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The Ghosts of Etosha

  
  

The “white ghosts” of Etosha are something that any explorer of Namibia's national park should try and catch a glimpse of. Namibian photographer and elephant lover, Anja Denker, is here to tell you what it is like spending time with these gentle giants and how you can observe and photograph these magnificent creatures.


The Ghosts of Etosha

Photos and words
by
Anja Denker


VAST

 

The great white place

The word Etosha literally means “great white place” as the pan in the middle of the park is a vast expanse of white, salt-laced earth. This soil supports very little plant life except for the blue-green algae that gives Etosha its characteristic coloring. 

In the areas where the soil does get wet elephants can be found wallowing, covering their bodies in the mud that forms. This mud then dries into a light (usually) white coat.

MUD

 

WHITE

 

White/Grey/Green 

The ‘white ghosts’ of Etosha, as I like to call them, can be observed frequenting the Nebrownii waterhole, where the dry white clay dusts their skin and coats the entire elephant in white – often brilliantly offset against the bright blue sky.  

It is also a treat to photograph elephants at the Goas waterhole, due to the fact that it is so vast and open and very green especially in the rainy season. Here you can get a fantastic contrast between the blue sky, green vegetation and gentle grey giants.  

CONTRAST

 

The startling contrasts of color make for a visual, photographic feast, especially when it comes to the elephants that love to wallow in the water and the distinctly coloured mud. It is not uncommon when visiting Etosha to see these giant animals caked in the dried white mud of the pan.

FUNMUD


It wasn’t until October last year that I came across my first ‘green’ elephant. This particular elephant coating himself with the green algae slick of the pan and gaining a distinctly ‘mouldy’ appearance in the process!

MOULD

 

Being so used to seeing the typical “white” elephants, this green specimen came as a complete surprise. The lone elephant bull was standing in a patch of blue-green algae at the Springbokfontein waterhole, a contact spring at the edge of the pan. 

ZEB

 

He was obviously having great fun splashing in the mud and coating himself with the green stuff he had found.  His new dye-job really made him stand out in the vastness of the pan, and when a few zebra and blue wildebeest joined him it made for truly unique photo opportunity.

ZEBW ILD

 

Photography on the pan 

There are quite a few challenges when photographing on the Etosha Pan, the most obvious being the harsh light and predominant white background, which poses some real exposure problems.  Strangely enough I find that I need to overexpose the shot sometimes, say for instance at midday at a waterhole when the background is bright and the animals are too dark. Of course it is advisable to use the “golden hours “ to full advantage, those being first light early in the morning and then in the late afternoon. 

SUNSET 

I have managed to get some very decent shots in not so favourable light conditions as well and you'd do well to remember that any challenge forces you to grow. Cloud cover is also great as it softens the light considerably, being a wonderful natural filter.

CLOUD

 

I like to shoot at eye-level and up but this is not very often possible on the pan due to the animals being lower than the photographer. Except, of course, in the case of an elephant when it is close enough or when you get an animal on a rise and you can shoot against the horizon.

Dust is also a very big challenge in the sense that you really have to protect your gear carefully – it creeps in anywhere!

DUST

 

For the love of elephants

Elephants have always held a fascination for me, not only because of their impressive size, but also for their remarkable intelligence and emotional capacity. They demonstarte these almost human-like traits with their communication habits, mourning rituals, deep sense of family ties and fierce protection of their offspring.

MATERNAL 

I can remember I was with my daughter in Etosha and a small breeding herd of Elephants approached us from the front. There was plenty of space to move for the elephants so we stayed in our parked car and waited for the approach.  The herd moved past our left side where my daughter sat – so close that their skin nearly touched the side of the car.  As the herd made its way past us the matriarch lifted the tip of her trunk and briefly touched our side mirror as if in silent acknowledgement of our presence.

FINAL


+++++++
 

You can follow Anja on Facebook or visit her website.

Capture Namibia: Photography Tips from Richard Garvey-Williams

  
  

Published photographer and nature enthusiast Richard Garvey-Williams has been to Namibia twice on photo safaris. Richard was kind enough to sit down with us and tell us about his experiences in Namibia and how you can get the most out of your photography in the Land of the Brave.

Namibia, namibia photography, Richard Garvey Williams, etosha photography, photography, mastering composition, elephants, photo safaris 
Two gemsbok in dramatic scenery in the Namib-Rand Reserve 

 

Tell us about your most unforgettable moment while shooting in Namibia.

There were so many, but I did receive a parting gift that has certainly stayed with me. On my last evening, on the Namib-Rand Reserve, I decided to relax after dinner instead of rushing off to finish downloading images and get to bed ready for an early rise. I leant back in my chair and really took in the night sky for the first time that trip. I’ve seen night skies in a number of countries but this was special. I resolved to make some time for some night photography too on my next visit.

 

Every destination has its challenges and rewards; how does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?

Namibia is vast, relatively unpopulated spaces and the arid landscapes particularly strike those of us from more temperate climates. The rugged mountains and towering sand dunes provide some wonderful back-drops for wildlife photography. The colour palette is quite unusual being dominated by yellows, oranges and blues. There’s certainly variety too with the coastal regions, Fish River Canyon and the Waterberg Plateau just a few examples of locations offering different photographic opportunities. Etosha National Park is also great for photographers, particularly in the dry season when you are able to witness the whole cast of its dramatic wildlife taking turns visiting the many waterholes.

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Wildebeest seeking refuge during the course of the day on the Etosha Pan


One of the challenges we photographers have to face is that of heat haze. Photographing at the ends of the day when the air is cooler helps and it’s also important to get nearer to your subject if there is a risk of haze. However, when using very long lenses, there are bound to be a few images blurred by its influence. The other elements that we need to respect in these sorts of environment are the dust and sand- extra precautions are certainly recommended. Planning your travel itinerary can also be a challenge as the distance between locations are great and many of the roads are not tarred. I tried to always travel during the middle of the day to avoid eating into the precious morning and evening photography sessions. 

 

Which 3 photos shot in Namibia are you most proud of and why?

1. One of my favourites is the one of the Black-faced Impala drinking.

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This was taken early on during my tour at one of the waterholes towards the Eastern Gate of Etosha. I watched through the viewfinder mesmerized as the impala came in one at a time to drink, eventually lining themselves up to form a wonderful composition. The late-arrival, nervously looking around before lowering its head really makes the photograph as it breaks the pattern established by the others.

 

2. Another is the silhouetted elephant drinking.

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This was taken at Halali waterhole in Etosha. I was half-way into my time in the park and had yet to see an elephant- which is unusual. At sunset, I hurried on foot to the waterhole and was over-joyed to find a whole herd of elephants drinking there. I set to trying to capture some interesting shapes and outlines by silhouetting them against the glowing water beyond. I fired off a sequence as this one raised its head. The alignment of its head with the gap between the trunk and the reflection on the left made this one a particularly balanced and appealing composition.

 

3. Finally, I’ll go for the one I call Elephant Communion.

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I approached this waterhole to find these two bull elephants standing there coated with drying white mud. They looked as if they had been sculpted out of marble. I spent a good hour watching them as they gently swayed from side to side, occasionally turning to each other and gently resting their heads together. They had arrived together and I saw them leave together – clearly a close bond between them.

 

When going on a Namibian photographic expedition, what is your equipment of choice? And what do you never leave home without?

There are opportunities to use the full spectrum of focal lengths with long telephotos being useful for many wildlife encounters and in particular the bird life. Wide angle lenses will enable you to include foreground details in some of your landscape shots and to get ‘creative’ with rock formations, quiver trees and sand dunes. I’d also strongly recommend a polarizing filter. These will often work wonders in this context by lifting and emphasizing the wonderful colours in the scenery. 

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Sculpted sand dunes in the Namib-Naukluft National Park.

 

Another essential item is a beanbag. Much of your photographing will be done from a vehicle so a beanbag to rest your camera and long lens on will make life a lot easier. It will also give you the stability you need to use slower shutter speeds when the light levels are low early in the morning or when you need a small aperture for a greater depth of field.

 

A photographer friend is desperate to capture the best of Namibia. What top three tips would you give them?

Firstly, as with any destination, it’s important to do your research and plan your travel itinerary with your photographic ambitions in mind. Make good use of an operator or contact with local knowledge. Factor in a little extra time as road conditions can be a little variable.

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Deadvlei in the Namib-Naukluft National Park


Secondly, you must protect your equipment from dust and sand. Dust covers or simple plastic bags fixed over your camera and lens with rubber bands or tape are a good idea. A blower brush to keep the optics clean, and cloths and cleaning fluid are also essential. Remember to put your cameras and lenses away in your camera bag and to zip it up when you’re on the move.

Finally, when lining up each shot, make a point of asking yourself about the fundamentals of lighting and composition. The aridity of the surroundings provides for some lovely uncluttered scenes, enabling you to simplify your compositions and to experiment with some precise placement of the elements contributing to the photograph. It’s not surprising that many of my images from Namibia were used as examples illustrating various points in my book, Mastering Composition – the definitive guide for photographers (Details of which can be found on my website).

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Namibia, namibia photography, Richard Garvey Williams, etosha photography, photography, mastering composition, elephants, photo safaris 

Richard spent his childhood years in East Africa and was so in awe of the beautiful wildlife of that region that now, many years on, he still feels the draw of the African continent and the safari experience. As a professional wildlife and landscape photographer, he uses his skills to share with others these wonders and the empathy and respect that he feels for the natural world. Through his photography workshops he also welcomes others to share in the exhilaration of the safari experience. He is now busy working on another photography book.

Visit Richard's website, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook. You can also check when his next photo safari is happening here

More Photographer Tips

This part of a series of blog post interviews with professional photographers on how to Capture Namibia. Every week we'll be posting tips, tricks and amazing photographs from these impressive photographers.

Follow us to get the latest in the Capture Namibia series:

          

Namibia photography, photos Namibia, Africa photography, photography tips, photography in africa, photographs of namibia, photographs of africa

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 Featured Photographers  

   
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 Marsel van Oosten 

 Christopher Rimmer

Paul van Schalkwyk

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Bill Gozansky

 Roy van der Merwe

 Hougaard Malan

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 Matthew Hood

 Ted Alan Stedman

 Jan & Jaye Roode 

Capture Namibia: Photography tips from Marina Cano

  
  

Marina Cano is an award winning Spanish photographer who recently spent some time in Namibia. She took several amazing shots of the Land of the Brave and its creatures. We tracked her down and got her to share some of her wisdom and a few of her favourite shots from her trip.

describe the image

Tell us about your most unforgettable moment while shooting in Namibia.

There were many incredible moments in Namibia, it’s difficult to choose just one. But early one morning we were tracking a young female cheetah, Jacomina. She had been introduced to the wild for just three months. I went with the rangers who were taking care of her while she got used to her new habitat. When we arrived there, she was alone.

Then Jacomina started calling for her cubs. After a few minutes, the ranger's became anxious because the cubs did not come. She continued to call them while moving around the area. We were on foot and followed her cautiously in the distance almost without breathing. After what felt like an eternity, two adorable cubs came running towards her. I could see a big smile and relief on all faces. Everything seemed to be much more beautiful even more sunny. At sunset the same day we found them relaxing in the bush- all three of them were lit up by the last rays of the sun. The mixture of shadows and light spilling onto them was just awesome.*

*This picture appears below so keep on reading!

 

Every destination has its challenges and rewards; how does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?

Traveling in the winter, I had many opportunities to witness and observe a diversity of animals in large numbers at the many different waterholes. Sunsets were those magical moments that all photographers dream about. Every evening was a gift (sometimes it felt like I was having a romantic date with elephants, giraffes, rhinos, birds…) Simply put, it is nature at its best. 

I felt comfortable, safe and also fulfilled with the spirit of adventure in Namibia.

The challenge is to make sure that you are at the waterholes close to the lodges in Etosha when the light starts to become precious in the golden hours of the day. Everyday you need to have a very specific schedule because the distances from the lodges in the parks are far. The Namibian landscape is unique and spectacular, it does not matter where you are; you recognize an image taken in Namibia as soon as you see it.

describe the image

 

Which 3 photos shot in Namibia are you most proud of and why?

1. Okaukuejo waterhole at Etosha. 

describe the image

After sunset with giraffes and rhinos drinking, the sky turned into a swirl of reds, oranges and blues... In this picture you can only see the silhouettes in the reflection. I turned the picture upside down, so the sky remained in the bottom, and the silhouettes are in the upright position. The result is ethereal and mysterious.

 

2. Erindi Private Game Reserve

describe the image

The curious baby leopard. It was just a miracle that we discovered a leopard cub by chance. The cub was about one month old. After spending over an hour with it, the cub became inquisitive and more confident and allowed us close enough to photograph it.  The cubs curious beautiful blue eyes curious looked straight into the camera resulting in this delightful image.

 

3. Cheetah family in the bushveld

describe the image

The cold blue environment contrasted with the warm light surrounding their bodies created a magical atmosphere, almost surreal. They came across as very relaxed and at the same time very aware of us. They all looked straight into the camera. I love the baby cheetahs’ faces, looking mildly upset and curious, but feeling very safe close to their mum.

 

When going on a Namibian photographic expedition, what is your equipment of choice? And what do you never leave home without?      

This was my first time in Namibia, I was there for one month exploring and discovering the beauty of this corner of Africa. My equipment: Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EOS MARK IV, Canon 600mm f/4, Canon 300mm 2.8, Canon 100-400mm, Canon 16-35mm, Canon 85mm. Manfrotto tripod.

For this trip, Canon Spain lent me the EOS 1DX camera and the fabulous 600mm lens. All I can say is that I felt extremely lucky because I was able to get very close to the animals when I most needed it. I recommend that you bring two camera bodies so you don't have to change lenses due to there being so much dust in the air.

describe the image 

A photographer friend is desperate to capture the best of Namibia. What top 3 tips would you give them?

1. Winter in Etosha offers a lot of activity at the most waterholes. The best waterholes in my experience are the ones at the lodges, so you don't have to rush up and down when it gets darker.  Find a comfortable seating position and be ready to take the most exciting pictures. The weather is wonderful, not too hot in the days and evenings, but for sunrise shots wear warm clothes.

2. Erindi Game Reserve will offer you exciting and different approaches to wildlife photos. You can drive off-road and have really close encounters with the wild. The sunsets are endless, and some of the most beautiful I've ever seen.

3. Book well in advance for Etosha because during high season it gets very busy at the lodges. Spend as much time as you can in the park, every single day is to be treasured. Every minute is magic and you might not want to ever leave. Anyone who wants to join me for my photo safari is very welcome.

describe the image

You can visit Marina’s website here or check out her Facebook page for more of her work. 

bio

About Marina...

Marina Cano is an award winning Spanish photographer who has published two books and is regularly featured in the National Geographic. She has exhibited her work in Korea, South Africa, Cuba, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. When not taking photographs Marina lectures around the globe.

 

More Photographer Tips

This part of a series of blog post interviews with professional photographers on how to Capture Namibia. Every week we'll be posting tips, tricks and amazing photographs from these impressive photographers.

Follow us to get the latest in the Capture Namibia series:

          

Namibia photography, photos Namibia, Africa photography, photography tips, photography in africa, photographs of namibia, photographs of africa

Namibia photography, photos Namibia, Africa photography, photography tips, photography in africa, photographs of namibia, photographs of africa

 Featured Photographers  

   
Namibia photography, photos Namibia, Africa photography, Marsel van Oosten, photography tips, photography in africa, photographs of namibia, photographs of africa  Namibia photography, photos Namibia, Africa photography, Christopher Rimmer, photography tips, photography in africa, photographs of namibia, photographs of africa  Namibia photography, photos Namibia, Africa photography, Paul van Schalkwyk, photography tips, photography in africa, photographs of namibia, photographs of africa, hasselblad masters

 Marsel van Oosten 

 Christopher Rimmer

Paul van Schalkwyk

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Bill Gozansky

 Roy van der Merwe

 Hougaard Malan

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 Matthew Hood

 Ted Alan Stedman

 Jan & Jaye Roode

Where to Stay in Etosha National Park

  
  

So, you want to visit Etosha National Park? Of course you do. It is one of the most highly regarded national parks in Africa. The park has an enormous amount and variety of wildlife and guests are frequently treated to sightings of several rare and endangered animals. If you are going to visit Etosha, you will need a place to over night. This blog will give you the low down on where to stay while you explore this national treasure.

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A dazzle of zebra at a waterhole in Etosha.


Staying Inside the Park 

Most people start by looking for accommodation inside the park itself. There are only five camps you can stay at that are situated inside the boundaries of the park and they are all run by Namibia Wildlife Resorts. Below is a table of all five of these camps; if you want more info on the camp then simply click the picture next to the description.

http://www.etoshanationalpark.org/media/Etosha-Map2.jpg
Click here for a larger version of this map.

(Map via ENP)

 


 

Halali

Image via ENP

Halali

Closest gate: Either Anderson or Von Lindequist

This camp can be found right smack in the middle of the park. It is surrounded by shade-providing Mopane trees and has a nearby waterhole that allows guests to unobtrusively view game. Rhinos, lions and all manner of creatures frequent the viewing spot- so be sure to bring your camera! Halali has chalets and camping facilities, a bar, swimming pool and a restaurant.

Book here

 

NAM

Image via ENP

Namutoni

Closest Gate: Von Lindequist

The building that makes up the bulk of this complex is an old German fort and is the first port of call for most visitors who want to secure driving permits within Etosha. There are also several chalets and double rooms at which guests can stay. An African fusion restaurant, fully stocked bar as well as a flood-lit waterhole should provide enough reason to stay at this camp!

Book here.

 

 


 

okaukuejo

Image via ENP

Okaukuejo Camp

Closest gate: Anderson Gate

This camp has a wide variety of accommodation options from luxury bush chalets over looking the flood-lit waterhole to family chalets and double rooms. There are also camping facilities as well as a swimming pool, bar and restaurant. The camp is very close to the Anderson Gate and is easy to get to if you use that gate to get into the park. It is the administrative hub of Etosha. 

Book here.     

 

DOLO

Image via ENP

Dolomite Camp

Closest gate: Galton Gate

Up until recently the western portion of Etosha was closed off to the public. It has just been reopened and so too has the Dolomite Camp (the camp gets its name from the geology surrounding it). This part of Etosha has seen increases in the numbers of black-faced impalas and black rhinos, so be sure to be on the look out for these two large mammals. Beyond this, awesome views and beautiful vegetation make visiting this camp a treat.

Book here.  

 

DOLO

Image via ENP

Onkoshi Camp

Closest gate: King Nehale

With space for just thirty people this camp is the smallest and most intimate of the five NWR camps in Etosha. Onkoshi is also off all of the major routes and feels more secluded and private than most areas of the park. Each chalet in the camp offers a view of the Pan itself- this should convince you to try book a spot here. Each of the fifteen chalets are double rooms and there is a pool, restaurant and bar. 

Book here.     

 

Staying Outside the Park

If none of the five options within the park really suit your tastes then there is always the option of staying just outside Etosha as there are many different establishments that specialise in providing guests with a springboard into Etosha National Park.

One of the advantages of staying outside of the park is that you are spoiled for choice. From self-catering camping lodges, to luxury lodges with spa’s, we’re sure you will find somewhere that’s perfect for you.

Below we have collected a few options to demonstrate to you how diverse the lodges and camps around Etosha are. If you want more information on any of the camps just click on the picture next to the description.

Etosha Safari Camp

Etosha Safari Camp

Close to Etosha’s Anderson Gate this unique and quirky lodge is a must for visitors looking for something a little bit different. One of a kind décor and the serene surrounds make this camp the perfect place for young and old alike. It is reasonably priced with both double and single rooms available.

Book here.

Monjilla

Mondjila Safari Camp

Situated 30km south of the Anderson Gate this camp is well within driving distance of the famous national park. The camp has a laundry service, internet and a beautiful deck for watching the sun set behind the famous Namibian horizon.

Book here.

Aoba

Etosha Aoba Lodge

Etosha Aoba Lodge can be found on the Onguma Private Game Reserve. Onguma used to be part of Etosha National Park but it is now privately owned and managed. The Aoba Lodge  boasts eleven chalets that are all extremely private. Onguma, and Aoba, can be found on the eastern side of Etosha.

Book here.

ETOSHA VILL

Etosha Village

The name of the game at Etosha Village is good value and friendly service. The Village focuses on giving animal lovers easy access to one of the world’s most renowned national parks and is only two kilometres from the Anderson Gate. Game drives through the park can be organised as well.

Book here.

Mokuti

Mokuti Lodge

This lodge is a short four-minute drive from Etosha’s Von Lindequist Gate. The lodge hosts large groups of visitors from around the globe, so look forward to being able to share some stories round the camp fire with your fellow travellers. This lodge is situated on a nature reserve that shares on the border of Etosha. 

Book here.

Mushara Lodge

Mushara Lodge

This lodge is a situated very near the Von Lindequist Gate and is perfectly suited to explorers who are looking for a relaxed, tasteful and serene place to stay. The lodge has a library, a well-stocked wine cellar and a great collection of modern and traditional Namibian and African art.

Book here.

Eldorado

Eldorado B&B and Camping

This well-priced establishment can be found jminutes from the Anderson Gate. The area is famed for its birdlife and many interesting species have been spotted in and around the camp. Run by the same family for over 60 years Eldorado's focus is on good value and good service.

Book here.

epacha lodge and spa main 059

Epacha Game Lodge and Spa

This lodge is situated a little further from Etosha than the others on this list. However, it is still within an hour’s drive of the massive national park. Epacha boasts a spa and luxury chalets; so if you are looking for wellness and wilderness while visiting Etosha then Epacha is the perfect place for you.

Book here.

Onguiva

Little Ongava

There are only three units at Little Ongava, making it one of the most private and sought-after camps in the whole of Namibia. Be sure to book long in advance if you want to get a spot here. The camp itself is perched on a rocky outcrop that is extremely close Etosha’s Anderson Gate.

Book here.

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For more places to stay outside of Etosha click here.


An Important Reminder

Whether you are staying in the park or outside the park you need to know that you cannot drive around the park in your private vehicle after dark or before sunrise.

Be sure to check what time the day begins and ends before setting off an adventure through Namibia’s largest game park. Always allow enough time to get back to the gate you arrived in at and never, EVER leave your vehicle.

IMG 0598

Every animal in Etosha is a wild animal- be safe and enjoy!


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Check out some of our other blogs on Etosha National Park:

 

 How to Explore Etosha

Camping in Etosha 

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Four Scenic 4x4 Mountain Passes in Namibia

  
  

If you are into 4x4 adventures, Namibia has some beautiful mountain passes just for you. We have selected four passes on routes that start in Windhoek and head down the face of the Great Escarpment and into the Namib Desert and beyond.

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Namibia's mountainous regions are well-worth exploring.

 

A Short Note on 4x4’s in Namibia

Upon arriving in Namibia for the first time you would be forgiven for thinking that much of the driving you do around the countryside seems like a 4x4 adventure. With most of the roads in Namibia untarred and cutting through rugged landscape, this assumption is not crazy. However, the extensive gravel road network of Namibia is well maintained and is, for the most part, very easy to drive on. So fear not!

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Clear skies, clear roads.

 

Most car rental agencies will have 4x4 vehicles for hire and you can find a list of some agencies in Namibia here. Be sure to double-check any insurance policy you take out for your hired vehicle. Some policies will not cover damages incurred while using the vehicle off-road, so make sure with your agency before you bound off into the rugged outdoors.

Check out everything we have on car hire here.

 

Scenic Ascents and Breath-taking Descents

The passes below are incredibly scenic and along the way you will find loads of great places to stop and take in the awesome scenery of the remote locations you will drive through. This means that these routes are not just rewarding for novices but also for more experienced drivers who can enjoy the amazing sights and landscapes that these mountain roads cut through.

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One of the scenic picnic spots en-route.
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

 

1. The Remhoogte Pass

If you are hoping to explore Sossusvlei, the Sesriem Canyon via the isolated town of Solitaire when you visit Namibia then this may be the perfect pass for you to take. There is also a lot of interesting geology along this trail with wind battered rock-faces rising out of the ground all along the route.

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The start of the scenic pass.
(Image via Tracks4Africa by Nakkiran Sunassee)

 

The Remhoogte Pass will take you over the Great Escarpment and into the Namib Desert and it is much less steep (and therefore easier to navigate) than the nearby Spreetshoogte Pass. This route is good if you are a little apprehensive about heights, or your ability to traverse a serious mountain pass. However, you must note, while it is possible, it is not the best idea to tackle this route with a sedan or light two-wheel drive vehicle.




A sedan will probably not cut it on this route.


How to get there

The pass can be found on the D1261. 

Take the B1 south out of Windhoek and head to Rehoboth. Just after you go through Rehoboth take the C24 going west for 37 km. Then turn onto the D1261 going south. Keep driving until you get to the C14- the C14 is the road you must take to get to Solitaire in the south.

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Welcome to Solitaire!
(Photo via Panoramio)

 

2. The Spreetshoogte Pass

This route follows a similar path to the Remhoogte pass. It too will take you from Windhoek to Solitaire meaning that you will be close to Sossusvlei and Sesriem. The major different between the two routes is that Spreetshoogte is much, much steeper than Remhoogte. As such, it is a little trickier to drive.

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Steep descents and sharp corner mean you will need a decent vehicle.
(Image via Panoramio)

 

The sharp bends and steep gradients are not bad news for intrepid explorers. These two aspects of the pass combine to provide travelers with unrivalled views of the dramatic landscape below the pass. It is best to drive in the afternoons as the landscape in the later afternoon sun is truly gorgeous and offers some awesome photographic opportunities.

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Another spectacular sunset on the Spreetshoogte Pass.
(Image via Alex Pompe)

 

How to get there

The pass lies south of the Gamsberg on the D1275.

Take the B1 and head south out of Windhoek, heading to Rehoboth. Just after you go through Rehoboth take the C24 for 37 km going West. Then head southwest on the D1261 for about 55km. Look out for the D1275. Once on the D1275 simply follow it until you get to the C14. Get on the C14 and head south to get to Solitaire.

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Both the Spreetshoogte and Remhoogte passes will put you en-route to the Sesriem Canyon.


3. The Gamsberg Pass

The mountain which this pass traverses got its name from the Nama word “gan” (flat on top). The Gamsberg Mountain is a flat top mountain and some even wryly referred to it as Namibia’s very own Table Mountain.

 

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The Gamsberg.
(Image via Tracks4Africa)

 

The route travels through the southern regions of the Namib Naukluft National Park, and should you choose, will lead you all the way to Walvis Bay on the iconic Namibian coast. This region of Namibia has a little bit of everything for everyone, with great rock climbing, challenging off-road 4x4 trails and awe-inspiring views of the foothills around the Kuiseb.

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The Kuiseb Valley.
(Image via Outdoorphotos by Andre Moller)

 

The pass is one of Namibia’s most popular passes and it is in fact the highest and the longest pass in the country. Its elevation and the fact that you overlook the Kuiseb River in the valley below it make it one of the most scenic 4x4 routes you can travel on in Namibia.

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The region has an average of 300 clear days a year.
Making it an ideal place for camping and stargazing.

(Image via Lynn Greenlee)

 

How to get there

The pass is on the C26.

All you need to do is head south on the B1 out of Windhoek and turn right onto the C26. The C26 is about 190km in length, at which point you will encounter the C14. Head northwest on the C14 to get to the nearby Walvis Bay, or head south to get to Solitaire.

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A rare shot of an unusually cloud-covered Gamsberg Pass.
(Photo via Alex Pompe)

 

4. The Bosua Pass 

The Bosua Pass is along a road that will take you from Windhoek to the famous coastal town of Swakopmund. The road is a far more scenic alternative to the traditional route along the tarred B1 and B2. However, like the Spreetshoogte Pass there are some very steep sections as you drive over the mountain and as such you should not try to do it with a car that does not have decent tires and brakes.

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The sun setting over the C28 just after the pass.
(Image via MEI)

 

The pass takes adventurers passed several abandoned mines and houses. Two notable sites along the route are the old Liebig House and the ruins of the Von Francois Fort. The former was once the residence of the copper mine’s top brass, while the latter was most recently used as a “Tronckenposten”- a drying out post for alcoholic German soldiers in the early 1900’s. Keep an eye out for these two landmarks!

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The abandoned Liebig House.
(Image via TREKEARTH)

How to get there

You can find this pass on the C28.

This pass is very easy to find. All you need to do is head out of Windhoek, on the C28 and head due east. The C28 snakes through the countryside for 319km and a trip from Windhoek to Swakopmund along this road should take you about five and-a-half hours.

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And once you get to the beaches near Swakopmund the fun and games can begin!


General notes

There are several picnic spots on these four passes. Some are at the beginning of the pass while others are at specific lookout points, so keep your eyes open for places to stop.

Please also note that you are not allowed to drive wherever you like in Namibia. You must stick to the roads on the map unless you have permission from the owners of the land on which you are driving.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly: Please ensure you close all gates that you drive through. Leaving these farms gates open endangers wildlife, drivers, locals and tourists. 

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Remember to keep those gates closed.
(Image via Zanzig Photography)

 

Happy trails!

 

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Driving through Namibia with Carlo van Wyk

  
  

Namibia: A Solo Overland Trip

by Carlo van Wyk

Every now and then, we all need a break. A few weeks ago I decided to take a much needed escape from the daily grind, and set out on a 3000 mile road trip through the south of Namibia. I didn’t have a set itinerary, just a road map, my four-wheel drive vehicle, cameras, and enough supplies to be self-sufficient for more or less two weeks.

Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

The famous Dead Vlei.

 

Taking a break and traveling solo

I’ve always wanted to do a trip to Namibia. The country’s natural beauty and its vast and desolate expanses have always appealed to me. I wanted to take some landscape pictures, and to take a bit of a break from my working life. I decided to focus most of my travels around the south and south-west of Namibia so as not to feel rushed while I explored the country.

Namibrand Nature Reserve - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

The NamibRand Nature Reserve...
There are no fences on the side of the road and the wildlife roams freely through the reserve.

 

I was afforded a certain freedom by travelling solo. I travelled on my own time and terms, and it’s amazing how different one’s experience of traveling is when one travels alone. I met people I would never have met if I were traveling with someone or in a large group of tourists.

Old Car Wreck, Namibia - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Being on your own allows you to take more time to linger at interesting places.
 

 

Camera equipment for Namibia

I was using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and I ended up taking the majority of pictures with three of my lenses: A Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L MK II, a Canon EF 16-35mm f2.8L MK II and an EF 100mm Macro lens. I also used an EF 24mm tilt shift lens for a few shifted panoramas. I did miss not having a 70-200mm zoom lens, as there were plenty of opportunities where such a lens would have been ideal.

Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park- Panorama taken with Canon EF 24mm Tilt Shift lens.


If I could take only three lenses to Namibia I would pack a 16-35mm, a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm. These three lenses are my ideal choices for photographing landscapes and people. However, if I intended on photographing wildlife as well, I would simply add a 500mm lens with a tele converter to the above selection of lenses.

Namibian Winter Panorama - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Namibian Winter Panorama-
This panorama was taken with the Canon 24mm t/s F3.5ii L lens,
and really shows where this lens excels.


There’s a lot of dust and sand in Namibia. I managed to shoot with my camera for well over a year without the need for cleaning the sensor, but towards the end of my trip through Namibia, a number of dust spots started to show up at smaller apertures. So be sure to have a good camera bag to minimize dust build up.

Kolmanskop - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Remote locations like Kolmanskop (pictured above) are striking, but are hard on your gear.


Spectacular landscapes in Namibia

The light in Namibia has a magical quality to it. The skies have a very rich blue, and the light is unusually warm lending your photographs a rich tone. This country is breathtakingly beautiful with spectacular landscapes everywhere. It is a photogenic country- a photographer’s dream.

The Fish River Canyon, Namibia - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

The Fish River Canyon.

Climbing Dune 45, Sossusvlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Dune 45.

Trees at Dead Vlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Dead Vlei.


Remote, desolate beauty

Namibia is vast, desolate and beautiful. I really enjoyed the isolation of Namibia. Even in peak tourist season, you can pull over your car on the side of the road and not see a vehicle for a few hours. You can camp wild under African skies and some roads are so isolated that you can literally be alone for a day or two.

NamibRand - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

The NamibRand Nature Reserve.

 

I deliberately tried to stick to mostly gravel roads. The condition of the gravel roads in Namibia are excellent. Towns along these roads are mostly small, often consisting of a fuel station, a shop, with a few campsites or lodges scattered around it. A lot of the roads don’t have any fences and as a result I saw plenty of wildlife crossing the road. You quickly learn to look out for animals. It’s well advised to only travel during daylight hours, as nighttime brings the risk of hitting animals.

Gravel Roads in Namibia - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

The gravel roads in Namibia are great.
Wildlife crossing the roads poses a risk, so speed should be kept to about 80km/h.

 

For the most part, there’s limited or no cell phone coverage. Only the bigger towns and some smaller towns have coverage. The vast, desolate expanses of Namibia, coupled with a lack of communication to the outside world in many areas really allowed me to switch off, relax, and enjoy vistas of this beautiful country.

Wild Horses of the Namib - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Relax, take some time and find something special.


Why you should visit Namibia

Clearly, Namibia is a photographer’s paradise, and it’s easy to see why many of the world’s top photographers return to Namibia year after year. It’s easily the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited.

Tree Stump at Sossusvlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Tree Stump at Sossusvlei.


For first time visitors to Africa, it’s a very safe and peaceful country. Namibia has a low crime rate, there’s no wars, and religious or racial tension in the country. It’s commonly known to be the safest country in Africa. The people are warm and friendly too, always ready to greet you with a smile. Accommodation was also reasonable and top notch, with plenty of lodging and camping options to choose from, making finding somewhere to stay quite simple.

If you’re someone that enjoys nature, spectacular landscapes, world-class game, or if you want to have an adventure in Africa, Namibia should be at the top of your list of countries to visit. I returned home from my epic adventure, refreshed and with my batteries recharged. I met some great people and returned with more good pictures than I thought I would have taken.


NamibRand Landscape - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip

Namibia is rich in photo opportunities.


I returned home with an urgency to go back and explore more of this amazing country. There’s so much more to see: Etosha National Park, Damaraland, the Skeleton coast and more… Next time around, I will travel with my family. Watch this space.

The Dunes Surrounding Sossusvlei - Namibia : a Solo Overland Trip
On top of a dune, near Sossusvlei.


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Carlo has been a passionate photographer since high school, when his father introduced him to photography. Photography has been a life long learning experience for him. His goal is to share his passion with others.

Follow Carlo on Twitter

Contact Carlo


All words and pictures in this post are by Carlo van Wyk.
The original version of his article can be found on Photograhydo here.

What to do in Namibia during Winter

  
  

Winter in Namibia is a great time of year to explore our vast and diverse country. The weather is more moderate than in other months of the year and our country is a great option if you want to avoid the huge crowds of the northern hemisphere's summer months. Read on for a few more reasons why we think you should visit Namibia in the winter months.

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Winter is a great time to explore Namibia- find out why below.

 

The Manageable Weather

As you probably know already, Namibia is a place associated with hot, dry and sunny weather. The cloudless skies and blazing sun can, at times, become overwhelming in the warmer months (particularly over December, January and February). Winter is a slightly different story in the Land of the Brave. Daytime temperatures for the season stay manageable and rarely climb above the 25 degrees Celsius.

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Another cloudless and temperate winter's day in Namibia.
(Image via Deal's Holidays)

 

Namibia gets its rain in the summer months so the winter daytime skies are also incredibly clear and cloudless. It is not uncommon to go for days without seeing a cloud in the perfect blue sky and this allows photographers ample opportunity to take some incredible high contrast pictures against a deep blue background.

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The blue of the sky contrasts excellently with the whites and browns of Namibia's landscapes.

 

And while we are talking about awesome photo opportunities, you should know that toward the end of winter you will be treated to some incredible sunsets. Toward the end of winter the winter months the desert winds begin to start blowing. These winds pick up dust into the air, which then spectacularly refracts the light of the setting sun.

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A giraffe at sunset in Etosha National Park.

 

At night the temperatures can get quite nippy, but it never gets quite as cold as the frigid winters of northern Europe or northern America. The temperatures in Namibia are cool enough to justify lighting a warming fire and nothing makes winter more enjoyable than sitting around a roaring fire and sharing some stories with your friends and family.

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A large camp fire keeps the night, and the cold, at bay.
(Image via Wofford)

 
Note: In the southern and central regions of Namibia it can occasionally get to freezing. These temperatures are exceptional though and you can expect it to not get much colder than 5 degrees Celsius.

 

Winter adventures

Winter is the perfect time to be physically active in Namibia. The lack of humidity and the relatively moderate daytime temperatures make doing physical activity far easier in the winter than in the summer months. Rock climbing, cycling, trail running and several other adventure sports are all best done in the winter. The sun is at a less steep angle and the cooling winter breeze make any physical exercise much easier to deal with.

 

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Winter walking in the dunes near Swakopmund.

 

Hiking is another great activity to take part in when visiting Namibia in the winter. Some hikes, like the Fish River Canyon Hike are not offered to guests in the summer months as the temperatures are too high and the heat makes the hike too strenuous. Check out our blog on this particular hike here.

 

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Getting ready to set out from the floor of the Fish River Canyon.

 

While not exactly physically demanding, going on safari is also very worthwhile during winter. The animals become easier to spot because the vegetation dries out in the rainless months giving the wildlife less cover. This is coupled with the fact that the animals are drawn out to the remaining waterholes in search of water and means that your chances of catching a glimpse of some of Namibia’s awesome wildlife are greatly increased during winter.

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The wildlife, no matter how big or small, is easier to spot in winter.


Note: Even though the sun is less harsh in the winter in Namibia you still need to make sure you are protected from it. Always use sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses.

Hit the beach

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The Namibian coast is spectacular during winter.

 

The winter months are arguably the best time of the year to head to the beach in Namibia. All along the famously rugged coastline temperatures remain warm and the fog stays away. These favourable weather conditions are as a result of the foehn winds (berg winds) that travel down the great escarpment and into the ocean.

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Swakopmund is Namibia's most popular seaside town.
(Image via FotoD)

 

The warm winds ensure that the coast stays dry and the frequent evening fog that descends over towns like Swakopmund, Luderitz, Walvis Bay and Henties Bay is kept at bay by the dry warm winds. The fine weather, coupled with the winds, make this time of year ideal for anyone who wants to take part in water sports like kiteboarding, windsurfing, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and body boarding.

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Get your heart racing on the Atlantic Ocean!
(Image courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)

 

It should be clear now that the winds are a key feature of this season on the coast and at times they can get quite strong. When they pick up enough, usually as the sun is setting, sand from the Namib Desert can become suspended in the air in a dramatic fashion. With the right amount of skill, timing, and photographer’s luck you can capture these surreal moments and leave the coast with some unforgettable photographs.

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The winds sweeping over Dune 45 near Sossusvlei.
(Image by Adomas Svirskas via Photography Blogger)

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A sandstorm blows across a national road.
(Image by Asco via Photography Blogger)

Note: A great place for water sports like those mentioned above is Luderitz and within the small town there are a few operators who can take you out on to the ocean. Find out more by reading about the town here.

There is loads to do in Namibia throughout all of its seasons, but if you are looking for moderate temperatures and adventure filled activities then winter could be the ideal time for you to visit the Land of the Brave. Also, during the Namibian winter the northern hemissphere's tourist hotspots are traditionally over-crowded with holiday makers soaking up the sunshine. So why not give the summer crowds a skip and come and spend some time around a warm fire in Namibia?

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Here are two more of our blogs to help you plan your trip to Namibia:

Want to know what to do in Autumn? Plan your next Namibian adventure!
 Swakopmund, Namibia, namibia fishing, luderitz, waterberg, fish river canyon, adventure, namibia hiking, safari FLY002 

The National Parks of Namibia- Nkasa Lupala and Dorob

  
  

Namibian national parks like Etosha National Park and the Waterberg Plateau Park are world-renowned and well-visited by international and national tourists. This blog post is not about those parks. Today we want introduce you to two national parks run that you may not have heard of before...

EXPLORE copy
A Land Rover with Sandwich Harbour in the background.
One of the best things to do in Namibia is to explore locations that are off the beaten path.

(Image via Cardboard Box)


Nkasa Lupala National Park

We start in the north-east of Namibia in the Zambezi (Caprivi) Region. As you may already know this part of this huge nation is markedly different from most of the stark landscapes you find through out the mostly arid countryside. The land in the Zambezi is riverine and lush. It is home to several wetlands which and the region is criss-crossed by perennially flowing bodies of water.

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The landscape is spectacular in the Zambezi.

(Image via Cardboard Box)

 

In this corner of Namibia, just to the north of Botswana, you can find the Nkasa Lupara National Park (formerly known as the Mamili National Park). The park contains the largest protected wetland area in the Land of the Brave.

Screen Shot 2014 08 01 at 12.37.22 AM1024px Map Nkasa Rupara National Park

Maps showing the location of the park.
(Images via the MET)

 

The network of rivers flowing around small islands and reed beds are home to hippopotamuses, crocodiles, several buck species and a massive population of birds. There are, in fact, more species of birds in this small area than anywhere else in Namibia.

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A bloat of hippos silently swim through the river.

(Image via Cardboard Box)

 

Before you back you pack your bags and head to Nkasa Lupala you should know that journeying through this national park is not for the feint of heart. There are very few facilities and sometimes the park is inaccessible due to heavy rainfall.

This usually will only happen during the rainy months of January and February. However, if the rains don’t spoil the fun, and you have a thirst for adventure then you should know that the camp is a 4x4 enthusiast and wildlife tracker’s dream location. For information on exploring the park by 4x4 click here.

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Exploring the park is tough, but worth it to see undisturbed wildlife.

(Image via Cardboard Box Travel Shop)

 

In the winter some of the riverbeds dry up and visitors to the park can watch lions, large herds of buffalo and elephants migrate across the park. Making Nkasa Lupala the perfect place for a rough and tumble adventure tourist to do some exploring.

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There are even occasional sightings of lions in this riverine park.
(Image via Cardboard Box)


Click here for the official Nkasa Lupara National Park page, courtesy of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.

 

Dorob National Park

The second national park we are looking at is located on the coast in the middle of Namibia’s vast Atlantic coast. Close to the Skeleton Coast and pressed up against the Namib Desert you will find Dorob National Park. As you might imagine, this national park’s landscape is very different to the lush and watery Nkasa Lupala National Park. Dorob is also far more accessible with the towns of Swakopmund, Henties Bay and Walvis Bay found within the park's borders.

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This map shows the area of the coast that falls under Dorob National Park.
(Map via NACOMA)

 

We mentioned Dorob a few weeks ago in an interview with Chris Nel (that you can read here). However, many visitors outside of Namibia have yet to hear about this gem of a park… Dorob was created in 2010 and since its creation the entire coastline of Namibia now falls under strict environmental protection. The reason this had to happen is because of the fragile biodiversity of the ecosystems found in this part of Namibia.

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This coastline has been rescued from destruction.

(Image via World Super Travel)

 

As far as attractions go in this park, BirdLife International has declared the park an “Important Bird Area” because this part of the Namibian coast is a haven that over 1.6 million birds call home. This makes Dorob an absolute must-visit place for anyone who is a birding enthusiast. Of particular interest to many tourists in this regard is Sandwich Harbour that boasts a sizeable population of flamingos.

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This famous spot located within Dorob and is definitely worth a visit.
(Image via Sandwich Harbour)

 

There is also some excellent fishing in this park and the town of Henties Bay should be the place you should aim for if you are a keen angler. Before you plan a trip read this page, as it details what anglers can and can’t do in the park.

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Going to Dorob? Why not go fishing!
(Image via Henties Bay)

 

While unguided exploration of the park is allowed, it is important to note that after years of careless behaviour by locals and tourists the area has had to become subject to some badly needed restrictions. So if you want to explore the park on your own you can check out some maps which detail where you can and can’t go in the park here.

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Rare creatures like the Namib Ghecko live along the coastline and need to be protected.
(Photo by Chris Nel)

 

For more information on the park you can download their press kit here or have a look at Travel News Namibia's breakdown of the regulations here.

 

These are just two national parks you can find in the Land of the Brave. In total there are eleven nationally run parks within Namibia and over the coming months we will bring to light some of these other parks. For a list of these parks click here.

 

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Want to know more about National Parks in Namibia?
Check our our posts on Etosha and the Waterberg below.

How to Explore Etosha

Safaris in the Waterberg

elephants window1  11 giraffe copy

 

Three Shipwrecks on Namibia's Skeleton Coast

  
  

Namibia has several thousand shipwrecked vessels strewn across its vast coastline. The Skeleton Coast’s rough seas, roaring winds and strong ocean currents are primarily responsible for many of these beached ships’ fate.

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(Image via I Dream of Africa)

 

Many of the wrecks on the harsh coastline have been completely destroyed by the sun, sea, and wind but a few are still visible. The vessels' remains can be seen up close by explorers who are keen on making the trek along the Land of the Brave’s beautiful but perilous coastline.

This blog post is about three of these still visible wrecks.

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(Image via I Dream of Africa)

 

The Eduard Bohlen (1907)

This is perhaps one of the most well known shipwrecks in Namibia if not in the world. Its fame is largely as a result of its strange location. This is because the Eduard Bohlen appears to be stranded in the middle of the desert.

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Stranded, in the desert.
(Image via BePic)

 

The Eduard Bohlen was a German cargo ship that ran aground while it was on its way to Table Bay from Swakopmund. It is believed that thick fog caused the ship to founder close to Conception Bay. Years after the ship ran aground the desert began to encroach on the ocean and the ship that was once stranded in the ocean slowly became stranded in the desert. The wreck currently sits about 500 metres from the ocean, making it a must visit site for wreck enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

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The Eduard Bohlen, up close.
(Image via I Dream of Africa)

 

How to get there

If you want to get as close as possible to the Eduard Bohlen you can go on a guided 4x4 tour from either Luderitz or Walvis Bay with Coastways. You can also embark on a flying safari that will take you over the wreck. Suricate Safaris offer a few flying safari options and one of them will take you over the famous wreck.

An aerial view of the famous wreck.


The Dunedin Star (1942)

During the Second World War the Dunedin Star left Liverpool carrying munitions and supplies for Allied forces. On board as well as the cargo were 21 passengers who wanted to escape a war-torn London. The vessel, however, hit an underwater obstacle and landed up grounding 500 metres offshore, stranding its passengers and crew on the inhospitable Skeleton Coast.

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A photograph taken shortly after the boat was wrecked in 1942.
(Image via John H Marsh)

 

The rescue efforts that followed were dogged by bad luck and adverse conditions. A tug boat dispatched to aid in the rescue efforts ran aground, while a Ventura bomber, tasked with dropping supplies for the survivors of the Dunedin Star, crashed into the sea after delivering its cargo to the stranded crew and passengers of the wreck. Both the tugboat and the warplane are still visible today.

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All that is left of the famous vessel.
(Image via Trekity)

 

How to get there

The wreck is in the far north of the Skelton Coast National Park and as such you will not be able to drive yourself there. Flying into the northern section of the park is the only realistic option if you want to explore this famous wreck. Skeleton Coast Safaris offer a variety of aerial tours of the region.

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Sometimes a 4x4 is just not sufficient.
(Image via Skeleton Coast Safaris)

 

The Suiderkus (1976)

Close to Henties Bay there are several visible shipwrecks, one of which is that of the Suiderkus, a relatively modern fishing trawler. The ship ran aground near Möwe Bay on her maiden voyage despite having a highly sophisticated navigational system. After a few months most of the ship had disintegrated but a large portion of the hull still survives to this day.

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Water flowing through the wreckage of the Suiderkus.
(Photo by Charlie Summers)

 

The hull is now perched on the beach and is currently a home for a group of cormorants. Because of its peculiar location and decaying frame it is a popular destination for photographers visiting the area.

Skeleton coast, Namibia, Namibia photography, shipwrecks, eduard bohlen, shipwreck namibia, adventure

The wreck is deteriorating rapidly; so don’t delay in getting there!
(Photo by Olwen Evans)

 

How to get there

The Suiderkus, as with many of the visible wrecks in Namibia, can be found within the Skeleton Coast National Park. The Skeleton Coast Camp offers tours of the nearby wrecks, the Suiderkus included, and if you choose to stay at that lodge then they will happily take you on a tour. Anglers who are fishing at the nearby Terrace Bay drive past the wreck on their way to the fishing grounds.

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There is some world-class fishing on offer near Terrace Bay.
(Image via Cardboard Box Travel Shop)

 

As mentioned above, there are literally thousands of wrecks dotted along the coast of Namibia. The three chosen for this article have been picked because they are still visible and are relatively easy to access. As the Skeleton Coast National Park continues to become more accessible to more and more people other wrecks will be easier to visits. For now, however, you can beat the crowds and get exploring in one of the world's strangest and most haunting landscapes.

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Bits of ships and old boxes of cargo are strewn across the Skeleton Coast…

Who knows what you could find!
(Image via Africa Travel Resources)

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Looking for more eerie adventure?
Check out our post on the ghost town of Pomona by clicking on the picture below:

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Explore Namibia's Precious Coastline and Dunes with Chris Nel

  
  

Chris Nel is a tour guide who runs the Living Desert Adventure through the Namib Desert near Sossussvlei. On these tours he shares his wisdom and expertise with visitors. Chris was also involved in the establishment of the Dorob National Park in 2010 along Namibia’s Skeleton Coast.

We had a chance to sit down and chat with Chris about desert conservation and the role that ordinary citizens can play in protecting Namibia’s natural treasures.

Chameleon 9

A desert-adapted chameleon photographed on one of Chris' adventure tours.
(Picture courtesy of Chris Nel)

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

Vehicles Chris uses for his Living Desert Adventure Tours.
(Picture courtesy of Chris Nel)

 

How long have you been involved with desert conservation in Namibia? What made you decide to get into it in the first place?

I have always loved nature and always been interested in protecting it since a little child but in 2002 I started doing day tours in the dunes around Swakopmund. At that stage I realised that quad-biking had become the new craze of the nation and thousands of people were driving all over the Namib Desert just for fun.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

Chris getting up close with a desert chameleon.
(Picture courtesy of Chris Nel)

 

I attempted to run an educational tour for tourists and it was virtually impossible to do a quality tour because of the noise, aesthetic destruction (with tracks all over the place) and the little creatures we were showing people were getting killed under the wheels of the quads and 4x4 vehicles.

The year I started doing tours out of Swakopmund I realised Namibia had a big problem in the coastal Namib, largely caused by quads and 4x4’s. I did a flight over the Namib to take pictures and videos of the state of the desert. It was this day that my heart broke- I saw one of the most destroyed deserts in the world.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

When Chris saw the damage he knew he had to do something to help.
(Picture courtesy of Chris Nel)


What are the most important lessons you hope to impress upon the people in your tour groups?

For me it is vital that people learn to respect and appreciate the desert, it is only then that we have a chance to understand the desert. If more people understand the desert better then there will be a greater chance that they will see the beauty of the desert.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

Chris feels that once people understand, they will want to protect.
This is why he encourages guests to close to the fauna of the desert.

(Picture courtesy of Chris Nel)

 

What do you enjoy most about taking a guest into the desert for the first time in their life?

I love showing them from the beginning that this is one of the driest places on earth relative to rain, but because of the fog we have a certain degree of moisture that sustains a large variety of specialised desert life.

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A desert adapted chameleon having a snack.
(Picture courtesy of Chris Nel)

 

I always start by telling them that because it almost never rains we will not see typical ‘safari’ wildlife (some tourists want to see lions and elephants no matter what part of Namibia they are exploring). I then tell them that the fog is made of micro drops and this means that on the tour we will only find micro elephants, bonzai crocodiles, and tiny lions.

 

The Namib Desert is an extremely fragile ecosystem, what do you think are some of the greatest threats to its survival and continuing biodiversity?

The Namib is very fragile, especially its gravel plains. When vehicles or quads travel on the gravel plains the tracks can last for hundreds of years. Dust and gravel form a crust with the humidity of the fog over hundreds of years. When the wind blows over these tracks, the dust comes out but the ridges of the tracks stay on the plains for just about forever. You can see where the Germans crossed the desert in 1880 in ox wagons.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

Marks from the German settlers' wagons from well over a hundred years ago.
(Image via Andy Cowley)


I believe the aesthetic damage is of great concern as tourists and local Namibians don’t want to see their beautiful desert scared for life. I don’t think all of the animals are in danger but many get killed from off road driving.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

Animals like this Namib dune gheko are at risk when vehicle access is not regulated.
(Picture courtesy of Chris Nel)

Can you tell us a bit more about your involvement with the Dorob National Park?

After seeing the destruction of the desert I started an online petition to bring it to the attention of Namibia and the rest of the world. The petition was signed by thousands of people and it lead to the Namibian government forming the Coastal Management Committee (the CMC). The CMC brought together people from all different spheres of the community - town councils, regional councils, commercial fisheries, tourism stakeholders, local residents - to work together in finding a solution to the devastation of our precious desert.

A video about Namibia’s incredible and fragile coastline.
(Video via NACOMA)

 

Around the same time, fellow conservationist Rod Braby managed to get sponsors from the World Bank to start NACOMA (The Namibian Coast Conservation and Management project). Together with NACOMA, the CMC and the people of Namibia, we were able to establish the Dorob National Park.

Helping with a project like Dorob was stressful at first. Holiday makers from all over Southern Africa would flock to Swakopmund with their quad bikes and 4x4s. As an advocate for restricting their playground, locals feared tourism (their livelihood) would suffer. There was a lot of opposition, even death threats. This was despite expert conservationists like the late Dr. Hugh Berry saying: “The most destroyed accessible coastline in the world is found in Namibia”.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

No rational person could deny the seriousness of the situation.
(Picture courtesy of Chris Nel)

The truth is that we didn’t want to ban people from enjoying our dunes, but there were simply too many people joy-riding over Namibia’s deserts and ruining the beautiful landscapes that would be so important for tourism in the future. Steps had to be taken and access to the park had to be controlled.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

Etosha has strict rules about staying on the roads in the park…
That’s why it looks like it did 50 years ago even though millions of tourists visit each year.


The government zoned areas so everyone could enjoy this unique part of Namibia. So whether you are a tourist, an environmentalist, or a quad biker, there's something for everyone to enjoy. You can download the park’s rules and regulations here.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

Namibia is now the only country on earth with its entire coastline falling into a national park.

 

Is there a way that people not already directly involved with a conservation organisation can get involved?

The best way for the public to get involved is through NACOMA. You can read their brochure on their website. You can also be a game warden in your own capacity – approach people who are driving off the road and hand them the brochure, stop them littering, and make sure they respect the area.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

There is still a long way to go, but there is good reason to be hopeful about the future.
(Picture courtesy of Chris Nel)

 

What part of your conservation work are you most proud of thus far?

I am most proud of my involvement in the creation of Dorob. Ten years ago everything was destroyed, it felt like mission impossible, but today it’s quiet, beautiful and flourishing again. Thinking back to all the death threats and stress I had to deal with, I still think it was totally worth it.

I am also proud of our country. It took a lot of years, tears and sweat but now our children can enjoy our hard work. The town of Swakopmund is within the area that has been declared a national park- several thousand people live in a national park, and that is quite something if you think about it.

Adventure, Conservation, Skeleton coast, Namibia, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, quad biking, Namib, dune

Dorob National Park is Namibia’s first national park since independence.
Its creation ensures that landscapes like the one above can be shared with future generations.

 

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