Friday 20 September 2013

Family Florin in Namibia.

It is great to be back in Windhoek...Not because I like the city life so much, but because the internet here is so good...sometimes!!

Next on tour was a family from Belgium. When we received their request for a short safari through the highlights of Namibia, their flights had already been booked. This meant that we had to stick to arrival and departure dates and times and it made things a bit difficult with availability at the different camps and lodges, especially as it was in the middle of the high season. Fortunately, with a bit of luck, good knowledge and persistence, we were able to come up with a very nice trip. Some sacrifices had to be made, as Namibia is simply too big to do in 2 weeks... 

From left to right...Olivia, Lieve, Lisa and William (Jan was taking photo's!)

We picked them up at the airport and drove the 40 km to Windhoek. Our first night was to be at Terra Africa Guesthouse, where we promptly checked in shortly afterwards. As they did not have much sleep the last 24 hours, we decided it was best to do a short city tour and then go to Joe's for an early dinner.

The next morning everyone was well rested and, after a good breakfast, we departed to Weltevrede, close to Sossusvlei. On the way there we saw a few springbok, Bontebokke and a few interesting birds, but once again it was the stunning view of the Spreetshoogte pass that grabbed the interest! Fortunately it was a quiet day with very little wind which afforded us a clear view up to the dunes in the distance!

At Solitaire it was time for Moose's applecrumble and then on to Weltevrede. It was to be their first night in tents and I had to show them how to set up the bow tents that we use, plus all the other stuff of course! Camp was setup in no time and our guests went for a quick dip in the pool, while Joyce and myself got things ready for dinner...

In one of the acacias in our campsite, was 2 smallish nests of sociable weavers. While busy with our dinner preparations, this little male pygmy falcon came and sat very close to us on a branch.

 He then flew up and went inside 'his' nest! These ferocious little raptors uses the nests of social weavers to nest in. The only plus side for the weavers is that they keep snakes away from the nest, but the weavers don't really like their presence, as they complained with loud chirping while the bird was flying around the nest.

All settled...ready for sleep! 

Then another male showed up and also went into a nest!

The first female showed up not long after that...

As soon as the next female showed up, the feathers started to fly...literally!! They were agitated and it was clear that these two females did not like each other and were constantly dive-bombing each other while uttering their irritated calls! 

Finally one of them gave up and flew off to her nest..., where hubby was waiting patiently! 

I tried several times to get them to 'land' where I had put my GoPro camera, but they seemed very wary of it. One even landed behind the camera and had a good look at it, but I still had no footage. Fortunately my patience paid off as one of them landed close enough to get some footage before she flew to her nest.

The next evening the whole drama played all over again! It was quite entertaining for us, especially as it is normally very difficult to get this close to these skittish little raptors.

Next morning we were up before dawn and on our way to Sossusvlei, but not before we had coffee and rusks to stop the tummies rumbling! 

The light was really nice and we had to stop several times for photographs. Unfortunately our guests only had small cameras with a 3x, or 5x optical zoom, which meant I would have to use mostly Joyce's photo's for this blog.

It is always nice to see wildlife in this harsh environment, not to mention that it makes for great photographs! A lone oryx, checking us out to see whether we pose a threat.

Dune 45, a 'must see' for overland trucks... It was getting a bit 'crowded', so we kept going... 

...and found these oryx walking not too far from the road.

It was a beautiful setting...with the white socked oryx in a stark contrast to the ochre colored dunes with its shadow lining. Sossusvlei is always special, but sometimes it treats the visitor to scenes like this!

While we were setting up the breakfast table, our guests scaled Sossus dune! The 5 specks on the top of the dune were the Florin family...undoubtedly out of breath, not only from the climb, but also because of the view from up there!!

Whilst having brunch, these cape sparrows started cleaning the frying pan where Joyce had just fried the eggs in, so I thought it might be a good idea to put some water down for them...see for yourself what happened!

Then a pair of pied crows came along....

After a hearty brunch (with bacon, eggs, toast and all the rest!) we drove the short distance to the start of the hike to Dead Vlei pan. 

On the way there I explained about the flowers of the Namib star that grows here in abundance...if you take the average rainfall of 30 mm into consideration! These plants have beautiful little star shaped flowers, but you don't see any of them until you turn a branch over and find a surprising amount of little red flowers!

Then it was time for some 'self' exploration...,

.... and they disappeared into the pan...

...and further...

...until they nearly disappeared into the 'fata morgana' in the distance! Deadvlei is nearly a kilometer long and most people are very surprised when they start walking and, after a while, the end seems to be still very far away!

 By now it was close to midday, so all the magical light was gone and the desert had become all 'one color'... a harsh environment that makes survival very difficult, even for the more adapted animals..., more shadows and no more knife edge lines to break the the red of the dunes...

That afternoon we went to Sesriem canyon. After that our guests went for a quick dip in the pool and then a short hike to a closeby 'koppie' for a sundowner. Unfortunately the sun went down quicker than they thought, so they had to settle for a sunset on the namib plains!

The next morning we broke up camp and drove to Swakopmund via Solitaire, Kuiseb canyon and Walvis Bay.

Our lunch spot was not far from here and had great views of the canyon far below...


This ruppels korhaan was very curious and came within a few meters of our table!

In Swakop the guests opted for Tommy's living desert experience 'something even more interesting'!!

The rest of the day was spent in Swakop, browsing the different shops for something nice to take home.

Next morning we left Swakopmund and drove up the coast, past the 'new' shipwreck and on to Cape Cross seal reserve... Lieve and the kids were not too impressed with the smell!!

A lone black back jackal scouring the area for a carcass to nibble on!

That evening we camped at Aba Huab and, as the ladies were vegetarians but did eat fish, we decided it was time for a 'Surf & Turf' evening..., in other words, Crayfish and steak! 

Mmmm...., but not for me! I only had steak! Nice, juicy Eland sirloin fried to perfection on hot coals... yum!!

We also had a visitor...this African wildcat is a bit of a 'regular' at Aba Huab and I'm not really sure if it had been caught and tamed by one of the locals, or if it just grew accustomed to people at the campsite. Whatever the reason, we enjoyed his presence and were lucky to get this photo. These cats are nocturnal and the only way to see them normally, is to go on a night drive with a spotlight, or to be very lucky and see one early morning or late evening.

Next morning it was first of to the Bushmen engravings at Twyfelfontein, which they enjoyed very much as they like to do hiking. Twyfelfontein, with its ochre colored sandstone, green mopane trees and yellow grass plains is certainly a nice area to hike through. Their guide on the walk, a local Damara woman, also did her best to explain the history and the different engravings to them and sometimes also in her local 'click' language!

After that we drove west, following the course of the Aba Huab river and looking for desert elephant tracks. The last time I searched for them here, there was nothing...I could not find a single fresh track, but this time it was different. It was very quickly obvious that there was a lot of elephants in the area and it did not take long to find the first herd. 

Not far from the 2 above, we found this herd resting in the shadows of an acacia. The one female was very agitated, so we left them in peace and drove further.

We found 4 more... This female with a very small calf and two young bulls. They were on their way to 'de Riet', a small settlement not far from the confluence of the Aba Huab and Huab rivers.

As the main dam was empty due to a broken pump, the elephants had to do with water from the trough. The little one jumped right in and was struggling a bit to get out again!

Just checking if it was really empty!

We drove a bit further down and found a nice tree for a picnic lunch...unfortunately a bird up in the tree let 'one' go and poor William was the unfortunate recipient!

After lunch we drove a bit further down river, following a huge track of a big bull elephant, but a strong wind came up, making it very unpleasant, so we decided to turn around and head back to the last 4 elephants that we had seen. It was time to make a GoPro film...

See if you can guess 'what happened next'!!!

The camera was still working afterwards, but the casing was a bit broken, especially the glass lens. Hopefully we can find a new casing in Windhoek!

Next morning it was time to leave Damaraland and drive to Etosha via Khorixas and Outjo. The first night we stayed outside the park, but we did do an afternoon drive, unfortunately it was very hot and we did not see much, except the normal stuff...springbok, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, steenbok, ostrich... and this dead elephant bull close to Nebrowni waterhole. There was a few lions visible around it and also lots of jackal.

The next morning we left our camp and drove into the park for 2 nights camping at Okaukuejo. The day started much better!

And, as the day got warmer, the animals started to congregate around the waterholes in huge numbers.

We went back to Okaukuejo for lunch and a bit of a 'siesta' as it was very hot again. 

On the afternoon drive we spotted this big bull in the distance and was fortunate enough that it crossed the road we were driving on! 

These acacia trees were the perfect place for these white backed vultures to wait for dinner! Notice the sociable weaver nests in the trees.

Things started to quite down on the animal front as it started to cool down in the afternoon. I thought it might be a good idea to go back to Nebrowni to see what the lions are doing, as they must get thirsty from the heat of the day. My guess was good, but they waited to just before sunset before they started moving to the waterhole.

This cub was obviously very thirsty and made it to the water first.

The light was perfect, although it was getting dark quickly!

In the end we had to leave as I did not want to be back in camp too late, as the wardens might give me a heavy fine for returning back to camp after the gates have closed, so we left them there...

The next morning started good again with this hyena crossing our path.   

 It stopped and had a look at us before running off to its den.

We spotted 2 black rhino on different occasions, but not close enough to take a photo and just before the turnoff to Salvadora, we spotted 2 White rhino walking close the the pan, unfortunately they were also too far away.

We had to be satisfied with zebra...loads and loads of them. They were very skittish as I had seen fresh lion prints in the road. 

The lions was nowhere to be seen, but we did manage to get close for a few nice pictures!

I then drove to the Etosha pan lookout point for some family portraits...


After all that it was time to have lunch, so we left the pan and drove in the direction of Halali. A big veld fire had destroyed a huge area, but, unfortunately it was not just vegetation that was destroyed...

This black rhino managed to escape, but the burn wounds could still clearly be seen on his face, neck and inside of his hind legs. Fortunately it looks like this animal will survive his wounds.

At the next waterhole we saw this huge Kori bustard. As tall as an impala and weighing more than 19 kg, making it the heaviest flying bird in the world!

There was a small herd of elephant drinking at the waterhole at Halali.

William enjoyed this very much, the freedom to sit out in the open with the worlds largest land dwelling mammals so close, but yet so peaceful!

After lunch (and a dive in the pool!) we started driving back towards Okaukuejo. Shortly after I spotted this secretary bird. It is great to see one of them attacking a snake as they kick it with those long legs until the snake is dead.

Then we had another herd of elephant crossing the road with this little one dragging its feet behind its mother.

Earlier that morning we drove past a zebra that had died of 'something'... There was no predators in sight, but also not any jackal, or vultures. That morning we had a quick look at it and drove on without taking a photo. When we drove past it this time, there was lots of vultures and jackal. by now it was a bag of bones as the 'cleaners' did their job! The next morning there was nothing left at all!  

We saw another 2 black rhino on our way to camp, but both were too far away. Fortunately this giraffe was a bit closer as the light was very good for a nice silhouette photo!  

That evening the waterhole was 'cooking'!! Elephants, rhino, lions, giraffe all made for a natural spectacle which many a tourist enjoyed thoroughly, including my group! 

The next morning we broke up camp and drove east towards Namutoni. On the way we saw lots of plains game... 

...and at Salvadora there was a big male lion lying in the shadows of the trees in the background...with the animals in front of it oblivious to its presence. Fortunately for them it was too hot for the big cat to make a move! This was the tracks we had seen the previous day, but this time the male was alone...his females lying in ambush somewhere in the tall grass...

At Rietfontein we saw this 'zebra'...I told my guests that she ran away when the paint was still wet...obviously they didn't believe me! There was nothing wrong with her fowl though! 

On the Okerfontein detour I spotted a rather big herd of zebra that was very uneasy as none of them paid any attention to us, so I stopped and we observed them for a while. They seemed to make a semi circle around something that we could not see as it was too far away. My first thought was that it was either a cheetah, or a small leopard, as they would have ran away very fast if it had been a big leopard or lion. After about 10 minutes William saw a cheetah head above the grass. It was a great sighting, just a pity it was not a bit closer!

Soon after we were rewarded with this elephant that decided to have a dust bath quite close to us! 

On the way out of the park we saw several Damara dik dik, the smallest antelope in Namibia!

The next morning we left quite late as they wanted to stay a bit longer at Onguma bush camp. It is a very nice place with a very neat and well kept garden and swimming pool. Me and Joyce used the opportunity to do some work on the internet as they also have a very good wifi connection!

Unfortunately we had to leave sometime... We arrived at Waterberg wilderness plateau lodge long before sunset. Our guests went for a short hike in the area while me and Joyce enjoyed the vistas from the lodge!

The next morning they were up early for a guided hike to the top of the plateau, but that turned out to be a big disappointment as the 'guide' (one of the local Hereros) was not very interested to talk about anything else than his culture. There was also another big group with them and all the noise meant that they were not going to see much animals. The guests were disappointed as this was not what we had booked, but nothing could be done about it, except to go to Erindi earlier than planned.

Shortly after arriving at Erindi we did our first drive there. It was obvious that the animals were not used to vehicles as they either kept a safe distance, or ran away in a cloud of dust. We did get a couple of photos of animals, but it was not as good as I hoped it to be. We stayed at Camp Elephant (a camp site and several self catering units). The houses were very nice with everything one needs and all the houses are situated in such a way that it affords a clear view of the water hole...which was filled with Hippo's! 

This waterbuck was one of the first 'new' antelopes for my group!

At hippo dam we found these hippos outside the water... 

...and a little bit further we found this herd of black wildebeest. It is easy to distinguish them from blue wildebeest as they have nearly white tails and manes. Also their horns are forward, rather than sideways.

Our last task was to get them safely to the international airport for their return flight home. That was also no problem and we even had time to spare for a short stop over at the craft market in Okahandja!

Our next trip will be for Kunene tours...only a short trip of a few days and I hope to post that story as well before we start our next long trip with Jeske and friends!! 

Until next time...