Monday, November 13, 2006

Lions of Etosha come up trumps again

June 2006 - Guided tailor made tour in Namibia: 13 Days, Sesriem, Swakopmund, Cape Cross, Etosha National Park and Waterberg Plateau.

In June of this year we were asked to provide a personally guided tailor-made tour for two guests in Namibia. The climate in June is ideal, the country has seen the last of the heavy rains and it is pleasantly warm by both day and night. Add to this the fact that you can enjoy stunning scenery with relatively few tourists, and this is a recipe for Namibia at it’s best.

The tour was based on a northern circuit of the country highlighting Sossusvlei and Deadvlei for the magnificent sand dunes, Swakopmund for it’s dramatic coastline, Cape Cross for the seal colony, Etosha National park for the fantastic wildlife and Waterberg for it’s unique elevated upland plateau rising above the surrounding wilderness.

After an initial night just outside Windhoek Alan Baird (the guide) drove the guests through barren, dramatic, rocky landscape, to Sesriem. Here they had elected to camp and the facilities are very comfortable The additional attraction is that only the campers are allowed to drive to the 60km to the towering dunes of Sossusvlei before sunrise, providing them with unique views of the sunrise. As a 4x4 vehicle was used this also allowed us to reach the heart of the sand dunes, catching the best photographic opportunities. As one of the guests was a very keen photographer this was ideal. Sossusvlei is perhaps the better known locaion, but the quieter Deadvlei is excellent for photography and, having elected to go there, we were lucky enough to experience this esoteric environment in complete isolation for at least two hours.


The tour continued through increasingly arid environments until we reached the coast at Swakopmund. The towns’ attractive colonial architecture is an oasis, surrounded by harsh rocky and sandy desert. There are excellent photographic opportunities in the Namib desert, where the aptly named Moon valley appears like a lunar landscape.

Further up the coast, to the North of Swakopmund, the Cape Cross seal colony can be found, where tens of thousands of Cape fur seals live on the beach and amongst the rocks. There is nothing more than a low wall between them and the visitors and the shade of this wall attracts the noisy throngs, providing opportunities for extremely close photography, as long as you didn’t mind the strong nasal onslaught that arises from their fish diet.

Seals at Cape Cross

People sometimes disregard Namibia as a wildlife locality, but those who have visited Etosha National park will testify to the contrary. Once again Etosha didn’t disappoint, and the highlights were the superb close lion sightings. An early start to the day and being the first out of the camp gates certainly pays dividends, as the predators are at their most active at this time. On two occasions, at both Okendeka and Klein Namutoni waterholes, very close encounters were possible and the lions showed little concern for the proximity of our Landrover. In one situation a mother shepherded her very young cubs within 5 metres of our vehicle, providing some excellent photographs.

Lions and mother and cub in Etosha National Park

Due to the good rains earlier in the year Etosha still had some water in the pan and the flamingos, which are drawn to the area in large numbers during the rains, were also still there. At sunrise one morning another photographic opportunity presented itself with these elegant birds silhouetted against Etoshas’ stunning landscape.

Flamingos in Etosha Pan at sunrise

Leaving Etosha our last location was Waterberg Pateau. Here there is an opportunity to walk, and also join a game drive up to the top of the plateau. The breeding programme that operates on top of the plateau has led to strong populations of both black and white rhino, many of which are relocated in order to re-introduce the species throughout Southern Africa. Also of note here are strong populations of Roan antelope, Sable antelope, giraffe and eland.

We would like to thank David Wilding for allowing us to use his photographs to illustrate this diary entry.