Jump to content

Central Namibia Self-drive: beauty in a harsh land

Peter Connan

Recommended Posts

Dave Williams

You certainly had a few obstacles to overcome on this trip Peter. Enjoying the report and thinking glad it wasn't me!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@PT123, it was the right size.


But it could also be a domestic dog, as this is a popular fishing spot and quite a lot of people visit it.


I'll just envision that it was a jackal!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

@@PT123, I certainly found Jackal in more populated places!


Day 11 Continued.


Over brunch, because Gerrit was stressing about his radiator and his exhaust which was getting rather noisy and considering that it was stil fairly early in the morning and the campsite was closed (and thus the ablutions weren't working), we decided to push on. At first we said Hentiesbaai was the new destination for the day.




But first, the obligatory stop at Cape Cross.




A lot has been said about the population of Seals here. I must be honest, I had expected a bit more, but I guess the pups were all old enough to swim, so we probably only saw a fraction of them.







A lot has also been said about the smell, but once again, we didn't find this too bad either. However, we were very lucky with the weather, which was easterly for the whole period that we spent along the coast, thus the smell was being blown out to sea, and also we never got any of the morning fog that pretty much keeps everything in the desert alive.









There were also a few birds around, gulls and cormorants flyin past and Ruddy Turnstones picking around on the beach.















Our next stop was a splash-and-dash at Henties. We had decided it was stil early enoughto push on to Swakopmund, and our campsite in the town had confirmed that they had room for us for the extra night.


A quick stop at the shipwreck of the Zeile of Hangana






And on the Swakop, which we reached at around half past four.



Edited by Peter Connan
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Day 12:

Our campsite was the well-known Alte Brucke Resort, situated at the south-western corner of the town. A very nice camp with great facilities, my only criticism being that the campsites are just a little bit small, with nowhere for the tent's guide ropes to go.


After a few phone calls the previous night, Gerrit and I were off to Walvisbaai, in his car (but with my spare wheel on the roof). First order of business was a visit to Silverton Radiators.


Here we explained the damage and the repair, and their opinion was, short of importing a new radiator (there were none available locally), we had done the best possible job. They kindly gave us directions to an exhaust shop and a tire repair shop. So, off to the exhaust shop. Here, one of Gerrit's silencers were replaced, and then on to the tire repair shop, where they repaired my puncture (although the extent of the damage relegates this wheel to spare-wheel duty), without charging me a cent.


We made a few more stops for miscelanueos other bits and pieces, the most important of which was a new camera battery charger, as mine had given up the ghost the previous evening.


Meanwhile, the girls had hit the town in my car, and when we got back to the campsite, they were nowhere to be found. They also weren't answering any of their phones, so we started searching the town. We eventually found them at the beach bar just down the road from our campsite.


After lunch and grocery shopping, we went back there. I walked up to the mouth of the Swakop river.


Kelp Gulls







Hartlaub's Gull



Cape Cormorants



White-fronted Plover



And baby.



Black-chested Prinia



Coming back, I found a tidal pool where there was a reasonable number of birds around.


Little Egret



More White-fronted Plovers









In the reed bed next to the pool, some Common Waxbills





And a Caspian Tern










A friend of mine who had recently emigrated here and his wife joined us for a delightfull dinner of Snoek and Sweet potato.

Edited by Peter Connan
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dave Williams

Love the Caspian coming in to land. I'm also a bit annoyed with myself for not finding this spot myself!

I'm curious about Snoek.. steak or snake?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Dave, it's a type of fish. Thus an all-vegerable dinner!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Vegetarian, like chicken? ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Vegetarian, like chicken? ;)

Jip, fish and chicken are some of the nicest veggies around.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Day 13, Part 1


This morning, I was on the lookout for birds, and maybe a bit of fun in the dunes.


My plan was to start in Walvisbay's lagoon, and work my way south from there. I would have loved to go to Sandwhich harbour, but I didn't think I had enough time and several people had warned me that this was not a trip to do alone, as one can get stuck so badly that recovery is impossible before the sea claims your vehicle.


I started out quite early, as I wanted to be at the lagoon by sunrise.


The shipping lane past Swakopmund is rather busy at this time of day!





Shipping lane:



At the lagoon, I found a flock of Lesser Flamingo, and went and sat on the edge of the walkway waiting for the sun to come up.


Some Wagtails were strutting about.



Every once in a while, some Flamingos would come flying in or out. These were in the sun while the birds on the ground were still in shade.



But soon the sun did catch them as well.



Hartlaub's Gull



Flamingo Overload:










(I think a few of these could really do with a beauty treatment by @@PCNW or @@twaffle...)


After about an hour I decided it was time to move on. I followed the shore-line in the direction of the salt works.


Some Curlew Sandpipers (very common here as well)



At the Salt Works, I turned right and took the road to Paaltjies.


Black-necked Grebe:



More Ruddy Turnstones:



Black-necked Grebe again:



Not sure if this is a Greenshank or an immature Black-winged Stilt:



Grey Plover



And then, two Jackal.



This really surprised me, as the roadway is situated between pools and is not all that wide.



Black-winged Stilt:





Pied Avocets:



Swift Tern:



Sandwhich Tern:



Not sure how many types of Terns were huddled on this sandbar:



Greater Flamingo:



This salt works section is truly a birder's paradise, and the couple of hours I spent here in no way did it justice. The road is reasonably busy with fishermen, cyclists and even the odd runner, and of course all the traffic going to and from the lighthouse lodge has to take this road as well, which means that the birds are pretty tame, although predictably they don't like it when you stop next to them.

Edited by Peter Connan
Link to comment
Share on other sites


The workboat at night is an impressive sight. Even without beauty treatments I believe you did justice to the flamingos!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Thank you @@Atravelynn


Day 13 continued:


The light was by now getting quite harsh.




Back at the entrance to the salt works, there is a little road with a much-weathered, hand-painted sign saying "Sandwhich Harbour. 4x4 only. Permit required". Well, I had a permit, and a 4x4...


Soon there was a turn-off, and I followed a road into the dunes.


At the top of the first real dune, I the road disapeared, so I stopped to take a photo or two before turning around.





Then, as I headed back, I saw three other 4x4's tackling a high dune, and decided to join in (dune driving is quite dangerous, as the sand can easily be steep enough to topple your vehicle over. For safety, you need either to walk where you want to drive, which I am far too lazy to do, or follow somebody who knows the area). One of the three looked very much like a Patrol. I made it to the top of the dune in one go and got chatting to the owner of the Patrol. Turned out he was the guide of this little tour, and they were on their way to Sandwhich. They were aiming to get there by 12, but since I had promised to be back in Swakop for lunch, I couldn't join them. However, they did persuade me to follow along up to the border of the Namib Naukluft park, and then come back along the beach. This turned out to be quite a fun and scenic drive.






Along the beach, there were a number of flocks of Cape Cormorant.
















There was also a dead hump-backed whale.


Back at camp, it seemed as if I could have taken the drive to Sandwhich after all, since the family had deserted me and only returned to camp at half past two...


Pied Wagtail:



And when they arrived, Megan realized that she had lost her phone somewhere, so back into town we headed. Unfortunately, no good samaritan had found it and handed it in, or even just left it where it was...


On the way back, we found a Pelican sitting on a lamp-post.



That evening, Gerrit treated us to dinner at Jetty 1905. This restaurant is stuck right at the end of the jetty. It also only opens at 6PM, so all the customers stand around taking selfies and sunsets. When in Rome...







Between mains and desert, I snuck out to the roof.



I must say, this is the best restaurant it has ever been my pleasure to dine in. The service was amazing and the food even better! Take note that you will need to book, and it's not cheap, but still good value I reckon.

Edited by Peter Connan
Link to comment
Share on other sites

All good stuff here Peter. Very enjoyable reading.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Just catching up on this report @@Peter Connan. The right superlatives fail me...


With all the detail and advice, you do a great service to future self-drivers.


Too many great bird photos to name individually - some really fine portraits. I especially like the Spotted Ground-Thrush (I am a sucker for spotted thrushes) and some of the Cormorant portraits are outstanding.


One minor bird ID correction - in post #84 those look like Little Stints to me, rather than Curlew Sandpipers. In flight, Curlew Sandpipers should show a rump that is white all the way across, instead of the thin dark line running down the middle that the Little Stints are showing. And the bill on the Stints is shorter, thicker and less decurved than Curlew Sandpipers would be.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Thanks @@PCNW and @@offshorebirder.


I really struggled with ID's this time, and am quite surprised that that is the first call for a correction. Especially some of the raptors i am quite uncomfortable with my ID's, and particularly in the upcoming sections on the Kgalagadi, and i would appreciate your help there...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Peter Connan great report, I'm really enjoying your Namibian safari!


Wonderful phoos of Walvis Bay and the dunes heading south to Sandwich Harbour.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Thanks @@Treepol

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Day 14:




The plan: Get to Blutkuppe (or Bloetkoppie). This was another relatively short day, but because I had so far been the only one to see any real dunes, we decided to detour via Dune 7 (which is just in-land of Walvisbay). At 383m, this is the highest dune in the world.


We made the mistake of trying to climb one of the near-by dunes in the heat (it was around 37 degrees C, which is perhaps not very hot as deserts go, but is very hot for this time of year and far too hot for unfit people like myself to undertake strenuous physical activity, and it left as all very tired and somewhat nauseous.










We then took a (dirt) road heading back north, parralel to the coast and next to the railway line. Some ways along, we realized that there was a tar road just on the other side of the railway line, so we crossed over to that.




Reaching the main road between Swakop and Windhoek, we turned in-land. The next 100km must be the most boring stretch of road (scenery-wise) in Namibia, but after turning off toward Blutkuppe, the scenery soon becomes a lot more interesting.


Blutkuppe itself is a single enormous boulder thrusting up from out of the ground. There are a number of basic campsites at the base of the hill, each one having a conctrete table and seats (similar to what one sees at roadside picnic spots), a fireplace and each two sharing a long-drop.


They were all deserted, and so we chose the flattest one.


The long-drop though was not useable, so, walking up amongs the rocks I came across this fellow:









I was here in large part to find a quiver tree, and after setting up camp and making sure everyone was settled in, I decided to take a drive around to scout the area.


Shortly after leaving camp, I found this little guy, crawling around in a bush and being very coy.

Karoo Eromomela



Again, there was a thunder-storm on the horison, and I set off in persuit (not really, this just happened to be the direction I wanted to go in)



One thing that kept astounding us about Namibia is how quickly the terrain can change radically. One moment you think you can see to the end of the world, the next it's all convoluted...





On the map I had seen a waterhole (called Klein Tinkas), whith an accompanying photo on Google Earth (which looked very inviting) and this is where I was headed. When I got to the end of the road, I found a grave (two German soldiers who passed here around the first world war), and an almost-dry river-bed.


I got out to explore on foot, but I never did find that water-hole.











Not far from the grave was an old stone shack.



As you can see from the shadows, it was time to head back to camp...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Peter Connan , Your trip report covers so many less visited but equally impressive Namibian sights! It gives us mere mortals (= drivers of a rental cars with limited insurance :( ) food for dreams <_< , and keeps Namibia on the list of the countries to be visited again and again. The photography is excellent, and it does not need any beauty treatments, IMHO.

Edited by xelas
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dave Williams


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Thank you very much @@xelas and @@Dave Williams


Not all rental drivers are as cautious and responsible as you Alex, as most of the vehicles we saw in the more forsaken areas were rentals.


However, i do not think tackling these areas in rentals is necessarily a problem. The chances of having an accident get smaller the more remote the area, as firstly the condition of the roads limits comfortable speeds to less dangerous levels, and you are less likely to run into an idiot doing something stupid.


However, it does become more necessary to have some skill at off-road driving, which may be more difficult to get in Eorope, but not impossible as there are thriving off-road communities at least in the UK, Poland and Russia if not elsewhere.


If travelling alone, the other requirement is to have a means of contacting an off-road recovery service. This too is no longer impossible, as there are a number of companies who rent out satelite phones.

However, having said this, the chances of having a breakdown in a rental (which are generally relatively new vehicles) are much reduced. Keep in mind that my car is 21 years old this year, and has over 350 000km under her belt, a lot of it very rough going indeed, and Gerrit's car only three years younger...

Edited by Peter Connan
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am listening with open ears, @@Peter Connan ! There will be many chances to improve on my off-road driving skills, at least from the passenger seat. Yet when we will do it, it will only be accompanied by another, well versed off-road driver. You know of any that would took us, to say, Kalahari ^_^ ?!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

@@xelas, I think I might be able to find somebody like that... :)


The reason I had been looking for quiver trees was to use them as a backdrop. Tonight would be dark moon, and the milky way core would just be starting to rise above the horizon.


There are a few quiver trees dotted around the area. The one I had chosen, was about 2km from camp, and around 400m from the road (note: this is part of Dorob National Park, so no off-road driving is allowed). On the way back to camp, I set up the camera to start taking a time-lapse sequence.


Unfortunately, I duffed the camera settings and thus have only a few stills to show for it.




I then proceeded back to camp, and joined in the braai.




After dinner, I went back to my camera.


Now for those who have never done this type of thing, I must just explain that darkness is almost critical. When making a time-lapse video at night, random lights can really spoil the effect. As a result, I approached my camera without switcing on my torch, and sat in darkness with only my thoughts to accompany me.



Note the light at the base of the hill on bottom right. That hill is Blutkuppe, and the light is our camp


Under such conditions, one's mind often starts playing tricks on you. As mentioned before, we were in the Dorob National Park, and while I hed not seen any mammals, I had seen enough tracks to realize that there are animals around. In the river-bed I had seen Zebra, Springbuck and Kudu tracks. And leopard too...


Now I am sitting there in the darkness, and I start imagining the leopard stalking me from behind. And suddenly, I actually hear a movement behind me! To hell with the photo, I am up and shining my torch in the blink of an eye!


Turned out, what was stalking me was a bat-eared fox. It had gotten so close to me that, if it had been a leopard, I would definately been dead. IT stood watching me from 2-3m for about half a minute, my best sighting of a bat-eared fox ever.







Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Peter Connan the Milky Way with a quiver tree is just fabulous! Did you paint the tree with a torch? As for the stalking animal, I would not dare to light my torch ...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

Thanks @@xelas.


Yes i did, but not shining directly into the tree. The torch was directed directly upwards, with my cupped hand behind it so that some light is reflected forward.


The result is almost completely invisible to the naked eye, but gives a nice warm and reasonably even light without blowing any highlights.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dave Williams

Fabulous shots of the Quiver Tree Peter.

I was told that Leopards wouldn't attack humans but I wouldn't want to give one the opportunity that's for sure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy