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Exploring Windhoek with Rachel Lang

  
  

A few months ago travel writer Rachel Lang was part of our Go Big Namibia team who spent a few weeks exploring Namibia. On her tour Rachel spent some time in Windhoek and in this special guest post she shares her experiences and offers some suggestions for travellers visiting the big city for the first time. So read on, and follow the links at the bottom of this post for even more travel tips.

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Windhoek.

-Cruising through colourful Katutura-

by Rachel Lang

I’m usually not a big fan of bustling through cities, so it came as a surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed a morning of doing just that in Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek.

I was with a great bunch of people (which makes all the difference, doesn’t it?), and together we whizzed around discovering a vibrant blend of old and new – long-standing colonial churches built by early German settlers stand amongst stark modern-day infrastructure. Windhoek is safe to explore on foot, and, if you know where to go, you’re in for a delightful cultural and culinary adventure! My favourite part of the city was (without a doubt) the bright and colourful township of Katutura.

When the first World War ended, Namibia (then South West Africa) was passed from German colonial rule to South African governance (under the League of Nations Mandate). Sadly, South Africa imposed their system of apartheid, forcibly dividing Windhoek into areas inhabited according to race and ethnic groups. Katutura Township was the area allocated to “blacks” and remains home to 65% of Windhoek’s population.

I recommend taking a slow drive along Katutura’s legendary Evaline Street (‘the street that never sleeps’) – a Joseph’s techni-coloured-coat of houses, shebeens, hair-dresses, friendly car-washes and enthusiastic entrepreneurs.

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Photo by Rachel Lang

We stopped to investigate the extremely popular meat market at Single Quarters. This is not a place for faint-hearted vegetarians! If that’s you, be warned!! (luckily I’m not). If you’re brave enough, you can join the locals by tucking into some famous Kaplan (braaied) meat, or, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, try a mopane worm. I couldn’t help noticing that it’s also a hunting ground for young single locals – especially teenage girls who do little to hide their ogling over the braaing men, who are, of course, only too happy to show off their meat-chopping muscles. But no judgement here – I’m a huge fan of Masterchef Australia, and this obviously has nothing to do with toned surfers in aprons! The market is also a popular date venue for local couples. If it were me, I’d definiatley prefer somewhere more romantic! What do you think?

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Photo by Rachel Lang

We then headed to the ‘Soweto Market’ where I did the real touristy thing (why not), and got a few braids put in my hair by a lovely hairdresser called Maria. The speed at which she worked was a spectacle in itself – intricate, perfect little plaits were done in no time at all.

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Photo by Rachel Lang

If you would like to do a tour of Windhoek with a guide (I would recommend this) here are some options:

2 hour double-decker bus city tour: 2 hours (two tours run daily, must book at least an hour ahead)

  • Tel: +264 61 275 300 | Fax: +264 61 263 417

Four hour private tour with local guide in air-conditioned vehicle:

  • Email – tours@discover-namibia-safari.net / Tel : +264 (0) 81 364 5069

This tour was made possible thanks to Africa Geographic and the Nambian Tourism Board, as part of the Go Big Namibia campaign.

More things to do in Windhoek

Where to eat in Windhoek

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Katatura Bicycle Tour

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What to do in Windhoek

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More from the Go Big Namibia team

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Rachel Lang, in her own words...

I'm Rach – a freelance writer, blogger and environmental educationist based in Cape Town, South Africa. Born into a family of wildlife lovers, I spent my childhood immersed in nature and developed a love for wild places that has continued to grow for 26 years.

My blog, Bush-bound Girl, is a collection of family stories, travels, interviews, poems, and inspiring guest posts; all written on an adventure to discover Africa's wild side. Follow my journey on my blog, Facebook page, and Twitter.

If you would like to work with me, or share your own stories, send me an email.

The Living Desert Adventure: The Namib's Hidden Lives

  
  

Visitors to Namibia’s coastal region often head to Swakopmund for its stunning dune coast which is flanked by the magnificent Atlantic Ocean. Here adventurers can experience the thrill of whizzing down a dune on a sand board or quad biking their way over the sandy peaks.

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The seemingly hostile and uninhabited Namib Desert

High adventure in an ancient desert

Swakopmund is known as the adventure capital of Namibia, whilst the aptly named Namib, meaning vast and empty, is known as one of the oldest deserts in the world. Just looking at the arid landscape, you would never think it was home to a teeming, dynamic ecosystem of specialized tiny animals and resilient flora and fauna. The eye-opening “Living Desert Tour” is such a fascinating experience because it reveals the Namib’s many hidden treasures to those who go on it. 

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The ever enthusiastic and entertaining guide, Chris Nel from Living Desert Adventures

Started in 2005 by Chris Nel, Living Desert Adventures offers an educational day tour through the sand dune deserts of coastal Namibia. The trained guides enthusiastically introduce visitors to the resilient insects, arachnids and reptiles that call the Namib home.

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Can you spot what creature is lurking in the grains of sand?
(Photo courtesy of Chris Nel from Living Desert Adventures
)

What you can expect on the tour

The tour starts at 08:00 (with the guides collecting you from your place of residence) and lasts from 4 to 5 hours. Participants will be introduced to conservation practices in the area, the unique geological structure and a brief overview on how the desert was formed.

You will hear about the “muesli” and “milk” that gives life to the arid landscape’s residents, the “little 5” and all manner of other interesting facts. The informal, fun presentation style of the guides was a wonderful bonus.

The real gems of the tour of course are the tiny animals that the guides are able to coax out of hiding to introduce to the guests.  On your tour you will definitely be meeting a few of the deserts best known residents, so here are some crib notes on these wonderful creatures so you know what to expect.

 

The Namib Dune Gecko:

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Note the longer than usual legs to help with heat regulation.

This web-footed gecko is endemic to the area and, being nocturnal, can usually be found on the compacted wind side of a dune where it feeds at night.  It comes in a variety of colours, but its webbed feet, large fixed lens eyes and transparent skin give it a beautifully unique appearance. If you are lucky, you might even catch it cleaning its large eyes with its long tongue.

The Namaqua chameleon:

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A chameleon, on the prowl for lunch.

This large, squat champion of the desert is one of the fastest chameleons in the world.  It has an amazing colour range which goes from basic muted colours when it is angry or trying to attract heat, or brighter reflective colours when it is trying to reflect the sun in the heat of midday. The Namaqua chameleon, like other chameleons can also swivel its eyes in both directions at the same time.  

 

The Sidewinder or Peringuey’s adder:

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The small adder making its way across a dune.

If you are luck you may just catch sight of one of the smallest adder species in the world, known as the “Dune Adder”. It has eyes strategically placed on top of it’s head, which allow the snake to conceal itself under the sand whilst still surveying the surroundings for prey. If you pay close attention on your trip you should catch a glimpse of its distinctive side-winding tracks on some of the dunes.

Honourable mention should also go to the shovel snouted lizard, Fitzsimon’s burrowing skink, the Dancing White Lady Spider and the wide variety of Tok Tokkie Beetles.


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The Dancing White Lady Spider who mesmerized us cartwheeling and karate-like moves.

 

Some tips for the tour

  • Bring along sunglasses and a hat- it is the desert after all!

  • Have a camera ready if you’re a keen photographer. These tours are a great opportunity to capture some memorable “Little Five” photos.

  • Remember that the tour is suitable for children too- the guides are especially good with getting younger kids involved and interested.

   

The Importance of Ecosensitive Tours 

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The Living Desert Tour is all about education and sustainable tourism. Guides take great care to ensure that desert animals are returned unharmed to their environment and are undoubtedly sensitive to the delicate ecosystem of the Namib.

The final part of the tour includes a scenic dune drive, also conducted in an eco-sensitive way using dedicated paths and ensuring the area is minimally disturbed. 

If you’re interested in doing the Living Desert Adventure, you can get all the info you need to make a booking from the contacts listed below. It should be noted that this a popular activity and you should book in advance if you want to avoid disappointment.

 

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Living Desert Adventures

www.livingdesertnamibia.com

+264 64 405 070

+264 81 127 5070

Click here for tours & rates

 

More on this topic

The Great Family Escape: Adventure in Namibia 

Bizarre Desert Plants of Namibia

The Namib Sand Sea: A UNESCO Heritage Site

family holiday namibia

Welwitschia

Namib desert

 

 

Go Big Namibia Day 9 & 10: Sossusvlei & BIG DADDY

  
  
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Emeritta Lillo is on the road with the #GoBigNamibia tour. Each day she'll be sharing their adventures, so stay tuned for some handy travel tips and inspiration. Follow the team on Twitter @NamibiaHorizons #GoBigNamibia and Facebook for a chance to win

 

Last stop for the Go Big Namibia adventure was Sossusvlei, surrounded by the magnificent dunes of the Namib-Naukluft National park. We arrived just in time to catch an amazing sunset at the Sesriem canyon, where we enjoyed sundowners, snacks and reminiscing over the good memories made over the last 10 days.

After dinner, David treated us to a star gazing session, teaching us how to spot constellations like the Southern Cross, Scorpio and Capricorn. We’d never seen so many stars and so clearly - no wonder Sossusvlei is renowned for having some of the world’s darkest skies.

The following morning we were up at 5am to see the sunrise against some of the highest dunes in the world. We climbed to the top of Big Daddy (the highest of the dunes) to watch as the rising sun forced the dune’s shadow to slowly reveal the fossilized trees of the Deadvlei pan down below. The early morning wake up was a small price to pay for what was an unforgettable moment on this trip.

To round off the perfect morning we were treated to an outdoor breakfast at the foot of the dunes. What a way to end our Namibian adventure!

 

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Quiver trees and endless horizons on the drive from Swakopmund to Sossusvlei

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Due south: crossing the Tropic of Capricorn

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The mandatory stop at Solitaire for the town's famous apple pie

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Ees entertaining himself in the middle of the desert

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Spectaular views and top accommodation at the Sossus Dune Lodge

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Stargazing in some of the world's darkest skies

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The first rays of sun strike the dunes

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Oryx tracks are a reminder of the incredible animals and plants that survive in these extreme desert conditions

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The Go Big Namibia team takes on the highest dune in the world: Big Daddy

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And get to run all the way down...

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900 year old skeletons of camel thorn trees lie frozen in time at the bottom of Big Daddy

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The dry clay that covers the pan not only helps to preserve these old trees but is proof of the river that once ran through the barren desert

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Staff from Sossus Dune Lodge treat us to a feast at the foot of the dunes


Find out more about the #GoBigNamibia tour and start your own adventure

   

Go Big Namibia Day 8: BIG RUSH

  
  
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Emeritta Lillo is on the road with the #GoBigNamibia tour. Each day she'll be sharing their adventures, so stay tuned for some handy travel tips and inspiration. Follow the team on Twitter @NamibiaHorizons #GoBigNamibia and Facebook for a chance to win

Our eighth day on the road and we’re still going strong. Today’s adventure started with the Living Desert Tour through the Namib Desert along the western coast of the country, just outside Swakopmund. As impressive as the coastal dune belt is, it was the fascinating variety of desert-adapted wildlife that really charmed us.

Watching our guide Chris handle a Namib dune gecko, gently persuade a Namaqua chameleon to feed and pointing out a Peringuey's adder deftly camouflaged in the sand made us all appreciate the hidden gems of the Namib desert. Chris' dedication to conservation in the Dorob National park and passion for the resilient flora and fauna of this region was truly inspiring. 

After lunch we headed back into the desert for adrenalin inducing sandboarding. There’s nothing like barreling down the side of a dune at high speed, whether it’s on a sandboard or a piece of plywood.

Stay tuned for more adventure travel in Sossusvlei tomorrow!

Snake eyes 1

A Peringuey's adder well hidden in the sand

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A Namaqua chameleon - he is a black color in order to absorb heat during the cold morning.

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A Palmato Gecko - one of two types of geckos living in the Namib Desert. Check out their webbed feet which make it easier for them to move on the sand.

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Our energetic guide, Chris, describing the wonders of the desert to us.

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 The Go Big Team, in the afternoon, getting ready to carry their sandboards up the dunes.

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What goes up....

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Must come down! Emeritta crusing down the dunes.

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Liz about to take off on the lie-down board.

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Ending the day with a well-deserved sundowner at the Tiger Reef on the beach.

Follow Emeritta and her fellow adventurers on their #GoBigNamibia tour

   

Go Big Namibia Day 7: BIG SPACE

  
  
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Emeritta Lillo is on the road with the #GoBigNamibia tour. Each day she'll be sharing their adventures, so stay tuned for some handy travel tips and inspiration. Follow the team on Twitter @NamibiaHorizons #GoBigNamibia and Facebook for a chance to win

 

Today took an unexpected turn with a flat tyre on our early morning drive... Thankfully our guide David was on hand to change it. But with the day's plans a little out of step, we decided to make a detour to Twyfelfontein. And what a detour it was.

Pronounced a UNESCO world heritage site in 2007, Twyfelfontein lies within the Huab basin in the Kunene region, flanked by burgundy-red sandstone rock mountains. It is named after the elusive spring water that occurs in the area. It boasts one of the largest concentrations of ancient rock paintings and engravings in Africa, more than 2500 in total. A short hike took us to see the “dancing kudu” etched on the ancient rock, as well as the amazing “Lion’s mouth” engraving.

Damaraland blew us all away with it’s stunning landscapes and ancient, mystical stories of shamen and San life. Namibia truly is the land of big space.

Lunch was served at the incredible Camp Kipwe, a uniquely designed lodge tucked away between the giant boulders of Damaraland and well worth the drive. 

Onwards to Swakopmund!

 

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The Go Big Namibia crew saluting Grootberg Lodge before heading off

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Taking a tour of the rock engravings at Twyfelfontein

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The dramatic backdrop for today 

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Checking out some ancient art

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The famous "Dancing Kudu"

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Rachel has a taste of the sweet, fresh water that gave Twyfelfontein its name

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Lunch between the boulders at Camp Kipwe 

 

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Go Big Namibia Day 6: Big Tracks

  
  
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Emeritta Lillo is on the road with the #GoBigNamibia tour. Each day she'll be sharing their adventures, so stay tuned for some handy travel tips and inspiration. Follow the team on Twitter @NamibiaHorizons #GoBigNamibia and Facebook for a chance to win

Just after sunrise, the team set off from Grootberg lodge through the Klip River Valley for a day of rhino tracking. This region of Namibia is renowned for it's lush, unspoilt beauty, rocky landscapes and free roaming wildlife.

We navigated the bumpy ride with smiles and cameras flashing, taking in the spring-sprinkled trees and beautiful zebras and antelope.  

Three hours later we received word that the trackers (who had set off on foot earlier) had spotted a rhino. We left the vehicles and headed up the mountain on foot. After about a kilometer, we were lucky enough to spot the male rhino named Hans Otto. He was resting in a clearing. We were sure to stay upwind from him so he couldn't catch our scent.

The black rhino population in the area has increased from three in 1998 to ten in 2013 due to the diligent work of the #Khaodi/Hoas Conservancy, their commitment to conservation and their brave promise to live side by side with wildlife.

On the way back to the lodge, we even encountered a small pride of young lions sunning themselves under the trees - a photographer’s dream. Another brilliantly adventurous day.

 

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An early start, but the views alone made it worthwhile

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The long drive in search of the rhinos

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At last we spot some rhino tracks

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We set off on foot to get a closer

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The reward

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Diligent conservancy managers document every rhino sighting to keep tabs on these endangered animals

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And we found some lions on drive home (as you do)

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Grootberg lodge - a sight for sore eyes after a long day of rhino tracking

 

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Go Big Namibia Day 5: Big Culture

  
  
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Emeritta Lillo is on the road with the #GoBigNamibia tour. Each day she'll be sharing their adventures, so stay tuned for some handy travel tips and inspiration. Follow the team on Twitter @NamibiaHorizons #GoBigNamibia and Facebook for a chance to win

This morning we said goodbye to Etosha and headed SouthWest towards the Khoadi/ Hoas Conservancy, one of the oldest conservancies in Namibia.

Around noon we arrived at Grootberg Lodgethe only lodge in Namibia owned 100% by the community. The lodge is perched on the rim of the breathtaking Etendeka Plateau, overlooking the Klip River Valley. I think this view is in contention for the most stunning view in all of Namibia.

After lunch we met our guide, Martin, who took us to visit the Himba - the last semi-nomadic tribe in Africa. It took us about 2 hours to reach the Himba village, which lies at the end of an oasis lined with green makalani palms. It was a stark contrast to the barren and rocky landscape that we have been driving through all day!

They greeted us warmly and we all met each other shaking hands and repeating one another’s names. Marianna, an 18 year old Himba woman, showed us how they rub ochre on their body and how they burn special herbs as a perfume. We were able to buy some traditional jewelry from them and before we left they treated us to a traditional dance. Ees, of course, joined in.

 

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Spectacular views from Grootberg Lodge

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Makalani palm trees line the way to the Himba village

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Marianne, our Himba acquaintance

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Himba women's hairstyles reflect their age and social status

(read more interesting facts about the Himba here

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The red ochre they smear on their skin is said to be one of the secrets to their beauty

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I got to experience it first hand

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There were plenty of Himba children playing in the village - and with our Go Biggers...

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Fascinated by the Himba? Read more about them here:

In search of the Himba in Namibia

Fast Facts: The Himba of Namibia

Desert Perfume - Beauty Secrets of the Himba

 

Follow Emeritta and her fellow adventurers on their #GoBigNamibia tour

   

Go Big Namibia Day 4: Big Game

  
  
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Emeritta Lillo is on the road with the #GoBigNamibia tour. Each day she'll be sharing their adventures, so stay tuned for some handy travel tips and inspiration. Follow the team on Twitter @NamibiaHorizons #GoBigNamibia and Facebook for a chance to win

Today was wildlife day! We woke up early to see the sunrise at Namutoni, a hotel inside Etosha national park built around an old German fortress (fun fact: Ees' great-great-great Grandfather was stationed at the fort at the turn of the century). After breakfast we boarded an open game drive vehicle and set off early with Gerson from Namibia Guiding services.

During the day we spotted lions, rhino, masses of elephants and giraffe, eland, kudu, oryx, and even a cheetah!

Liz missed her calling to be a wildlife guide - she was spotting game camouflaged in the bush before the guide...

We made a stop at the expansive salt pans, and took some mandatory jumping pictures. Around 4 we pulled into Okakeujo on the Western side of the park.

Here we met up with Sunday Nelenge, the passionate area manager for Namibia Wildlife Resorts. He explained to us the work that is being done in Etosha to ensure the park remains what it is today for generations to come.

Insider tip: Sunday says 4 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Etosha. Check out our top 5 things to do in Etosha here.

We’re heading to the spectacular Okakeujo waterhole now for a nightcap…

 

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The Go Big Namibia team get ready for a serious safari - Emeritta, Laurel, Rachel, Ees and Liz

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Game watching tip: lookout for wildlife hiding from the midday sun in the shade of the trees

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A giraffe and an oryx (or gemsbok as we call them here) running from a waterhole

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Rachel leaning in for a good shot

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If you look closely between the bushes you might be lucky enough to see these tiny antelope, the dik diks

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Elephants strolling to a waterhole

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Getting right up close to the action

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Sunday from Namibia Wildlife Resorts 

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Spotting lions in the dark

 

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Go Big Namibia Day 3: Big History

  
  
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Emeritta Lillo is on the road with the #GoBigNamibia tour. Each day she'll be sharing their adventures, so stay tuned for some handy travel tips and inspiration. Follow the team on Twitter @NamibiaHorizons #GoBigNamibia and Facebook for a chance to win

Today the Go Big team woke up early. After a breakfast of ostrich eggs we piled in the van and headed northwards towards Tsintsabis to meet the San people. The San are one of the 13 different ethnic groups in Namibia and believed to be the world’s first people.   

We arrived at Treesleeper Camp and met our guide Elvis. He took us on a winding bushwalk where he explained the healing properties of the Aloe Plant, the Thamboti tree and how a droplet of sap from the Tiger Lilly plant was used to poison arrow tips for hunting.

The team got a lesson in survival from Elvis and he taught us to start a fire the San way. Two wooden sticks and some grass rubbed just right can mean the difference between a cooked meal and a safe camp!

Ees and Liz picked up the technique right away making them the people we’d “most like to be stuck on a desert island with.”

 

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The San use string made from onions

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Ever wondered how to catch a guinea fowl for dinner? Elvis shows us how

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To light a fire, all you need is two sticks and some dry grass...

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...but it's not as easy as it looks!

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Ees meets some fans en route to Etosha


Read what the other Go Big adventurers had to say about theire encounter with the San:

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Laurel Robins on Monkeys & Mountains

How to Catch a Guinea Fowl: Namibian Bushman Style

Rachel  

Rachel Lang on Africa Geographic

Secrets of the San

 

Follow Emeritta and her fellow adventurers on their #GoBigNamibia tour

     

 


Go Big Namibia Day 2: Big Cats at the Cheetah Conservation Fund

  
  
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Emeritta Lillo is on the road with the #GoBigNamibia tour. Each day she'll be sharing their adventures, so stay tuned for some handy travel tips and inspiration. Follow the team on Twitter @NamibiaHorizons #GoBigNamibia and Facebook for a chance to win

Today our Go Big van rolled out of Windhoek and headed straight for the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) 44km from Otjiwarongo. CCF has been working in Namibia for over 25 years to protect cheetahs in Namibia, as a result of their work (and others) Namibia has the largest population of free-roaming cheetahs in the world.

Sunday lunch for the cheetahs is at 12, so soon after we arrived we helped the CCF staff prepare for the feeding by taking the food into their pens - a scrumptuous lunch of donkey ribs and supplements (the white powder). After that we visited the Kraal to see the CCF goats and then feasted on their delicious cheese for lunch.

We also saw some of the Anatolian Shepherd dogs from the CCF Livestock Guarding Dog program. The dogs protect farmer's livestock from cheetahs, which reduces the human wildlife conflict and ultimately saves more cheetahs - what a brilliant idea.

We said goodbye to the cheetahs, dogs and goats, and headed back towards Otjiwarongo where we met Ees who has just landed from Munich. The Go Big Van now has some real NamFlava on board!

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Slicing and dicing - Laurel and I get our hands dirty

Go big Namibia 2013 08 25 at 12 17 00

Donkey ribs, anyone?

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Hanging out with the goats

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David (our tour guide) with our new Go Big companion Ees

 

Read what the rest of our Go Big team had to say about the Big Cats:

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Laurel Robins on Monkeys & Mountains

Namibia: The Cheetah Capital of the World

 

Follow Emeritta and her fellow adventurers on their #GoBigNamibia tour

     

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