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Namibia Oct to Nov 2011


bushwalker
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Safe 4x4 Self Drive Namibia

 

Namibia is not known well to the average Brit, no one flies there direct from London to Windhoek, and so after a squeezed legroom flight in Coach on BA from Heathrow to JoBurg, we luckily bagged the Emergency Exit seats from JoBurg to Windhoek on South African Airways.

 

20th October

 

So after leaving London on a brisk autumn evening at 1900h we eventually got to our 4x4 rental company the following day at lunchtime in the dry hairdryer heat of Windhoek.

 

Bettina and her colleagues at Camping Car Hire www.camping-carhire.com did a professional job of handing over our entry level two seater 4x4 camping vehicle, the 99,000 km on the clock worried us slightly, but the vehicle has been expertly maintained and realising that the whole of the UK could fit into Namibia 4 times over, the odometer reading was insignificant in the great scheme of things.

 

Loaded up, we headed west of the city to our first overnight stay at Hohewartes Guest Farm www.hohewarte.com .We were greeted on our arrival by dogs that in our nanny state of the UK would be banned under the “dangerous dogs act” but they were incredibly friendly after some vigorous petting by the car doors.

 

Our hosts, Heike and Magnus and their “wolunteer” made us feel welcome into their fine Edwardian abode. Formally a German military outpost, then a police station and then a post office, and now a 2 star 10400 hectare Guest Farm, it’s been lovingly renovated by its owners and we were surprised at its 2 star rating, it should be graded higher IMHO.

 

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21st October

 

We left Hohewarte to drive the 500km north up the B1 to our first campsite north of Grootfontein simply called Roy’s rest camp. The road north was all tar and probably the best road we’ve driven outside South Africa, but our well loaded Nissan 4x4 was a little gutless and struggled to hit the 120 kph speed limit, so it happily cruised at 100kph until we hit an incline at which it rapidly dropped to 80kph, but we had time so didn’t mind. We arrived at Roy’s in the sweltering 35C afternoon heat.

 

Roy’s Restcamp www.roysrestcamp.com resembles a boneyard of scrapped trucks and half demolished buildings but this is all part of the “shabby chic” guise of this well established campsite with excellent facilities. We didn’t reserve a spot in advance but we were happily welcomed by the manager as an ad-hoc booking. Still sweating as unhealthy Brits, we made camp and a braai as more mobile guests arrived in 4x4 Behemoths by the minute spouting German in every direction.

 

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We previously knew that Namibia has some German colonial history but the Germanic love of this nation has obviously remained in their veins (Lufthansa fly direct from Frankfurt to Windhoek) and Germany and the Benelux countries rate Namibia as their #1 African experience, and we began to realise why.

 

Over our first braai of fine rib-eye steak washed down with a few Savanna Dry’s, we concocted a conspiracy theory that the Germans like to think it’s their best kept secret or as we should believe, Namibia doesn’t promote itself to the Brits like Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia do, even though it is a member of the British Commonwealth!

 

The night cooled quickly so we reorganised the load of the vehicle, then showered and climbed up into our rooftop tent assuming that the relieving temperature would stabilise. Instead, we kept waking up wishing for more bedding layers to keep us warm and after a broken sleep we rose at 5am, had our fill of cafetiere coffee and rusk, and stealthily crept around our pitch photographing a visiting Dik-Dik. We tidied up and left Roy’s at 8am for another 400k drive to Divundu.

 

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22nd October

 

Divundu – Popa Falls

 

/ngoabaca Community Camp 9$ pp + 10$ for a good bundle of fire wood. Bargain!

 

We crossed over the Okavango at Divundu and the trusty Garmin told us to do a right onto a dirt track alongside a compound that looked a lot like Guantanamo Bay…( yep this was a prison.) We passed by and //ngoabaca was behind the outdoor clink at Popa Falls. http://baobabguides.com/tag/nacobta/

 

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/ngoabaca was our first community camp and the plots where surprisingly large and set amongst beautiful Jackleberry trees overlooking the river. We had a dangerous looking Jetty that would have given you sublime views of the Falls, had we had the courage to climb out on to it. Bird life was great here, we walked the 300m to the falls and spent the afternoon watching the local kids playing silly buggers in the falls and enjoying the sunset.

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Popa Falls

 

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23rd October Mahango GR

 

We left //ngoabaca quite early on the Sunday morning passing the prisoners of Guantanamo on our right for the short journey into Mahango Game Reserve.

 

So far Namibia had been good value, no rip off prices anywhere and Mahango followed suit, 90$ for the pair of us and the 4x4 and this cute reserve is not disappointing.

 

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The clockwise track followed the marshes and the Okavango River; we saw good game, Elephant, Zebra, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Sable, Red Lechwe, Kudu, and all the other usuals.

 

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We stopped for Coffee at a giant baobab and had a short stroll to the marshes edge. Then drove on to the Picnic area had lunch and relaxed in the breeze all the time observing the goings on of Osprey, Crocs, and Monitor lizards, Lechwe, Vertvets and not one single Homosapian…

 

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After 8hrs of milling round the reserve we exited in the late afternoon to find our next camp Ngepi. http://www.ngepicamp.com/

 

We'd read reports that Ngepi could be a bit if a “Party camp” so it could be noisy with gap year over landers. The camp was busy but we secured a spot at campsite 8, right on the rivers edge, set up camp, lit the fire and made ready for one of Africa’s awesome thunder storms.

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We were lucky and found Ngepi to be a gem of a camp, cheap and with comical quirkiness added to every riverside spot. The outdoor showers and loos are clever and funny, all are exposed and have to be used to enjoy there comedy appeal. By the bar there is a caged swimming area in the river which if you are so desperate to cool off, the crocs and hippos won’t get you. But after seeing the locals upstream the previous day, doing what locals do in the Okavango - we gave this a miss!

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...to be continued...

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Great report and photos Bushwalker, thanks for sharing. I've not been to the Caprivi, it looks great with comfortable campsites and amazing birdlife.

 

I'm looking forward to the next instalment - did you call in at Shamvura while you were in this neck of the Namibian woods?

 

Regards,

 

 

Pol

Edited by Treepol
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Great report!

 

We stopped for Coffee at a giant baobab and had a short stroll to the marshes edge. Then drove on to the Picnic area had lunch and relaxed in the breeze all the time observing the goings on of Osprey, Crocs, and Monitor lizards, Lechwe, Vertvets and not one single Homosapian…

 

Do you have a picture of the osprey? Contrary to what you'd think they're not common in the Okavango region, so if confirmed, this would be a sighting to pass along.

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Thanks for reading so far...more to come later...struggling to embed the mass of pictures, but moving along.

 

Treepol, we didnt get to Shamvura, it wasnt in our plan...which is a shame (maybe next time?)

 

Egilio, unfortunately we didnt get a great picture as the "osprey" was a long way away. However, we seen Osprey in the UK and from what we saw thru binos was probably Osprey but definitely not Fish Eagle, but hey - we aren't experts.

 

Cheers BW

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Part 2 - Safe 4x4 Self Drive Namibia

 

24th October Ngepi Camp

 

The birding here was again exceptional and you can sit at your camp gazing across the river at Hippos, Buffalo and elephant. We decided to stay another night and treat ourselves to one of the River Tree houses, for us this was one of those magical places, we spent the day just sitting on our private deck watching the river and its wildlife float by and as they say there, watch the sun rise between your toes….and it did.

 

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Our little sojourner into the Caprivi Strip had been cut short, as we had stayed an extra day at Ngepi . So today we head back towards Etosha. The next 450km were hot and sweaty but no problems along the way.

 

At Ngepi, we had been chatting to a visiting safari guide about a community camp called Treesleepers, just outside Etosha. He highly recommended it and said “ it’s a beautiful place” .

 

We pulled in, and we don’t know what brand of rose tinted glasses he wore, but we can only describe Treesleepers as “disappointingly grey”. No birds tweeting, no crickets croaking, nothing… The day cooled quite quickly and after eating we decided to turn in from this lifeless camp. We both woke around 4am and the temperature was well below 10c, so we made another fire and sat round it till sun up, then packed up in the cool of the morning and left without much regret.

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26th October

It was a 3hr pootle towards Etosha and to the Onguma Bush Camp. Our plan was 1nt in the bush camp in one of their chalets and 1nt at their campsite. Onguma’s rather grand gate is just by the Eastern entrance to Etosha NP. At reception we were greeted with warm towels and some sort of orange and cinnamon liquor which all seemed a little far-fetched for a bush camp…but hey, who are we to question a free drink. We off loaded our bags into a very pleasant chalet and decided to go for an afternoon drive into Etosha. http://www.onguma.com/bush-camp.html

 

We’d heard that the Etosha gates could have long queues at the beginning of each day so we decided to try and pre-pay for our tour over the next four days. Although the NWR lady commented on how well we understood her, she obviously didn’t understand our London accents too well and after a lot of ”no you can’t. yes you can, but not from here? “we were a little confused and after 70$ were told to drive to “Number 20?”…… ”Namatoni” (a-ha) is the first rest camp in Etosha, this is where you get your permits.

After paying a couple of quid for a park map in the (Number 20), Namatoni fort (which looks like a film set from Beau Geste) we took off on our first Etosha drive. The Fisher Pan Loop.

 

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27th October

We sampled the complimentary breakfast at Onguma said our goodbyes and arrived back at Van Linguist Gate at 8am.

All in all we had a great day’s Game viewing, seeing most of what we had expected and better than we had anticipated.

 

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On our return to Onguma camp we were told that they had double booked our pitch and would we like to stay in the bush camp free of charge? Never looking a well hung zebra...oops gift horse in the mouth we gratefully accepted the offer and unpacked the 4x4 to stay in a brand new chalet (and they included Dinner for free) - result !

 

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28th October

 

Today we were heading to the south of the park with to our final destination at Halali campsite. Again Etosha did not disappoint, stopping at water holes along the way and driving the various loops, we had another good days viewing.

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So with numb bums and the threat of DVT we pulled into Halali at about 1630h, pitched up and made an early braai. Our camp was the closest to the local waterhole and whilst eating we noticed a stream of people making their way up to the waterhole and not returning. ASAP we walked the 500m and arrived at a rocky amphitheatre, we seated ourselves at circle level overlooking a troupe of 40 breeding herd of elephant. It was like a ballet of elephants tip-toeing around the stage with the odd breakaway of immature elephants playing to their audience with the matriarch bringing the rookies back into line or turning and trumpeting at the Rhino which were waiting stage left…. Amazing!

 

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We’d heard that the local Honey Badgers rifle through the site bins most nights and in the darkness we heard bins falling and there was a bin on our spot …

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to be continued...

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This is a terrific report BW, I'm enjoying it very much! I don't know alot about Namiba so this is especially interesting to me and I look forward to more. How did you identify the car hire company and camps? (Internet, references?)

 

Cheers, PT123

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Part 3 - Safe 4x4 Self Drive Namibia

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29th October

 

Today we travel a road less travelled, we are heading to the far west of Etosha to NWR’s newest camp - Dolomite. http://www.nwr.com.na/dolomite_camp.html .Again a great days viewing but nothing out of the ordinary.

 

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Dolomite Camp is perched on the top of a Dolomite kopje, if you’re a smoker, have asthma, have a dodgy knee or hip then Dolomite isn’t the best choice as you need the skills of a mountain Hyrax to get around the camp or to your Chalet. Dolomite was a different experience that we enjoyed with amazing views. The food was good and reasonably priced and the lion serenade at bed time was one of the best we’ve heard.

 

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30th October

 

We woke early to a good breakfast and headed for the Galton gate to exit Etosha, next stop was Aabadi Mountain Camp near Twyfelfontain. Refuelled at Khorixas, which we think may have been contaminated as the 4x4 did not run well for 400km after this refill. Good days drive with some stunning views along the way. I think we may have seen only 4 cars all day and they were at the fuel station. Not much to say about Aabadi, it has a rustic charm but boy do they need some happy dust sprinkled about. We did manage to take a decent starlight picture here, have a lovely walk along the dry river bed which has some amazing quartz and other semi-precious stones, lots of old ellie spoor but sadly no desert elephant.

 

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Having my dinner...to be continued....

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31st October

 

We left Aabadi early and headed in to the unknown and towards the Skeleton Coast via Springbokwassa Gate. After going through the gate with a free permit into the Skeleton Coast its not long before you survey a scene that is probably the closest to Mars as you can get.

 

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Its deep red and rocky for over an hour and you begin to feel a cooler air as you trundle across the plateau which then drops to sea level and sand in every direction when you hit the Atlantic seaboard at Torro Bay. We turned left and drove and drove and drove along the crusty and lumpy surface of the C39.

 

 

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We stopped at an abandoned diamond mine called Toscanini. It was ghostly, there was a small colony of cormorants there and that was it, amazing… nature reclaiming what was once hers. It reminded me of Dungeness in Kent, only this was the South Atlantic.

 

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We continued south with our focus on Cape Cross Seal colony.

 

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We entered the seal colony knowing that the smell of seal could be overpowering, but it wasnt too bad. Yes it smelt, but we have smelt much worse. The large gatherings of brown blubber were fascinating to watch and time run away with us and by the temperature of the wind, it was going to be a cold night in the tent. We opted instead to drive to Swakopmund and try to find a guest house. Our trusty Garmin found us Sea Breeze . http://www.seabreeze.com.na/ ….or we have been teleported to Eastbourne?

 

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31st October

 

We took advantage of another complimentary breakfast and headed south to Walvis Bay. The 20km road from Swakop to Walvis Bay is pretty amazing, the crashing Atlantic Ocean on one side (with beaches anywhere in Europe would be envious of)

and massive 60 meter high dunes on the other, the desert meeting the sea directly looks very odd.

 

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The map showed us a spit of sand just south of Walvis Bay, we drove there and gasped upon these massive salt pans that extended around a lagoon that contained flamingos and pelicans and other seabird. (Not too good with sea bird ID) The colour of the salt and the sea was bizarre and the smell of sulphur was abound, and here we were probably 3km off shore on a spit of land that reminded us more of the Outer Banks in North Carolina USA not Africa! Spent most of the day here then spun round and drove back to Swakop to find our accommodation for that evening . The Stiltz. http://www.thestiltz.com/

 

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1st November

 

We left the Stiltz after another all-inclusive breakfast and drove to our last destination in Namibia, Sesriem near Sossusvlei. As ever the roads were good gravel and the landscape amazing.

 

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we made good time to Sesriem albeit we had a small fuel scare at a cutely named town called Solitaire. They had diesel but no unleaded. We had half a tank so approx. 200km but the pump man told us they had unleaded at Sesriem. Solitaire also has a small restaurant, general store and a very good bakery? We stayed for lunch whilst the shade temperature was well above 35c.

 

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75km later we arrived at Sesriem which seemed even hotter and after filling with fuel we made our way to our campsite which was democratically laid out like a clock, each of the 12 pitches had its own shower, loo and kitchen area. And bang smack in the middle for the clock face was something that looked very inviting in the 40c heat….a swimming pool. We unpacked the 4x4, decided to stay in camp for the rest of the day and chill round the pool, and boy we did chill , it was cryogenic ( thats cold enough to suspend human embryos)..But it was great fun. http://www.sossus-oasis.com/camp.htm

 

 

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Edited by bushwalker
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Fabulous report!

 

Any chance you'd come along to our spring Safaritalk London GTG so I can pick your brains? :lol: :lol: :lol:

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We did cross the TOC, just can’t remember when?

 

2nd November

 

We were at the Sossusvlei park gate by 8am, and drove the short 5km to Sesriem Canyon which you can’t see from the road. The Canyon is a deep scar in the earth, probably 1% of the width and depth of the Grand Canyon USA, but still very impressive.

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We gingerly climbed down as the air temperature increased minute by minute and stomped across the sharp sand river bed. (Seemed like prime snake country).

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After a good few hours spent chasing shade from one side of the Canyon to the other we ascended onto the soaring heat of mid-morning and drove back to camp for an ice-plunge.

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The 64km of black top from the gate to “Big Daddy” dune was pretty unimpressive in the high afternoon sun and we drove on past “Dune 45”, which is simply 45km from the gate.

At 59km the tar road ends and turns into a deep sandy passage, which obviously catches a lot of rookie 4x4er’s off-guard. There is opportunity there for the tour operators’ 4x4 drivers who wait and watch like vultures for easy bucks for the inexperienced to get stuck. (and they do). We struggled for the first 100meters, got to a slightly firmer sand patch, dumped the tyres down to 1 bar, switched diff lock on and into low range, and our gutless wonder snaked its way to a shaded area just short of “Big Daddy”.

 

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We climbed about 30meters but the sand blasted our shins and through our land sandals our feet were burning, (we are always so well prepared…). We snapped away and played like kids in the sand.

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Our playful antics continued for a while and slowly the environment around us morphed onto another vista. The sun was dropping and the shadows cast by these pyramids of deep golden sand took on a landscape far more dramatic than an hour before. All around, previously insignificant mounds became these works of natural sculpture that were jaw droppingly magnificent.

 

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2nd Nov cont/...

 

 

We’d estimated an hour to get back to Sesriem Gate. We slowly made our way back to “Dune 45” for sun downers and our drive back was in short - unbelievable, as we drove aghast looking left and right at the natural windswept curves of each dune, an added dimension was the lemon yellow grass of each valley floor, merging with the now burnt orange sand, this was a fine image for St Clements.

 

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No doubt that nowhere else on earth looks like Sossusvlei at sunset, it has to be one of the world’s natural wonders. Of the 1000 things you should do before you die, you must see Sossusvlei in the “golden hour”….

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This is the closest we got to the locals

 

3rd November

 

Back to Windhoek

 

4048km from our start point, we’d seen most of what we intended to see other than the far east of Caprivi. The temperatures ranged from 0 to 40+, altitude from 2000 meters to sea level and everything in-between. Namibia is an ideal first time and friendly self-drive 4x 4 destination. Its infrastructure make it easy to drive with just a simple map.

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This is a terrific report BW, I'm enjoying it very much! I don't know alot about Namiba so this is especially interesting to me and I look forward to more. How did you identify the car hire company and camps? (Internet, references?)

 

Cheers, PT123

Thanks PT123, its taken all bloody weekend to compose this trip report. I read alot of trip reports, plenty of online research and quite a few emails. Cheers BW

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Fabulous report!

 

Any chance you'd come along to our spring Safaritalk London GTG so I can pick your brains? :lol: :lol: :lol:

 

Thanks Kavey. Be happy to come along if Im around, just let me know where and when. Cheers BW

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Lovely report, Thank You ........ Namibia looks like a stunning destination!!!

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Enjoyed reading this report right from the start. Your route copied some of mine so it was interesting to get another view. Dolomite Camp, Halali and Roys in particular. Also Stiltz in Swak.

Now about that Osprey. Lots of things it could have been but I believe you. I have seen them in the Caprivi and across in Botswana so whilst not common they are around.

 

Thanks again. Next time skip Joburg and fly via Frankfurt with AirNamiba's weekly service.

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Great trip report. Ahhh Namibia!! beautiful. Great photos as well.

 

I like to see that more people are using the trail cams. My old trail cam was so big, but the new one is pretty dandy and will find space in my luggage for it now.

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Happy memories (and some less so) brought back by this. Nicely done and beautifully illustrated. Thanks!

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Great report! There's actually a quite interesting story behind Solitaire.

A successful dutch filmproducer wanted to get away from the fast life in the Europe, sold his company and ended up in Solitaire. Started selling apple-pies and lived a quiet peaceful life. Than Solitaire was 'discovered' by Lonely Planet, drawing in lots of tourist and he lost his quiet paradise.

He wrote a book about but I think it was only published in dutch (Solitaire - Een thuis in de Namibische woestijn by H.J. van der Lee & Ton van der Lee).

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Enjoying this very much. Brought back memories for me too, but more than that, I'm getting pretty sold on your self- drive trips. It's almost like an inverse progression for me - from luxury camps to not- so-luxurious camps to mobile camps to self drive! I'm not there yet, but definitely headed in that direction :)

 

Lovely photos.

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OK I'm so sorry but can someone help me find our GTG thread as I can't find it! :rolleyes:

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Lovely report, Thank You ........ Namibia looks like a stunning destination!!!

 

Thanks Madaboutcheetah, Namibia is stunning!; just wish we had seen some cheetah - in the wild though, not in a cage or on some sort of farm. Cheers BW :)

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Enjoyed reading this report right from the start. Your route copied some of mine so it was interesting to get another view. Dolomite Camp, Halali and Roys in particular. Also Stiltz in Swak.

Now about that Osprey. Lots of things it could have been but I believe you. I have seen them in the Caprivi and across in Botswana so whilst not common they are around.

 

Thanks again. Next time skip Joburg and fly via Frankfurt with AirNamiba's weekly service.

 

Thanks Galana, Maybe it was an Osprey, maybe it wasn’t, but we're almost convinced it was. It certainly was lovely at Mahango and well worth it.

 

Did you get the evening serenade from the local at Dolomite? He was under our chalet as our bones rumbled whilst lying in a most comfortable 4 poster bed.

 

Namibia is a beautiful country but we probably went for too soft an option for our liking, but pleased we did it anyway. Did you do a trip report of yours?

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Great trip report. Ahhh Namibia!! beautiful. Great photos as well.

 

I like to see that more people are using the trail cams. My old trail cam was so big, but the new one is pretty dandy and will find space in my luggage for it now.

Thanks Dikdik, Our Bushnell Trophycam was a nice bit of additional fun …can’t wait to go to an unfenced camp and see what we get. Ours fitted nicely inside a Blundstone boot. (Size 11 UK)

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Great report! There's actually a quite interesting story behind Solitaire.

A successful dutch filmproducer wanted to get away from the fast life in the Europe, sold his company and ended up in Solitaire. Started selling apple-pies and lived a quiet peaceful life. Than Solitaire was 'discovered' by Lonely Planet, drawing in lots of tourist and he lost his quiet paradise.

He wrote a book about but I think it was only published in dutch (Solitaire - Een thuis in de Namibische woestijn by H.J. van der Lee & Ton van der Lee).

 

Thanks Egilio , Solitaire was a bizarre place, the apple pie from the Bakery was huge; shame the TV guy lost his peace and quiet. It was busy when we were there – and plenty of Dutch families eating lunch – we even saw Mayo on their chips. Dank je wel! :D

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