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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.

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

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.

 

+++++++

Camping in Namibia: Etosha National Park

  
  

If you want an authentic safari adventure in Namibia then few places are better to visit than Etosha National Park. We have a guide on travelling through the park and today we will be looking at how you can organise your very own camping adventure within, or nearby, the world-renowned park.

Initial planning

First, you need to decide which part of the park you want to be based in or nearby. There are three gates that you can use to enter Etosha: The King Nehale gate in the north, the Von Lindequist gate to the east, and finally the Andersson gate in the south.

Which gate you choose to use to enter the park with is up to you and will probably depend on which part of the country you are travelling to the park from.

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Note the gates to the North, East and South
.
(Map source Map of Namibia)

Camping in Etosha 

Namutoni Camp

This camp’s main reception area was once an old German fort and has since been developed into the primary reception for visitors entering the park. Over the years a fully functioning restaurant and lodge have been added, and more recently Namutoni has also upgraded its camping facilities.

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Shade and rest areas are all part of the camping experience at Namutoni.
(Image source Find Trip Info)

The campsite is geared towards self-catering and there is space for you to braai (BBQ) on one of the many communal fire pits. The site also has a good number of toilets and showers so that campers can freshen up after a day’s worth of safari adventures. There are also plug points if you need to charge any gear you may have brought with you.

 

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The campsite is grassy and comfortable.
(Image source Bjusterbaarlik)

One of the best things about camping at Namutoni is that you will have unfettered access to a nearby floodlit watering hole. This enables visitors and keen photographers the chance to catch a glimpse of the park’s nocturnal inhabitants.

You can book by clicking here now. 

Halali Camp

Halali is located in the middle of the park and may be more attractive to guests looking to remove themselves from the hustle and bustle of the busier camps in Etosha.

The watering hole at Halali is more secluded than the one at Namutoni and feels more private and away from the crowds. It is, like the one at Namutoni, floodlit at night so that you do not miss out on any game viewing opportunities.

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Elephants relaxing at the Halali watering hole.
(Image source John van der Woude)

The campsite’s facilities have been highly rated by campers over the years and a nice feature of the site is that there are several Mopane trees that provide shade for campers looking to relax. Shade can be invaluable when the mercury begins to rise in the summer months.

This campsite also has all the amenities one would expect including ablutions, electricity and cooking areas.

You can book by clicking here now.

Camping outside the park

There are a few camping sites a short distance outside of the Etosha’s boundaries. These camps are close enough to the national park to make visiting the famous game reserve extremely easy. Many travellers also remark that these camps, because they are removed from Etosha, are usually a bit quieter and more peaceful than the often busy safari park.

Onguma Safari Camp

(10 km’s from the Von Lindequist gate)

Onguma is actually a separate game reserve right next to Etosha. This means that guests can choose to explore Onguma’s 34 000 hectres of private game reserve, or go on guided safari drives through the neighbouring Etosha with employees from Onguma.

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Rhinos and more await within the park.
(Image source Onguma Game Reserve)

The campsite at Onguma is focussed on striking a balance between comfort and allowing you to feel like you are truly camping in the wilderness. As such each campsite has electricity, toilets and showers.

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Running water and electricity are always good things.
(Image source Onguma Game Reserve)

You can also choose to eat at the lodge’s restaurant if you are not interested in cooking for yourself. However, self-catering is encouraged as meals have to be booked in advance if you wish to eat at the restaurant. Note that you will have to bring your own food with you as there are no shops in Onguma, so come prepared.

 

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It's easy to unwind in a setting like this.
(Image source Onguma Game Reserve)

 

You can book by clicking here now.

Etosha Safari Camp

(9km’s away from the Andersson gate)

The Etosha Safari Camp is another lodge near Etosha that offers visitors the option of bringing their owns tents and setting up camp for a few nights. The campsite is exceptionally well appointed with power points all over the site, as well as sinks, showers, toilets and braai (BBQ) facilities for those who wish to self-cater.

 

Etosha, Namibia camping, camping, safari, camping safari, Namibia safari, adventure, campsites

The camping is easy, and the scenery is beautiful.
(Image source Gondwana Collection Namibia)

If you don’t feel like cooking your own grub then guests at the campsite are more than welcome to eat at the main lodge’s restaurant. Campers are also invited to make use of the other facilities at the lodge like the pool area and the bar.

 

Etosha, Namibia camping, camping, safari, camping safari, Namibia safari, adventure, campsites

Every camper needs a dip in a pool at some point.
(Image source Gondwana Collection Namibia)

Since the camp is so close to Etosha it is a breeze checking in and out of the national park for game drives. 

You can book by clicking here now.

Eldorado B & B Camping

(8km from the Andersson gate) 

Eldorado Farm is run by Adri Pienaar who is the third generation of his family to run the guest farm. On the farm itself there are several antelope, ostriches and wildebeest and given that it is only 8km away from Etosha’s Andersson gate you will find it very easy to get your fill of game while staying here.

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Welcome to Eldorado!
(Image source Eldorado)

There is a lodge on the farm but Eldorado’s campsite is becoming more and more popular with outdoor enthusiasts and as a result booking in advance is essential if you want to secure a place at their campsite. The Campsite at Eldorado has electricity, running water, ablutions and self-catering facilities.

 

Etosha, Namibia camping, camping, safari, camping safari, Namibia safari, adventure, campsites

The campsite is very spacious.
(Image source Johan Groenewald)

 

Camping is good for you

If you enjoy the outdoors and safari then camping in or around Etosha is just the thing for you. All the camps mentioned above give you the option to either be totally self-sufficient or partly self-sufficient. With a wide selection of restaurants and amenities there’s no reason why camping cannot be both rugged and comfortable.

Popa Falls Camp- Another Hidden Gem in Namibia

  
  

In the north east of Namibia, perched at the top of the Okavango and overlooking the uniquely beautiful Popa Falls you can find NWR’s Popa Falls Camp. The camp is the perfect place to use as a base for exploring Namibia’s Okavango Delta and Caprivi Strip.

The camp, which had fallen into disrepair, was recently re-opened by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts and is now welcoming tourists once more.  

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The falls, and the camp are nestled between Zambia and Botswana.
(Image courtesy of Namibia Bookings)

What are the Popa Falls?  

Rather than a classic waterfall the Popa Falls are a serious of unique and beautiful cascading rapids that run over a series of quartzite ledges. In the wet season the series of rapids is a must-see if you are in the north east of the country.

namibia adventure, Okavango, Wildlife, Caprivi, Namibia tourism, Namibia, safari, safari namibia

A section of the rapids that make up the Popa Falls.
(Image courtesy of Dr Klaus Dierks)  

Because the Okavango is perennial, the region close to the falls is awash with diverse flora and fauna. Many different species of fish, birds, antelope and other large mammals have made their homes on the shady and lush banks of the mighty river.  

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It’s not always all about the fauna-
there is some astonishing flora along the banks of the Okavango.
(Image courtesy of Roxanne Reid)  

Exploring Mahango Game Park  

More than just a place to stay, the Popa Falls Camp is perfectly positioned to break your trip as you head north from the central or southern regions of the country. Close to NWR's camp you will find the Mahango Game Park. The park, much like the rest of the Caprivi Strip is home to a variety of fauna from large mammals to exotic birds. 

The park is famous for its collection of wetland birds; including egrets, cranes, herons, pelicans, storks and various birds of prey like Pel’s Fishing Owl and Montagu’s Harrier. The park has even been designated as an “Important Bird Area” by BirdLife International.

So if you are keen on birding and find yourself on a day trip through the park remember to bring a pair of binoculars and bird book to make a note of all the different species you spot.  

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The park has a large population of African Skimmers.
(Image courtesy of Loretta Aminus)  

Mahango is also one of the few reserves in Namibia, and by extension the world, that is home to a pack of African wild dogs. These notoriously shy and incredibly endangered animals are always a treat to see and the opportunity to catch a glimpse of them should not be passed up on.  

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Three wild dogs seeking some respite from the baking noon sun.  

Other large mammals in the park include bushbuck, reedbuck, tsessebe, sitatunga, and the rare and beautiful roan and sable antelope. There are also, according to reports, migratory elephants that pass through the park, but sightings of these majestic beasts are rare.  

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Herds of various antelope can be seen all over the park.

(Image courtesy of Roxanne Reid)  

**Note that the park is only open for day trips and there are no overnight facilities so it is best to stay at a lodge or a camp nearby if you wish to explore it.**  

Other things to do at Popa Falls Camp

The Okavango is a popular destination for fisherman as the river is stocked with abundant Tigerfish, Threespot and Greenheaded tilapia. Staying at the Popa Falls Camp will give you an excellent place to base yourself if you wish to launch a fishing expedition on the upper sections of the Okavango in Namibia.  

The camp is also a good place to just take a few days off and let off some steam by the riverside. Sometimes travelling around can be hard work and a day or two of solid relaxation can go a long way to making your trip around Namibia even more enjoyable.

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Have a refreshing drink at the Popa Falls Camp's jetty bar.

The Popa Falls Camp also offers safari cruises on the recently launched “Queen Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah” houseboat. On one of these excursions you may well spot some of the local fauna including hippos, crocodiles and the endemic antelope as you wind your way up and down the river.  

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Another striking sunset over the Okavango
(Image courtesy of Dr Klaus Dierks)  

Staying at the Popa Falls Camp

The camp has over 40 beds for sleepy travellers and these are divided across 10 river chalets and three family chalets. The camp itself has all the facilities you need including a restaurant and bar.  

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Pictured above: A traveller's best friend.

If you don't particularly like having a roof over your head then there is also space for you to camp, and there is also a designated area for overland tour operators where they can leave their overland vehicles as well.

**Note: SADC citizens get a 25% discount when staying at any NWR camp, while Namibian NamLeisure cardholders will receive a 50% discount. Internationals also get a 10% discount so be sure to enquire ahead before you get to the camp.**

For more booking information contact NWR here.

For a list of a few other places to stay in the region check out this link.

REST: Saving Namibia's Vultures

  
  

The Rare and Endangered Species Trust is an organisation that operates in Central-Northern Namibia near the town of Otjiwarongo and the Okonkjima game reserve. Many of you may remember them from our post on Pangolin conservation, but REST also plays a leading role in the effort to conserve endangered vultures in Namibia. Read on to find out how you can help too.

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The Cape Griffon vulture, in flight
.
(Image courtesy of REST)

The vultures' plight

Most people are surprised when they find out about the plight of the various species of vultures in southern Africa. The fact is that vulture numbers are down across the region, and unless strong action is taken immediately we risk losing many of these species.

In Namibia Maria Diekmann decided to take action and many years ago founded REST. The trust now runs many programs to help save various species of animals in and around Namibia. Maria, along with her dedicated band of volunteers and permanent staff, hopes to educate the public on the plight of the vulture and in doing so illustrate just how vital these birds are for a functioning and healthy ecosystem.

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Maria preparing to release Diana, a White Backed vulture, into the wild.
(Image courtesy of REST)

What vultures do for us

Simply put, vultures are nature’s clean-up crew. These birds can eat just about anything, ingest any pathogen and remove it from the ecosystem. What this does is it takes this undesirable meat, and disease, out of the ecosystem.

Without vultures doing this, whatever disease is in an animal’s carcass will get ingested by other scavenging animals (wild dogs, jackals etc) and will eventually land causing a lot of harm to the entire ecosystem that has been robbed of its vultures.

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Wild White Backed vultures nesting.
(Image courtesy of REST)

What is happening to Namibia's vultures?

Poaching is a massive problem for vultures in southern Africa. These birds are the ultimate innocent bystanders in the bloody war that is poaching. This is what happens: A gang of poachers will kill an animal for its ivory, horn or pelt and will then discard the carcass in the bush. Once this is done the vultures, who have keen eyesight and a knack for sniffing out a meal, will circle and eventually descend down to feed on the dead animal.

Many game rangers and anti-poaching teams had begun to use the circling vultures as a way of spotting where an act of poaching may have occurred and could then begin to give chase to any possible poachers. But the poachers have gotten wise to this. Now these highly organised gangs of thieves and smugglers will poison a carcass that they have killed in the hopes that it will kill off the vultures in area and thus make it harder for the game rangers and authorities to find them.

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Nelson, a rescued Cape Griffon vulture who, unfortunately,
is too damaged to send back into the wild.

(Image courtesy of Linda Millington, via REST)

In August, this year, 600-1000 vultures were killed when one poached elephant carcass was deliberately poisoned in an attempt to rid an area in the north of Namibia of its vultures. Visit here to see if you can lend a hand to help lessen this crisis. It is estimated that every year nearly 2000 cultures are deliberately poisoned.

There are other problems facing vultures in our modern world as well. Loss of habitat, internal organs for use in traditional medicine, ignorance and even misguided farmers who pump their cattle and herds full of an anti-inflammatory drug that is as deadly as a poison to a vulture. We cannot stop all of these things at once, but we can begin to reverse the thinking behind each of these problems, one at a time.

The good news

The good news is that you now know about the problem. More good news is that through organisations like REST we can all lend a hand to making the world a little bit more vulture-friendly. And as with most conservation efforts it starts with education. By learning about the vital role, and by teaching this to young children REST fulfills an integral role in bringing awareness to the masses about the plight of the vulture, and you can help.

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Volunteers at REST tagging a Cape Griffon vulture.
This was the first time ever that this species had been tagged using telemetry.

What we can do

You can volunteer. Not only is this a fantastic way to get to learn about a variety of different animals that REST concerns itself with, but it is also a fantastic way to have a unique and moving experience in Namibia. Click this link to find out all the details on REST’s volunteer project.

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Volunteers at REST get the full hands-on experience.
(Image courtesy of REST)

There is accommodation for volunteers with running water and all the amenities you need to live comfortably in the bush. You won’t be finding a TV or anything like that though! The prices are reasonable and all the money paid is ploughed straight back into the trust’s efforts.

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A vulture, flying the coup.

If you do not have the ability, or time, to volunteer then you can always donate money to the trust. All money is directly spent on conservation efforts as the organisation is well streamlined to ensure that no money is wasted on needless bureaucratic expenses.

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Funds are used to maintain things like REST's vulture restaurant.
(Image courtesy of REST)

Maria and REST rely on donations and sponsorships to allow them to continue doing the good work that they do, so once you have finished reading this article please consider donating some time or money to their cause.

The future

One of REST’s focuses is the critically endangered Cape Griffon vulture. There are only 12 breeding pairs left in Namibia of this majestic bird. That is not a big number, and it is even more shocking when you consider that 50 years ago there were over 2000 of these birds.

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Nelson having a bit of a pose for the camera.
(Image courtesy of REST)

But, if you visit REST you can see what is hoped will be the first successful breeding project of the Cape Griffon in captivity. Things are looking good right now and everyone is holding thumbs that this will be the start along the long road to recovery for these vital, and too often forgotten about, birds.

We need to support organisations like REST and we have to educate ourselves, and everyone we know, about the importance of vultures in the wild and by extension, our lives.

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REST is planning for the future by protecting what we have now.


Namibia's Sesriem Canyon: Just before the dunes of Soussesvlei

  
  

Sesriem is often only thought of as just a gateway to the famous and amazing Sossusvlei, but it is also home to the Sesriem Canyon, a natural gorge carved millions of years ago by the once mighty Tsauchab River.

If you are heading into the Namib and you find yourself in the Naukluft National Park of Namibia, you will no doubt hear talk of Sesriem, a small settlement with a filling station and general supplies store close to the southern end of the Naukluft Mountains.

 

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Sesriem Canyon, Namibia

Photo courtesy of TravelNewsNamibia.com

 

Some Sesriem Canyon Facts

The canyon’s birth dates back between two and four million years, when continental upheavel resulted in the creation of most of the westward flowing rivers in the Namib Desert region.

Today the Tsauchab River only runs after good rains fall in the nearby Naukluft Mountains, but the canyon is a testament to the rivers long-past prime some 15- 18 million years ago when the gorge was created by the river’s once sweeping movement.

The canyon is up to 30 metres deep at points and is roughly about 1km long- with a width that ranges between one and three metres wide, flattening out as it approaches the iconic Sossusvlei.

The name Sesriem is derived from the Dutch/Afrikaans words for “six (zes) belt (riem)” and was given to the settlement by explorers returning from the Dorsland Treks. “Six belt” is a reference to the six belts, usually made of Oryx hide, that a thirsty settler would have to tie together in order to reach down into the deep hollows in the canyon floor to extract the crystal clear cool underground water which collects under the canyon’s floor.

 

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Take a stroll along the river bed of the Sesriem Canyon

Photo courtesy of summitpost.org

 

What is there to do?

Sesriem canyon is an interesting place to walk and appreciate the canyon’s multiple layers of exposed rock. It is best appreciated at sunrise or sunset, where the changing shadows and soft light foregrounds the area’s breathtaking scenery, setting up excellent photography opportunity or offering a weary traveler a chance for some quiet reflection.

For those visiting by day, a walking trail leads into the canyon from where the layers of the different sedimentary layers are more clearly visible.  A variety of tree species also grow within the canyon, such as the unique laurel fig.

Do note though, if you are visiting in the warmer months of the year, do try and avoid walking around during the hottest parts of the day. Rather beat the heat and leave for your walks through the canyon very early or later in the afternoon when the Namib begins to cools down.

 

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If you're staying in the park, ask your lodge to organise a special sundowner over the canyon for spectacular views

 

The Sesriem Canyon’s hidden treasures

After good rains, pools of water collect in the narrow, sheltered sections on the floor of the canyon. These pools of crystal clear water are an invigorating sight in the barren and stark surrounds, and some of the larger pools even present adventurous explorers with a chance to enjoy a refreshing swim.

Deeper hollows in the canyon’s floor hold supplies of permanent water, even in the dryer months, which many animals use to survive in the harsh land. The pools are filled with species of fish, so be on the lookout for the barbell which call these pool’s their homes.

A campsite managed by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts is situated close by under huge camel-thorn trees, and right by the Sesriem gate, hot air balloons depart in the early morning, providing scenic flights over the Sossusvlei dunes.

 

Visiting Sossuvlei via Sesriem

The sand dunes at Sossusvlei are some 60km from the entrance the Sesriem gate of the Naukluft National Park, and the drive to the famous dunes will take about an hour.

The gate into Sesriem only opens at sunrise, so if you are staying outside of the park (which you will be unless you are staying at the Sossus Dune Lodge), you will have to wait until sunrise to begin their journey to Sossusvlei.

 

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Never-ending views over the Namib at Sossus Dune Lodge, a stone's throw from Sesriem Canyon

 

More stories

If you like nature walks: read about the Waterberg

If you like canyon hikes: read about the Fish River Canyon 

 More on the Sossusvlei area

 Waterberg Fish River Canyon Deadvlei 

 

The Wild Horses of the Namib

  
  

The wild horses of Namibia have captured the imaginations of countless authors, photographers and wildlife enthusiasts. They can be found in the south west region of Namibia and they are truly a sight to behold.

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Horses up ahead!

(image courtesy of Wild Horses of the Namib)

Wild horses: the myths and the truth

The wild horses of Namibia have been wrapped in mystery for many years. With various travellers, zoologists and historians trying to trace their origins for the last 100 years. As a result of the mystery several different stories have developed, and it is only recently that the truth about these animal’s introduction in to the wild has become known.

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Horses on the outskirts of the Namib
.
(image courtesy of Wild Horses and Mustangs)

There are many origin stories for these wild horses, some suggesting these horses were abandoned by German stud farmers, others claim that the horses survived a shipwreck and made their way into the interior of the country. But these popular theories have been recently dismissed and disproven and historians and zoologists now have the answer to the question of where these mysterious beasts came from.

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Where do the horses come from?

It was 1914, and German and South African troops were doing battle across what was then called South West Africa. The German forces had begun retreating from the 10 000 strong South African battalion who were well armed and well equipped with over 6000 horses.

The South Africans had set up a semi-permanent camp in the Namib around a dug well to provide water to the troops and their horses. It was this camp that the retreating Germans decided to disrupt in order to try and delay the advancing South African troops.

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Dueling horses.
(image courtesy of the Namibian)

A German military report makes the following observation: “In the morning of March 27, the tireless flight lieutenant Fiedler flew to Garub and successfully dropped bombs on the enemy camp amidst 1700 grazing cavalry horses causing great confusion.”

The bombs that were dropped would have scattered some of the horses and many of those animals would not have been recovered as the South African troops quickly pulled up stakes and pursued the German forces shortly after the bombs fell.

The horses that fled into the wild during these World War I skirmishes were supplemented by other escaped horses from stud farms around the region. Based on photographic evidence, a former mayor of Luderitz, Emil Kreplin, had been breeding workhorses just south of Aus in Kubub, and that some of these horses escaped the farm and eventually joined with the other horses who had made it into the wild in the region.

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The wild horses of Namibia are sociable animals that tend to stick together.
(image courtesy of the Namibian)

The horses would have likely congregated around the region's mountains as there are many natural watering holes that can be found at the foot of the mountains.

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Foal and mother in the harsh environment
.
(image courtesy of African Bush Bird Tours)

 

How do they survive?

After diamonds were discovered at the nearby Kolmanskop in 1908 the German colonial authority decided to demarcate a massive area of land that was off-limits for anyone without the proper clearance. As a result of this the horses, who mostly escaped to the wild between 1914 and 1930, were able to live in a small area of land that was relatively free from humans.

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 These horses live in extreme conditions

The horses were also able to drink from the watering hole that the South African army had made and were thus able to stay hydrated in the parching desert heat.

Then, in 1986, the mining company who had the rights to mine the area for diamonds turned over the land on which the horses were living, previously called Diamond Restricted Area 2, to the Namibian government for inclusion in the Namib Naukluft Park.

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The horses are now free to roam large tracts of land free from human interaction

 

What is the best way to get to the horses?

If you want to see these majestic beasts your best chance will be heading to the small town of Garub. The little town of Garub is 20km west of Aus which is the main town in the region.

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Horses investigating our parked car on the B4 toward Garub.

A small observation deck has been built inbetween Garub and Aus that visitors can use to look out on to a watering hole that has been constructed for the horses. Horses, gemsbok (oryx) and ostriches often frequent this oasis and seeing all three in the same space is truly a magical experience!

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Oryx, ostriches and wild horses all drinking from the watering hole.

This shelter is easy to find as it is just off the B4, 20km outside Aus, and is well sign posted.

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The lookout point is sign posted once you turn off the B4.
(image courtesy of Wild horses and Mustangs)

If you want to stay in Aus for a few nights then look out for our post all about Aus and the things you can do there whilst visiting this hidden gem of Namibia’s southern region.

 

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Wild horses at sunset.
(image courtesy of Cheryl Korff, via Panoramio)

 

More on this topic

Read about the desert adapted rhinos of Namibia

Download our adventure travel planning guide

Read about the Desert Adapted Elephants

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Capture Namibia: Photography Tips from Greg Whitton

  
  

Photography enthusiast Greg Whitton was in Namibia a few months ago, and he took some time to share a few of his photos and experiences with us...

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'Sunrise at Vingerklip'
Photo by Greg Whitton

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

I'd like to say it was witnessing sunrise over the dunes of Sossusvlei, or an abrupt encounter with a my first Bull Elephant shortly after entering Etosha, but actually it was the drive from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund. I can't think of a single road I have ever travelled where the landscape has changed so much and so often, some truly breathtaking vistas and obscene expanses of absolutely nothing that just had to be breathed in rather than photographed...sometimes you just have to put down your camera and appreciate your surroundings for what they are at that moment, not what you hope to show others.

 

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

My usual haunt is the Highlands, National Parks and general countryside of the United Kingdom. Scotland in particular has a special place in my photographic heart and I can never feel more at peace anywhere more than the North-West Highland region of Scotland (Sutherland), however, Namibia is such a rich country of photographic subjects that it is hard not to be able to find something of interest to photograph, it is so ridiculously diverse, it's almost unfair it is so far from the UK!

My most recent International destination before Namibia was China, which in itself is incredibly varied and culturally rich, but has its own problems for photographers, such as terrible pollution, something Namibia has no problems with! I've never in my life seen such clear skies at night as I did in Namibia and it wasn't something I had actually considered before I arrived. I hadn't made any particular plans to capture the night sky, although I did experiment a little.

I think the biggest challenge was the opening and closing times of the National Parks. Most interesting subjects lie within one park or another and when the gates open or shut at sunrise or sunset it really limits what you can achieve. Also, because Namibia is closer to the Equator than I am used to, the "Golden Hour" (the time when the sun is low enough in the sky to cast warm tones and shadow) is not very long, typically only 20 minutes, and so being able to capture certain subjects in the right light and then make it to the respective gate before it closes is very hard. Regarding sunrise, it is the opposite, and so there is very little time to scout and find the right composition before the sun gets too high.

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'Alert'
Photo by Greg Whitton

 

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

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'Namibian Dawn'
Photo by Greg Whitton

It was a desperate rush to get to Big Daddy and Deadvlei before the sun came up, and then when we reached the parking area I only had a vague idea of which direction I had to walk as we were the first people there that morning, thankfully we walked the right way. Walking over a small dune and seeing Deadvlei for the first time was a wonderful feeling but then realising I only had minutes to scramble up the side of Big Daddy was soul destroying...climbing dunes is hard enough at the best of times, but when you are in a rush only sheer determination gets you to the top.

Emerging above the ridge to see that the sun was only moments away from the horizon was a delight, but it was a real struggle to assemble the camera and filters in time, especially considering the East Wind that was whipping up the sand. When the sun did come up it took a few minutes to gather strength and I was concentrating on composition of the ridge-line when I just happened to look down the slope facing the sun. The sand colour was by now richly saturated but individual grains of sand were casting shadow creating a textured effect I did not expect. I turned the camera to face the sun directly, stopped down the aperture to ensure I got a sunburst effect and fired.

 

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'Desert Oryx'
Photo by Greg Whitton

I really wanted to capture an image of Oryx (or Gemsbok by their other name) cruising across the dunes as I've seen a number of images (on this site and others) that have captured this wonderful animal in such circumstances. I knew given my situation and time pressures it was going to be extremely unlikely, but you live in hope.

It was late afternoon and my wife and I were driving to Dune 45 for sunset (you need to appreciate we only had a one night stay in this area, so had to achieve everything we wanted to in a single 24 hour period) when I noticed in the far distance, about a kilometer from the road, three Oryx crossing the savannah towards the outer extent of the sand dunes. Timing was almost perfect because the sun was now reaching that perfect height for Golden Hour when long shadows are cast and the warm tones become abundant. Using my 70-200 lens along with a 1.4x extender and a very steady hand I was able to capture one of these graceful animals perfectly as it made its way toward the dunes.

I didn't quite get what I wanted which was the Oryx in the dunes themselves, but what I managed to get demonstrates the diversity of the landscape and the nomadic existence of these animals better than I had anticipated, it is one of my favourite images.

 

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'Rescue!'
Photo by Greg Whitton

It was our final day, in fact our final hour in Etosha, and we had decided to just sit at a waterhole and wait for things to happen, rather than keep driving between them in the hope of discovery. In the couple of hours we did this we saw lots of things happen, from a Lioness attempt to take down an Impala in the heat of the day, to frisky antelope, to a Giraffe meeting and then a Matriarchal herd of Elephants arrival for an afternoon drink and dust bath. That in itself is not a rare sight in Etosha at all, but just as the Elephants were moving off one of the small calves got knocked into the concrete trough...all hell suddenly broke loose as all the Elephants called out and came running back to the trough to try to get the calf out, but too many cooks spoil the broth as they say.

The calf was being crowded and the Elephants were not succeeding. It was heart wrenching to see the majority of the herd turn and walk away and there was obviously nothing we could do to help. A couple of times the calf was almost out but then fell backwards and was submerged upside down in the water, kicking its legs in the air. However, it quickly became apparent that the mother had told the herd to leave and she remained with what I would assume are the calf's two elder siblings to work as a trio to help the poor calf out. I was shooting continuously throughout and this image captures perfectly the desperate struggle and the tender care together as the three Elephants use their trunks to haul the calf out.

Moments later, thankfully, they succeeded and all of them walked away safely, if a little wet and shaken. Technically, this image is nothing special, but at the heart of it is a situation that is at the core of wildlife in Africa, the struggle between life and death.

 

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

I already had a Canon 5D MkII and a selection of lenses for photography in the UK, but going to such an arid and diverse country as Namibia I knew I would struggle with what I had...you need very different equipment for shooting landscapes than you do for shooting wildlife. As an enthusiastic amateur I can't justify spending thousands on large telephoto lenses and I wouldn't have the logistics to transport them, so I had to utilise what I already had and supplement it in a cost effective way.

Therefore I bought a 2nd hand Canon 650d to use with the 70-200mm lens and a 1.4x extender. The 650d is a crop sensor camera and so it multiplies the effective focal length of a lens by 1.6x. Coupled with the 1.4x extender it means the effective focal length of the 70-200mm lens is 157-448mm, almost perfect for Safari with only a drop of 1 stop in terms of speed. I used the 5D MkII for landscapes and utilised that with the 17-40mm and the 24-105mm for wide angle and close quarter safari shots. Having two cameras meant I didn't need to change lenses in such a dusty environment very often.

But I would never leave home without a Buff. This useful piece of clothing can be used as a scarf, a hat, or to cover your camera from dust on a game drive!

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'Zella' on the Skeleton Coast
Photo by Greg Whitton

 

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

1. Research your locations on the internet and ensure you can visit them at the time of day you want to. Distances are long and opening/closing times are strictly controlled. For example, there is only one Lodge you can stay at in the Sossusvlei region that will allow you to get to Sossusvlei itself before sunrise.

2. Try to take two cameras at least if you are on Safari, things change so quickly it's unlikely you'll have time to swap lenses.

3. As an amateur be aware of your surroundings and not just your chosen subject, especially when it is an animal. All too often people will take a photo of an animal and place it centre frame, but with a little more thought an animal portrait can tell a much better story with clever composition or by including something else in the back/foreground.

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'Rhino Reflected'
Photo by Greg Whitton

 

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About Greg Whitton

Greg Whitton is an enthusiastic amateur photographer with dreams of turning professional one day. Based in Solihull, Birmingham in the United Kingdom. An IT Contract Manager by day, when the opportunity for photography comes along he likes to specialise in Landscape and Abstract imagery with a growing interest in Wildlife.

Greg is entirely self taught and has his own photography website www.gregwhittonphotography.com on which there are many more images of Namibia as well as other subjects. You can follow him on Twitter (@Mountainman76) and Facebook.

 

More Photographer Tips

This part of a series of blog post interviews with 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:

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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

The Desert-Adapted Elephants of Namibia's Kunene Region

  
  

Namibia is home to one of two known groups of desert adapted elephants in the world, with the other group being found in Mali. As mentioned in a previous post, there are several desert dwelling large mammals in Namibia’s north-western Kunene region. Read on to find out more about Damaraland’s desert elephants.

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A family of elephants traverse the harsh terrain together.
(Photo by Michael Poliza)

How do they survive?

These elephants are very similar to the African bush elephant, but are a bit smaller with larger feet and longer legs than their savannah dwelling cousins.

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A lone elephant surveys her arid surroundings.
(Photo by Norbert Schuster)

They, like humans, have a very long lifespan and structured family hierarchies with the family learning how to live in the arid region together from one another.

Eventually when the young males reach puberty they will split off from their familial herd and join up with other maturing bulls with whom they will grow older. After a time these bulls will find a mate and start their own herd.

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A young bull makes his presence known
(Photo by Norbert Schuster)

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A young bull under the tutelage of an elder bull is sometimes called an “askari”.
(Photo via the Cardboard Box)

These adapted elephants travel in smaller groups than your typical African elephants so that there is less pressure on the group to find the amount of food a large herd would need. They are also able to go several days without drinking any water, which together with their ability to walk long distances, helps them get from one oasis to the next.

Check out this video below for some interesting facts on how these large mammals survive in the unforgiving arid landscape!

Surviving in the deser takes practice.
(Video courtesy of Lynda Gregory, commentary by Russell Vinjevold)

Tracking the elephants

Desert elephants are notoriously difficult to spot as they roll around in the desert dust any chance they get, leaving them the colour of the sand found in their natural environment.

They are also very shy and have poor eyesight, but have excellent hearing and a terrific sense of smell. Thus they frighten easily and extreme patience and silence are required if you do not wish to disturb them.

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Desert elephants, blink and you may miss them!
(Photo by Norbert Schuster)

Like the desert rhinos these massive beasts traverse huge distances on a daily basis, covering up to 70km a day in search of water and food in the sparse and stark landscapes they have made their homes. This makes these gentle giants even harder to track since they roam in area that is over 115,154km2.

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A young elephant reaching high for some delicious greenery.
Most sightings of these elephants happen close to food and water sources.

(Photo by Norbert Schuster)

If you want to track these magnificent beasts you can do so while staying at the Palmwag Rhino Camp that we spoke about last week in our post on desert rhinos. Or ask a specialist operator like Terra Nova to help you organise such an adventure.

Conservation efforts- Get involved!

There were once almost 3000 desert elephants in the Kunene region, but rampant poaching and hunting in the 1980’s casued these numbers to plumet and the gentle giants were on the brink of extinction until just recently.

But through the concerted efforts of the Namibian government and private groups like the Elephant Human Relations Aid these desert animals are slowly growing in numbers each year. Presently the free-roaming population of desert elephants in the Kunene region is sitting around 600.

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Two elephants share a cuddle at a watering hole.
(Photo via EHRA)

EHRA has been running a volunteer project for over eight years now and it has been a huge success. If you read the first hand testimonials of volunteers who have been through the program and look at the tangible effects the organisation has had on the conservation of the Kunene’s elephants, it is clear that EHRA is doing good work for one of Namibia’s threatened species.

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Volunteers at EHRA.
(Photo via EHRA)

If you do not have the time to take part in one of the many volunteer programs associated with conserving the desert elephants but still want to get involved, then you always have the option of donating money to EHRA who will dedicate your pledges to protecting Damaraland’s rare natural treasures.

We can all help

As long as organisations like EHRA exist, and as long as people in Namibia and from around the world remain committed to protecting these beautiful animals they will continue to fight back from the brink of extinction.

Their intelligence and majesty should be preserved for future generations and we can all take part in ensuring this can happen!

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A herd of elephants head out in search of water and food.
(Photo by Anette Mossbacher)

 

More on this topic

Read about the desert adapted rhinos of Namibia

Download our adventure travel planning guide

Find out about Damaraland & Kunene region

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The Desert-Adapted Rhinos of the Kunene

  
  

Namibia has some beautiful environments and one such place is the Kunene region in the North. The region, which is divided into Damaraland and Kaokoland, is mostly desert and semi-desert yet is home to three remarkably large mammals. Specially adapted rhinos, elephants and lions live out their lives in this wind swept and beautifully stark region. Here's more info on the desert adapted black rhinos found in Damaraland and how to catch a glimpse of them on your next trip to Namibia.

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The Kunene after some good rains.
(image courtesy of SRI via Save the Rhino)

What is a desert-adapted rhino?

Many people already know that the black rhino is one of the most endangered large mammals in the world. It is also well-documented that since the 1980’s Namibia has been re-introducing these magnificent beasts into the wild with enormous success.

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Black rhino and calf.
(image courtesy of Areb Busch)

One of the most interesting types of black rhinos that have been rehabilitated in Namibia are the desert adapted black rhinos of the Kunene region. Hunting and poaching had totally eradicated their populations in the arid regions, but since the 1980’s thanks to the work of organisations like the Save the Rhino Trust the population of these national treasures has increased five times!

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Desert-adapted black rhinos at dusk.
(image courtesy of Namibia Tours Safaris)

These specially adapted beasts are able to withstand sweltering heat in excess of 40°C (100°F) and below freezing temperatures that are common place when the sun goes down in the arid regions of Namibia. The rhinos are mostly nocturnal so that they can avoid the excessive heat of the day.

Rhinos caught by a stealth camera on a night-time frolick.
(video courtesy of Save the Rhino International)

What makes desert-adapted rhinos different?

You will know when you have spotted a desert rhino because they look a bit different to other black rhinos. First things first, have a look at the rhinos below; do you notice anything different when compared to other black rhinos?

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You will notice that the horn is slightly longer and thinner than a regular Namibian black rhino, this helps desert rhinos to forage in barren environments.

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A more pronounced example of these animals' specially adapted horns.
(images courtesy of Save the Rhino)

The Rhinos of the Kunene are also unlike other black rhinos in that they are usually found on their own and not in small groups. However, the mother will stay with her calf for up to two and a half years which is long enough for her to teach her young how to survive in the tough conditions found in their habitat.

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Mother and calf foraging in a dried up river bed
(image courtesy of Save the Rhino)

As a result many desert rhino are ‘lone rangers’ and they cut striking figures on the orange and brown backdrops of the natural landscapes. Some of the lone bulls have been known to be quite aggressive, so keep this in mind should you ever be so lucky as to spot one in the wild.

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Ben the lone bull, fabled to be quite a no-nonsense character.
(image courtesy of Anne and Steve Toon via African Rhino)

How can you get close to the rhinos?

These animals roam in a 25,000km2 region, which is only a little bit smaller than the whole of Belgium! The rhinos are also experts at traversing this massive area and have home ranges of between 500km2-600km2. So if you want to spot a desert rhino in its natural environment you will have to be very patient and very committed.

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You need a keen eye and enormous amounts of patience to spot one of these shy creatures.
(image courtesy of Vicki Brown)

One of the best ways to attempt to get close to these exceedingly rare creatures is to stay a few days at the Desert Rhino Camp. This beautifully appointed lodge is located in Palmwag Reserve (also known as the Palmwag Concession) and is one of the few places in the world that offer guided desert rhino tracking excursions.

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With a bit of luck you could spot some of these mighty creatures!
(image courtesy of the Namibian)

The camp is a mobile camp and can be moved all around the region so that it can stay close to the ever-migrating herds of desert adapted animals. As a result there is only space for 12 guests and you will need to book in advance in order to spend some time searching for the rhinos.

The camp not only takes tourists on tours of the rgion but also is an active participant in the promotion and conservation of the deser-adapted black rhino.

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A tracker recording a rare sighting of one of the rhinos.
(image courtesy of African Rhino)

How can you help?

The Save the Rhino trust is always looking for donors and you can pledge however much you want right here. Beyond just simple donations there are numerous ways in which you can get involved, so check out the trust’s relevant section the website by clicking on this link.

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Experience the magic of these curious and rare creatures!
(image courtesy of African Rhino)


More on this topic

Read about a desert rhino tracking adventure 

Download our adventure travel planning guide

Read about the Desert Adapted Elephants

desert rhino New Call\u002Dto\u002DAction   describe the image

 

How to Explore Etosha National Park

  
  

Etosha National Park spans over 22,270 km2 and is criss-crossed by a network of roads that you can drive on to visit the park’s various watering holes which number more than 30. With a network this vast and with over 114 mammal, 340 bird, and 110 reptile species to see you will need a game plan, and this post is all about helping you figure that out. Follow this link to see what we found using the easy steps in this guide!

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Begin planning your adventure now!

How to get to Etosha

Getting to Etosha from Windhoek is very simple, it is a six hour drive along well surfaced roads that is easy to do. And if you want to break up the journey then why not try find a suitable rest camp to stay at to split your journey over two days while soaking up as much of Namibia as possible.

How you drive to Etosha will depend on which gate you will want to use to access the park. Traditionally there have always been three gates: The Anderson Gate in the South of the park, the Von Lindequist Gate in the East, and the King Nehale gate on the Northern border. In June 2011 the park opened a new gate called the Galton Gate and this is now a fourth entry point into the park.

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Map of Etosha.
(courtesy of Mappery)


Depending on where you are driving from, and depending on which camp you want to stay at in the park you will have to select the appropriate gate to enter park through.

Once in the park and through the gate you have chosen you will have to check in at Okaukuejo or Namutoni and from there you can head out into the park or go straight to your rest camp to put your belongings in the your room. 

Where to stay

In the park

First things first, if you plan on staying more than one day in the park then you will need to find somewhere to overnight.  Finding a place to stay inside the park is actually very easy and there are four camps run by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts that you can choose from.

Each rest camp has its own spot lit watering hole that allows guests to do some night time game viewing as all the creatures of Etosha come out on their nightly routines.

*Top Tip*

Once you've checked in at Namutoni or Okaukeujo, take your time to get to your rest camp, turning your journey into a mini-safari.

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Namutoni- rest camp and administrative centre for the park.

Outside the park

There are also several accommodation options just outside the park and these range in price and proximity to the park. So visit the pages below, see which one suits your plans best.

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A giraffe and an oryx making a speedy getaway, but from what...?

Driving on your own safari adventure

So now that you have settled into your camp you can begin to plan out how you are going to go about exploring the park.

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In your own car you can spend as long as you like, wherever you like!

Wherever you drive in the park you will have to observe certain rules and protocols to avoid making a nuisance of yourself or at worst, endangering yourself and others.

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Take it easy! 
The slower you go the more likely you'll cross paths with the wildlife
.

Some driving “Do’s”
  • Plan your route thoroughly and make sure you have enough petrol. You can fill up with fuel at Okaukuejo so it is very easy to keep your car running once in the park.

  • Always return back to your camp before sunset, the roads are mostly gravel so be sure to take this into account when you are planning how long your drive will be.

  • Drive on the left, just like any other road in Namibia.

  • Make sure you have water in your car to avoid getting dehydrated while on your long safari.

Some driving “Don’ts”
  • Don't drive quickly or recklessly. Driving slowly will minimize your chance of getting punctures and more importantly will increase your chance of seeing some of the amazing animals in the park.

  • Don't ever leave your car unless you are in the appropriate area, these areas are very clearly marked.

  • Driving at night is strictly prohibited and penalties will be enforced if you drive after sunset and before sunrise.

  • Don't feed or interact with any of the animals from your car.

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The roads of Etosha are easy to drive on, but care is required when using them.

*TOP TIP*
It is always best to go to Etosha in an off-road vehicle, but it is possible to do the park in smaller city-dwelling cars as well- you may just have to go even slower to avoid causing damage to your vehicle.

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Having the freedom to do what you want in your own time
is one of the best parts of visiting Etosha.

Where to go for the best chance of seeing wildlife

First things first, you should pick up a map from the kiosk at Okaukuejo. This is not only a map of the entire park, but it also gives you information about each of the watering holes in the park. The maps are available in German and English.

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The Kiosk at Namutoni- here you can find all the information you will need.

Which animals go to which watering hole is explained on the map, and this can be a boon to anyone who is looking for a specific animal. The map also has checklist so you can mark off which of Etosha's residents you have seen on your safari.

You can also buy an illustrated animal identification book from the same kiosk and this will help you to identify the various mammals, birds and reptiles that you might spot whilst exploring the park.

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Can you identify the antelope in this picture?

Top tips for spotting wildlife in the park

So now you have your map, and you are in your car, and you are about to go on your self-drive safari.

Your best chance of seeing wildlife in Etosha is by doing things slowly, and being observant. The watering holes are good for catching animals in their natural state, and if you spend significant time at these venues you have an excellent chance of spotting some of Namibia’s unique critters.

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Two lions hiding from the sun in the shade of a tree.

Here are some tips and tricks we have picked up over the years from other travellers who have explored Etosha extensively.

  • If you see other cars stopped on the side of the road, slow down; maybe they have seen something and you can share in their sighting.

  • Take a pair of binoculars.

  • Be patient and be quiet.

  • Keep a look out under trees. Many animals will seek shelter from the hot Namibian sun and often wildlife can be spotted resting in under a tree in its shade.

  • Ask at your accomodations about the best parts of the park to visit. Animals move and migrate around the park so it does change.

  • Always leave your camera on and make sure it's battery is charged every night (you'll be using it a lot!)

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A herd of elephants make their way to a nearby waterhole

Most are very fortunate when it comes to spotting wildlife in the park becuase there is such an abundance, from the big five to the smallest antelope, Etosha has it all. Check out our blog on what we found when we visited this astonishing place.

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 Oryx and Warthog: An Etosha story...
Coming soon to a theater near you!

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