After hearing about Willem Kruger's excellent landscape photography we decided to track him down and get him to share some of his best advice to photographers who want to capture the best of Namibia. Read on for tips and anecdotes from Willem's last photo safari through the Land of the Brave...
Tell us about your most unforgettable moment while shooting in Namibia.
I went on a landscape photography safari in the southern parts of Namibia with my wife. We entered Namibia via the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and travelled straight to NamibRand Nature Reserve. Just driving through the vast landscape of Southern Namibia is a highlight on its own.
Our stay in the NamibRand Nature Reserve was the highlight of the photography safari. Many pictures of Namibia usually highlight the beauty of Namibia portraying well-known places but not many images can be found portraying the beauty of the less explored south of Namibia.
I was presently surprised when I arrived in NamibRand and I saw the many opportunities it provides when it comes to landscape photography. The thunderstorms on the horizon against red dunes were particularly spectacular. Therefore, I think my most unforgettable moments were the magnificent colours provided by the sun, clouds, sand and plants, all in perfect harmony.
Every destination has its challenges and rewards; how does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?
If you are a serious nature photographer (especially wildlife and landscapes), I am sure you are familiar with the two words – patience and rewards. In Namibia, the same principle applies. As a photographer, even when it comes to landscape photography, one needs to wait for the perfect moment. Wait for the all the elements such as light, clouds, dust, thunderstorms to be in place and just start shooting.
However, the difference lies in the reward. When I first arrived in Namibia, I asked myself the following question: “What makes this place unique?” I soon realised that the colour, the light, and the storytelling elements can easily be found and matched to produce stunning images. While composition is the backbone of all great photos, in Namibia one just need to look around you to realise how many possibilities there are.
Which three photos shot in Namibia are you most proud of and why?
Red Dunes is certainly one of my favourite images of Namibia. It shows a different perspective of Namibia and it is not the usual image of some well-known spot. It shows almost all the colours what Namibia can offer as well as a perspective on what Namibia landscape is all about. Rich in diversity yet everything is in harmony.
Road to heaven is my second favourite because it is almost if the road is taking you towards heaven and isn’t that what Namibia is all about?
The Road to Heaven.
Thirdly, Quiver tree hill shows the reader the other side of Southern Namibia… Wide open plains and dunes between mountains ranges. These are not easy living conditions for humans or animals but the lines in this photograph, leading towards the clouds on the horizon, offer a glimpse of hope.
Quiver Tree Hill.
When going on a Namibian photographic expedition, what is your equipment of choice? And what do you never leave home without?
Definitely any type of camera! From a simple cell phone or a compact point-and-shoot camera, to a professional SRL camera. There are so many opportunities that even the most inexperienced photographer will come home with a great image or two. For the more serious photographer, I would recommend a prime wide-angle lens along with your digital SLR camera with a few filters in the bag. If you have one, bring a 200mm to 600mm lens if you are planning to travel in the southern parts of Namibia.
I know it is a controversial issue but I do not leave home without my tripod. An essential piece of equipment when it comes to nature photography – just to assist you the get that super-sharp image and to distinguish you from the rest.
A photographer friend is desperate to capture the best of Namibia. What top three tips would you give them?
First, put down the camera and step back from the scene. Without the camera in front of you or even without worrying about the camera settings and the anticipated photo, you can free your mind and enjoy what Namibia can offer. Only then can you see the photo opportunities from a totally different perspective.
The next piece of advice is not new to photographers but it is vital: We all want to quickly capture the moment and move on to the next scene because Namibia has some much to offer. With that approach, you definitely will miss out on some unique opportunities. Rather take a little more time with your shots. Look for something different such as a more interesting point of view to shoot from. What about finding a different angle of an already well-known spot? I would recommend that you evaluate all the possibilities before taking the shot rather than just jumping in and get that already familiar/well-known photo.
Lastly – remember a photographer is an artist and not a forensic documentarian. Enjoy what you do and let your creativity takes over. Do not try and be copycat but rather try something differently. The result might surprise you.
Practising photography as a hobby will take you places where you previously would not have been. I do love nature photography and taking photos in Namibia is in my opinion provide one of the best opportunities to see what nature can offer.
Willem Kruger, in his own words...
Nature photography for me is not only a hobby but it is a passion. I hope to capture the essential detail and show people what nature has to offer for those people who are willing to have a closer and a more creative look at it.
Visit Willem's blog for more information and images.
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:
Words by Charlotte Hughes.
Images by Christopher Rimmer.
Christopher Rimmer’s fascination with Namibia began in 2009 when he included images of the Himba people in his ground breaking ‘In Africa’ exhibition. Since then, he has visited Namibia several times and travelled the length and breadth of the country documenting the landscape, the wildlife and the people of this unique country through the lens of his camera.
Chris’ forthcoming exhibition, ‘Sign of Life’ opens in Reims, New York and Melbourne in 2014 and features stunning, large scale photographs of the ghost towns of Elizabeth Bay and Kolmanskop.
‘I was at Etosha Pan in 2010,’ recalls Rimmer, ‘ the BBC were out there filming for, what later became the ground breaking ‘Africa’ television series and one of the crew happened to show me some images on his phone one night of the ruins at Elizabeth Bay and Kolmanskop, where they had been filming footage of Hyenas.’
‘I was immediately struck by the stark beauty and the poignancy of these structures slowly being re-claimed by the desert sands and resolved to travel there and document them before they disappeared from view completely.'
Rimmer, who was shortlisted for Black & White Photographer of the Year in 2012, travelled to the area twice spending a total of three weeks meticulously compiling images with a large format camera, this time in glorious colour. The resulting collection is a visual examination of what he terms the ‘tragedy of lost significance’ and the ‘ultimate futility of human endeavour.
‘I have always found the quality of light in Namibia extraordinary, he says, ‘There is no doubt that it is a paradise for photography. The way the light reflects the landscape is truly unique. This was even more so around the ghost towns of Karas. The way the light enters the buildings at various times of the day provided some amazing opportunities for ambient light photography. You have to put in the time though; you can’t expect to capture the essence of the place on a single day trip.
‘What makes the ghost towns really impressive is how substantial the structures are. These people thought they’d be here forever yet, within barely 50 years the place was completely deserted. It’s like walking through a lost world. I found the experience incredibly moving and I have tried to articulate that sense of loss in my work.’
The images Rimmer presents in the Sign of Life exhibition are both disturbing and beautiful and are a timely reminder of the power of nature over human enterprise in this era of climate change.
Dates and exhibition venues for 'Sign of Life'
New York Art Expo
Pier 94, NYC, April 4 - 6
21 rue Tambour, 51100, Reims, France. (Date to Be announced)
Angela Tandori Fine Art Gallery
55 Victoria Pde, Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia (Date to be announced)
Visit Christopher Rimmer’s website here.
Namibia Kwaito sensation EES has made it through to the final round of a German talent competition and stands to win 1,000,000 EURO which will be donated to a charity of his choice. Being particularly passionate about his home country EES has declared that he will donate his winnings to the Save the Rhino Trust and other conservation projects and charities doing good work in Namibia.
Ees on stage and in action.
Earlier in the week EES had some time to answer a few of our questions and the singer also explained how people all around the world can help him win the competition and thus provide funding for some worthwhile conservation efforts.
What exactly is MillionahrWahl and who can enter?
Millionärswahl is the first of its kind – to connect the Internet with television – something that will very soon happen more and more. It’s a talent show where people from all over Germany registered themselves with their talent or charity idea – to then be chosen by the Internet into the TV show – which now has its final on the internet again. The winner of the show will walk away with 1 Million Euros for whatever cause he has registered himself with.
And how did you decide to enter?
I got a call from an old friend who saw the trailer of the show on TV and he said I would fit perfectly into the show and that I should enter. At first I didn’t really understand the concept because something like this has never been done, but then I decided to just take part in the online registration of the show.
When people in Germany ask you about Namibia, what do you tell them?
(Laughs)… I always tell them it’s the most beautiful country in the world – and then see what their face expression is… (Laughs)… well I tell them its my home and that they should come visit because it is a very safe place in Africa with beautiful landscapes and really friendly people. I cannot even count how many people I have convinced to come to Namibia – so many. Even through my music and my music videos – I have inspired so many people to visit the land of the brave.
If you win a million euros, what will you do with the money? / Why did you choose the charities that you chose?
Well I chose only charities that I am already involved with – because I think its easy for someone to get into the final of the show and then say: “Yeah I will do this and I will do that.”
The three main charities I have chosen are the ones I have already been active with even before the TV show – but I could support and do so much more if I would win this “Millionärswahl” competition.
My main support will go to the Rhino Foundations in Africa like (Save the Rhino Trust and Rhino for Erongo) – since I feel the time to really react to the brutal killings of the rhino is now – as the number of poached rhino is at its highest ever in history with over a 1000 rhino poached in 2013.
The other to Charity organizations are various orphanages in Namibia and also different educational exchange programs with Europe and Africa. Because I feel the best way to increase the living standard and so many problems in Africa is through education.
What’s your favorite place in Namibia?
That question is basically impossible to answer – as Namibia offers so many beautiful places. Every time I go somewhere new – I find a new “favorite” spot in Namibia – but I could say it is definitely somewhere in the line of the bush or desert. Because when you put your barefoot into the dune sand – you can just feel the energy penetrating your body.
Ees with some young fans.
How you can help
If EES is going to win then he needs all the votes he can get! Below is guide on how you can get involved with helping this passionate Namibian raise money for these vitally important conservation efforts.
**NOTE: There is only one hour of voting - on January 25th between 21:15 and 22:15 Namibian time.**
Voting times in other parts of the world:
There are two ways to vote:
1. Log on here during the allotted time! Use Facebook Connect to vote - You can watch the live show here.
A visual reference for when you cast your vote for EES.
2. Call the number on the screen (viewable at here to vote for EES (remember to add the country code for Germany “0049” – in front of the number). The call is only 0,50 cents and you can vote as many times as you like!
To stay up to date with all things EES follow him on:
Facebook - Twitter - YouTube
Namibia’s Etosha national park is located in the northwest of the country and is the largest safari park in Namibia. Self-drive safaris, unique locations and amazing scenery make this park and absolute must for adventure seekers and photographers.
An impala in the bushes, seen from the road.
This post will show you what kinds of things you can expect from a visit to Etosha, and later this week we will share our exclusive ‘how to’ guide giving you pointers on how to make the most of your time at this astonishing place.
Some fast facts about Etosha
The park was established in 1907 and since then it has become home to several different large mammals, reptiles and birds. The park itself is named after a large salt pan that takes up almost 23% of the area of the land designated as a national park. The pan lends a quiet and isolated atmosphere to parts of the park.
The sun-drenched saltpan.
Elephants, rhinos, and several big cats had all previously been driven from this area, but since the establishment of the site as an official national park in the 1970’s these species have been recuperated and can all be found in within the park’s borders.
There are giraffes and zebras galore, as well as numerous types of antelope, so there is always something amazing to see when driving through the park’s dirt roads.
Encountering a family of giraffes like this is not uncommon at Etosha.
After turning the car off and observing the giraffes for sometime we eventually
caught this one having a delicious mouthful of leaves and thorns.
Three giraffes in the distance, seen from the road.
The Watering Holes of Etosha
Etosha has several watering holes and you can locate them on the park's map. These watering holes are a hotbed of animal activity and if you are lucky, and patient, they can be an excellent way to watch a lot of different wildlife. You may even get to see how the various animals interact with their surroundings and each other.
Elephants are frequent visitors to the watering holes in Etosha.
A young elephant splashing about.
Somme gutsy Kudus tried to muscle in on the Elephants' spot,
but the giant mammals were not prepared to share and chased the antelope away.
Up close and personal!
An adolescent elephant eye-balling us from afar.
At the last watering hole we stopped at on our way home
we were lucky enough to catch this spotted hyena.
The Halali Watering Hole
If you want to you can stay at one of the rest camps in the park itself. These camps have the advantage of being within the park's boundaries, and thus afford you the chance to easily get in your car and drive around the park.
At the Halali Rest Camp you will not only get all the benefits of staying in the park, but you will also be able to walk to its dedicated watering hole where you can sit in a special amphitheatre and look out over it as the sun sets.
The Halai watering hole + rhino.
Many different animals are attracted to these watering holes and just as dusk was settling in we were lucky enough to witness the arrival of some rhino. And as dark fell on the watering hole more and more surprises were revealed.
A rhino basking in the last rays of sun...
Dusk at Halali watering hole
...the last rays of the sun.
Our rhino friend returned shortly after sunset for an early evening drink.
A lioness and rhino sharing the watering hole.
Why you should go to Etosha
Etosha is a beautiful place, and everyone has a different experience whenever they go, the above photos are by no means and exhaustive tour of the park. Should you go you will find that being able to drive yourself around the park allows you to explore at your own pace and leisure.
The watering hole at Halali makes staying at the camp a definite must, and it is highly recommend it for anyone thinking of spending a few nights in Etosha.
Most people have not seen even one of the hundreds of animals you can find at Etosha, and anyone coming to Namibia must make an effort to get to this famous park.
A tree overlooking Halali's watering hole.
Namibia is famed for its many different adventure sports and activities available to tourists and locals like. One of the most popular varieties of adventure sport is kiteboarding. Southern Namibia has a lot of wind, and a lot wide open spaces and beaches, this post will tell you a bit about a little town where you can learn how to take advantage of the wind, sun and water.
Luderitz- a town of many surprises.
Luderitz: Adventure Sport Hotspot
There is one place in the world where the fastest kiteboarders converge every year, and that place is Luderitz. International kiteboarders flock to the Luderitz Speed Challenge every year to try and break the World Sailing Speed Record because of this small town's excellent prevailing winds, and perfectly suited lagoons and shorelines.
Free as a bird-
a kiteboarder is pulled skywayrd by winds off the coast of Luderitz.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)
Naturally where there are great wind speeds and all-round amazing kiteboarding conditions in a picturesque place, kiteboarding fanatics will follow, and those fanatics need a place to stay while visiting the small town.
In Luderitz there is a place called Element Riders where thrill seekers can not only hire equipment for various adventure sports, but also receive instruction in how to do those sports.
Friendly owners and clean rooms, that's Element Riders in nutshell!
Activities on offer include kiteboarding, rock climbing, landboarding, surfing, power kiting, paragliding, and even skydiving for the real adrenaline junkies! Element Riders also doubles up as a backpackers-style accommodation for those who want to stay close to the action.
Climbers just outside Luderitz.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)
The wind stays constant for much of the day around Luderitz
which means more kiting!
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)
Learning to Fly
Geesche Neuberg runs Element Riders and when in Luderitz there is no one better to showcase the town's various activities that are available to the adventure seeking traveller. She walked us through her procedure when she takes someone kiteboarding for the first time.
If you are a novice kiter then you can start your day with Geesche explaining the basics of kiteboarding, which then will be followed by an hour long lesson in which the fundamentals of kiteboarding you have just learned can be put into practice.
Start from the very beginning and learn how to inflate your kite.
Fun with pumps!
Element riders has various kites on offer, from small beginner kites...
...to the big guys like this kite pictured above.
Depending on your ability and experience with the kites you may require more or less instruction before you are ready to hit the beach and the waves. But even total novices are welcome and Geesche assured us that kiting is not as difficult as it looks.
And once you have the basics down then all that is left to do is catch some of the famous Luderitz wind. If you consult Wind Guru you will see just how constant the wind is in thie part of the world.
There is always something blowing in Luderitz.
Plan Ahead- Avoid Disappointment
The fact that kiteboarding is weather dependent should be factored into your plans, and while the prevailing winds and conditions in Luderitz are usually perfect for kiteboarding, make sure you factor in three or four days if you want to ensure that you get some good kiting in.
Perfect weather for kiting, but we had to move on to the next town.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)
When in Luderitz, as we mentioned above, you are not just limited to kiteboarding. Geesche also told us about some of the other extreme/adventure activities that one can do in the southern town.
We were surprised to hear that Geesche’s business alone runs mountain climbing excursions, stand-up canoe trips, skydiving, paragliding and landboarding. And there are several other adventure-activity operators that run out of Luderitz as well.
Rock climbing in Namibia is beginning to become very popular.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)
Friendly instruction is offered in each of these activities for travellers of all skill levels and experience. Adventurers of all skills and sizes are encouraged to take part and learn how to ride the water, ride the wind, climb the rocks, and even fall through the sky.
The great thing about almost all these adventure activities is that they offer amazing photo opportunities for budding photographers.
Extreme sports mean extreme photography.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)
From attaching GoPro’s to kites, to capturing amazing photos of cliffs and crags, to taking pictures of a companion as they cut through the ocean waves on a board; adventure sports are an action photographer’s dream.
A kiter makes his way out to see as the wind whips up the sand.
(photo courtesy of Geesche Neuberg)
Accomodation in Luderitz
If Element Riders is full then fret not, there are several different places where you can stay in the small town.
Here’s a list of them:
Element Riders: Official Website
Nest Hotel: Official Website
Bayview Hotel: Tel: +264-63-202-288
: Tel: +264-63-202-345
: Tel: +264-63-202-458
: Tel: +264-63-202-630
Hansa Haus Self Catering
: Tel: +264-63-203-581
Obelix Village B&B
: Tel: +264-63-203-456
Island Cottage Self Catering
: Tel: +264-81-292-298
Shark Island Camping & Bungalows
: Tel: +264-63-202-752
: Tel: +264-63-202-000
For more accomodation options visit The Namibia Tourism Website.
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend some time with three of Namibia’s most impressive carnivores. Lions, leopards and cheetahs are all truly powerful and inspiring creatures, and yet, as with most things in nature they are in fact part of a very fragile system that can be broken very easily. As such there are many different organisations from all around the world that have made it their goal to ensure the survival of these majestic creatures in their natural habitats.
Human/animal conflicts are one of the major sources of problems for these big cats. Farmers often kill these predators because they fear a loss of livestock and want to ensure their farms are safe from threats. Often this means that adult female cats are killed while on the hunt for food for their cubs.
A Lioness roars inside her enclosure at N/a’an ku sê.
When a mother is killed her cubs are left alone and helpless in the harsh wilderness of Namibia. Sometimes the predator is caught, (usually cheetahs are captured as lions and leopards are simply too big for most people to handle with any success) and people have been known to try and tame them for recreational or security purposes.
It is almost impossible for a non-professional conservationist to look after one of these big cats and as a result many abandoned cubs, and a few mature cats, die each year due to malnutrition or sickness.
Hungry hungry leopard- Big cats are incredibly difficult to keep fed and as such should
never be adopted by untrained people.
Conservation and rehabilitation
This is where an organisation like the N/a'an ku sê Foundation comes in to play. One of the many conservation goals of this organisation is to try and mediate the conflicts between humans and large predators.
From intensive work with farmers in the surroundings areas, to large carnivore tracking and monitoring, the conservationists at N/a’an ku sê are attempting to educate and help local people and farming communities on how best to live with Namibia’s big cats.
N/a’an ku sê is primarily concerned with two types of big cat conservation. First and foremost they are involved with tracking and monitoring of wild predators in the surrounding areas.
Left to right: An old RF tracking collar, a motion detecting camera, a GPS transponder
The tracking collars, GPS transponders and motion activated cameras are all used to map out the movements of big cats in order to give us more information on the habbits of these elusive creatures.
The more information organisations like this have the more likely it is that we as a species will better understand these animals and thus be able to live more harmoniously with them.
Speaking to Stuart at N/a’an ku sê it is easy to see the passion that the people who work there have for the animals they are protecting. The excitement and pride that the whole team feels when speaking of the wild Cheetah and her new litter of cubs was truly heart warming.
Stuart showing us exactly where a wild cheetah is nesting with her litter of cubs.
Why organisations like this are needed
Sometimes, unfortunately, when humans and big cats encroach on one another’s space things go wrong. This leads to situations were these big cats can be held in captivity by untrained well-meaning people or selfish exploitative people.
Either way, if a wild animal, particularly a predator, is held in captivity it often becomes impossible to rehabilitate it for re-release into the wild. These animals cannot be rehabilitated and used to be sent off to zoos or put down if no organization was willing to take them in.
By taking in unrehabilitatable leopards, lions and cheetahs N/a’an ku sê gives these animals a chance at a peaceful life in environments that are very similar to the habitats found in the wild.
A cheetah surveys its surrounds at N/a’an ku sê
All the money that is made from these animals in captivity is put straight back into conservation efforts of these self-same animals. Thus, not only do these once doomed captured animals have the opportunity to live out their lives but in doing so they are helping their entire species to survive through the money that is spent by tourists visiting N/a’an ku sê.
Hanging out with cheetahs
When I was at N/a’an ku sê I was lucky enough to be given an intimate tour of the premises. It started with a visit to the cheetah enclosure which three mature cheetahs now call home. Cheetahs are listed as endangered by CITES and thus the chance to spend some time, up close with them was truly special. I just had no idea how up-close it would be!
Aisha the cheetah with two young lads.
These three cats, named Aiko, Kiki and Aisha cannot be released into the wild as they had had too much contact with humans before being brought to N/a’an ku sê. This familiarity with humans would be problematic if they were released in the wild as they may try to interact with humans with disastrous results.
Aiko and Kiki about to be fed.
The remarkable tale of Lucky the cheetah
Not all the cheetahs at N/a’an ku sê are completely tame though and on the other side of the farm there is a tale unfolding that wouldn’t be out of place in an uplifting Disney film.
Lucky the cheetah was tied up by a farmer trying to tame her. Sadly, her leg became infected where the shackles were attached. When conservationists caught wind of her dire situation they managed to save her from a slow and certain death.
Unfortunately Lucky had to have one of her hind legs amputated as a result of infection. The happy ending here though is that Lucky now acts as a surrogate mother for 5 cubs at N/a’an ku sê.
Lucky the three-legged surrogate mother.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
Lucky now teaches these young cheetahs how to hunt and how to be independent. As a result N/a’an ku sê can now receive cheetah cubs and prepare them for a life in the wild. This kind of holistic rehabilitation is just not possible if a cheetah is raised solely by humans.
N/a’an ku sê has so far been a success story and you can take part in that story if you want to. They offer volunteer programs or you can donate to the foundation. The work they do is not limited to cheetahs and there are several programs that aim to help foster a mutually beneficial relationship between animals and humans in Namibia.
N/a’an ku sê is situated only 26km outside Windhoek just off the B6.
A happy cheetah...
...is a happy cheetah!
Other conservation organisations
For those interested in supporting other conservation projects around Namibia, visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund, Africat or Desert Lion Conservation and see if you can help out these noble creatures!
This month we're kicking off our #GoBigNamibia campaign. This campaign is all about showcasing the excitement and wonder Namibia holds for travelers who are willing to go the extra mile when exploring a country. Five adventure seekers have been selected from around the world to experience Namibia's sweeping landscapes, cultural diversity and high adrenaline adventure activities.
The Go Big Namibia campaign
The 20th of August 2013 marks the beginning of Namibia Tourism Board’s Adventure campaign. The campaign aims to highlight the various and unique activities found all over Namibia. In order to achieve this four bloggers and a Namibian music celebrity EES have been invited to take part in the ultimate Namibian adventure holiday experience: The Go Big NAmibia roadtrip.
For eleven days these lucky travelers will journey through game parks, desert dunes, deserted coastlines and wildlife sanctuaries. Traversing the countryside in our specially designed Go Big Van these travel writers will be taken on the trip of a lifetime.
Traveling on Namibia's road network is one of the best ways to experience
the grandeur Namibia has to offer
Meet The Go Big Namibia Team
So who exactly is the Go Big Namibia roadtrip team? As we mentioned above there will be four bloggers and one musician travelling around Namibia together; let’s get to know them a little better:
Emeritta Lillo - The Local
Hailing from Namibia Emeritta has spent many years living abroad. Even though she has travelled through several continents Emeritta is most excited about being able to see parts of her home country that she has not yet had a chance to visit.
Essential Item: Vaseline for dry lips
Follow Emeritta: @NamibiaHorizons
Rachel Lang – The South African
Living in Namibia’s neighbour South Africa has given Rachel a deep appreciation for wildlife and the natural world. Inspired by discovering new things Rachel wants you to follow her on twitter and be inspired by the beauty she is sure to find in Namibia.
Essential Item: Her new iPhone
Follow Rachel: @africageo
Liz Eswein – The New Yorker
Liz comes from the furthest afar, hailing from the hustle and bustle of New York City. She does not like vegemite and is most excited about the animals she will encounter on the trip.
Essential Item: Her camera
Follow Liz: @newyorkcityliz
Laurel Robbins – The Canadian-German
Laurel has lived in and traveled through more countries than most. She is looking forward to a friendly encounter with one of Namibia’s cheetahs and having dived with sharks, sans cage multiple times, we’re sure that Laurel can handle most situations on this adventure holiday.
Essential Item: Her camera and its enormous lens.
Follow Laurel: @Laurel_Robbins
EES – The Kwaito Star
EES is most excited about coming home to his native Namibia so that he can show the rest of the world just how amazing his country is. He hopes to be able to communicate the energy of Namibia to the rest of the world through his new television show, EES TV.
Essential Item: His video camera.
Follow EES: @eesyees
How you can get involved (and win!)
The Go Big Roadtrip begins on the 23rd of August and concludes on the 2nd of September and in the true spirit of adventure holidaying everyone can get involved. Through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and their own personal blogs the Go Big travelers will be able to keep you updated on all their experiences as they move through Namibia. This is not to just make you jealously see it from behind your computer screen, oh no. Every day for the duration of Go Big Namibia roadtrip we will be posting a quiz on our Facebook page and anyone who answers the question correctly will be added to a lucky-draw and the winner of that will be sent a prize courtesy of Namibia Tourism Board.
If you find yourself in Namibia between the 23rd of August and the 2nd of September then you can also take part in another competition. Our Go Big Namibia van is going to be driving through Namibia and if you see it and can get a photograph of you standing next to the van then Namibia Tourism Board will send you a prize. In order to win this prize you will have to upload the picture of you and the van on to our Facebook page.
Follow all the action
What is adventure tourism?
Namibia has long been considered an adventure travel hotspot but what is adventure travel? Adventure tourism is really any travel that combines physically demanding activities, cultural exchanges and authentic engagement with the natural environment. Adventure tourism is not only getting off the beaten path but is rather about meaningful interactions with locals, wildlife and nature.
Members of the Himba tribe performing a traditional dance
The average tourist will be content to simply fly into Namibia, take some photos with their expensive camera and fly back out again having experienced almost none of the richness that Namibia offers. This in itself is not a terrible thing but it does lead to largely meaningless interactions between tourists and locals. Adventure tourism attempts to bridge the gap between the locals and the tourists and get them involved in each other’s lives.
Tourists learning about the local flora of Namibia.
Pictured above is a quiver tree.
(image courtesy of MCC)
Adventure tourism means stopping in the small towns that most drive through; hiking up the trails most are too tired to, and helping with human interest and conservation projects around the country. Adventure tourism is then the manifestation of many visitors’ desires to be more than just a tourist scratching at the surface of a country’s culture. Adventure tourism uplifts and builds local communities in meaningful and lasting ways. Through volunteer programs or conservation projects adventure tourists are helping to uplift and improve the countries they visit.
Volunteer projects and conservation efforts are part of what makes
adventure tourism a meaningful experience for locals, tourists and wildlife
This is in stark contrast to traditional tourism models. As we all know most tourists seem intent on going into a country in massive crowds of tour groups and collecting knick-knacks and photographs so that these can be horded on mantelpieces and in display cabinets.
Get off the beaten path and find your own adventure in Namibia
On August the 26th 1966 the first shots were fired in Namibia’s war for independence at the battle of Omugulugwombashe in Namibia's central Northern region. It would take 23 years for Namibia to achieve independence but it is these first acts of armed resistance that are being commemorated on Monday 26th August. Heroes’ Day is celebrated every year in Namibia in an effort to never forget the sacrifices and efforts of all the proud Namibians who fought for freedom and self-determination.
The Unknown Soldier at Heroes' Acre
These days the holiday is used to foster national pride and to stress the importance of togetherness in Namibia. Namibia has several diverse cultures living within its borders and presidents often use the 26th of August to remind everyone in Namibia, and the world at large, just how remarkable and peacefully all the different cultures in Namibia co-exist.
Three Himba children laughing
(image courtesy of Nigel Pavitt)
Namibia’s Heroes’ Day is a time for all Namibians to reflect on how far the country has come since attaining its independence from South Africa in 1990. Rather than focussing on the lives lost needlessly in a justified struggle for independence from a white minority government, Namibia focuses on the positive aspects of its post-independence reality. In recent years the spotlight has been put on to current citizens’ Namibian hero. This typifies the Namibian spirit of endeavour and a national psyche of reconciliation with a view to the future instead of dwelling on the past.
The Heroes’ Acre just outside Windhoek is a monument to the fallen soldiers and citizens of Namibia. The monument aims to honour the lives of those Namibians who may have otherwise been forgotten through the passage of time. There is a statue of the unknown soldier and seating for about 50 000 people for when events are held in its amphitheatre.
A flame burns in memorium for those who have been lost
A tourist makes his way to the Unknown Soldier
Heroes' Acre seen from its paved square
Heroes' Day 2013
This year the annual celebrations will be held in the Omusati region where the war for independence began in 1966. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has predicted that over 50 000 people will attend the ceremonies being held. This year the highlight of the ceremony will include the unveiling of a new statue of Dr Sam Nujoma to celebrate the ex-president’s integral role in fighting for Namibia’s independence.
Founding President Sam Nujoma (left) greeting the late Colonel John Otto
Nankudhu during the 2009 Heroes’ Day commemoration
(image courtesy of the Namibian Sun)
The planned ceremony will also celebrate the role of everyday Namibian heroes and heroines who all contribute to making Namibia the wonderful, peaceful and harmonious country it is. Men and women such as Cgunta Khao//Khao who at great personal risk helped to save a tourist form a bushfire in 2012.
Cgunta: A true Namibian hero recovering from his burns in hospital
(image courtesy of the N/a'an ku sê Foundation)
Namibians across the political, social and economic spectrum are expected to honour the day. There are even groups in the United Kingdom that will be holding events for Namibian ex-pats looking to honour the spirit of their country. So if you are a homesick ex-pat reading this blog then take a moment this Monday to remember just exactly what make Namibia and its people so unique and wonderful.
The Heroes' Acre monument stands proud against a bright blue Namibian sky
Hiking in the Fish River Canyon
Words and pictures by Roderick MacLeod
I woke up after spending a night in the Fish River Lodge knowing that my day would be a busy one. I had signed up for a full day hike into the second largest canyon in the world: the Fish River canyon. The hike would be a ten-hour affair; five hours into the canyon and five hours to get out of the canyon before dark settled on the land.
As you can expect the day started early. Breakfast was served at 5:30am and despite the hour everyone was in high spirits.
Dube, one of the guides at the lodge.
The night before the hike I had had a chance to chat to some of the Fish River Lodge’s staff about the hike and what I should expect. The response was always along the same lines: It is a tough hike and should not be attempted by the frail or lazy. A good pair of shoes is an absolute must and a healthy pair of lungs will, of course, help. The Fish River Lodge, as part of the full-day hike package you can purchase, provided me with water and food for the duration of the hike.
Into the Canyon
Once our guides for the day (Ben and Desmond) had introduced themselves to us we set out for the point at which we would begin our descent down into the canyon.
Our vehicle was left perched on the canyon's rim.
We would see it as a dot, many hours later, looking up from the canyon floor.
An hour after beginning our descent I noticed how spectacular the formations in this canyon are. The dried up river beds, the gullies, the outcrops of strangely sculpted cliffs are all a treat for anyone with an interest in natural beauty. It is incredibly interesting to witness the changes to your surroundings as you descend into the canyon for the first time.
Rain-sculpted and sand-blasted, a face emerges from the cliff...
A long dried-up river bed
A gully in the morning sun.
On account of the many different landscapes in and around the Fish River canyon there is a varied collection of wildlife. The chances of sighting a few of these creatures increases when you are on foot. The park is home to many mountain zebra, various antelope, eagles and even a few rhino. Unfortunately I did not see any of the rhinos. I did however find traces of their activities on the path we were using.
Rhino dung on the hiking trail.
Naturally created hiking trails
Many visitors at the lodge spoke of their encounters with the mountain zebras of the region. The reason why people have encountered so many of these animals is because the trails that I and everyone else hikes on are in fact the selfsame paths created and used by the animals. There is a distinct effort on the part of the park officials and lodge owners to keep the hike as natural as possible.
When hiking the Fish River Canyon you will literally walk on the paths the local animals use...
There has been no clearing of boulders or cutting of trails. This means that when scaling up or down the mountain you have to figure what the best route will be. Since the rocks in the canyon are frequently breaking off the cliff faces and rolling down the slopes no two hikes into the canyon are identical.
The Half-day hike viewpoint
After three or so hours of hiking we came to a type of plateau which was about half the way down into the canyon.
We had reached the halfway point of the half-day hike, which meant we were one quarter through the full-day hike. We could see the river and the canyon floor below us. We were then told by Ben (our guide) that we would be heading further down the canyon and further along the river toward our destination: A natural rock pool in which we could have a refreshing dip before turning around and heading back out of the canyon.
View from the half-day hike turnaround point.
Below to the left is the Fish River.
Between the half-day hike turnaround point and the rock pool was the part of the hike I found to be the most treacherous. The landscape suddenly flattened out and i found myself walking on cracked rock and around small thorny shrubs. Constant attention was needed to avoid spraining an ankle or twisting a knee.
Ben surveys the harsh beauty of the canyon surrounds.
Your prize for making it through these trials is an hour of relaxation at the rock pool. After 4-5 hours of non-stop hiking this rock pool becomes more than just a pool, it becomes an oasis. Water cooled rocks and shade from the surrounding cliffs will give you all the comfort you need after having spent hours in the arid heat.
The seemingly bottomless rock pool at the floor of the canyon.
Onward and Upward
After we had relaxed sufficiently at the rock pool we picked up our bags once more and headed back along the path we came down on.
My hiking companion preparing to leave the rock pool behind.
The hike was nothing short of glorious. I was constantly struck by the massive beauty of the canyon. From the moment I stood atop the canyon to when I was seated on its floor, to when I once again stood atop its cliffs I was filled with a sense of wanderlust and excitement. The hikes and hiking options offered by the Fish River Lodge make it easy to say this is the perfect spot for just about anyone who wants to go hiking in the Fish River canyon.
Even our guide, Ben, had to take a few breathers on the way up.
How to get there - Where to stay
The Fish River canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world and it can be found in Namibia’s Southern Karas region near the South African/Namibia border.
As with most places in the South of Namibia the best way to get there is via the small town of Luderitz. The drive from Luderitz to Fish River canyon is a lengthy, but relatively straight-forward drive. A car capable of dealing with rocky dirt roads is strongly advised.
Almost the entirety of the canyon is now a protected nature reserve and there are several lodges one can stay at around the canyon. It should be mentioned that the Fish River Lodge is the only lodge that is perched directly on the rim of the canyon, the other lodges are a little bit removed from the canyon.
If you wish to hike in the canyon you will need a guide as private hikes are no longer allowed since numerous tragedies have befallen ill-prepared private non-sanctioned groups of hikers.
Most of the lodges offer guests a variety of activities to choose from. So if there are people unwilling or unable to hike, do not fear. Activities in the Fish River canyon range from scenic drives to horse back safaris so check each lodge out and decide what is best for you and your traveling companions.
Here is a list of some of the places you can stay at near the Fish River Canyon:
Saturday the 10th of August 2013 is the first time that World Lion Day will be celebrated. To coincide with this landmark day the TOSCO trust has decided to offer a two night all inclusive safari adventure at Wilderness Safaris’ Damaraland Camp for one lucky couple. All you have to do to enter this competition is read the post below and then follow the links and the instructions and you could be chosen to experience two nights with a partner in the unforgettable Huab River Valley.
Looking out over the pool at the Damaraland Camp
(image courtesy of Scott Dunn)
Why we need a World Lion Day
In the past 50 years lion numbers have plummeted by 80-90% leaving only about 25 000 lions today. Many argue that this rapid decline in lion population is more severe than that being suffered by the rhinos of Africa. The scattered and isolated prides of lions that now live all over Africa are massively at risk. Some alarming reports suggest that wild lions could become extinct in as little as 10 years. This would mean that the only lions left in the world would be those raised in captivity.
Lioness stalking the Hoanib Floodplain
(image courtesy of the Desert Lion Project)
What is happenning to the lions of Africa?
The reasons for this mass slaughtering of lions is varied. The main problem faced by lions arise due to a conflict over resources with human beings. Lions are efficient predators and given the chance they will eat livestock. This makes them a target of local farmers who will then kill lions on-sight in an effort to prevent further livestock losses. Lions are also losing their habitats due to human encroachment, be it in the form of settlements or ever-growing farmlands. Add then to these two factors the fact that lion bones are used medicinally in parts of Asia and you have a massive problem that requires a lot of work to fix.
Lion cubs in Botswana
(image courtesy of Reuben Goldberg via Timeslive.co.za)
The first step on the long road to saving the African lion is to address each problem facing these noble creatures. We all need to publicize that there is a massive problem facing lions right now. This is what TOSCO and others hope to achieve through initiatives like World Lion Day 2013.
World Lion Day and other lion conservation projects
Image courtesy of Greg du Toit via Volunteer Africa
Awareness is only the tip of the iceberg. One of the major factors leading to the decline of lion populations in Africa is the conflict between the people of Africa and its lions. People need to be able to share in the profits of having lions on the continent if they are to be convinced to stop killing them. Profit sharing like this would enable local people to not just feel like lions are a threat to their ways of life but are able to rather be a valuable part of their lives.
One such project encouraging the co-existence of lions and humans is the Lion Guardians Project. This project has been extremely successful in encouraging a healthy respect and reverence for lions in Kenya. The basic aims of the project are to establish individuals in communities as lion guardians. These lion guardians are then tasked with keeping the lions away from the villages and farms. This protects the lions from the humans and the humans from the lions. The project has allowed communities to live more peacefully with their lion neighbors and it allows communities to enjoy the benefits of increased and sustainable tourism directly associated with wild lions.
A Lion Guardian holds a lion’s paw
(image courtesy of Philip J. Briggs via Flickr)
TOSCO Trust, IRDNC and the Desert Lion Project are attempting to launch this program in Namibia. By supporting TOSCO you can directly contribute to the employment of lion guardians to protect these magnificent animals.
This is not the only project in Namibia geared toward conserving wild lions. Since there are currently around 500 – 800 wild lions in Namibia several conservation projects run at the same time. As a result many niche conservation projects are setup across Namibia one such project focusses on a very specific and uniquely adapted lion: The desert adapted lions of the Kunene region.
These desert lions are particularly at risk since they live such a precarious life and are much more likely to be harmed by human activity. Thus TOSCO has decided to partner with local communities, the IRDNC, and the Desert Lion Project to build special lion proof bomas for the local people's livestock. The idea for this project comes from yet another successful Kenyan initiative illustrated in this video by Richard Turere.
Video via TED.com
How you can help... and Win!
Without programs like the ones mentioned above the lion in Africa is doomed. You can help by raising awareness or by giving donations.
In order to encourage awareness about the plight of the lion in Africa TOSCO is giving away a 2-night stay at a luxury resort in Namibia. To enter this competition, simply follow these steps:
After this all you have to do is name 2 organisations that support lion conservation in Namibia.
The answer can be found on the World Lion Day website or on TOSCO Trust’s website. Send your answer by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “World Lion Day Competition”.
Entries must include your full name, e-mail address and a contact number. The competition closes on Saturday 10 August 2013. The prize will be awarded to one of the senders with the correct answer after the closing date.
A pair of lionesses patrolling the dunes
(image courtesy of Desert Lion Conservation)