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Northern Namibia - July 2018


buddy4344

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buddy4344

I am back from Namibia a few weeks now and I’ve edited enough photos to write up a trip report. Our schedule was primarily a counter clockwise route around northern Namibia. Due to availability, we did a little zig zagging, but what’s a few hundred more km on a long trip anyway? Here was our basic schedule:

 

July 7 arrive in Windhoek and pick-up Hulu’s and Fortuner for group and one night at Utopia Boutique Guesthouse

July 8 – 9  Erindi - Old Traders Lodge for 2 nights With a goal of a couple of private game drives plus a morning visit to the local San bushman settlement

July 10 long drive to Rustig Toko Lodge for a simple overnight and a Himba settlement visit before heading out

July 11 - 12 Two nights at Etosha Heights staying in the new Safarihoek Lodge

July 13 Halali for one night

July 14 - 15 Two nights at Namutoni

July 16 Toshari Lodge

July 17, 18, 19 Khowarib Lodge for two nights planning a trip up Hoanib Riverbed and a visit to Sesfontein/Himba Settlement

July 20 one night at Spitzkoppe Lodge

July 21, 22, 23 Three nights stying in Swakopmund with boat trip at Walvis Bay

July 24 Naankuse for a night including visit with San bushman at night and also behind scenes and walk with caracal

July 25 overnight in Windhoek at Heinitzburg Hotel before flying out

July 26 return the two rental vehicles

 

Day 1 – The stay in Windhoek was uneventful. We did have a nice dinner at the on-premises Taste Academy.

 

Day 2 - Next morning we headed north. I like to stop in Okahandja at the local grocery store to buy a cooler, lots of water and some munchies for the group. It is about 70 km north of Windhoek. In addition, we picked up some maize and coffee for gifts to the Himba settlement. By mid-day we were at Erindi in plenty of time for the afternoon game drive. Prior to arrival, I had arranged a private vehicle for this afternoon as well as the following afternoon as well as a visit to San bushmeat that next morning. Lunch was a nice buffet while we watched giraffe come down to drink along with jackals on an old zebra carcass. Things are looking good. This first game drive began at 4, which I felt was too late. The drive was good, but not great as we did see female lions, giraffe, warthogs, impala and waterbuck, but our guide was not the most experienced and we ended doing a lot of off road running over bushes with not much to see. We finished the game drive far from the lodge, so the night game drive was a mad dash though the roads without searching for game and everyone was quite cold.

 

Day 3 - After breakfast, we visited the San bushman village at Erindi. This went well as my fellow travelers had never experienced this unique culture and people and everyone enjoyed the San’s stories of herbal medicines, poison arrows and tracking during hunting. Please note, the bushman experience is actually a ‘living museum’ experience as this group of San are from a distant, more western town. Erindi has an agreement that rotates villagers into Erindi every 3 to 6 months to provide this experience. In return, the village as a whole receives compensation from Erindi. While the hunting, fire making, etc. is a re-enactment, the San are true people who make every effort to preserve the ancient ways and share them with western visitors.

 

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As noted, I had another private game drive planned for the afternoon. I approached the management and asked if we could begin earlier as we were photographers and really didn’t expect much benefit from the night game drives. Our new guide, Bart (who was EXCELLENT) took us out at 3 pm. We quickly found cheetah at a wildebeest kill, two male lions on a zebra kill, and many other amazing sightings. Further, Bart’s knowledge of wildlife and way of explaining actions was amazing. I’ve been on safari over 30 times so I typically don’t expect to learn but a few things per game drive. This game drive revealed to me how little I know compared to this expert. We had a great time and saw a lot. Was it the ranger or the luck of the game drive? Probably a little of both as these trips are not to the zoo.

 

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Day 4 - I knew we would have close to a 5-hour drive to Rustig Toko, and one of our drivers (this was a self-drive trip) did not have experience driving on the left or on gravel, so we hit the road fairly early the next morning. We arrived around 3 pm. Winds were picking up, so we decided to pass on the optional night game drive and, instead focused on a nice dinner and several rounds of drinks at sundown. Toko was supposed to only be an ‘overnight stop’ and perhaps visit their locally supported Himba. I undersold this excellent location. The meals were excellent, the staff friendly and the eclectic outdoor decorations made this a very fun stop with a marvelous view from the hillside. BTW, Toko is a Herero word for Hornbill. This is a Damara Hornbill. It's the first time I have seen this species or hornbill.

 

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Day 5 - Today, the drive would be short, so I felt we would have time to visit the Himba settlement at Toko. I had low expectations. Wrong. It was an excellent visit. The children of the village were precious. The experience was ‘not touristy’, the ladies were pleasant and easy to photograph and the group learned a lot about the culture. The trip concluded with the obligatory ‘marketplace’ (I call these a selling circle). I don’t enjoy these, but my clients did and bought many souvenirs during this stop.

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We then drove onward a few hours to Etosha Heights and Safarihoek. I was really looking forward to this stay as I have spoken to friends living in South Africa the reported great sightings of eland and rhino as well as an excellent hide and beautiful lodge. The property shares a border with western Etosha and I know the barrier fence is down in several areas allowing for some migration between Etosha and the reserve.

 

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From the Hide

 

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Okay, the lodge and bungalows were some of the nicest I’ve ever stayed in. The food was excellent. The staff was very good and knowledgeable. The hide was one of the nicest I’ve visited outside of Zimanga in South Africa. Unfortunately, the wildlife didn’t cooperate. I knew this property was once hunted, but from reports, I though many species were chill at this point. No, not true. All game was quite skittish and approaches were quite difficult. If the fence between the two is taken down in the next years (which would make this more like Greater Kruger) and given a few more years for the animals to habituated this location could become a real jewel. I also was not wild about the design of the game drive vehicles. The Landcruiser still have the cab and each so shooting forward was very difficult. The roof above the viewing seats has numerous supports also blacking lines of sight and this also covers the back view of the vehicle (to decrease dust) making viewing behind the vehicle impossible. As a photographer, nervous, shy animals combined with bad vehicles for photographers means I probably won’t return for a few years. .... but this place does have potential and is a great lodge.

 

stay tuned for the next chapter of this trip (Etosha is coming up).

 

 

 

Edited by buddy4344
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buddy4344

Etosha - The road to Halali

 

Day 6, 7, 8, 9 - Off to Etosha - The original thinking was to book several days at Okaukuejo and several at Halali. I know these lodges, like the nearby waterholes and the night sightings at the lodge waterholes.

 

Due to some booking issues that I will skip, I ended up booking 1 night at Halali, 2 nights at Namutoni and 1 night near the Anderson gate at Toshari. I was a little concerned as i didn’t know the waterholes in the eastern area and do like those closer to Okaukuejo. I also saw Okaukuejo as a location where clients could spend a day if they were a bit burned out from all of the driving. Namibia is hard core driving and i just didn’t know if my group would need a break. It turns out they did not need a break and loved the accommodations at Etosha.

 

The bush chalet my clients and I had at Halali is the nicest room I have had at this NWR location. On previous stays, I have had a ‘double room’ which is not as nice by quite a bit.

 

Regarding the game viewing, since we were fairly early into the park, I knew we could 'game drive' our way to Halali, stopping at a few favorite waterholes. The first stop was Nabrownii and it may have been the best of the trip. when we arrived, I spotted some great dominance fighting among springbok and got the clients to shooting this action. It was good stuff.

 

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Remember, we were in two vehicles. For each, I had brought along a Garmin GPS loaded with Tracks4Africa maps and a private challen 2-way radio. The clients were clicking away at the Springbok and across the radio from the most inexperienced of our travelers came the call "Is that a lion in the distance?". I looked over and ... sure enough, there was a big male lion headed for the main road in the distance. I called out over the radio 'lets go' and we quickly re-positioned the vehicles with the lion coming straight toward us. No other tourist had spotted the cat at this time, so we had this sighting all to ourselves.

 

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The lion actually walked into a drainage culvert under the roadway next to our vehicle!

 

Since the sun was high, I knew he would be there for the afternoon, so it was time to move on. Near Salvadora waterhole, we found several zebra. Some were quite close to the road so I chose to 'be creative' with my 400mm lens.

 

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This would have been enough for our first day in Etosha, but more was to come. Further along, I spotted a black rhino near the road.

 

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Next we spotted some sleeping ostrich in a field.

 

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 Now it was time to head on over to Halali for check in and sundowners. Following dinner, I led the group to Moringa waterhole and we got a few night shots. I don't normally post locations for rhino, but anyone that's been to Etosha knows that the night often brings them to this well lit night waterhole and this night was no exception. My long lens is f/5.6 at 400mm and that means high ISO and low shutter speeds at night. I set the shutter speed to 1/4 second and got some good waterhole shots. The black rhino moved back to the bush and I panned at this slow 1/4 second shutter speed with him and got some acceptable results.

 

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Next up - onward to Namaoni

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DanielBme

Enjoying the trip report so far!  Great shots too!  Love the close up of the Znose.

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The_Norwegian

great stuff, can`t wait for the rest!

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Beautiful photo's thanks @buddy4344.

The male lion photo in post # 1 is a great shot.

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buddy4344
On 8/17/2018 at 4:59 AM, The_Norwegian said:

great stuff, can`t wait for the rest!

 

13 hours ago, Hads said:

Beautiful photo's thanks @buddy4344.

The male lion photo in post # 1 is a great shot.

 Thanks for commenting. I'm planning on getting the next chapter up today. This will be a lot of photos as it's all central Etosha.

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buddy4344

We left Halali and headed further east toward our eventual loding at Namutoni. The first stop was at Goas. I remembered this waterhole from my prior trip and knew it to be very active in the early morning, especially with zebra. This trip was no exception. We had a lot of zebra herds coming, drinking and moving on. It seemed like each group had a scheduled time as when one herd left, it was immediately replaced with another herd. 

 

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There are two things I like about Goas from a photography standpoint. The first is that their are two great parking/viewing areas, one on each side of the waterhole. This allows for different compositions and also to adjust based on the light at different times of the day. The other thing that strikes me at Goas is how comfortable the wildlife is with our vehicles. Maybe it's the strong desire to get to water or maybe it's just that they have accepted they have to pass the vehicles to get to water. Regardless, they get close, allowing for some more creative compositions and I do like playing with these.

 

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As noted before, there are two sides to the parking area. I actually like traveling over to the side where I shoot into the sun so that I can look for rim lighting like on the shot below. T achieve this, I intentionally under expose and focus on parts of the animal with longer or irregular hairs.

 

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In addition to the zebra, there were also quite a number of black faced impala. As this is a threatened species on the IUCN Red List. Poaching, livestock development and severe drought are main factors contributing to the decline of Black-faced Impala. The reintroduction of 180 individuals from Kaokoland to the west of Etosha National Park between 1968 and 1971 helped promote the conservation of the Black-faced subspecies. Another threat is the introduction of Common Impala to ranches and conservancies neighboring Etosha National Park may represent a threat to the Black-faced Impala through hybridization.

 

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On one of my future trips to Etosha, I wouldn't mind spending many hours at Goas including some time near dusk as I suspect the dust and the late afternoon light will be spectacular.

 

I have more images, but enough on this water hole. Time for our little journey to head north and east toward our next stops. Stay tuned for more!

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buddy4344

Our group really had no specific water holes planned for eastern Etosha as I had never been any further east than Goas. We were basically just driving the road looking for sightings with a plan to ‘pop in’ each time we saw an upcoming waterhole along the way.

 

Near Springbokfontein, we ran into a ‘road block’ the likes of which I’ve never witnessed before. A continuous ‘stream’ of zebras. The animals were walking one after another in the road and, at times, in the grass adjacent to the roadway. When I note ‘stream’, I mean a column of zebra stretching for OVER 2 km! They walked head to tail, head to tail in single file. We didn’t count the numbers, but if spacing was a head every 10 meters, that would be over 200 animals … and I really think there were many more than that. It took me a few minutes to comprehend the sight, but once I did, I decided capturing the column was the best way for me to shoot this rather than individual animals.

 

As the sun was incredibly bright and hot on this day, I felt that post processing in a 'high key' fashion really captured the mood of the day so I will share two in this style as well as a few 'normally processed'.

 

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I will admit that I did try both pan shots and individual animals during this sighting, but, for me, the lines of animals were the best of what I got for this sighting.

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I'm going to let this event have it's own 'chapter' as this was just that special in my memory. Next up.... more from eastern Etosha.

 

Edited by buddy4344
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xelas

Another great report, Buddy! How much does the fact tha5 you are responsible for your group affected your photography, and your journry in general?

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buddy4344
3 hours ago, xelas said:

Another great report, Buddy! How much does the fact tha5 you are responsible for your group affected your photography, and your journry in general?

 

That's a great question. It's also why I try to go to Africa without clients or add time while in Africa to lodges just for me. For example, I went to the Kalahari 2 years ago with other guides for 2 weeks and then last year I went to see the zebra migration in the Makgadkgadi Pans and Boteti river after the clients had finished their safari and went home.

 

Leading a group has a few benefits, but many drawbacks related to my photography. 

1) I always give the clients the best angles in the vehicle and best seats. In Etosha, we use smaller vehicles, so when someone is in the passenger seat next to you and the animal is on their side of the vehicle, you have very limited shooting angles and many rejects due to parts of the car/backie or the client's arm in the way. In more traditional game drive vehicles, like you see in private reserves around the Kruger, I sit next to the guide. I love the low angle, but the limited room means I can only bring limited equipment and also can really only shoot ahead or to one side. Meanwhile, I have a rule of max. 2 clients per row, so they have a nice wide row and space between them for gear and also to more easily shoot from either side.

2) If the client is less experienced (often) then you have your camera away from your eye as you coach the clients on settings or explain a technique.

3) I've seen a lot, so I'm okay with waiting for a 'special moment'. Some type of gesture or action. Less experienced folks are often impatient so you really have to a) watch their body language and b) listen for clicking to stop to decide when it's time to move to the next sighting.

4) Last but not least, many clients have 'wish lists' that you are constantly stressing out trying to find that special subject on their bucket list. In May It was a leopard in a tree. I found that on the last day. In July, it was seeing a caracal or pangolin. Believe it or not, I actually checked off both.

 

On the other hand, I get to go to Africa 3 or 4 times a year. I also get to have the most input on where we go and when we go. Of course, it's the clients' trips, but by listening to them and knowing much of southern Africa, I then tailor it to hit some of their list while also going somewhere interesting to me.

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buddy4344

Namutoni and surrounding area

 

On the rest of the drive to Namutoni, we had several more good sightings. These included a few ostrich quite near the road and a few more zebras out on the edges of the vast dry pan. The zebra shots really allowed us to share how open and desolate the pan is. I'm still constantly amazed how one can gaze out into the pans and distant thermals to see a mirage of water shimmering with aqua, green and blue tones that look like one is at the ocean. The soil of the pan supports very little plant life except for the blue-green algae that gives the Pan the characteristic coloring.  

 

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The chalet at Namutoni was also beautiful. By the way, meals at both locations were a slight upgrade from the past .  As noted earlier, I have not been to the Namutoni area and always thought this are to be weaker game viewing than the central areas of Etosha. This trip changed my mind and I will return to Namutoni.

 

Namutoni area exceeding my expectations. Both in the pans as well as along the road and at the bore holes we saw a lot of wildlife. One favorite for me was the tiny Damara Dik-Dik we saw along Dik-Dik Drive. We must have seen a dozen and they were quite comfortable with being near our vehicles. This one literally walked right up to my door.

 

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Other favorite waterholes were Klein Namutoni, which was easy to visit at the start and end of game drives as it’s only a few km from the lodge and Chudob, which had excellent giraffe, kudu, impala and elephant in the area.

 

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In Particular, I love having the clients try to catch the "S curve" of water that trails the giraffe mouth when it lifts it's head from the water. I will admit, I'm not good at that shot either, but also enjoy giving it a try.

 

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We caught the tail end (literally) of a group of elephants at Klein Namutoni and while I prefer not to shoot at this angle, we had not seen many ellies, so we did take a few shots. I tried making this into some 'story telling' byI focusing on a bull dusting and then chasing after the small breeding herd.

 

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On our last time to Klein Namutoni, we were lucky enough to catch two giraffe neck fighting. The fight probably lasted over 30 minutes with no clear winner. We took some photos, but I also encouraged my group to take video as I find that this activity is often hard to capture in a still image and shows better with video.

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I've inserted an awful lot of photos in this post, so I think I will save Fischer Pan as well at the drive back westward for the next chapters. I hope you will continue to follow.

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xelas

Thanks for your comments on guiding, @buddy4344! While it is nice to be able to visit Africa and not having any costs, it is a job, and even the best job is not as good as when you are on holidays ^_^.

 

 

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buddy4344

The End at Namutoni before we headed back to Anderson Gate

 

On the morning of our last day, we revisited some of the locations west of Namutoni including Chudob, Klein Namutoni and out to Okerfontein. I can’t recall, but we may have also have hit Ngobib. I feel I had two highlights on this morning. One was a second encounter with the 'White ghosts". This started as a distant encounter and ended as a close encounter. I love these big bulls. The other was some amazing views of the pan itself, including animal trails heading out into the pan. Just drop dead gorgeous nothingness. We also ostrich, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest. Here are a few select images from that morning.

 

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And, of course, the morning ended with even more zebras. I thought this view would be an appropriate 'end' for our morning.

 

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In addition, I really loved the ring road drive around Fischer Pan. We drove this route on our last afternoon at Namutoni In addition to looping once more to Klein Namutoni. Here we had a lot of fun watching ostrich go through a lengthy mating ritual culminating with 30 seconds of sheer bliss for the couple and followed by the male immediately running off into the distance. On this drive we also had some excellent giraffe sightings including several young animals.

 

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The Male Courtship Dance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On this side of the park we also had an excellent black rhino sighting; however, at one point, I was not sure we weren’t going to sustain substantial damage from the big guy as he decided to give out second vehicle a close inspection (and the driver in that vehicle had extremely limited Africa bush experience), but all ended well.

 

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 I have to admit, I left Namutoni with a great feeling about this lodge and the waterholes in close proximaty. I don't have it book on my next Namibia trip and that's a shame as the sightings in this part of the park were top notch during this July trip. 

One more 'Etosha Chapter', the Road to Anderson Gate is next. I hope you stay with my tale.

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The Road to Anderson Gate

 

All of this sound great; however, we did have a day where the winds from the east were strong, leaving visibility limited and there for making photography more difficult. This one on our last full day of Etosha. The wildlife was not significantly affected, just the photography. Normally, on safari, wind is one of your biggest enemies. In areas like Kruger's lowveld, on windy days, animals are extremely nervous and stay deeper in the brush. I understand that this is because it's more challenging for prey animals like impale, kudu, etc. to sense directions of smell and noise direction is also a challenge. The problem for humans at Etosha is different. Since much of the landscape is  open and water is so limited, the animals really have no place to hunker down and they need the water. The problem for us is that the dust really limits visibility and also can create problems with changing lenses on cameras. Despite these challenges, I feel we really came through that day with some excellent images.

 

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In particular, our revist to Nabrownii led to some very nice 'sense of place' landscapes with wildlife. BTW, a client from my May trip noted that I shot many more of the this style of shot on this trip vs. when I took him to Timbavati. He is correct. I think it's a combination of factors that led to this including a) the open setting cried out to be photographed wide and b) not being able to off-road track means the animals are often a bit further away.

 

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My plan was for us to arrive back at Okaukuejo at lunchtime, shoot a bit at that waterhole as well as catch lunch and then head up to my favorite photographic waterhole, Okondeka. The good news and bad news is that we didn't arrive at Okaukuejo until after 1 pm. This was because we had so many nice sightings prior to that. First we ate, then we shot Okaukuejo.  It was extremely active and reminded me how much I had wanted at least one day at this lodge. Unfortunately, the light was quite harsh and the background of the large rocks in that area seemed more pronounced in the images than usual. Bottom line, in my opinion, this waterhole is better earlier or later, but not mid-day. To avoid the distracting background, I found the best shots wre ones where the animals were on my side of the waterhole or literally in the water.

 

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One of the things you learn to do as group leader is look at body language. As my group photographed Okaukuejo, I could tell they were tired. They loved the sightings, but didn't seem to have the energy to re-position around the waterhole to get the more powerful compositions. Considering time of day, distance to Okondeka and the return drive to our next lodging at Toshari, I decided to call it a day for the group after Okaukuejo. Yep, I skipped Okondeka even though I wanted to go there. We headed south to Toshari. The lodge is about 15 km south of Anderson Gate. It has a spectacular main lodge building with numerous areas to lounge/sit, a beautiful pool and a bar that I confirmed stocks gin and tonic. The rooms are also fabulous, however, the view is limited. What you loose in view you make up for in isolation from other rooms. We had another great meal though it was a buffet and I do prefer being served. As I stated Spectacular Lodge! .... but would I have rather have been inside of the park at Okaukuejo with their good and bad rooms and limited menu? Yes, staying in the park is better.

 

Next up: The long drive to Khowarib Lodge..

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Drive to Khowarib Lodge

 

I knew this would be a long drive going from Toshari, which is just south of Anderson Gate, all of the way to Khowarib. I had the lodge prepare pack lunches. I considered re-entering Etosha and exiting the western gate, but decided the drive would be too long. I was right in my planning as the trip. Everyone loved driving the Grootberg pass and the views along the way . Soon after the Pass, we stopped for lunch at a location where I've photographed before. I'm not sure if these rocks have a name, but others clearly like this little koppe as I've also seen variations of this on calendars for sale in Namibian gift shops. When I shoot this scene, the side I shoot from is totally dependent on sun direction/time of day. This day the sun was almost overhead so we really had the option of shooting from either side.

 

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Along the drive, we saw a few interesting small settlements, lots of goats, some warthogs and raptors and even a giraffe or two.

 

With a few stops for photos it took us 6 hours to get to within 15 km of Khowarib. It should have been a little less, but we had a small problem early - one of us forgot something back at the lodge, so we had to back-track about 60 km to go pick up the item.  This was a medication, so going back really wasn't an option but a 'must do'.  It could have been worse as the item could have been detected once at Khowarib. Note that I wrote 'within 15 km of Khowarib'. That's where we came to a full stop with a blowout of one of the tires on the Fortuner. The blow out totally destroyed one tire on the Fortuner and we did not have two spares. I’m glad we paid attention on how to get the spare down on this vehicle and within 30 min. We finished out drive in time for sundowners at Khowarib Lodge. I really like this lodge as it is along a Hoanib (pronounced "wan-ib") River, has a remote feeling yet is close to Sesfontein and the Hoanib Riverbed where we search for desert elephants. Also, being near Sesfontein, we are into 'Himba and Herero Country', so clients get a chance to see the people of these unique cultures. The plan for Khowarib was:

  • one morning visiting a Himba settlement
  • one afternoon visiting and photographing Herero in Sesfontein
  • one full day driving the Hoanib Riverbed looking for desert wildlife including elephants, oryx, mountain zebra, baboons and even a lion or leopard.
  • On last day, the drive would be a long one to Spitzkoppe Mountain.

My plan fell through with that flat tire. It's just too dangerous to go far in northern Namibia without a spare and the HiLux wheels are a different diameter than those on the Fortuner, however, I do think it is the same bolt pattern. I contacted Avis and they were able to arrange for me to schedule a drive back to Palmwag to have the tire changed out. Looking at the schedule, I decided we would give up our time with the Himba and I would take that afternoon to drive back to Palmwag. The clients were okay with this as they were happy to have an extra afternoon of rest after the long drive and to explore the beauty around Khowaib Lodge. One client volunteered to make the drive to Palmwag with me. It's always great to have a 2nd person when traveling the gravel roads of Namibia.  I will jump ahead and note that I was very smart in that I chose to drive the HiLux back to Palmwag with the Fortuner spare in the back. I did this in case I had a flat tire on this fairly short 70 km drive. Believe it or not, I got within 2 km of Palmwag and had a puncture on the HiLux! One more tire change and I arrived at Palmwag.

 

The repair at Palmwag turned out to be an easy event as the service and repair crew for Palmwag Lodge was prompt and courteous. . While the tire was being replaced and the punctured tire repaired, the lodge manager gave me a tour of Palmwag (where I will be staying one night in October), we had an excellent lunch poolside and I also got to meet the lodge owner, Fritz. If you travel Africa, you can never have too many contacts so this worked well. I easily made it back to Khowarib for my sunset gin and tonic!

 

Next, we step back a few hours and share the visit with the Himba settlements near Sesfontein.

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The Himba Settlement and 'The Himba Maiden'

 

We had a very nice dinner that first night at Khowarib. During that time, I got to meet the new lodge manager, Anton. He was most helpful in some minor lodging adjustments we needed and also took the time to review my activities plan with me. I was please to learn that the lodge had some new vehicles for our excursions and also that Archie Gawusab would be my guide. I had worked with Archie on my prior trips and we meshed well. Archie is a very interesting individual. He was raised in Sesfontein, but had studies in the U.S. some and visited many of the U.S. National Parks. He has a passion for nature and a deep knowledge of the region.

 

The first full morning at Khowarib and I had an early morning trip to visit the Himba settlement outside of Sesfontein. I've visited this settlement before. Unlike the Himba we visited at Toko, this settlement is really about 6 settlements positioned next door to one another. The agreement with the lodge was for us to visit one specific 'family' and members of the neighboring settlement come to this location so that we have many people at one location. On my prior visit to these people in 2016, I had brought along some photos of Himba I had downloaded from the internet to use as 'examples of positions' for photo compositions. On that trip, the Himba ladies really enjoyed seeing my example photos and recognized some relatives. Here is one photo of them 'taking over my photos' from that last trip. I believe I shared that photo on this site on that past trip report.

 

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Knowing that this had been such a hit with the Himba before, I took many of my photos from the prior trip and created 4 inch by 6 inch photos which I placed into a small album as a gift to the village. In addition to this, several of my travelers, in anticipation of our visit had brought baby blankets, coffee and maize as gifts for the village. For me, there was one more very special moment I was looking forward to. In my 'corporate days' I worked with a gentleman named Steve Scheuring. At the time, I did not know he was an accomplished painter. When I shared my Himba images on FaceBook after my prior trip, Steve was excited about painting one of the images. specifically a picture of a young Himba I titled "The Himba Maiden". Here is my original photo and a copy of the painting by Steve Scheuring.

 

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Steve's painting is 3 feet tall and is a beautiful and respectful image of the Himba people. Steve offered to give me a giclee of the original image. I explained to Steve that I planned a return to Namibia in July 2018 and that I would love this gift but only if we could also make a smaller print for me to give to this young girl and her family. Without hesitation, Steve had a smaller giclee produced for the girl with the caveat that I had to take photos of me with the girl. No problem and my honor!  Steve didn't understand the size of Himba homes and printed slightly larger than I would have preferred, but I was still honored to be taking this image back to Namibia along with my album of village photos.

 

Upon arrival at the village, I learned that, unfortunately the young girl's mother was away at Purros at a relative funeral; however the young girl was there. Here is a photo of my with the young girl. I have the print wrapped in clear plastic to protect it from dust and the sunlight is causing some glare on the print. The entire village was awestruck at this painted likeness. A big thank you to Steve.

 

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I mentioned that I also brought a very small photo album of my last trip as a gift. I think every lady in the settlement and all of the children looked at the photos, smiled, laughed, pointed at each other and had a pure joy at seeing themselves recorded on photos. I gave this album to the lady identified by others as the senior woman of the group. I will wonder how they shared this as time passes. I photographed the scene with a 16mm wide angle lens holding my camera out and above the group as they looked at each page.

 

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In addition to our gifts, we had the chance to photograph. That is why we went in the first place. I had planned this trip as early morning because I wanted to avoid the harsh light. Impossible. The light in Namibia is very strong and the contrast of the villagers and the surroundings too great. That said, here are a few of the images I captured during the trip. First a few I processed to look like old photos as I wanted to convey the timeless way of life they have led until recently.

 

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I have enjoyed my time with the Himba, but know change is in the wind. Already, I see signs of modern comforts: a small photovoltaic cell on the roof of one home, earbuds in the ears of a youth, etc. I"ve read many papers on this subject and am torn. Education and job training will bring a higher quality of life in many ways, yet, if they are not careful, some of the heritage will also get lost in the modernization. I do not judge, but I really expect this way of life to be gone within 20 years except for 're-enactment' shows.

 

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You will noted several unique aspects of the Himba. I will not get into everything, but will note that the gap in the teeth is created by the Himba as a sign of beauty. Himba women especially, as well as Himba men, are remarkably famous for covering themselves with otjize paste, a cosmetic mixture of butterfat or animal fat and ochre pigment, to cleanse the skin over long periods due to water scarcity.  More and more, I was told they value Vaseline Petroleum Jelly instead of butterfat for the mixture This also  protects themselves from the extremely hot and dry climate as well as against  insect bites. The cosmetic mixture, often perfumed with the aromatic resin of the omuzumba shrub, gives their skin and hair plaits have a distinctive orange or red-tinge characteristic, as well as texture and style. Otjize is considered foremost a highly desirable aesthetic beauty cosmetic, symbolizing earth's rich red color and blood the essence of life, and is consistent with the OvaHimba ideal of beauty. The large hair at the end of the plaits originally were extensions made from cattle hair. Today, many of these extensions are synthetic fibers bought in the local towns.

 

As I hope you can see, the Himba are happy. They depend on tourist money from selling some crafts, from farming cattle and goats and from some government money. Many of the children now go to western style schools.

 

Well, that is a few of my Himba photos. Next chapter: The Search for Desert Elephants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Search for Desert Elephants

 

The Hoanib is one of the 12 seasonal rivers in the west of Namibia, where it was the border between northern Damaraland and Kaokoland. Its length is 270 km. With the low population density, the oasis character of the river valley and the relatively high wildlife population of Hoanib, together with the Hoarusib its valley is one of the last true wilderness areas in Namibia, one of the last settlements of desert elephants. Trekking along the riverbed, one sees giant sand dunes, sheer cliffs, open plains, narrow passages, areas of lush vegetation, and areas of erosion from strong wind and water. It’s a visual paradise.

 

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While our vehicles could make this trip, the client’s driving have limited deep sand experience and I have limited knowledge of the valleys, so I arranged with Khowarib to have Archie Gawusab drive us in the open Khowarib game drive Land Cruiser. This is where Archie’s knowledge shines as he selects trails going up down the riverbed.

 

We enter the riverbed just north of Sesfontein. One must pay a small fee with proceeds going to the conservancy and you are in. There are only 2 lodges in the area, both owned by Wilderness Safaris. The newest opened just this year. My understanding is that Wilderness Safaris has an exclusive 25-year lease on the area for lodges. In theory one could take this trail all of the way to the Skeleton Coast; however, we typically turn back at the entrance of the Skeleton Coast region. It’s a full day. You depart at sunrise and return to Khowarib around 5 pm.

 

On our trip we had excellent luck finding giraffe, good luck finding oryx and poor luck finding elephants. At the start of our trip, Archie had warned me that the larger elephant herds were traversing grounds closer to the Skeleton Coast and that we may have trouble find them if they continued west … which apparently, they were doing. We did, however find one bull elephant.

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We also found quite a number of giraffes and for my American guests, that is always a treat. We found tracks of lion. And we saw more oryx, which I must admit is one beautiful antelope.

 

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We also had several good sightings of baboons. I really liked watching these playing on the edge of a rocky cliff. I haven't gotten around to processing many of these shots, but they are quite clear in my memory as they were quite active. We probably should have spent even more time with them, but we were in search of the elephants.

 

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Beside the above mentioned, we also saw a  little steenbok, which surprised me as I would not have expected this little antelope out in such an open area of sand.

 

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Many may asked why this experience is different than seeing animals in reserves such as Etosha and it's a good question. In general, this is a wilder place. A place with fewer visitors and animals not as habituated, but they also have not been hunted in many years as they are not overly nervous. The scenery here makes the trip worthwhile and possibility of desert elephants or even more rare desert lions makes this a true safari into the unknown. I love this area.

 

Next up: The Spitzkoppe and Spitzkoppen Lodge

 

Edited by buddy4344
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xelas
13 hours ago, buddy4344 said:

The repair at Palmwag turned out to be an easy event as the service and repair crew for Palmwag Lodge was prompt and courteous

 

Buddy, you might have noticed a post on TA about "tyre scam" that apparently is going on in Palmwag. Have you been told about anything similar; we regulars found this highly unlikely but you are the last person I know being in that area.

 

 

12 hours ago, buddy4344 said:

I think every lady in the settlement and all of the children looked at the photos, smiled, laughed, pointed at each other and had a pure joy at seeing themselves recorded on photos.

 

Bringing printed photos from previous trips is working miracles everywhere! Even if they are on iPad or similar, folks love to see themselves or their relatives. And your photos are truly artistic ones.

 

 

12 hours ago, buddy4344 said:

I had planned this trip as early morning because I wanted to avoid the harsh light. Impossible.

 

Harsh light is fact of life in Namibia, But in early months, like April or May, light looked to be a bit more softer, to my eyes. Have you tried to use C-PL filter to "soften" the midday light? On the other hand, your "harsh light" photos does depict the animals in their natural setting quite vividly. It is a harsh world out there, both for humans and for animals.

 

 

7 hours ago, buddy4344 said:

The Hoanib is one of the 12 seasonal rivers in the west of Namibia, where it was the border between northern Damaraland and Kaokoland.

 

If luck will be with us, we might explore this one, and other wonders of Kakokoland on our next visit to Namibia. I am already excited about the prospects and sights shown on your photos.

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Thanks for commenting, @Xelas.

 

5 hours ago, xelas said:

 

Buddy, you might have noticed a post on TA about "tyre scam" that apparently is going on in Palmwag. Have you been told about anything similar; we regulars found this highly unlikely but you are the last person I know being in that area.

 

 

I do recall something about Palmwg and tyres. This is what I can report. My tire was destroyed. I called Avis with my location. They researched options and then directed me to Palmwag. At Palmwag, I wend to the lodge front desk where the manager directed me to drive around to the motor pool/mechanic area. He met me there and introduced me to the man to do the repairs. I watched as he inflated the tire with only a puncture and leak checked in water. The location was in the tread area and obvious. He told me it would be no problem to patch that tire. This is when the owner, Fritz appeared and said Avis had contacted him on my destroyed tire and they had a new spare for me. I had to pay for the patched tire. As I recall, it was around the equivalent of U.S. $30. The destroyed tire replacement was directly charged to Avis and I was given a copy of the paperwork. When I turned my vehicles in at Avis, they charged an additional U.S. $135 for the replacement tire. My thought was that this was too cheap and I would get a new, larger invoice later. That did not happen, this was my only charge. Once home, I contacted American Express Insurance with a claim for the tires. This was rejected as tire damage was not covered and they showed me the paragraph in the agreement where it was clearly stated. End of story.

 

5 hours ago, xelas said:

Bringing printed photos from previous trips is working miracles everywhere! Even if they are on iPad or similar, folks love to see themselves or their relatives. And your photos are truly artistic ones

 

Yes, the power of a photograph is amazing. I will continue to do this on locations I return to and share this as a tip for others.

 

5 hours ago, xelas said:

Harsh light is fact of life in Namibia, But in early months, like April or May, light looked to be a bit more softer, to my eyes. Have you tried to use C-PL filter to "soften" the midday light? On the other hand, your "harsh light" photos does depict the animals in their natural setting quite vividly. It is a harsh world out there, both for humans and for animals

 

I did not try a filter. I did take several shots with the subject looking away from the sun and use a reflector to bring light onto their face. You can probably tell on shots where I did this. Better would have been to have the subjects in shade, but the only trees had mixed light coming through and I would rather have full shade or full light and not a mix. I think going right at dusk may work well, but don't know if they allow visitors at the end of the day.

 

5 hours ago, xelas said:

 

If luck will be with us, we might explore this one, and other wonders of Kakokoland on our next visit to Namibia. I am already excited about the prospects and sights shown on your photos

 

I have a return 3 week trip coming up in October. On that trip, I Have a camping company meeting us a Palmwag and taking us up the Hoanib and then to the northwest to the region around Purros. The night sky will be moonless, so I also hope to get some good night shots when this remote. I know you have been several times before, but with every trip to Namibia there is more to explore. For example, my next post on this 'story' will be Spitzkoppe and I was amazed at how much my guest and I loved this location.

Edited by buddy4344
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Peter Connan

$30 for patching a puncture! That's a rip-off! On the other hand, the replacement tire was really cheap, well done to Avis (and presumably Palmwag) for that.

 

I wish I could accompany you on your October trip, but Actober may just be a little late in the year for good milky way shots, so be prepared to turn a lot of them into star trails?

 

Thanks for a great report so far.

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buddy4344
2 hours ago, Peter Connan said:

$30 for patching a puncture! That's a rip-off! On the other hand, the replacement tire was really cheap, well done to Avis (and presumably Palmwag) for that.

@Peter Connan, your comment led me to check my receipts. Actually I paid US$42 on my AMEX and that included lunch (2 sandwiches for us), a couple of Coca Cola's and the puncture repair., so my guess of $30 is within a few bucks. By U.S. standards, it is fair, but when I look at what I paid in Kazangula to 'the goat man' to fix a puncture back in 2006, it's high. then I paid for the repair kit (about $2 US) and bought the guy a Coke. That was all he wanted. :D

 

2 hours ago, Peter Connan said:

Actober may just be a little late in the year for good milky way shots, so be prepared to turn a lot of them into star trails?

 

Okay, I need some explanation to your comment. Here in the northern Hemisphere, we do have to watch time of year very closely as the galactic core is only visible after midnight during certain times of year. In 2016, I shot the Milky Way in Namibia, but silt flowing from the Skeleton Coast obscured the view so shots were not as good as I get in S.A. In this case, I'm assuming you mean that we are approaching the rains that start in Oct./Nov. and may have clouds or moisture in the air preventing clear shots? Anything you can share to make me better prepared is appreciated. BTW, Star trails at Sossusvlei would be quite cool and I am staying at Sossus Dune Lodge so I think I can stay a little later than most?

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Peter Connan

@buddy4344, here in the southern hemisphere, the core is also only visible above the horizon for a certain portion of the year. In our case, it is the winter months, basically from April to early September. Our best time of the year is mid-winter. This has the advantage that it also co-insides with the longest nights, but with the disadvantage that it gets flipping cold (at least by our standards, if not yours). So no, nothing to do with the rainy season.

 

My recommendation: either down-load Stellarium (which is a free computer program), or buy the Photo Pills app for you tablet or mobile. Either of these show you which objects will be visible at what time and date, in which direction and so forth. Of the two, Photo Pills is probably better and includes lots of additional features as well, and at just $10, it is reasonably priced too (much cheaper than a puncture in Namibia apparently).

 

To put the cost of that in perspective, to repair the puncture you describe should take no longer than 10 minutes (including finding your repair kit). A semi-skilled laborer can expect to earn at most $10/hour...

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Dave Williams

Great report Buddy, usual excellent photography and plenty of information too.

January 2017 I was informed I had a puncture whilst sat at breakfast at Grootberg Lodge, an offer was made to repair it for me which I accepted. 200NR which is what you'd pay in the UK.

I never saw or asked where the puncture was, it did cross my mind they could have just let the tyre down , guess I'll never know for sure but hopefully it was a genuine puncture!

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buddy4344
7 hours ago, Peter Connan said:

 

My recommendation: either down-load Stellarium (which is a free computer program), or buy the Photo Pills app

@Peter Connon, Thanks for the clarification. I knew the earth wobbles and tilts, so knew the times and visibility change, but since Southern Cross in within the Milky Way, I assumed a good bit was always visible. Actually at the advice of someone else, I downloaded Photo Pills about a week ago. Quite powerful. It showed that the Galactic core will be visible from sunset until about mid-night, so I assumed I was okay. Am I missing a key issue? Again, thanks for any input.

 

2 hours ago, Dave Williams said:

whilst sat at breakfast at Grootberg Lodge

 

@Dave Williams, isn't Grootberg Lodge an amazing place! What a view. The folks there have helped me with advice before and seemed quite honest and sincere. I prefer to think you really had a small puncture and let it be history, but it never hurts to keep one's eyes wide open for that occasional person that will take advantage of a stranger.

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buddy4344

The Spitzkoppe and Spitzkoppen Lodge

 

We left Khowarib with another long drive ahead. Our destination was Spitzkoppe and specifically the Spitzkoppen Lodge. Once more, we took along pack lunches. We stopped a few times at roadside Herero and Himba stands near to buy some souvenirs. As I recall, these were fairly close to the junction of C43 and C39. There must have been a hundred stands within a distance of 20 km. This was actually good as the tire issue had prohibited the clients from getting to photo Herero back in Sesfontein.

 

A small warning and advice. The GPS and my directions from the travel agent was to take a ‘short cut’ on the D2612. Anton, the manager at Khowarib has a home in Uis and both he and his wife separately warned me that this road is really rough and it is actually just a quick and more comfortable to take the C39 to the C 35 intersection instead, passing through Khorixas.

 

We still arrived at Spitzkoppen around 3 pm. I only booked one night there. My mistake. This place was gorgeous. I loved the grounds, the lodge and the lighting at night. Next time I stay there it will be for at least 2 nights. Both the lodge and the chalets are designed somehwhat like a bedoin tent. The rooms were modern, yes with an Africa flair. The lodge is nestled into the rocks of a mountain.

 

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Happy clients on their private porch

 

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The Bar overlooking the pool and viewing west

 

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The pool at sunset

 

The rock formations really brought out the abstract ‘fine art side’ of me and I would have been happy photographing there for days.

 

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After a nice dinner, we went off to bed, but first I had to take one photo from my deck of my chalet. It faced west, so no Milky Way, but still plenty of stars. When I awoke before sunrise I had to take another photo as it was that breathtaking.

 

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We did the tour the next morning that included seeing Spitzkoppe at sunrise, the famed arch, the San bushmen drawings, etc. The ancient bushmen paintings were a piece of history everyone enjoyed, but they are very difficult to photograph. The arch looks 'small' from the ground level, but as you climb up it seems to grow! This was just our group and was nicely organized. As this is an early morning event, we did not fit the standard breakfast schedule, so they had a custom breakfast for us upon our returned. We left Spitzkoppen Lodge around noon for our fairly short drive to Swakopmund.

 

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Next Chapter: The Coastal Cities of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay

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