Namibia Trip Report
By Thierry Cellier
In March this year I was invited on a trip to Namibia by the Namibian Tourism Board, which I was very excited about as I hadn’t been back to the country in a while and it was a great chance to reconnect with a land that I love.
My trip itinerary covered Northern Namibia and the coast, beginning in Windhoek and ending in the beautiful German town of Swakopmund. In between, we visited Etosha National Park, one of Southern Africa’s best loved wildlife sanctuaries, and the spectacular region of Damaraland, home to the Himba people.
After an easy day of travelling to Windhoek, followed by a lovely meal in the evening at the famous Joe’s Beer House in the heart of the city, where you can enjoy everything from gemsbok carpaccio to a juicy kudu steak, we began our trip by heading into Etosha National Park.
Spanning 22 750km², Etosha National Park is world-renowned for its fantastic game viewing, with particularly good chances of seeing the endangered black rhinoceros. Meaning ‘place of dry water’, Etosha encloses a vast, flat calcrete depression (or pan) of around 5 000km² which floods in the summer months and attracts thousands of flamingos to feed. During the dry winter months, the pan provides a vast, parched, silver-white backdrop of shimmering mirages that create spectacularly beautiful landscapes.
Our first stop was at Lake Otjikoto, Namibia’s largest permanent natural lake which is part an underground river system and was formed when the roof of what was a large dolomite cave fell in. Somewhat small in diameter, the lake is said to be deeper than 140m in places!
We then spent the next two days exploring the park, going on game drives in search of animals and visiting waterholes to watch the action. I was very pleasantly surprised to see such a high concentration of game in the park. I am used to travelling on the vast plains of East Africa in Kenya and Tanzania where there are huge concentrations of game, but did not expect to see as many animals and such a variety of species as I did in Etosha, which was fantastic! We saw a variety of antelope such as springbok, impala, and gemsbok, as well as zebra, giraffe and elephant. There were plenty of lion around and the odd, elusive leopard, as well as many species of birds. The waterhole at Okaukuejo is an excellent spot as it is always packed with game coming to drink.
After a last game drive the following morning, we left Etosha on the fourth day of the trip and headed into the Desert Mountains of the Kaokoveld, one of the last true wildernesses of Southern Africa and home of the Himba people. En route to our lodge, we visited a local Himba village and were lucky enough to meet the local inhabitants, who are one of the few semi-nomadic tribes left in the world that live as they did centuries ago.
I have always been fascinated by the Himba people, with their beautiful reddish coloured skin and intricate dreadlocked hair and their nomadic lifestyle, not unlike that of the Maasai people in Kenya. The unusual colour of their skin comes from a paste they make from butter fat, ochre, and herbs which they put on their skin to protect them from the sun. They also believe the colour has a symbolic meaning as it unites the red colour of earth and blood which is the symbol of life.
We stayed at the Grootberg Lodge in Damaraland, which can only be described as stunning. Each chalet is perched high on the edge of the escarpment and looks out over the landscape with endless breath-taking views. A swim in the pool has you feeling like you are floating above the earth.
One of the highlights of my stay here was an early morning game drive to search for the rare and critically endangered desert-adapted black rhino, which are extremely hard to track and find as they are largest truly free-ranging population of black rhino in the world. With two trackers, we spent hours searching for them, following tracks and movements in the bush, and in the end, were lucky enough to come across a female rhino and her baby calf – an extremely rare and very lucky find!
The next day we left the lodge and headed towards the beautiful Brandberg Mountains region, which is famous for being an ancient Bushman spiritual site and home to a variety of unusual rock engravings and petroglyphs representing the region’s wildlife. We stopped at the Twyfelfontein Valley, which is a World Heritage Site and has been inhabited for over 3,000 years to see one of the largest displays of rock art in Africa, which were nothing less than awe-inspiring. Just as beautiful were the sunsets, which cast an ethereal orange glow over the landscapes as if the earth was on fire.
From the Brandberg Mountains we headed towards Swakopmund, the exquisite seaside town on Namibia’s Atlantic coast where you might be forgiven for thinking you had stepped into one of Germany’s quaint holiday towns along the North Sea and Baltic coasts. Tree-lined streets are lined with beautiful Germanic architecture while Bavarian church spires and palm trees peek through the swirling coastal fog. Before reaching Swakopmund, we made a stop at the Cape Cross and it’s famous seal colony where we were treated to close-up views of thousands of Cape fur seals.
We then headed into the magnificent golden sand dunes surrounding the town in search of the smaller creatures of the wild, such as the desert adapted snake, chameleons, and scorpions, which we found in abundance and were lucky enough to get some great photographs.
We enjoyed an excellent dinner in Swakopmund that the evening to mark the end of a fantastic trip and one which will leave only lasting memories for me.
All photos © Thierry Cellier