Our memorable trip to Namibia began as we flew from Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, in a small, single engine (scary) Cessna to Etosha Oberland Lodge. Our young, Namibian pilot, Gustaf was delightful and assured me we were in great hands, but he just looked too young to be a pilot.
We had carefully selected three camps, over eight days, of which Etosha was the first. Each camp was selected for its unique qualities and the experience we would have.
Our ity bity Cessna aircraft, with our pilot Gustaf.
1. Etosha Oberland Lodge
Highlights – The safari experience in the Etosha National Park
We were greeted at Etosha Oberland Lodge, with cold towels and drinks and taken to our beautiful suite not far from the lodge. With colonial over tones, the bed had exquisite mosquito nets and all the trimmings of first class accommodation.
Our room at Etosha Oberland Lodge.
The lodge had no walls, seamlessly encompassing the dining room, lounge, bar and pool area. With over 300 days of sunshine, walls are not a requirement. Often Namibia is in drought. The rainy season from November through March, has an average an annual fall of 85 mm. However, they recently had a bumper rainfall in January 2021, triple the average rainfall of 230 mm. Everyone danced.
The next morning Tim was not feeling well, so I went alone with our guide. We headed to the Etosha National Park, in north west Namibia. The park is famous for its wildlife and is home to a variety of animals, including lion, elephant, leopard, giraffe, cheetah and hyenas. The more common onyx and springboks where plentiful too. During the morning as we drove around the park and found a huge gathering of wildebeest and several hundred zebras congregating near a water hole. A large bull elephant was drinking, so other animals waited patiently. It was good to see the hierarchy in the jungle is alive and well.
Springbok were plentiful in the park.
While the bull elephant drank from the water hole, the other animals held back.
I learnt a couple of very interesting fact about elephants. They are gifted with six sets of molars, and when one set is ground down, another set grows. Eventually, most elderly elephants die of starvation as they cannot consume the quantity of food they need.
I also found a remedy for arthritis, elephant dung. Elephants diet consists of vegetation and herbs. Their ineffective digestive systems means the foliage is not digested properly and passes as rough grass. The dung can be concocted into a brew, and drunk to relieve the painful symptoms of arthritis. As I was unable to bring a bag of dung back to New Zealand, I have yet to prove this theory!
Eventually, after all the animals had drunk their fill of water they dissipated. The hundreds of zebra began making their way home in the heat of the day. My guide told me they had walked 10 kilometres to the waterhole. It’s a long walk for the pregnant mums’ and young.
We are fortunate to find another water hole where a Rhino was drinking. He was a thirsty boy and took his time. I have no idea how many litres he drank. The Rhino was very close to the expansive salt pans in the National Park. They are impressive and when it rains in February and March the water pools and attracts hundreds of thousands of flamingos.
The Rhino leaving the water hole.
While Etosha National Park was good, you can only drive on the roads. During previous wildlife encounters in Botswana, we tracked animals off road, making for a more authentic experience.
2. Onduli Overland Lodge
Highlights – Going on an elephant hunt
The following morning we flew from Etosha Oberland Lodge, south, to Onduli Ridge. The flight was about an hour. We were surprised our pilot, Gustaf, was to stay with us for the entire trip, ferrying us from lodge to lodge. It seemed a waste of resource to us, to have a pilot and the aircraft sitting on the ground for days at a time, but that’s the way they do it here.
Arriving at Onduli, were picked up from the airstrip in a trusty Land Cruisers. As we approached the lodge I could see umbrellas nestled in the rocks. The lodge was a circular design, pivoting on large boulders, providing a 360 degree view overlooking the vast landscape.
With just six individual suites, nestled among the rocks, it would be hard to find a more private and remote place to relax. When we were shown our suite, we were encouraged to explore Namibia’s night sky by requesting to have our bed wheeled outdoors so we could sleep under the stars. With no light pollution, the Namibian sky is like fairy land.
Having settled into our room I ventured out and spent the afternoon at the nearby Damara Living Museum. I had no idea what a living museum was, but soon found out. Descendants from the Damara culture put together an hour long show reconstructing their lost culture, determined to keep it alive. Their original culture was a mixture of ancient hunter-gatherers and herders of cattle, however, their social structure did not survive the colonization period of Namibia.
Enjoying the Damara Living Museum.
I learnt about many medicinal plants, including the use of elephant dung to relieve the painful symtoms of arthritis. The red chalk is used by the women for beautification.
Up early the next morning I set out on an elephant hunt, with our guide. Not far from the lodge we found fresh bull elephant tracks and drove down a dry river bed for about an hour. Eventally, we lost his tracks as bulls move quickly, especially if they are in pursit of a female. Debris from the river was wrapped around the tree trunks, a reminder of the great rainfall in January 2021. This was the first time in eight years, all the rivers in Namibia reached the Atlantic Ocean.
We left the river bed and headed to the Huab River were we found a stampede of elephants. The majority were females with one bull, called Governor and his two young accomplices. They were learning from him, but taking a secondary role. The elephants enjoyed the water hole, covering themselves in mud to protect their skin from the strong UV rays.
Enjoying the waterhole.
After a spectacular lunch in the shade of an oversized rock, we drove to see the ancient rock engravings at Twyfelfontein. It is believed the age of the engravings are between 2000 and 6000 years. The etchings include hunting scenes and many animals including antelopes, zebras, giraffes, and lions. UNESCO declared Twyfelfontein as World Heritage Site in 2007.
My special lunch.
Twyfelfontein ancient rock engravings.
Sundowner at the lodge was the end to a perfect day.
Sunset at Onduli Ridge.
3. &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
Highlights- Climbing the Big Daddy dune and enjoying the landscapes, as well as the facilities, food and service at &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
Our last stop in beautiful Namibia was more about the landscape than the animals. I had been hanging out for this part of our journey as I knew the experiences would be very different from anything I’d done before. Gustaf flew us south along the Skeleton Coast, toward Sossusvlei. The coast is both bleak and inaccessible and is one of Africa’s great untouched wildernesses. It’s called the Skeleton Coast from the whaling days when whale and seal bones littered the shores. Today, there are still some skeltons, but of a differnet sort. We saw two shipwreaks and several abandoned diamond mines.
Namibia’s Skeleton Coast.
The lodge we stayed in at Sossusvlei, was in the southern part of Namibia. It borders the Namib-Naukluft National Park, a vast area of salt and clay pans surrounded by high red dunes and rocky outcrops. This National Park is Africa’s largest conservation area.
Sand dunes in Sossusvlei.
To get our bearings we flew over the lodge’s large property (once farmed by Germans) and into Namib-Naukluft National Park. The area is famous for its magnificent red dunes, stretching 2,000 kilometres along the coast and 160 kilometres inland. The dunes are formed by sand being deposited into the Atlantic Ocean from the Orange River in Southern Africa. Then, the Benguela Current, a northward flowing ocean current, carries the sand and deposits it back onto the land by the ocean’s surf. From here the wind carried the red sand inland to form the dunes.
The dunes are growing as more and more sand is deposited on land.
The next day I revisited the dunes I’d seen from the chopper, by Land Cruiser. I wanted to climb the highest dune, Big Daddy at 325 metres. You would think it would be difficult walking vertically in sand, but if you follow previous foot steps it’s remarkably easy. The walk takes about 1.5 hours and less than five minutes to come down. It was so much fun. My shoes will never recover and lose their red tinge, but what a lovely memory.
Making my way up’ Big Daddy’.
On ‘Big Daddy’ with the clay pans behind me.
Once down from the dunes we were on the white clay pans called Deadvlei, meaning ‘dead marsh’. There are dead trees in the pans, estimated to be 900 years old. They have not decomposed because the climate is so dry. These black trees, contrasted against the bleached-white pans, rusty-red dunes and deep blue sky make for great photos.
The trees have not decomposed as the air is too dry.
Looking back to the clay pans.
After our outstanding day, it was time for sundowners.
Sundowner in the desert.
Incredible light at sunset.
Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is one of the best lodges we’ve stayed at in Africa, set in the most extraordinary landscape. Our large suite was superb, with private views across the desert. The lodge was impeccably designed with flair, and every morsel of food that passed my lips was delivered with love and service. We will be back. If you are looking for a truely memorable, luxury stay with the best their guides, I recommend Sossusvlei Desert Lodge.
Our room and private pool.
A beautiful Sossusvlei sunset.
Our last port of call was Windhoek, the capital of Namiba. We had a night here as our flights did not align. It’s a sad town with little to offer a tourist, but if you do need to spend a night here as we did, stay at the Weinberg Hotel. It’s a boutique hotel, with a very pleasant Sky Lounge looking over the city. Within the complex are three independent restaurants. We had dinner at the Butchers Block and it was good, without being great, but better than venturing into town.
The Sky Bar at the Weinberg Hotel in Windhoek.