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The Living Desert Adventure: The Namib's Hidden Lives

  
  

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

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The seemingly hostile and uninhabited Namib Desert

High adventure in an ancient desert

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

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

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

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

What you can expect on the tour

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

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

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

 

The Namib Dune Gecko:

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

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

The Namaqua chameleon:

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A chameleon, on the prowl for lunch.

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

 

The Sidewinder or Peringuey’s adder:

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The small adder making its way across a dune.

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

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


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

 

Some tips for the tour

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

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

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

   

The Importance of Ecosensitive Tours 

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

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

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

 

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Living Desert Adventures

www.livingdesertnamibia.com

+264 64 405 070

+264 81 127 5070

Click here for tours & rates

 

More on this topic

The Great Family Escape: Adventure in Namibia 

Bizarre Desert Plants of Namibia

The Namib Sand Sea: A UNESCO Heritage Site

family holiday namibia

Welwitschia

Namib desert

 

 

Namibia's 55th Oktoberfest Spectacular!

  
  

Every year for the last 55 years Windhoek celebrates its German heritage in one of the best ways possible: By holding its very own Oktoberfest! The original Oktoberfest has been held in Munich, Germany for over 200 years but when the fest comes to Windhoek you know it’s going to have a uniquely Namibian flavour.

 

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The Oktoberfest in Windhoek is like a little bit of Germany in Namibia.

(image courtesy of SKW)

 

The event aims to celebrate one of the many cultures that make up the rich tapestry of diversity that is Namibia, and it aims to bring people together for some good old fashioned family fun and games. The event is family friendly and several competitions are held through out the weekend with prizes and surprises for everyone taking part.

 

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Thirsty festival goers in search of more beer!

Festival goers will get the opportunity to enjoy traditional German festival grub like Bretz’n, Weisswurst, Hax’n and Lebkucheherz’n. But perhaps most importantly, there will be Festbier which will be specially brewed for the event by Namibian brew master Christian Meuller. Christian spent some time at Munich’s Oktoberfest picking up some tips and tricks that will no doubt mean better, more authentic beer for the thirsty crowds at the event!

 

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Beer, beer, beer!
(image courtesy of SKW)

What you can do there

Besides the delicious food and drink there will also be a range of activities and attractions to keep everyone happy and entertained. Live music, traditional Oktoberfest games and challenges, as well as other activities will make this event even more memorable for those of you who can make it there. Have a look at the festival’s official Facebook page which will provide you with the low-down on what to expect at the festival.

 

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The Stein lifting competition is always a popular event.

There will be a fine selection of live music that will range from authentic German oompa music to modern rock and roll. Popular traditional German band, Kirchdorfer, will be coming all the way from Munich to Namibia for the second time in as many years.

They are one of the original Oktoberfest bands in Munich and you can see what they’re all about by checking out the video below or by visiting their website.

 

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Kirchdorfer, the official Bavarian Oktoberfest band.
(image courtesy of SKW)

Kirchdorfer at the 2011 Munich Oktoberfest.
(video courtesy of Kirchdorfer)

Carrying the flag for Namibian music at this event will be the popular band Famaz Attak. Famaz play a mixture of blues and rock and will be on hand to make sure that the party goes late into the night!

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Famaz Attak will rock you into the late evening.
(image courtesy of SKW)

Head on over to the Hansa website to enter pre-festival competitions and you could stand a chance to win a limited edition beer keg filled with delicious Namibian brew. Be sure to visit their facebook page as well to keep up to date on all things Oktoberfest.

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A lucky keg-winner-
check out the Facebook page to find out how you can win!

(image courtesy of Hansa Namibia)

 

Program

This year's Oktoberfest is due to kick off on the 25th and 26th of October, with doors opening on Friday evening at 19:00, and closing only in the early morning hours of Sunday morning. There is a full program of events for the weekend so have a look below and see what's happening.

 

Oktoberfest program at the SKW (subject to change):

Friday 25 October 2013:

Gates open at 16:00

Band starts at 18:00

Official opening by VIPs at 20:00

Music & Entertainment till late

 

Saturday 26 October 2013:

Gates open at 10:00

Band starts between 12:00 and 13:00

Traditional competitions, games and entertainment during the day

Music & Entertainment till late

Tickets can be bought at www.computicket.com (or at any Shoprite/Checkers outlet) and will cost you N$75 for a day ticket if bought in advance (N$ 90 if bought at the door), or N$120 for the full weekend.

For more info you can get hold of the SKW who are organising the event.
 
SKW - Sport Klub Windhoek
Email: skw@iway.na
Website: www.skw.com.na
Telephone: +264 61 235 521

Why you should go

This year marks the third time in a row that Namibia Breweries Limited and Sport Klub Windhoek have joined forces to put on this spectacular event. The two organisations have been working hard to bring the fest to more people every year and they have succeeded in doing so. In 2010 there were 1000 attendees, and in 2012 there was a massive 5000 people enjoying sun, fun and beer at the SKW.

There are several reasons why you should make a turn by the event if you are in the nation’s capital. If you like good food, sunshine, happy people, fresh beer, and all round good fun then you should definitely make your way to the SKW grounds in your finest German attire and prepare yourself for a good time!

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There'll be plenty of beer and fun for all at this year's event!
(image courtesy of SKW)

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  

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

 Marsel van Oosten 

 Christopher Rimmer

Paul van Schalkwyk

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Bill Gozansky

 Roy van der Merwe

 Hougaard Malan

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 Matthew Hood

 Ted Alan Stedman

 Jan & Jaye Roode

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

rhino namibia, namibia rhino New Call\u002Dto\u002DAction  damaraland 

 


The Amazing Birdlife of Namibia

  
  

Namibia is home to 676 of Southern Africa's 887 species and the whole country is littered with endemic and interesting birds. There are many great spots for bird watching in Namibia - here are just three of them to give you a glimpse into birding paradise. 

The Zambezi (formally Caprivi) Region

The Zambezi or Caprivi Strip can be found in the extreme north east of Namibia and this region alone is home to over 425 species of birds. The network of rivers and deltas formed by the confluence of the Kwando, Zambezi and Chobe rivers create an ideal space for avid bird watchers to catch a glimpse of some of the unique birdlife on offer in Namibia.

Here are just some of the species you can find there: 

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The African Pygmy Goose
(image courtesy of Adrian Binns via 10000 Birds)


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The African Marsh Harrier in flight.
(image courtesy of Trevor Hardaker)


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Pel’s Fishing Owl
(image courtesy of the Internet Bird Collection)


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African Wood Owls
(image courtesy of Bird Forum)

For places to stay in the Zambezi / Caprivi Region click here. Or if you'd like to find out more about the region, click here.

 

Etosha National Park

Usually, when people think of Etosha they think of spotting big game, and while that is fair enough (as you will discover by clicking here) there are other attractions at the massive national park. The bird life is fantastic and varied in the park and depending on whether or not it is a dry season you can find different species of birds making their homes in the park.

During the drier times two of the best places to go birding are near the rest camps of Okaukuejo and Halali. Not only do these two camps offer wonderful accommodation and facilities but they also will give you the chance to see some of Namibia’s 13 endemic bird species.

Okaukuejo Camp is renowned for its resident Southern Pied Babblers and Crimson-Breasted Shrikes. And if you are staying at Halali you may catch a glimpse of the Bare-Cheeked Babbler or even a Violet Wood Hoopoe. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Kori Bustard - its quite something to watch the heaviest living animal capable of flight launch into the air.

 

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Southern Pied Babbler
(image courtesy of the Internet Bird Collection)

 

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Crimson-Breasted Shrike - commonly referred to as "The German Flag" by the locals
(image courtesy of Outdoor Photo)

 

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Bare-Cheeked Babbler
(image courtesy of Rock Jumper Birding)


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Violet Wood-hoopoe
(image courtesy of the Flacks)


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Carp's Tit
(image courtesy of Wilkinson’s World)

The park really comes alive for bird enthusiasts after good rains because as the Etosha Pan starts to fill up with water thousands of birds make their way to the newly formed water source. You can expect to see Flamingos, Pelicans and maybe even some rare Blue Cranes following rain in the region.

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Flamingos on the pan.
(image courtesy of Kruger 2 Kalahari)

 

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Pelicans
(image courtesy of Doug Breakwell via Flickr)

 

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Rare Blue Cranes
(image courtesy of Frank Will via Flickr)

For a listing of the various places to stay in Etosha click on this link to read our comprehensive “how-to” guide for a visit to Etosha National Park.

 

The Waterberg

The Waterberg plateau has an amazing array of birdlife and is just stunning in so many different ways. Have a look at our blog post on it and you will get a sense of the beauty that awaits at this location. The area is home to over 200 different species and is home to the only breeding colony of the critically endangered Cape Vulture.

 

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Cape Vulture in flight.

Click here to find out more about REST, a Namibian organisation trying
to help these majestic creatures back from the brink of extinction.

(image courtesy of Avian Leisure)

 

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Bradfield’s Hornbill
(image courtesy of Brian Scott via Flickr)

 

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African grey Hornbill
(image courtesy of Biodiversity Explorer)

If you want to stay overnight at the Waterberg Plateau park then click this link and read all about the different accomodation options available.


Go Namibia, Go Birding!

So there it is! A list of just three top birding spots in Namibia, where you can stay and what you can expect to find. While we haven't come close to describing all of the hundreds of species of birds you can find in Namibia (you can download a Namibia birding checklist for that) we hope its given you a taste of what's in store. One thing is for sure though, if you come to Namibia and want to do some bird watching, you will not leave disappointed.

 

What interesting bird species have you spotted in Namibia? Share them with us!

#BirdingInNamibia

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More on Birding in Namibia

Download a Namibia birding checklist

 

Get a full list of great places to go bird watching in Namibia 

BIRDING CHECKLIST    MAP17

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!

Adventure Travel World Summit 2013 Official Song Released

  
  

With less than a month to go before 650 International delegates descend on Namibia for the 10th annual Adventure Travel World Summit, Team Destination Namibia is pleased to release the official summit song, !Kgala by Namibian artist, Elemotho.

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Elemotho.
(image courtesy of KV schiffART)

The adventure tribe was first introduced to Elemotho when his song was used in the short film, Destination Namibia.  This video was presented at ATWS 2011 in Chiapas, Mexico and helped to capture the imaginations of delegates and their reaction inspired Namibia to pursue hosting this event.

Fastforward to 2013, and after two years of hard work, we are ready to host our own ATWS and it was a no brainer for us to ask Elemotho if we could use !Kgala as the official Summit song. Listen to it here and be inspired! 

Elemotho will be playing at the Summit opening on October 26th  2013.

Etosha: A paradise for wildlife, adventurers & photographers

  
  

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. 

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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.

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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.

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Encountering a family of giraffes like this is not uncommon at Etosha.

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After turning the car off and observing the giraffes for sometime we eventually
caught this one having a delicious mouthful of leaves and thorns.

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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.

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Elephants are frequent visitors to the watering holes in Etosha.

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A young elephant splashing about.

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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.

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Up close and personal!

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An adolescent elephant eye-balling us from afar.

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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.

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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.

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A rhino basking in the last rays of sun...

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Dusk at Halali watering hole

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...the last rays of the sun.

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Our rhino friend returned shortly after sunset for an early evening drink.

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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.

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A tree overlooking Halali's watering hole.

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