Thursday 3 October 2013

Hennie and Jeffrey in the bush!

Our last trip was a freelance trip for Kunene Safaris...
...and it turned out to be a fantastic experience for their clients, Jeffrey and Hennie, who was not sure before the trip if they would like 'bush' camping. They later contemplated that the camping part of the trip was by far the most exciting, as this was where they had the best experiences!

Our pick up point was to be at the airstrip close to Twyfelfontein, and, although later than expected (due to startup problems), Wilderness Air did drop them off safely in the end!

We drove the short distance to Mowani Mountain Camp and checked them in...

Their room had a view to die for!!

As it was already later than expected, we thought it best to first visit the Twyfelfontein Engravings, as this was one of the things on their wish list.
Explanations about shamans turning into animals whilst in a deep trance soon had Hennie's head in a spin! The 'Lion man' is surely the most impressive engraving in the area. It depicts a lion with a small antelope in its mouth, an enormously long tail with 5 'fingers' on the end and also 5 'toes' on each foot. This is symbolic of the shamaan turning 'into' a lion as lions don't have hands on their tails, nor do they have 5 toes, they only have 4! The giraffe to its left is seen as 'rising' up into the heavens...therefore it does not have any hoofs at all! There are many more symbolic interpretations, but it is a bit difficult to explain all on this blog! , 

Back at the lodge, it was time for sundowner drinks on the very beautiful viewpoint of the lodge!

With a cold G&T in hand and a few snack platters doing the rounds we were ready...

...for a spectacular sunset!

Next morning we headed west...past these 'fairy circles', a phenomenon that could not be explained for many years! The name 'Fairy circles comes from Bushmen folklore...they said that Grass Fairies left these circles open to dance in after the rains fell and the grass grew! Of course modern man could not accept these 'stories', so they toiled, discussed and scratched their heads for many, many years...which, in turn, produced many 'possibilities'... the poisonous Euphorbia bushes, termites, UFO landing spots, volcanic eruptions that strew radioactive particles over vast areas... None of these stuck, as all was proven wrong. Recently, after much more 'head scratching' 2 more possibilities came 'up'! Firstly that it was a fungus that grew underground, spreading in a circle around its center and thus preventing other plants or grass to grow there... and, secondly, that it was 'vents' for underground gas chambers.... Mmm...I'm not sure who to believe, so I'll just stick to the Bushman stories...much more entertaining!

Not much further from there, we spotted this pale chanting goshawk. He was not in a hurry, so we had time to take a few shots...


Once in the riverbed, I noticed many elephant 'signs', but they were not too fresh, so we went further west and drove up this viewpoint to scan the area with binoculars. We only saw some ostrich and a few oryx, but the view was great!!


From there we drove to De Riet to check if there was any fresh signs of elephant activity and found a fresh print that we followed for quite some time... This was not the track we were following, but we were more than happy with this young bull...

...he was followed by this female with a small calf!

They were just lazily feeding on Anna trees and Acacia.

Oops...dropped one!

From there we drove north, following 4x4 tracks to the main road between Twyfelfontein and Palmwag. We had lunch next to an interesting sandstone formation with caves and thousands of 'pot holes' made by a combination of wind, water and chemical erosion...

This Hartmann's mountain zebra was keeping an eye on us...

...just incase we came too close to his 'harem'! For a black and white animal, they blend really well into their environment!

Once on the main road we saw these giraffe feeding and relaxing quite close to the main road.

We arrived quite late at Khowarib lodge...

...with splendid views of the Hoanib river below the bungalows...

..., but it was the the toilet and shower that stole the show! Showering 'outside' gives visitors a feeling of freedom...being able to see the stars from under one's shower gives a new meaning to this 'thousand star hotel'!!!!

Next morning we left Khowarib (after a great breakfast!) and headed off on the mainroad to Puros.
The next 2 nights was going to be spent camping, so we made camp and decided to visit the local Himba village after that.

The 'chief' was sitting at the 'holy fire', pondering lifes mysteries..., only there was no fire burning, so maybe he was just enjoying the sun...?

This lady was smoking a homemade 'pipe'...the back bit made from normal copper pipe with a piece of hollow bone joined onto the front. The bone acts as a heat suppressant as it does not convey heat, so the pleasure of smoking can be enjoyed thoroughly...(?)

One can also smoke while making crafts to sell to visiting tourists!

Ooohh....the joy of living in mud huts in a hyper arid desert!

After visiting the Himba village, we drove up the Hoarusib river, to one of the many viewpoints... Jeffrey and Hennie enjoyed the vastness of the scenic beauty at their feet.

On the way back to camp, we spotted a few giraffe...

There was a lot of cloud cover, so we did not stick around to watch the sunset. Instead, Joyce just made a photo of this deserted village in the distance.

That evening the elephants came... Fortunately we already had dinner and everyone was ready for bed. I was on my way to the shower and was glad they left me to go about my business! Nothing happened, but most of us had a 'light' sleep with branches breaking all around us as they were stuffing themselves on the trees and shrubs surrounding our camp! I was outside first as it was getting light, with Hennie and Jeffrey sitting upright on their stretchers, watching them feeding a few meters away...their tent was pitched behind the acacia on the right of the picture!!

Jeffrey also came outside to have a better view!

Later we dared to have breakfast...

Fortunately they left us in peace...

We broke up camp and followed them

You don't very often see a small calf like this one leading a herd of elephant!

a Small plane took off from an airstrip not too far away and passed right above us. The noise made the little one seeking the safety of his mother, who, in turn, shook her huge head in disgust at the unrespectful intruders...

Soon after the young'un was running around again, once more unafraid of its surroundings!

We left them in peace...just to find an idiot stuck in the middle of the riverbed with a small Nissan Micra! ...he was French... nough said!

We entered the gorge downriver of Puros, an area with a small stream of water running for kilometers on end... It attracts all kinds of animals, like these ostriches..., this black and white Mountain wheatear...

...and this colorful bokmakierie, singing his mating song to any interesting females!

We saw many springbok and oryx. 

The river runs west, towards the Skeleton coast, but we had to leave it as it is nearly impossible to get a permit for this section of the park, so we left the lush riverbed and headed south...into a dry and unforgiving area between the Hoarusib and Hoanib rivers. I have made this crossing many times, so it was not difficult to find a shady tree for our lunch! After that we drove further, on towards the Hoanib river. We entered the river at Amspoort and drove east, upriver. At Presidents waterhole, there was 13 elephants! Two breeding herds with calves and two mature bull elephants. It seems like they just finished drinking and were on their way back to feeding in the riverbed... 


It was time to set the GoPro down to see if we can get some footage as they pass. I decided to use elephant muffins to 'hide' the camera in as I did not want them to kick it, or eat it again as happened on previous trips! 

The 'approach' went without any problems...

The first elephant passed without a 'sniff', but little Maradona (so dubbed after he kicked my camera around in the riverbed) was next! Fortunately he only had a sniff as a few more behind him!

This huge bull just had eyes for one of the females in front of him, as she was in 'season'!

Enjoy the video!!!

I also managed a few nice shots from a small hill in the back! This photo was taken just before they went past the GoPro camera.

Desert elephants in the desert... a beautiful sight!

We turned back towards Presidents and found another 2 bull elephants at the water!

This small giraffe was very curious and kept a wary eye on us.

Just a bit further we found 2 more elephants on top of a small overgrown hill. I knew there had to be a third, but he was hiding in the thick brush.

We stopped to make camp a few kilometers from there, but not in the riverbed. It is very dangerous and irresponsible to camp in the riverbed as it is the 'feeding' grounds of the elephants. We made camp in a dry side branch of the river a safe distance from the main riverbed. 

We were just discussing where to go for our sunset drink, when lions started to roar in the valley  below us. I quickly hustled everyone into the vehicle and we left to search for them. Time was not on our side as the sun was setting fast. The sound had come from an area in the river bed where it was split up into two 'channels', with the main channel further from us and an 'island' in the middle. I first drove down the smaller channel and found their prints, but no lions... There was no time to track them, so I had to make a decision fast. I decided to go on top of the 'island' and shortly after we spotted a female and 2 tiny cubs! Unfortunately this was the only photo we got of the female. Desert lions are extremely 'shy'. They all disappeared into the thick bush on the bank. I drove a bit further to a spot where we could see the river bed as I hoped they would go down into the bed. Nothing happened. I went back to where we spotted the female and...

...then we spotted the big boy!! Joyce got a quick photo using a flash, as it was getting dark quickly. 

I stopped the vehicle a good distance away from the big male as he was getting a bit 'uncomfortable' with our presence, but it did not stop all the cameras clicking away! Joyce hiked up her ISO to 1600 to cope with the dark conditions and got these nice shots!

The first male finally decided to disappear into the bush, but we have been hearing another male not too much further from us, so we dug out the spotlight and went 'hunting'!! I first went up the main river bed...once again..., nothing! By now it was totally dark. I decided to go onto the opposite bank and, after a few dead ends we got him! It was his glowing eyes that gave him away! Jeffrey spotted him a good distance away and he was really excited with his sighting!! Well done Jeff!! It was really amazing to see these elusive animals in their natural environment. We left them in peace and went back to camp. We still had to eat... 

The next morning we got up and went for an early drive...just incase the lions were still in the area, but I did not have much hope, as I heard them roaring further and further from us during the night. They also had split up and moved off in different directions. The female with the cubs went up river, the same direction we had to go, so we went back to camp for breakfast and I hoped we might see them on our way back to the lodge.

(Readers who are interested can follow their antics on
One of the big males further north decided a few weeks ago to swim through the crocodile infested Kunene river, just to see what is on the other side...fortunately he swam back a few days later!)

Unfortunately it was not to be.., but we did see the elephants we saw the day before, only this time they were complete, all 3 of them...just split up so it was difficult to get them in one photo!

The rest of the drive to Khowarib was interesting, but nothing spectacular happened. We got there in time for afternoon tea! 

The next morning we took our guests back to the airstip at Palmwag lodge for their flight to Windhoek and I thought it might be a good idea to put the Gopro on the side of the airstrip... It turned out to be a very good idea!!

Jeffrey and Hennie really enjoyed the 'ride' through some of the more remote areas of Namibia and for us, it was great to to assist Kunene tours with this trip. As a guide, it is impossible to know what we will see on any trip, so it is really great if everything comes together...great guests and great sightings!!
We wish them well on all their travels around the globe!