back seat. I always bring an extra bootlace with me and I tied it to the back seat “passenger assist handle” like a noose to help support my ankle for the leg extension. It was an absurd Cirque du Soleil performance back there. Any embarrassment was eviscerated by the pain. Thank goodness this was a private trip and thank goodness I did have some meds with me. Fortunately I was just fine when I walked, stood, or laid flat. Sitting was the problem.

 

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Hobatere Hide Montero’s Hornbill, a Namibian endemic, Western Etosha Damaraland Hornbill, a Namibian endemic, Erongo

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HOBATERE--3 nights I stayed 3 nights at the charming newly re-opened Hobatere Lodge in Western Etosha. Drives were done with Hobatere vehicles and guides. Albert was my skilled and enjoyable gui

WILD CAMPING IN PALMWAG CONCESSION—3 nights scheduled, 2 nights completed*   *The reason for 2, not 3 nights of wild camping was that the jack that accompanied the vehicle broke, and Ian did not wan

How kind of you xelas and you certainly know Namibia! No new gear--yet.   PALMWAG LODGE--2 nights On the way to Palmwag Lodge, we stopped at Grootberg Lodge for lunch so I could see the view.

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Atravelynn

OKONJIMA--1 Night

I needed a stop to break up the drive from Windhoek to Hobatere and Okonjima fit the bill. Another cheetah tracking on foot (I did one in 2014) sounded appealing, and this time we found two cheetah, plus Okonjima offered another chance to see porcupine at their night blind. Upon arrival I found out that the night blind is not available to the Plains Camp, just to Bush Camp. The policy change was made after I had booked. The very accommodating staff of Okonjima were going to transfer me to Bush Camp so I could join the others on their walk to the hide. But none of the Bush Camp folks were going. So they swapped for a more expensive night drive, at no extra cost to me. In addition to a shadow of a brown hyena, we saw two porcupines. Twice the cheetah and twice the porcupines this year!

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Crimson Breasted Shrike, seen enroute to Okonjima at one of the many rest stops along the road. Oryx seen from vehicle on cheetah tracking excursion in Okonjima

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These cheetah were tracked by vehicle and then for about 20 minutes on foot. They are not biological siblings Porcupines on night drive

but were raised as siblings and cannot reproduce. They have remained together for years. The female takes the

lead in hunts I was told.

 

The main lodge was a 10 minute walk from my Plains Camp Standard Room 7A that had a gorgeous and expansive view (as all the rooms do, I believe). Early in the morning just outside the main lodge, I spent time with one of my favorite sightings of the trip—a field mice colony that was coming to life in the warm sun. These little guys were amazing. I could not understand why a crowd was not gathering with me in front of the termite mound mouse house, but I had them all to myself.

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Field Mouse Colony near Plains Camp main lodge in the morning rays of sun.

Since my June 2014 visit, a lot of brush has been cleared at Okonjima with plans for much more. Not only is brush clearing taking place at Okonjima, but at various private locations where the owners hope to make the habitat hospitable to cheetah (and cheetah-loving tourists). In the past there were adequate herbivores to keep thorny brush at bay. But when those were fenced out or killed off, the vegetation grew up uncontrollably, making the terrain dangerous for cheetah to navigate at top speeds chasing prey. Cheetahs blinded by thorns are a problem and one of the issues Okonjima deals with.

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SafariChick

@@Atravelynn wow, that is terrible about the sciatica - good for you for managing to deal with it and at least as you say it was only a problem when sitting. But when something like that strikes, one realizes just how much one sits throughout the day! The hallucinations sound a bit disturbing but glad it sounds like they did not last too long! Other than that, sounds like this shaped up to be another great trip - look forward to more!

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Atravelynn

HOBATERE--3 nights

I stayed 3 nights at the charming newly re-opened Hobatere Lodge in Western Etosha. Drives were done with Hobatere vehicles and guides. Albert was my skilled and enjoyable guide. Highlights were the many Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra and good views of an aardwolf on a night drive. The Hobatere Hide, overlooking a man-made waterhole, is very active with herds of mountain zebra and other species. Best place I have ever visited to see/photograph feisty zebras kicking and sparring. A stay at Hobatere must include a hide visit and a sampling (or a devouring of huge quantities) of their many magnificent varieties of bread at every meal.

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This is a Shepherd Tree, that can be used for shade (as the name suggests) and the bark and leaves can be A field of termite mounds was a picturesque geographic feature at Hobatere.

turned into eye drops, candles, and several types of beverages. Tools are made from the wood. A very useful tree.

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This is a “community spider” nest, so named because up to 14 of them can live in one nest. Guide Albert was excited to point out these Bare-cheeked Babblers, a Namibian endemic. The nest is often built in the kudu bush, like it is here.

 

The above are the only keeper photos from one morning, one afternoon, and one night drive (animals were too far away on night drive for pics). There was an opportunity for a kudu herd photo in the morning but a guy dropped his lens cap, scattering them. A pride of lions had been hanging around the camp and left just before we got there. The staff was hoping they’d return soon.

 

While the drives on the Hobatere were enjoyable and informative, the big attractions of Hobatere IMO are: (1) the hide overlooking the man-made waterhole, (2) the ability to get into Western Etosha, and (3) did I mention the bread?

 

(1) The hide. What a happening place. Peak activity times at the hide are late morning & early afternoon, conveniently these don’t overlap game drives. As mentioned above, time at the hide, and the 5-minute transfer to/from is free. The staff was very willing to shuttle guests back and forth whenever we wanted to go.

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At Hobatere Lodge, looking out toward the hide. Kudu walking by. At the hide with the lodge in view.

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The stable, secure ladder you climb to get up the the hide.

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Looking out with no zoom, you can see giraffe

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Several benches. A bean bag worked well on the ledge and I think a tripod would too. I went back to the hide about 5 pm, when some other people were being picked up, to get these photos. There was so much happening during my mid-morn and mid-aft visits that I forget to shoot the hide itself. The light works better in the morning or early afternoon. You can see it glaring in this pic.

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Within 60 seconds of settling in at the Hobatere hide at 10:20 am, this Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra put on a quick and energetic show for me & more likely for the other zebras who were too close for comfort.

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Mid-morning at Hobatere Hide

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Mid-morning at Hobatere Hide

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Mid-morning at the Hobatere Hide. The contrast in the muddiness of the zebras reminds me of myself on nature outings,

I am always the muddiest, dirtiest of the group.

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Between 2:30 -3:45 pm at the Hobatere Hide

(2) the ability to get into Western Etosha

We spent one full day in Western Etosha with a packed lunch. Compared to Okaukeujo, Halali, and Namutoni my conclusion is Western Etosha has fewer people and fewer animals, but still some exciting waterholes and sightings. Well worth getting the whole Etosha experience if you have time, even if it takes more than one trip.

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Double banded sand grouse with the double band obscured,

Etosha's Rateldraf Waterhole, seen on daytrip from Hobatere.

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Etosha'sRenostervlei Waterhole, seen on daytrip from Hobatere

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Etosha's Renostervlei Waterhole, seen on daytrip from Hobatere Etosha's Klippan Waterhole, seen on daytrip from Hobatere

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Dolomite Waterhole, seen on daytrip from Hobatere – the ostrich is cooling itself by opening up the feathers

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Dolomite Waterhole, seen on daytrip from Hobatere

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Dolomite Waterhole, seen on daytrip from Hobatere

Once we hit about noon, there was not much activity with the exception of a mangy jackal getting a drink.

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Olifontrus Waterhole, seen on daytrip from Hobatere – jackal looks a little mangy

A couple hours and some empty waterholes later, we saw a sable in the brush! Very unexpected.

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Surprise sable seen near the end of our daytrip from Hobatere into Western Etosha

 

(3) I did not photograph the bread, I just ate it. But there were some nice sightings from the Hobatere main lounge and the fountain and pond just around the corner.

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Kudu seen from Hobatere lounge area Yellow vented bulbuls at the Hobatere pond and fountain, near the lounge area

 

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Rosy faced lovebirds at the Hobatere fountain, near the lounge area Ruppell’s Parrot, a Namibian endemic, near the Hobatere lounge area

 

Hobatere means “find me” and I am thrilled I found it.

Next is rhino tracking at Palmwag Lodge

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So glad that (i) Hobatere is open again (ii) you got some wonderful photos and saw some wonderful things (ii) June is a great month (I thought it would be and it is one of my possible travel months) (ii) you made it through all this despite being crippled - the line between bravery and stupidity is often blured but I think you were on the brave side here - calculated risk (iv) that I didn't tease you about taking so long about getting the report started before reading what is no doubt part of the reason why.

 

We should start a sub-forum on Safartalk for people with worn-out spines. We can exchange treatments and tips for on-safari.I hope the idea makes you laugh, but it's not actually a bad idea.

 

Who runs Hobatere now? We loved that hide too - we still talk about it and the treehouse which may no longer be there).

Amazing all the buildings appear to be the same after 11 years, but maybe they just rebuilt everything very similarly (ain't broke, don't fix, sort of thinking).

 

Looking forward very much to the rest of this.

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Towlersonsafari

Really like the Zebra and especially the mice photo's! @@Atravelynn looking forward to the rest of the report-how did you manage the ladder with a poorly back?

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offshorebirder

The image of the Elephant striding up to the waterhole behind the Guineafowl is superb!

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Atravelynn

@@Atravelynn wow, that is terrible about the sciatica - good for you for managing to deal with it and at least as you say it was only a problem when sitting. But when something like that strikes, one realizes just how much one sits throughout the day! The hallucinations sound a bit disturbing but glad it sounds like they did not last too long! Other than that, sounds like this shaped up to be another great trip - look forward to more! It worked out well that many of the main events on this trip were walking/tracking.

 

 

So glad that (i) Hobatere is open again (ii) you got some wonderful photos and saw some wonderful things (ii) June is a great month (I thought it would be and it is one of my possible travel months) (ii) you made it through all this despite being crippled - the line between bravery and stupidity is often blured but I think you were on the brave side here - calculated risk (iv) that I didn't tease you about taking so long about getting the report started before reading what is no doubt part of the reason why. Right, a contributing factor for the delay!

 

We should start a sub-forum on Safartalk for people with worn-out spines. We can exchange treatments and tips for on-safari.I hope the idea makes you laugh, but it's not actually a bad idea. There is the health section now, which lends itself to that purpose.

 

Who runs Hobatere now? I did not get that info. We loved that hide too - we still talk about it and the treehouse which may no longer be there). Darn, I missed the treehouse!

Amazing all the buildings appear to be the same after 11 years, but maybe they just rebuilt everything very similarly (ain't broke, don't fix, sort of thinking).

 

Looking forward very much to the rest of this. Thanks!

 

 

Really like the Zebra and especially the mice photo's! @@Atravelynn looking forward to the rest of the report-how did you manage the ladder with a poorly back? Upright, I was just fine, whether climbing ladders or boulder-strewn hills. More difficult than the ladder was sitting on the benches, but I could stretch out periodically, and that helped. So did hydrocodone.

 

 

The image of the Elephant striding up to the waterhole behind the Guineafowl is superb!

Thank you. I made sure the blue on the GF was as visible in the photo as it looked in real life. Without that adjustment, the photo had less punch.

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No matter how many trip reports of Namibia I have read, there are always new locations to be discovered! You always had a keen eye for the wildlife, great photography skills, and do I only imagine or you have used some new gear this time around, @@Atravelynn ?

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Atravelynn

No matter how many trip reports of Namibia I have read, there are always new locations to be discovered! You always had a keen eye for the wildlife, great photography skills, and do I only imagine or you have used some new gear this time around, @@Atravelynn ?

How kind of you xelas and you certainly know Namibia! No new gear--yet.

 

PALMWAG LODGE--2 nights

On the way to Palmwag Lodge, we stopped at Grootberg Lodge for lunch so I could see the view. Self Driving Hint #2. Don’t attempt ascending the road to Grootberg without a 4-wheel drive. Even if you are driving one, a complimentary shuttle with a professional driver may be preferable because of the very steep grade. It might be the steepest hill I ever went up in a vehicle. Ian did a great job going up and down smoothly. It would be interesting if others chimed in on your experience with the elevation/grade of the Grootberg entrance road; maybe I was back to hallucinating again, but I found the climb unnerving.

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View from the dining deck of Grootberg Lodge

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View from dining deck of Grootberg Lodge, me in foreground

 

Palmwag is not named for palm fronds wagging in the wind, although they do that. The wag refers to guarding soldiers. The palms are standing guard over the area.

 

My afternoon nature drive was with Guide Stanley. It’s possible to see rhino on these standard nature drives, but there is no exiting the vehicle and tracking rhino, so it is not likely. We went to Uniab Canyon and saw lots of Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, plus steenbok, giraffe, oryx, and springbok. No rhino.

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Wildlife in the stunning setting around Palmwag Lodge on the afternoon nature drive.

In contrast to the variety of animals we saw, when I talked with self drivers staying at Palmwag Lodge, they raved about the scenic beauty but stated they had seen no animals. Resident guide Stanley knew what he was doing.

 

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View when enduring sciatica on safari My Palmwag Lodge Room 13

Since Stanley was already acquainted with my problem that required reclining across the seat, and he was doing the morning rhino tracking, I thought I’d give his outing a try. I demonstrated for him that upright and ambulatory, I was fine. Stanley agreed and told me I should wear dark clothes for rhino tracking, not light colors, even if those colors are neutral, because light colors can catch the eye of the rhino and scare it away. He also emphasized solid shoes, not sandals.

 

Our 5:30 am light breakfast for a 6:00 am rhino tracking departure had me up at 4:00 am to gain some mobility and to put on my boots. Despite 90 minutes of effort, I could not bend sufficiently to put them on. I arrived at the vehicle, carrying my boots, wearing my sturdy walking shoes. I presented my boots to Stanley and dejectedly stated, “I am sorry but I could not get these on because of my injury. Could you help me?” Stanley replied that the sturdy walking shoes would work fine, so my boots ended up just going for a ride in the vehicle.

 

The morning rhino tracking was a solo trip. Two Save the Rhino Trust Rangers joined us—Rean and Hoffing—and we left at 5:50 am. Twice they found tracks, hopped out of the vehicle and followed them for a distance, only to lose the trail and return to the vehicle. The third time was the charm. At 9:05 am Rean and Hoffing, who were out of our sight, radioed Stanley and me in the vehicle. A rhino had been spotted!

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Morning rhino tracking - Hoffing and Rean were following tracks

Rean headed back toward the vehicle so that we could see him and know where to head. Rean remained in radio contact with Hoffing, who was forward with the rhino. When Stanley and I reached Rean, we all headed to where Hoffing was waiting. Here’s an important tip for all but the most adept boulder skippers by trade, even if you are suffering no physical impairments whatsoever: Grab a hand of one the pros, if it is offered, to hasten your trek over the rocky terrain and to give yourself every chance of seeing a desert-adapted rhino. Had I arrived a couple minutes later, the mother rhino and calf would have been gone. The extra speed I got by taking the hand of Rean made the difference. We probably walked 30 minutes total up the rocky hill.

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Rhino tracking at Palmwag Lodge, seen from about a kilometer away, across a valley

The mother and calf were across a valley, about a kilometer away, and moving out. They were visible about 5 minutes before disappearing in the distance. What a thrill to see them surrounded by the stark beauty of Palmwag, and no other sign of human life around. Afterward we took some pictures of us, chatted a while, then headed down the hill. Back at the vehicle at 10:20 and “home” at 11:30 am. I earned my lunch that day.

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Reinactment: “There’s the rhino and calf.”

I was told to wear dark clothing, not even light earthtones. Rhinos’s eyes can pick up light colors from a distance and become spooked.

Good thing Wild Dog had presented me with this complimentary black t-shirt upon arrival.

Footwear should not be sandals. Sturdy walking shoes, like I am wearing, or boots were encouraged.

 

What I learned about the Palmwag Lodge rhino tracking: There is a big chalkboard that contains all the outings for the next several days. You can see how many people are signed up for each activity (nature walks, nature drives, morning rhino tracking, full day rhino tracking). I noted that shortly after my stay, the morning rhino tracking departure had 26 participants. Not a misprint. A group trip was going in several vehicles, with each holding 8 or 9 people. I asked about how numbers that size are handled and was told that some people decide not to exit the vehicle when they see the difficult terrain that must be climbed, and instead they just send their camera. So that cuts down on some. But for the real slow folks the odds of seeing the rhino go down. A group also makes more noise from walking (and there are always people who won’t shut up) and noise can scare the rhino, along with many silhouettes on the horizon. Even though I paid double for the private trip, it was worth the $211 USD that appeared on my credit card statement. Maybe it is possible to book a private trip in advance.

 

I also found out that it is possible to hire some of the SRT rangers to accompany private vehicles. Don’t know the specifics or the costs.

 

That afternoon I wandered around the grounds of Palmwag Lodge and watched the sun go down.

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Viewed from Palmwag Lodge grounds

Next is wild camping in Palmwag Concession

Edited by Atravelynn
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SafariChick

@@Atravelynn such gorgeous scenery at Palmwag, and seeing that mother and baby rhino indeed would have felt totally worth that fee to me! What a stunning photo that is and I can almost feel transported to that spot looking at it!

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Atravelynn

WILD CAMPING IN PALMWAG CONCESSION—3 nights scheduled, 2 nights completed*

 

*The reason for 2, not 3 nights of wild camping was that the jack that accompanied the vehicle broke, and Ian did not want to be in a remote area with no jack. We chose a rest camp for the final night, which worked fine and surrounded us with its own type of beauty.

 

Joining Ian and me was Manne, a SRT ranger with about 20 years of experience, who was on leave. Even though Ian had worked at Palmwag and done rhino tracking in the past, he wanted someone with current knowledge who had recently tracked in the areas we were going. Ian and I both agreed that Manne “made” the wild camping part of the trip with his knowledge of the area. Twice we encountered another very experienced self-driver who had 2 guides with him, but those guides were not from the area and they saw almost nothing. No rhino for sure. Hardly any ele. The guy said to us, “I’m just driving and driving.”

 

That one vehicle, briefly seen two times, was the only vehicle we saw during our entire wild camping time in Palmwag until we neared the city of Sesfontein on Day #3.

 

Two strong bodies were also important for when we got stuck, which happened twice. The first time was a quick fix. The other took time, and that’s when the stupid jack broke. I helped carry flat rocks to place under the wheels that were stuck. But the guys could carry much bigger rocks and wedge them in better with their superior strength.

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Getting stuck in Hoanib River bed. The considerable contents of the vehicle were removed to lighten the load and big rocks were wedged under the wheels for traction. It eventually worked.

 

Classic Palmwag Landscape

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Palmwag Concession, during wild camping days – the concession is made up of both the red boulder terrain and the sands and mountains near Hoanib River. This is the red boulder landscape.

 

Wildlife Seen in the Red Boulders Classic Landscape of Palmwag

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Very much shooting into the sun, but still a favorite. 5 oryx (during wild camping)

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Black bellied bustard. (seen during wild camping) There were areas of gray gravel amongst the red rocks.

That’s where this hare chose to hunker down. (seen during wild camping)

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(seen during wild camping)

I asked Ian to mark on a map just where all we went and where we saw rhino and other animals. He agreed but was adamant that rhino locations not be divulged. I wholeheartedly agree. Sad.

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Viewed on foot, about 100 meters across flat ground. Because of the calf, we would advance no closer. We walked under a kilometer to find this rhino. (during wild camping)

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About 60 meters away at the closest point, then the pregnant rhino moved off, slowly at times and other times at a leisurely trot. We walked maybe 3 kms to get to this rhino.

This last shot with the distant rhino, scenery prominent, is my favorite rhino shot.

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Walking back to our distant vehicle after seeing the pregnant rhino.

How rhino tracking worked with Manne: Several times he set out following rhino spoor, but returned after the track was lost. For the mother and calf, Manne went out alone, then came back to tell us where he found them. We drove part of the way and then walked the last kilometer or so. For the pregnant rhino, we all set out together and covered about 3 kms.

 

During a drought I thought it was lucky to see two mothers and calves and a very pregnant rhino. Black rhinos, which these all are, browse throughout the night when water content in the leaves is elevated, which helps with their hydration.

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I was so fortunate that Manne found a desert-adapted lion pride while out looking for rhino. We drove to them in the vehicle, remaining in the vehicle.

Two adult lionesses and one cub were visible. Only one lioness was photographable. The lions were wary and skittish of our vehicle, so we stayed back 40 meters or more.

I asked Manne (through Ian as interpreter) about encountering lions on foot, as had happened here, and he replied (through Ian) that it was common for the rangers to meet up with lions.

 

Quote of the Trip belongs to SRT ranger, Manne

 

Beyond our initial brief introduction of a few very simple words, Manne and I did not communicate in English. Ian said that he would interpret all conversations between Manne and me, since the two of us did not understand each other’s languages, and that worked fine.

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This is my popup tent atop the camper. The guys slept on the ground. Hoanib River location, night #2 of wild camping.

Our second wild camping location did not lend itself to safe loo use in the night by me alone. Ian asked that I wake him if I needed to use the (non-existent) loo. To save Ian some sleep I suggested that for going #1, maybe I could just go in a water bottle with the narrow neck cut off. I handed Ian a bottle for him to cut and stated I had a big garbage bag that I would spread out in the tent for an added layer of protection. I could just empty the bottle from my elevated tent onto the sandy ground after use with the sand preventing any splashing. Ian and I were discussing the merits of my proposal when Manne chimed in, in English, “The bottle is too small. Use a milk carton,” and Manne proceeded to cut the top off of a milk carton and hand it to me. It was hard not to laugh loudly as I thanked him. The whole process, including the garbage bag worked well, even with the squatting difficulties presented by sciatica. It saved waking Ian twice!

 

Wild Camping, Itself

We had 2 brief sightings of one other vehicle during our 3 days of wild camping, until we get near Sesfontaine near the end of the last day.

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A lunch stop—I helped as much as the guys would allow, chopping vegetables and that sort of thing.

My participation was not limited by my injury, just by their insistence on me being the guest and lady of leisure.

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Welwitschia mirabilis, Namibia’s national plant, at wild camping area, Kai-Ais. Sunset at Kai-Ais, wild camping area. It really was THIS orangey-red.

The abundance of these plants that can be 2000 years old surprised me.

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It was really this pink

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View from Kai-Ais camping area (wild camping)

The seclusion, remoteness, and beauty of being able to camp at Kai-Ais in the Palmwag Concession was magical and mystical. The full moon added to the mystique! The "extra measure of adventure" mentioned in the first sentence of the report had a lot to do with the wild camping experience.

 

At the end of October, the report will conclude with the rest of wild camping in the Palmwag Concession, Desert-adapted elephants of Hoanib River, plus Kipwe, and Erongo.

In the meantime I have a date with Mana Pools, as a healthy safari-er once again.

Edited by Atravelynn
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The mix of gorgeous landscapes and specilised wildlife makes Damaraland indeed a special place to visit.

Luckily I have not read your description about approach road to Grootberg before I have tackled it. It looks less frightening from the driver's seat then from the passenger seat, according to Zvezda's words.

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Treepol

@@Atravelynn thanks for this in depth report of a wild Namibia safari. I have great memories of Hobatere (when Steve and Louise Braine were the concessionaires) and the Hide, where the oryx ran around aggressively keeping other animals from the water.

 

The Palmwag scenery is amongst the most disticntive that I have ever seen.

 

Sorry to hear about your safari sciatica - ouch! Hope it doesn't blight your Mana trip.

 

@@pault I believe the Hobatere concession is now part of the Africat North Research Project Area and is managed by Tammy Hoth-Hanssen, http://www.africat.org/about/africat-north. I think this has subsumed the Afri-Leo Foundation which used to neighbour Hobatere. As far as I know, the fire in January 2011 destroyed the main lodge that included the dining and reception areas as well as the Manager's residence. The separate accommodation apparently escaped, but may have been re-modelled since. Steve and Louise Braine and their sons now run Batis Birding out of Swakop.

 

.

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Palmwag is so beautiful that if you didn't have the photos you might think you had been hallucinating a bit. 10 out of 10 for those, photos, your determination, Manne's tracking, Ian's foresight, and oryx camouflage (took me a moment to spot the last one). What a great little adventure that was. Invaluable tips as usual. You and Treepol really know how to do Namibia.

 

One of these might have come in handy. Popular in places like Thailand where public toilets are rare and gridlock on the roads common (less needed nowadays). Would have worked a treat with the milk carton.

 

http://www.lazada.co.th/fiona-p-ez-female-urinal-f0018-6692889.html

 

Glad to hear you are fit again and have a great time in Mana Pools.

Edited by pault
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@@Atravelynn

 

You were not hallucinating that road up to Grootberg is very steep. That Rhino trek would have very tough over that terrain with a bad back, it was quite a struggle for some on our trek last year. @@xelas is right you have excellent shots so far and I look forward to more after what will be another great Mana Pools trip. have fun!

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Sangeeta

Lynn - sorry to hear about the back problems but glad to know that you're all better now.

 

Your descriptions and photos of the wild camping have me drooling :wub:

I was in Namibia late April/early May (so a little before you) and followed a similar route (though sadly no Hobatere). Wildlife was very good in the usual section of Etosha even as early as that. But your rhino pictures are perfect. They convey the immensity of the landscape and the tiny rock-like dots that rhinos can be when they truly roam wild and free. Looking forward very much to reading the rest whenever you get back to it!

Edited by Sangeeta
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elefromoz

@@Atravelynn, what an exciting trip. Im planning a Namibia trip now, unfortunately is seems Etosha pretty well books out 12 months in advance so it looks like it will have to be 2018. We will use a guide/ driver too, my husband is not interested in self-driving, fair enough , I want him to relax and enjoy it too. I have read through your previous report thoroughly too, so will keep Wild Dog Safaris in mind once I have a loose itinerary planned. Could you please just clarify a couple of things.

 

"Even though I paid double for the private trip, it was worth the $211 USD that appeared on my credit card statement. Maybe it is possible to book a private trip in advance.I also found out that it is possible to hire some of the SRT rangers to accompany private vehicles. Don’t know the specifics or the costs." Does this mean you were just lucky that you were the only participant or did you actually book it as a private trip?

 

"Two Save the Rhino Trust Rangers joined us—Rean and Hoffing—and we left at 5:50 am." Is this usual or was that again just luck that they accompanied you, would you normally have to request and pay extra for this service? $211 is a very fair price for a private vehicle, driver/guide and 2 Rangers!

 

The camping trip sounds just wonderful. Thanks for another great, informative report.

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michael-ibk

Wow, a real adventure trip Lynn! Gorgeous photos of scenery and wildlife, I agree, your favourite Rhino photo is mine as well. Very sorry to hear about your health problems I know from experience how incredibly frustrating it is when one tries to put on shoes for half an hour - and fails. I hope all your fantastic sightings helped you forget about the pain. Glad to hear you are well again. Looking forward to the continuation of this report very much!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Kitsafari

you must be in Mana Pools now Lynn so hope your health holds up and I'm sure you're gonna have one heck of a trip with the others.

but you're a strong resilient woman - even sciatia ain't gonna stop you going places!

 

Love the mountain zebras having a go at each other and the ostrich being the observer. and the mice were so adorable. incredible colours of the landscape and so enticing.

 

stunning rhinos. i'm just astounded each time that animals can survive in such harsh harsh land.

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Tom Kellie

~ @@Atravelynn

 

Thank you so much for educating me about desert-adapted species.

I hadn't known anything about them prior to reading your fine trip report.

Tom K.

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twaffle

How truly magnificent this safari appears to have been, from the rhinos to the little mice and then there's the landscapes. Just superb. The pain from herniated discs is just awful, I think you managed extremely well.

 

I hope Mana delivers big time for you.

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Peter Connan

I too am truly enjoying this trip report.

 

And I really appreciate the information you dispense so freely, since I will be in the area myself in April.

 

Thank you.

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  • 2 weeks later...
kilopascal

@@Atravelynn I see that you are back. Time to get busy finishing this report. I've been anxiously awaiting your return!

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