I’m very excited to announce one of my Namibia photos, The Blue Room, was The Best of Nikonians – 2008 Images – October Winner. It will now go on to the finals with the other monthly winners at the end of the year. This contest is judged by professional and amateur photographers from around the world and it is a huge honour to receive this recognition. Click the photo to see a larger version. More information regarding the contest can be found here.
The group had breakfast together, then we said our goodbyes to the dutchies as they left to continue for another week in Estosha National Park. Chris, Glenda and myself left the hotel at 10am, to start our 42 hour journey back home. I was sad to leave, but I enjoyed my two weeks in Namibia.
The flights home were uneventful – everything went smoothly, however 42 hours in transit is very exhausting. Would I do the trip again? You bet! But maybe next time I can win the lotto and fly in the luxury of first class…
Eight of us went on an early morning hike up a different rock formation to photograph the sunrise (we left at 5am!). It was an interesting hike, with an excellent view. A troop of baboons even joined us to watch the sunrise (from a distance, of course).
Breakfast was after the hike, then we packed our bags onto the bus and headed back towards Windhoek. We arrived at our hotel, Villa Verdi, which was right near the city centre. I used the afternoon to re-pack my bags (so everything would fit) and wrap up loose ends.
We had a special wrap-up dinner at NICE (Namibian Institute of Culinary Education) which was very nice (pun intended). NICE is a very groovy restaurant with excellent meals prepared by student chefs. The presentation was spectacular and was a wonderful setting to wrap-up a two week journey through Namibia.
The earliest start of the trip – 3am, we loaded the bus and departed for Spitzkoppe. We arrived before sunrise, and since the gate was easy to open, we just drove in. Spitzkoppe has many fascinating rock formations and even some arches. We stayed until 10am (it was getting really hot!), then departed. On the way out, Daniella payed the entry fee – were the rangers ever surprised to see a bus drive out of the park (but they were glad we didn’t wake them at 5am)!
We continued on to the Erongo Wilderness Lodge, with a stop on the way for lunch. The lodge is situated in the mountains, with tented chalets on stilts on the sides of the rock formations. Most tents had an excellent view, but I had a mediocre view as I was near the bottom. Most participants were tired, but I trudged on and joined the sundowner hike to the top of a nearby outcrop. It was a very stunning spot to enjoy a beer and watch the sunset.
Dinner was in the lodge, with some wildlife visible outside, near the watering hole. Marsel conducted an image critique session after dinner. Chris and I setup the cameras on his balcony to attempt another shot at the star trails. The moon got in the way – too bad we didn’t have another night at Erongo to try again.
We started the morning at 8am with the Living Desert tour. Finally, a day to sleep in! The Living Desert tour was held in the desert (obviously!), just on the outskirts of Swakopmund. We barely travelled more than 500 meters in the first two hours – there was that much to see. Our guide was excellent in identifying tracks left in the sand by the different creatures and then tracking them down. The tour gave us an appreciation of the abundance of life in the desert and how easily it can be destroyed. The vehicles are only to drive on the dunes, as the wind erases the tracks, but off the dunes, tracks stay forever. Once our tour of the desert got underway, it was almost a roller-coaster ride through the dunes (and we had to laugh when the other vehicle got stuck and they had to walk up the dune!).
The afternoon was free time, which I filled by going quad-biking. It was a lot of fun, up and down the dunes (lead by a guide of course). There are designated areas for quad-biking on the dunes, however, some break the rules and drive outside of the designated areas (and are destroying the desert).
After the dunes, I was finally able to get Internet access. Dinner followed shortly, then off to bed, as tomorrow would be the earliest morning of trip.
Today we left for Cape Cross at 7am – I actually got up after sunrise today! It was a 1.5 hour drive from Swakopmund to Cape Cross, where there is a very large colony of seals.
The seals are very smelly, and even though you get accustomed to the odour, it is not very pleasant. We photographed the seals until noon, then had lunch at the nearby Cape Cross Lodge .
Everyone slept on the drive back (except of course Dirk, the bus driver), had a quick shower to get rid of the seal smell, then Marsel presented a workshop on image processing. Even in the evening my camera gear and bag still smelled of seals.
Supper was at The Tug, which is another popular restaurant in Swakopmund. It is actually an old tug boat that was converted into a restaurant. I had the Kingklip fish, a local catch, which was very good.
Note: This will be my last post until I get home. I’ll update the final days at that time. Internet access has been difficult to come by (down in 3 or more of the places we should have had it), as well, I’m behind in processing and sorting my photos – hence nothing to show. Check back next week for the final days – thanks for reading!
Update: Added photos when I got home!
Today was a traveling day (and hence no photos to post). We left the Sossus Dune Lodge shortly after 10am, then drove towards the coastal town of Swakopmund (again on gravel roads). We got there around 5pm and checked into the Brigadon guesthouses.
Dinner was at The Lighthouse restaurant, which is on the waterfront, just down from our guesthouses. Swakopmund is definitely a tourist town, with shops and restaurants everywhere.
We left in the open vehicle at 4am for the drive to Sossusvlei, arriving before sunrise at around 5:30am. As the first ones there, we had the place to ourselves. In fact, by staying at the lodge, we are actually inside the park, which allows us to come and go as we please, whereas the campground guests can only enter an hour before sunrise and the main gates only open at sunrise. This is very helpful, as we were basically done shooting by the time most tourists arrive at Sossusvlei.
Hayo and myself climbed up the back way to the top of the dune (instead of climbing on the ridge), which was definitely the more difficult way up! Marsel has some photos of us climbing, which I’ll have to get.
After the drive back, it was lunch followed by an afternoon siesta. It was a scorching hot day (must have been 35 degrees Celsius or hotter). A quick dip in the pool, then off to a canyon (this time in golf carts), as it was only five minutes from the lodge. Down in the canyon the cool air was refreshing, with very interesting rock formations and layers. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Hartebeest (an african grassland antelope, named for it’s horns which form a heart) was the main course for dinner (excellent again), I took a few night shots, setup a star trail, then off to bed. Some of the group is returning to Deadvlei the next morning, but I decided I was too tired and had better sleep in if I’m to survive the rest of the trip. We joke that “I can’t believe I’m paying to be tortured” with all the really early mornings and late nights.
Another early morning (noticing a pattern yet?) starting at 5am to go Micro-lighting. Diego, Hayo, Maartje, and myself were in the first group to go. We drove out to the landing strip located in the park and our pilot, Heiko met us at the strip.
I was the fourth to fly and I loved it! A micro-light is like a hang-glider but with an engine, which means you basically float in the air. Flying over the dunes gives you a very different perspective then is possible from the ground.
We returned to the lodge for lunch (Ostrich burger), then prepared for the afternoon trip to Deadvlei. As it was very hot out, we took the air-conditioned bus to the 4×4 departure point (this also allowed for an hour of sleep!). The 4×4 transported us for 5km and then we hiked the last km, arriving at 3pm. We had two full hours of light for photos before the sun dipped behind a dune. Deadvlei is such a cool place, hidden in the dunes, each time you go you find something different to photograph.
Unfortunately, it was back to the lodge in the open 4×4 (glad I brought my toque!), then it was Kudu for dinner (another delectable game) and off to bed.
I finally got to sleep in this morning – up at only 6:30! A lot of early mornings on this trip – certainly not the trip to take if you want to catch up on your sleep. We left Hotel Helmeringhausen and drove on gravel roads to Namib Naukluft Park, driving through a private reserve on the way. There we saw springbok and an oryx along the side of the road.
We arrived at the the Sossus Dune Lodge, which will be our base for the next 3 days. After lunch, it was into a 4×4 open-top game vehicle for an 1.5 hour drive to Deadvlei. Most of the drive is on tar roads, with the exception of the last 5 kms that was definitely 4×4 country – driving in loose sand between the dunes. Then it’s a 1 km hike from the vehicle over the dunes to Deadvlei. We arrived just in time to catch the last hour of light on the dead trees.
After sunset, we had a sundowner (drinks and snacks) on a dune, before heading back to the vehicle. It was a cold drive back with the wind in your ears – I was glad I brought my toque! Back at the lodge, dinner was Namibian Eland, which was excellent.