Namibia 2012

We are pleased that you have found the travelogue about our trip to Namibia 2012. We spent two and a half wonderful weeks in the Kalahari desert and in the deep South of this amazing country.

We enjoyed our stay in 2011 so much that we decided to come back once again but would concentrate on the most southerly part of the country this time.

We visited the following areas during our trip from 16th May 2012 until 3rd June 2012 and traveled 2850 kilometers mostly on gravel roads:

– Kalahari desert Red Dunes Lodge

– Quiver tree forest Mesosaurus near Keetmannshoop Mesosauros fossile site and accommodation

– Keetmannshoop Bird’s Mansion Hotel

– Oranje River Norotshama River Resort

– Fish River Canyon Fish River Lodge

– Sperrgebiet Rand Park, Klein-Aus Eagle’s Nest Chalets

– Namib Tiras Mountains Koiimasis Ranch – Schwalbennest

– Kalahari desert Teufelskrallen Tented Lodge

As in previous years, we rented our car, a Toyota Hilux 4×4 through Frank Krystofiak, the owner of Nambozi 4×4 Car Hire Nambozi 4×4 Car Hire – Windhoek

If you would like to see more photos, then please visit our Namibia photo galleries. Single galleries will be linked in the daily reports below – I will need some more time to complete them, so please be patient. If you would like to keep updated, feel free to subscribe to our photoblog at SA*GA Photography Photoblog to keep informed about new galleries and other news.
We adored the colours of the Namib last year so much that we designed a photo calender (available in an everlasting version as well) with photos of Namib Rand and Sossusvlei that you can preview and order here: Namibia Photo Calendar Stay tuned for a new 2013 version!

We welcome your comments in our Photoblog if you enjoyed reading the travelogue.

We now hope you enjoy reading about our African experience and we also hope that it will evoke some Africa feeling and dreams.

Sandra Schaenzer & Gerhard Schoening
SA*GA Photography

Namibia 2012 Travelogue Home

Our flight with Air Namibia was going to leave from Frankfurt airport and we took an early train around lunch time from Basel to Frankfurt. Like last year, we wanted to be at check-in early and try to buy an upgrade to Air Namibia’s Premium Economy class. We arrived on time but unfortunately, all tickets for Premium Economy have already been sold but they sold Business Class seats as a special offer for 475 Euro which was 200 Euro more than the Upgrade to Premium Economy. We did’nt hesitate long and booked Business class seats for both of us. It is just money and I changed my attitude after my heart issue earlier this year: spend the money you earn as long as you can – life is too short…

It was still early and we had a light lunch in a restaurant before we went through passport control, passed the duty free shops and went to the Sky lounge. Our business class tickets enabled us to spend almost 90 minutes in the lounge where we enjoyed free wi-fi access, a glass of wine and some snacks.

We finally went through security control and once again my photo equipment was identified as a possible weapon of massive destruction. The guy explained to me that my lenses are polished in a special way and they need to check them. Well, he then took one of my image tanks (only one!) and went off to another machine to check it for any explosives. This is all so logical, isn’t it? I really hate Frankfurt security, it is not reasonable and these things only happen to me here. Well, I was eventually released and we soon after could board the plane where we were greeted with a glass of champagne. Cool!

The plane took off a bit late and dinner was served soon after. Starter was roast beef on salad, followed by salmon lasagne and a nice dessert. We had two glasses of South African red and white wine with it and enjoyed the view over the Alps when the sun set – beautiful! I could even make out our Matterhorn with Mont Blanc in the distance.

We fell asleep soon after while the plane continued its way south towards Namibia.

Highlight of the day: Dinner in Business class

The flight was very fast and we arrived in Windhoek 20 minutes before our scheduled arrival time. Thanks to being in Business Class, we were among the first to leave the plane and the first at the visa counter. This really is a benefit as it usually takes some time to queue for a visa! We picked up our luggage and I went directly to the MTC shop to buy a SIM card for my smartphone. I just bought 300 MB this time, activated the data tariff and found out that it again won’t work on my HTC smartphone while the guy next to me had no problems at all with his Samsumg smartphone. I was a bit frustrated and we went to the arrival hall to look for Frank. He is very tall and easy to spot but there was no Frank. Hmmm, I called him on his mobile phone and and he thought we would come tomorrow! Well, no problem, he jumped into the car and was at the airport 20 minutes later. It was nice to meet again and we had a good chat on our way to his office in Windhoek. We filled the papers, had another chat and eventually took over our Hilux SRX 4×4, a very large 5.30 meter long Turbo Diesel this time. I was quite happy about my “tank” and we started our trip. First stops were a at petrol station to fill in 150 litres of Diesel and at a shopping center where we bought soft drinks and wine and tried to fix the problem with my smartphone in an MTC shop. But it was a public holiday and the staff member who was working today could not help me – what a pity.

We finally left Windoek on the B1 towards Rehoboth. We reached our first accommodation, the Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge, after 200 kilometers and a little bit less than two hours on the tarmac road. We were greeted by two friendly meerkats called Toffie und Gertruida and the managers Cilas and Johan, got a welcome drink and drove to our tent “Nyala” after filling out the registration form. What a nice location this is! The tent is big with a living room area, a sleeping room and a large bathroom. Our tent is situated right at the edge and the only one with an outside shower – nice! There is a shaded terrace outside with a table, two chairs and a hammock with a gorgeous view into the Kalahari and the dunes. The dunes in this part of the Kalahari are still small and only building up slowly until they reach impressive heights in Botswana. But the landscape with the dunes, the red sand and the scattered acacia trees is still very attractive!

We had some drinks on the terrace and all of a suddon the bloody pollen allergy hit me – like last year when we stayed at “Kalahari Farmhouse” and “Kalahari Anib Lodge”. There must be a special sort of grass growing here that makes my life difficult. My eyes were swollen within minutes and I took an anti-histamin pill that fortunately worked well after an hour. Good news was, that also suddenly, the data connection started working on my smartphone – smile! We took a quick shower and had a nap before we met the other guests for a sundowner drive around the farm. We soon saw the first springboks and impalas as well as meerkats and a group of Eland antelopes. The drive took about 90 minutes and after one hour my photographer’s heart started bleeding because the light was so soft and nice but we couldn’t take photos until we reached the dune for the sundowner. The sun was almost setting and we could just grab a couple of snapshots before it disappeared behind the horizon. We enjoyed a glass of wine and a bottle of beer before we drove back to the lodge. The sky was now deep red and I managed to take a nice photo of the acacias against the red sky. I left the camera where it was because I intended to take multiple shots for star trail photos during dinner. I triggered off the camera before we left and enjoyed a delicious dinner that was prepared by Oubaas who is the cook and also works in the service. We had pumpkin soup as a starter and the main course was offered as a buffet with filled pumpkins, carrots, rice and oryx stew. Delicious, especially the oryx stew and the pumpkins! We went back to the tent soon after dessert – it has been a long day and we were pretty tired. I stopped the timer of the camera, went inside and took a quick shower before we hit the pillows.

Highlight of the day: the drive around the farm with the animals and sunset

Photo gallery: Namibia 2012 – Kalahari desert photo gallery

We slept very well and got up shortly after 5:00 am. My eyes were still swollen from the allergy but I felt fine – good! It was pretty cold and we put on our fleece before we left. The acacia trees already looked brilliant against the red sky and the moon was just about to set. I took some photos from our doorstep and we drove three kilometers to the first waterhole. We had asked for permission to do so the evening before and Cilas was happy to allow us driving around as long as we keep to the track. Of course we would, we never do any off-road driving as it leaves traces in the desert for a long time. There were endless photo opportunities and time was just too short until the sun rose over the horizon. Good that we have two nights here and can go again tomorrow morning!

The light was already too harsh just 30 minutes after sunrise and we decided to look for some birds around the waterhole. There were a bunch of Red-headed weaver birds (Anaplectes rubriceps) and some very cute yellow birds. I turned around and spotted a large herd of springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) approaching the waterhole. They did not notice us as we were standing still without making any noise and they came very close. It was so nice to watch them! We eventually decided to leave so that they could get to the waterhole for their breakfast. As soon as we turnd around, the ran and jumped away towards the dunes – what a sight!

We drove back to the lodge where we had breakfast. There was a large choice of cereals, cold cuts, cheese, tomato and cucumber, toast, yoghurt, coffee and tea. We ordered scrambled eggs and bacon from the kitchen and enjoyed a long breakfast. I worked on the travelogue afterwards and took a shower outside while Gerd was trying to capture some bird shots and of a Senegal orb weaver (Nephila senegalensis). A good start of the holiday!

We had a good rest and the two meerkats, Toffie und Gertruida, joined us looking for some cuddling time. The male Toffie was very nice and happy for every stroke but the female Gertruida turned out to be rather aggressive. Gerd was sitting on the ground with the camera when she approached him, climbed on his lap and bit into his arm! He didn’t offer any food nor tried a stroke! It was not bleeding badly and so we applied some antiseptic and we were all happy again.

We had a light lunch and went off for the dune walk that was supposed to take about two hours. It was an interesting walk throught the “roads” of the dunes that run from west to east and we climbed over at least five dunes during our walk. We saw flowers like the “cactus” that bushmen use as medicine for stomach age or diarrhea or the wonderful evening primrose as well as many weaver birds and even a Black-shouldered kite that flew off once he noticed us. The walk proofed to be long and we were exhausted after about 3/4 of the walk – well, walking in the heat is not my favourite thing to do! We eventually arrived back at the lodge around four o’clock, had a short rest and set off for the evening light again. We drove to the waterhole, turned there and stopped on top of the first dune to take some photos from there. Evening light was not as intense as morning light here and we had quite a relaxing time, taking the occasional picture and admiring the view over the Kalahari dunes.

After sunset, we returned to the lodge where we took some dusk photos of the acacia trees against a deep red sky and I prepared the camera for the night shots. Cilas said he would switch off the lights for us after dinner as we were the only guests staying on this side of the resort. The guys Cilas, Johan and Oubaas are doing a great job heere and we feel very comfortable here because they balance the luxury of the resort well with personal care. We went for dinner which was delicious once again. We had Amarula as an aperitif and dinner started with a roll of spinach filled with feta cheese and tomato. It was followed by a wonderful beef steak with potatoes, beans, and sweet potatoes and a nice yoghurt cake as dessert. We left soon after dinner to trigger off the camera for the night photos and Gerd played with our Astrotrac and tried to find the Southern star. The milky way looked gorgeous and we were able to take some photos when the lights on the other side were switched off – absolutely amazing!

Highlight of the day: sunrise in the dunes and the milky way

Preview photos:

Today was the day of the Champions league final and my team Bayern Munich was going to play Chelsea. I was already very excited when we got up a bit earlier than yesterday because we had to walk 15 minutes to the dunes where we had intended to take photos. We took our headlamps and walked through the fresh air. The moon has just rosen and was standing as a narrow crescent over the acacia trees. Beautiful! We started taking pictures and walked into the dunes until the sun rose. The grass took on a warm hue and looked beautiful against the blue sky and the birds slowly woke up and flew out of their large nests in the acacia trees. We slowly walked back to the house, packed the rest of our luggage and went for breakfast. We were greeted by Cilas and had a chat about our star shooting last night before we enjoyed a lovely breakfast. We paid the bill, thanked the whole team for their courtesy and friendliness and finally set off for the 250 km drive to Keetmannshoop. Shortly before we reached the gate, we saw four giraffes, that were brought on the farm. They were all standing still and looking at us curiously. We could not resist and took a couple of photos of these funny animals despite the harsh light.

We stopped at the Spar supermarket in Mariental where we bought some wine, lots of water and soft drinks and some cookies. The drive down south to Keetmannshoop is pretty boring and tiring and we were happy when we reached the junction to the Quiver tree forest road after two hours. We were booked into Mesosaurus Camp for three nights but I had booked one night in Keetmannshoop when Bayern reached the final so that I could watch the match. So we drove 40 km to Mesosaurus where we were greeted by Giel, a very nice elderly man who runs the camp and is also the guide to the fossiles on the farm. We explained that we would just move into the chalet, leave some backs and would go back to Keetmannshoop for the night to watch the final and he had a good laugh about it! We left one piece of luggage and most of the drinks in the chalet and drove back to Keetmannshoop where we had to search for our hotel, the Bird’s Mansion hotel for quite a while. We eventually found it, checked in and ordered Pizza for lunch. It was already late and the Pizza took very long and so we had to hurry out of Keetmannshoop to head for Garas Quiver tree forest which is about 20 km north of Keetmannshoop. We paid the entrance fee for today and tomorrow morning and explored the area. The quiver trees were just marvellous and looked gorgeous in the warm light of the late afternoon. Some of the trees where blooming and the yellow blooms were very attractive against the blue sky. We took photos in a quiver tree frenzy until darkness after sunset and returned to our hotel in Keetmannshoop.

I was writing the travelogue while we were waiting for the big match to begin… We couldn’t find the channel that showed the match when it started and we went down to the Conference Room but couldn’t watch it there neither. The Ladies from the hotel were very friendly and helpful: they found out which channel broadcasted the match and even programmed the TV in our room so that I eventually was able to watch my final. It was a very tense match but unfortunately with a bad end for my team: we lost our “Finale dahoam” on penalty shoot-out! I was devastated and very sad – a last glass of wine to compensate (and to forget…) and sleep made me forget about this desaster for the next couple of hours.

Highlight of the day: (unfortunately!!) the Quiver tree forest

Photo gallery: Namibia 2012 – Quiver tree frenzy photo gallery

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It was very hard to get up this morning shortly before 5:00 am after we lost the final and had not enough sleep. But we still managed to get out of our beds and drove out to Garas where we were all alone to enjoy the wakening day. And it was fucking cold again! The trees grow on a slope of a hill and so it was not easy to find a good position for pre-sunrise photos but I managed some shots and was delighted when the sun rose and the trees were almost glowing in orange light. They are just so beautiful!

We returned to the hotel, grabbed another hour of sleep and went to breakfast. It was unusual but we were the only guests that stayed overnight and the staff still provided the complete range for breakfast: cereals, fresh fruits, cold cuts, cheese balls, yoghurt, different sorts of bread, coffee, tea and egg toasts or omelettes could be ordered in the kitchen. We went for a French toast with cheese, tomato and ham and a Sunrise toast that actually was a slice of toast with a fried egg in the middle – it looked like a sun 😉

We payed our bill, thanked the staff for their courtesy yesterday evening and left a rather big tip – that was well deserved!!! We filled up with petrol before we drove up to Mesosaurus again. Our Hilux was hungry for 73 litres of Diesel after 650 km – not too bad! We were greeted by Giel again at Mesosaurus and he joined me in the club of “Sports fans that lost a final” – his favourite rugby team also lost the final yesterday evening! We were still a bit tired and slept another hour in our cosy chalet before we had a light lunch which actually was the rest of the pizza from yesterday that the Ladies gave to us in a leftover box. The chalets at Mesosaurus are cosy little rooms with two beds, a table, two chairs and a bathroom. There is no power nor any reception for my smartphone – there will be quiet days ahead of us! Hendrik, Giel’s son, provides hot water for a shower in the evening and he is also preparing dinner in a small open lounge area next to our chalet. There are altogether four chalets plus the bushcamp a couple of kilometers away. We like this accommodation a lot – it is personal, quiet and Giel and Hendrik are very nice and friendly people.

I went outside after I woke up and found to my big surprise a Mountain chat (Oenanthe monticola) sitting on my steering wheel inside the car! We had left the windows open just a little bit but wide enough for the curious bird to get in. Well, he was obviously very excited about being in a Hilux and left about 12 droppings that I found after I opened the door to release him. Hendrik was there to make up one of the other chalets and we went over to him to introduce us and to explain our problem. He was happy to provide a cloth so that we could clean the car – the bird was in the meantime sitting on a roof top and whistling happily!

Giel said that we could drive on our own on the 4×4 track that is a circular route and so we set off after lunch to explore the area. It is just amazing! It is the area with the most quiver trees and this is definitely true. There are so many places with attractive quiver trees that we could have spent at least a week here! And I still remember some people saying what we want to do three days in Keetmannshoop! The 4×4 trail was very rocky sometimes but our trusty Hilux (and I) managed the track well. There was a sandy river bed to cross towards the end which was a bit tricky because it was long and we could not make out the track properly. So I just drove and hoped that I took the right track. The Hilux managed it well although the tyre pressure was a bit too high for deep sand and I was lucky to have chosen the right track. Unfortunately, the best locations for sunrise or sunset are just too far away as I don’t want to drive this track in the darkness. But we will drive it again in late afternoon light tomorrow.

We met Giel at half past three and we drove the short way on the other side of the road to the fossile site. Giel is a very nice and funny chap and even explained the Mesosaurus to us in German! He, or actually his young son Hendrik, found the fossiles by coincidence when he was farming and Hendrik played with the stones. Giel opened one of the stones and found a very good fossile of Mesosaurus that turned out to be some 270 million years old. The bones, rips, fingers and even the spinal cord were clearly visible. Many fossiles can be found in this area of his premises and there are still scientists from Europe or South Africa coming over to explore the fossiles. We went on until we reached a beautiful spot with many quiver trees. Giel said that there are about 5000 quiver trees on his land alone! We parked the cars and Giel showed us that it is possible to make music on the old brown stones and played “Brother Jacob” and the national anthem of South Africa with a stone on the rocks!He left afterwards and we started taking photos of the quiver trees in the wonderful light of late afternoon. There are endless opportunities here and we already know that we will return once again to Mesosaurus Camp, last but not least because Giel and his family are wonderful people.

We waited until it was dark and set up the camera for a star trail shooting. We let it run for about an hour and went back to the chalet where Hendrik was already preparing dinner for us. He grilled Kudu sausages and sheep steaks on the open fire and his wife Linn has already prepared noodle salad, greek salad and fresh bread. We had a nice glass of wine and enjoyed dinner despite the cold. Yes, it was pretty cold now with the wind blowing strongly and temperature must have been way below 10 degrees! Hendrik left as he was on baby duty tonight and we warmed up around the fireplace. I finally had a shower and we went to bed early – not only because we would get up at 5:00 am again but also because it was nice and warm in the bed!

Highlight of the day: the evening in the middle of the quiver trees

Photo gallery: Namibia 2012 – Quiver tree frenzy photo gallery II

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The alarm clock rang and we got up promptly. It was really really cold this morning, it must have been around freezing point and we put on everything warm that we had. We drove up to the bushcamp and followed the track a couple of hundred meters until we reached a nice area with many quiver trees. Dawn light was soft and delicate and it was fun to take the photos despite the cold wind. The sheer amount of quiver trees here is just overwhelming and it was almost difficult to decide on a composition. We enjoyed our time and went back at half past seven.

Hendrik was already there and greeted us with a cup of hot coffee that was very welcome! It was still very cold and the air warmed up just slowly in the sun. Hendrik made a very good omelette with ham and cheese and we also had toast, cornflakes, yoghurt and fruits. Everything was perfect and we were once again glad that we had chosen this accommodation and met these nice people.

We had a chat with Hendrik after breakfast and a short nap before we went to see Giel in his house. My laptop battery was low and I asked him about a possibility to charge it. He said, no problem and we went over to the main house and met Hendrik’s wife Linn and his two sons. She was happy to help and even walked us around the farm in the hope of seeing their suricats but we were unlucky this time. We thanked her and drove back to the fossile side to take some photos in better light.

Back at the chalet, we had lunch in the warm sun and set off for the 4×4 drive once again after we picked up our laptop from the main house. We drove slowly this time and took many photos of the beautiful quiver trees. Crossing the river bad was no problem today and we continued to the other side of the road for sunset. The quiver trees looked brilliant in the warm light and we once again shot away happily until the sun finally set.

Like yesterday, we stayed until it was dark and set up the camera for star trails. We returned to the chalet after a little bit more than one hour and had dinner that was already waiting for us. Linn and Hendrik had prepared lamb legs with vegetables that had been cooked in a pot over the open fire and it was absolutely delicious! It was not that cold tonight and we enjoyed another hour around the fire before we called this day an end.

Highlight of the day: quiver tree frenzy!

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The days start every day the same: it was fucking cold and we got up at 5:00 am to go to the quiver trees. When we arrived in the spot we had planned to go to, we could already make out the quiver trees against a red sky. It was not as red as the previous days as there were some clouds but in the end the clouds made for a perfect background when they took over the colour of the rising sun. I explored an area a bit off the track and it proofed to be like a big playground: quiver trees alive and dead between rocks of all shapes. They sometimes looked like toy blocks placed by a giant – truly amazing! We spent an hour in this magic wonderland and went back for breakfast. We were a bit early today and quickly packed our stuff so that we would be ready to leave just after breakfast. Hendrik was already there and offered a hot coffee. It was clearly warmer today despite the strong wind and we enjoyed a hearty breakfast before we paid the bill, said a warm goodbye to Hendrik and left towards Keetmannshoop.

We made a short stop in Keetmannshoop to fill up stocks on soft drinks and to buy Devil’s claw capsules. They are supposed to work well for athritis and backache and Gerd wanted to try them. We soon after left and headed south to Grünau and to Noordoewer at the South African Border. The landscape soon changed and was scarce and dull until we reached the Orange river where we were greeted by lush green and vineyards. We later learnt that these grapes are not used for wine and are sold as table grapes to European countries instead. After around 350 km, we reached our accommodation for the following three days: Norotshama Lodge that is situated right at the Oranje river bank. It was a short welcome and we were guided to our room which is a rather large bungalow with a living and sleeping area and a spacious bathroom. The rooms are dark but for a good reason: it was very hot outside (in May!) and the rooms pretty cool – fantastic! The lodge also offers a nice swimming pool overlooking the river and a restaurant area.

We stored our luggage in the room and went for lunch in the restaurant. A lot of the food on the menu was not available and we went both for a beef lasagna which was very nice. I was very happy about taking a shower after lunch – I had not been able to wash my hair at Mesosaurus Camp because it was too cold in the evening to dry my hair without a hair dryer and hot water was only available from late afternoon on. I downloaded our photos from the CF cards to our image tanks and computers and wrote the travelogue while Gerd was relaxing. Soon after, it was sunset time already and we took photos of the river and the mountains from the premises of the lodge. It has been a long driving for me and I did not feel like going outside again and it seemed to be impossible to approach the river from other directions as it was all private property. It was just amazing to be here at the riverside of such a large river in Namibia. The Oranje River is the border between South Africa and Namibia and a very wide river. What a difference to the previous days – we saw water birds like cormorants or geese and many birds like weaver birds and even sparrows that reminded me of my bird gang back at home in Switzerland.

We skipped dinner as we were still stuffed from the lasagna and set up the camera for night shots. There was no chance to grab the southern cross from here but we still tried some exposures of the mountains with the stars above. Perhaps tomorrow would be a better day for circling star trails.

Highlight of the day: sunset at Oranje river

Photo gallery: Oranje River Photo gallery I

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Gerd decided to sleep a bit longer today while I got up shortly before six o’clock for sunrise. The mountains on the South-African side were bathed ins soft pink morning light and made a good contrast to the lust green of the river bank and the river itself. I took a couple of photos, enjoyed the awakening birdlife and waited for the sun to rise. When it finally rose, I found that I preferred the light of the dawn to the actual sunrise light and just kept on shooting for a while before I went back to the bungalow to wake up Gerd.

We had breakfast and made a short drive to explore the area towards Rosh Pinah along the river. We passed the village of Aussenkehr which is actually a collection of very basic huts with no sanitary installations nor power for up to 3000 workers during the harvest season of the grapes. The living conditions are quite a scandal as we read about it already in 2003 and government as well as the grape companies intended to improve the people’s situation. Nothing has changed since then and a bad feeling remains of having grapes from Namibia in our European winter. Most of the Namibian grapes go to the UK though but we have grapes from RSA and who knows how the conditions are for workers in South Africa? Probably better but almost certain not perfect neither.

Vegetation was green and the river winded as a green band through the valley. Traces from last year’s flooding were clearly visible and it was hard to imagine that the river had been so incredibly full. The water almost reached the restaurant area at Norotshama and the water bungalows had been washed away by the floods. After 45 km, we reached the corner where the Fish river joins the Oranje river and crossed the new bridge that was built after the old one had been destroyed last year. We parked the Hilux and went over the bridge to enjoy the view across the Fish river. Water, streams or rivers are always a special sight and something unusual in Namibia so we were quite delighted about the views to both sides of the bridge.

We slowly returned to the lodge and had lunch. Gerd went for a large T-Bone steak and I had a Ladie’s beef fillet. Both were served with spinach, pumpkin vegetables and chips and everything was very delicious. We went to the reception to get a map of the 4×4 track that is provided by the lodge, picked up a radio in case of emergency and started the track after a short rest. The first stretch of the drive is the most beautiful one as it leads through a canyon with impressive steep rocky walls of dolerite that were illuminated by the warm light of the afternoon. We passed the canyon up to the rocky plain where we turned the car and drove back slowly – there was not enough time left to complete the whole track that takes about 2-3 hours. We took our time, stopped here and there for some photos and parked the car near an impressive rock formation that resembled a bit the famous “El Capitan” of Yosemite. There was no hope for star trails tonight as it was rather cloudy but the clouds made for a nice colourful background after the sun had set. The sky was actualy burning like fire above the silhouettes of the mountain ranges and we were just amazed. We enjoyed one hour of light explosions until it got dark and we returned to the lodge as we wouldn’t be able to take any star photos.

We reported back at the reception and ordered an Amarula and a glass of white wine in the bar before we went back to our room where we just had a sandwich for dinner. Lunch had been just too much and we were not hungry enough for a full dinner tonight. We called the day an end and happily hit the pillows.

Highlight of the day: the drive through the canyon

Photo gallery: Oranje River Photo gallery II

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We both did not sleep well and at least I was happy when the alarm clock finally rang and I could get outside. We took the car and drove up to the same spot where we had been for sunset yesterday. I hoped for a nice red sky against the significant rock but there was no good dawn light today as not all clouds have cleared during the night. So we left and drove to the riverside which turned out to be the best decision. The sun illuminated the tips of the mountains shortly after our arrival and I started taking photos of the mountains and the river. After about 35 minutes, the light was at its best and the river calmed down so that I got perfect reflections of the reet and the mountains in the water. Fantastic! I was just sitting on a rock overlooking the river that was flowing quietly and slowly. The birds woke up and swallows, herons and geese passed by. What a terrific peaceful and tranquil morning scene this was! We enjoyed our time at the river to the fullest and stayed until almost 8:00 am before we returned to the lodge for breakfast.

We decided to make a day trip to the end of the Fish River Canyon and the hot springs of Ai-Ais which is about 75 km away from Norotshama. We have been there in 2002 and remembered that it was a very nice walk into the canyon that we wanted to do again. So we set off shortly after breakfast and it took us a bit more than one hour to Ai-Ais where we parked the car and reported to the reception. Gerd went for a bath in the hot springs indoor pool that costs 30 NAD for day visitors while I was writing the travelogue in the shade. It was already very hot outside in the sun so I couldn’t imagine taking a bath in hot spring water! But it was a good treat for Gerd’s skin as well as for his backache and so he enjoyed his time in the bath very much.

We met again afterwards and drove to the end of the road where we parked the car and had lunch before we went for the walk. On the one hand, it was nice to see the Fish river with so much water but on the other hand, the walk was quite boring as the path winded through bushes all the time with almost no views over the river or canyon. When we were here the first time, there was hardly any water in the river and we walked in the riverbed. So there were no good subjects for landscape photography but wildlife stepped into the breach for it! I noticed a small agama (Agama anchietae) that settled on a rock about three meters in front of us. The small lizard was posing happily and patiently for us and we were able to grab some nice photos. We were quite happy about this encounter despite the harsh light! We went back to the car, filled the Hilux up with Diesel and drove back towards Norotshama.

The sky was still clear and we parked the car near the large rock where I set up the camera for star trails. Gerd found a large locust (Chorthippus brunneus, syn. Glyptobothrus brunneus) in the rocky sand that had settled for the night and captured some interesting close-ups of the insect. It indeed seemed to be more a wildlife day than a landscape day today:)We were lucky and the sky stayed clear and we let the camera run for about an hour. I took some single shots of the magnificent milky way afterwards and we eventually went back to the lodge for dinner.

Highlight of the day: the morning at the riverside and the lizard

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We wanted to start our drive to our next accommodation at Fish River Canyon early today, so we didn’t go out to shoot the sunrise and just enjoyed the morning at the riverside. There was no nice morning light anyway as the eastern sky was covered by thick clouds.

We had an early and quick breakfast, paid the bill and set off for the long drive to our next destination: Fish River Lodge on the left side of the canyon which meant that we had to go up the whole way to the tarmac road B4 on the right side and then drive down again almost 110 km.The drive altogether was a five-hour trip and we arrived at half past one at the Fish River Lodge. It took us 90 minutes alone for 80 km on the D463, a fairly good gravel road, until we reached the farm track to the lodge. The track was partially very narrow and rocky with almost no passing places. We were lucky that there was no oncoming traffic and we arrived safely at the lodge that is situated right at the rim of the canyon. The first look from the terrace was just spectacular – the large canyon running from north to south just in front of us. We were warmly greeted by the staff and offered a welcome drink. The lady explained the lodge to us and our luggage was taken to the bungalow. The bungalows are built in a very solid way because of the strong wind that is blowing constantly up here. The room is very large and the bathroom has almost the same size as the main room. There is also an outdoor shower that might be a bit too cold to use at this time of the season with the cold wind. We booked a sundowner drive as well as the Canyon drive for tomorrow and went for a short walk to explore the area. The views into the canyon are just spectacular and overwhelming – we were blast away!

We had a short break on our terrace overlooking the canyon and met Ralf, our guide and manager of the lodge, in the reception to start the sundowner drive. The location of the first stop was already breathtaking and the view perfect because the sun was now low enough to emphasize the shapes and colours of the canyon below. We took some photos and continued the drive to a second spot, that was also the place for the sundowner. We enjoyed a view across the canyon up to the Karas mountains in the East and we could even make out the mountains at Oranje River that we saw from Norotshama! What a view, what a feast for the eyes! We had a funny time with Ralf who turned out to be a man with lots of humour and we were delighted to hear that we would go with him on the Canyon drive tomorrow. We stayed until after sunset and drove back to the lodge where we settled in the restaurant area around the warm fireplace. Very convenient after the cold blowing wind outside! Dinner was excellent and served as a delicious three-course menu.

We went for some star trails shots that I completely messed up – probably because of the strong wind – and eventually called it a day.

Highlight of the day: sunset over the canyon

Photo gallery: Fish River Canyon Photo gallery I

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I got up shortly before six o’clock and was greeted by a wonderful red sky against the quiver trees. I grabbed my camera and happily shot away until Gerd joined me for taking photos of the sunrise. The rim of the canyon was wonderfully lit by the rising sun that came up over the Karas mountains. The shades of the canyon were clearly visible and we just marbled at this sight – what a great morning! We had an early but very good breakfast as we were supposed to leave at 8:30 am already. Breakfast was very hearty with cold cuts, cheese, even smoked salmon, cereals, buttered toast, jam and marmelade and fried eggs with bacon.

We met Ralf and set off for the full day canyon drive. The path was rather fine in the beginning but turned very rocky once we left the main path. We started to descend into the canyon after about half an hour and the first steep ramp was already breathtaking. Ralf put in 4×4 drive plus the differential to manage this stretch and we continued in the oldest part of the canyon. The path was very bumpy and Ralf called it the “Canyon massage” 😉 The Fish River canyon is the only double canyon in the world. The oldest part is 650 million years old and origins from the days when Gondwana departed. The younger part, that is known today as the Fish River canyon, is about 350 million years old. The differents layers of rocks and stones are clearly visible with the black ones being the oldest rocks that currently errode. We continued our drive into the older part and managed one more very steep stretch – awesome! There used to be a sheep farm inside the canyon that was left about 40 years ago but some remains like shelters for humans and animals are still visible. Unbelievable that this piece of earth, that seems to be hostile for a living, could have been chosen for farming!

We eventually arrived at a viewpoint where the Fish River has carved a large bend into the rocks and we were looking over a gorgeous canyon landscape about 10 km wide from one rim to the other. The river was winding through the valley and still quite full, as Ralf mentioned. Swallows flew around looking at us curiously and we enjoyed the view, took some photos and had a cold drink. We continued to our final stop and passed the most difficult stretch of this trip: Terror Pass which is incredibly steep and narrow but Ralf took us down safely. I did not really feel like going up there again but Ralf said that there is no other way out of the canyon so I would have to be brave. Our final destination was close to a river rock pool that we reached after a short walk down to the riverside. People can swim here in the summer but it was way too cold now. The whole scene looked a bit like Ponte Brolla in Valle Maggia back at home in Switzerland and we didn’t feel like being in Africa anymore 😉 Ralf had brought lunchboxes and cold drinks and we were spoilt by a glass of sparkling wine while we enjoyed the view.

I took some photos of the scene after lunch which was not easy because of the harsh light and hard contrast but at least I achieved some snapshots to remember this beautiful place. We went up to the car again and drove back to the lodge which took about two hours. Going up Terror Pass was not as scary as I expected and Ralf did a perfect job again. We saw Kudus and Ostrichs on our way back while the path was very bumpy when we going up to the rim again.

We relaxed an hour on our terrace, took some detail photos of the canyon while the sun was setting and eventually grabbed some exposures of the quiver trees against the warm orange sky after sunset. I set up the camera for night shots and kept my fingers crossed for better results than yesterday. It was not windy at all today – at least!! The warm fire in the restaurant was calling and we went over to enjoy drinks, surfing the internet and writing the travelogue.

I collected the camera after dinner and set it up again in front of our bungalow to try the photo I messed up yesterday again. It was perfectly clear and the milky way just beautiful. We let the camera taking the photos and went to sleep.

Highlight of the day: touching the Fish River in the canyon and the canyon massage

Photo gallery: Fish River Canyon Photo gallery II

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I woke up shortly after 4:00 am and had a look outside. The milky way was now directly on the opposite site of the canyon and I quickly got my camera and tripod to expose some frames. I had a look behind the bungalow and found the other end of the milky way directly over the quiver trees – definitely worth some more clicks! I returned to bed, got up at 5:40 am again and went out to take photos of the quiver trees against a wonderful red sky – it was just a gorgeous sight! It was very windy today sp tjat I felt soon pretty cold and so I went back inside to wait for sunrise. There were more clouds today and sunrise not as spectacular as yesterday but I still enjoyed it very much. It is an amazing experience when the first rays of sun touch the rim of the canyon and wander further deep down into the canyon. I was very glad that we had booked this accommodation – it was worth every cent!

We had breakfast, paid the bill and said goodbye to the staff. They were lovely people and we had a good laugh with the Lady at the reception when she told us that she saw our camera last night. She wondered about the red light and thought it might be an animal! She even threw a stone at MY camera and as it didn’t move, she was sure it was not a wild animal and dared a closer look. Well, she went so close that I discovered her white scarf in one of my star trail shots – I had already been wondering about this strange thing in the frame before!!! We left the lodge and it took us only half an hour on the farm track back to the D463. The track to the lodge is not as bad as its reputation: it is narrow sometimes and if there is oncoming traffic, it might be difficult to find a passing place but on the other hand, this is not very likely to happen. New guests usually arrive around lunch time due to distances and guests at the lodge usually leave after breakfast.

We reached the tarmac road B4 after 100 minutes and headed towards Aus where we would stay two nights in Eagle’s Nest at Klein-Aus Vista in the Sperrgebiet Rand Park. This area had been hit hard by the torrential rain last year and the damages were still clearly visible in some parts of the premises. We were welcomed by the Lady in the reception and she explained the chalet’s facilities and everything that needs to be considered. The Eagle’s Nest chalets are 7 km away from the main house and are embedded nicely into the rocks of the surrounding mountains. The road is sandy but 4×4 is not required, it is an easy drive. We had a light lunch in the restaurant while we were waiting for our barbecue package and eventually drove to the chalet. It is a really beautiful and tastefully decorated chalet that is built into the rocks. The living and sleeping room is large with a small kitchen, a table, chairs, a sofa and even a fireplace. The Braai place is in front of the veranda where there is also some water for the birds and nice flowers in the small desert garden. Power comes from solar panels that can only be used to charge camera, laptop or mobile phone batteries. If you need a hairdryer, you would need to go back all the way to the reception and dry your hair there. Well, chances are good that your hair will be already dry once you arrive:)What a peaceful place and I was sure we would enjoy our time here.

We parked the car, took our luggage into the chalet and had a long break enjoying the view over the endless desert plain. We went for a walk shortly before sunset and took photos of the magnificent red mountains und the setting sun behind the distant mountains. The air was not very clear which was a true benefit as the sun set as a big yellow ball. Amazing!

Gerd started the fire and we waited for charcoal while we were having a glass of white wine. But it was as always: there wasn’t enough heat or even charcoal after 90 minutes but too much smoke instead. Last year’s story just continued… sigh! Although it took a long while for the fire to build to the proper temperature, we eventually were able to place the roast in the Braai and, at last, enjoy dinner: rump steaks with potatoes, salad and some cake for dessert. Way too much food for one meal and we kept half of it for tomorrow.

The camera took photos for star trails in the meantime and I left my tripod outside because I wanted to take photos of the milky way later that night after the moon would have set.

Highlight of the day: sunrise and sunset

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We woke up because we heard a noise but were not worried because the noise sounded as if field mice were running around. The chalets are not 100% “mouse proof” due to their building materials. We fell asleep again and I got up at 4:00 am again to take a photo of the milky way over the mountains. The moon has set in the meantime and the stars were incredible! When I got out, I found my tripod knocked over in the sand! Okay, so I set it up again and tried to find a composition which was not easy in the pitch black night. I managed a couple of exposures and went to bed again to sleep until we got up shortly before 6:00 am and set off towards the restaurant. We noticed traces outside and were sure that horses had visited us last night, searched in the bag with the firewood for food and eventually knocked over my tripod! I’ve always been saying that horses are evil – this was the proof of my theory 😉 The ball head was scratched but worked fine after we cleaned the sand of it. We stopped here and there and came across an Oryx that watched us carefully before he ran away. But the light was not so beautiful this morning; the air was still hazy and not clear. We thought that the reason for it was the sand in the air because of the strong wind that had been blowing for days. So this was the first morning that we did not fully enjoy; the area and the views are nice but not so ideal for photography. Well, this isn’t everything and we were absolutely delighted about the chalet, the tranquility, the night sky and the view into the endless plain.

We had breakfast in the restaurant and were quite surprised to find a lot of guests that stayed in the rooms at the main house. There was a large choice of cheese and cold cuts available as well as the usual cereals, yoghurt, fruits, bread and different styles of eggs with bacon and sausage from the kitchen. Internet was not working yet and we soon drove 20 km towards Lüderitz to Garub where the famous wild horses live. Their numbers have significantly increased since our first visit in 2002 and there were at least 30 to 40 horses at the waterhole and close to the visitor’s stand. Gerd tried some photos which was not ideal because of the harsh light and the sun’s position and we just watched the horses playing, fighting and drinking for about two hours before we returned to Klein-Aus Vista. On our way back we came across a serious car accident. Obviously one of the tyres had bursted, the car overturned and was lying upside down on the other side. It was completely destroyed and three black man were luckily standing outside. We quickly headed towards Aus to report the accident at the Police so that help and an ambulence was sent out to them. The police was very helpful, thanked us and help was quickly organised.

Back at the lodge, I surfed the internet, wrote some emails and we went back to our beautiful chalet. We started a fire to prepare lunch, I wrote the travelogue and Gerd was busily and grimly observing the fire. He took more wood today and yes, there was enough heat after 90 minutes and we happily barbecued our meat that we had along with the rest of the salad and a potatoe. We decided not to do anything in the afternoon, had a rest, took a shower and just relaxed on our veranda.

We left for a walk one hour before sunset and Gerd concentrated on flower close-ups while I was looking for trees that I could use as a foreground against the mountains. Gerd soon joined me and all of a sudden he called: “Look, a cat!” and we saw (what we thought might have been) a genet crossing just in front of us and disappearing in the rocks of the mountain. Wow! I found an attractice tree for my sunset photo and we waited for the sun to set. It was still very hazy and the haze almost looked like fog between the mountains in the far distance. The sun set big and red and the sky turned into a red firework. What a great sight!

We walked back slowly and enjoyed the rest of the evening glow from our veranda while we only had a light dinner with sandwiches tonight. It was still very warm outside and the half moon was shining brightly. No chances tonight for star trail shots as the moon would not set before early morning and – as we have learned earlier today – we could not leave the tripod outside alone because of the evil horses…

We were happy as it has been a very relaxed day and evening – nice, nice…

Highlight of the day: the wild horses at Garub

Photo gallery: Sperrgebiet Rand Photo gallery II

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We got up at 3:30 am when the moon has just set and grabbed some photos of the milky way over the mountains. I’m always amazed at this sight – it is so clear and beautiful! We went back to bed and I just got up to take some sunrise photos from our veranda – easy going today…

Gerd prepared tea and coffee that we enjoyed on our veranda and afterwards packed the car. We drove to the restaurant, had breakfast and met Beate and Michael, who were in the chalet next to us. We had a nice chat about photography and Namibia while having breakfast. I wanted to check my emails before we left but the internet was not working. I found this a bit annoying because if they charge 50 Dollars for 24 hours access, then they should make sure that it works. So I was only able to use it for 30 minutes yesterday. Not that this is the most important thing, but still…

Today’s drive would be a short 150 km drive into the Namib desert to farm Koiimasis where we had reserved the chalet Schwalbennest for two nights. The drive along the D707 is known as being the most scenic one in Namibia and we were not disappointed. We had stayed here on Guestfarm Namtib in 2002 and liked the landscape quite a lot. The Tiras mountains are on one side with the red dunes of the Namib being on the other side which is a spectacular view but not ideal for photography because of the distance and the daylight. Just beautiful! We came across many Pale chanting goshawks and little falcons sitting on top of the telephone poles. This is the highest position they can reach to look out for prey, so it is their natural habitat 😉 We soon reached the farm pad to the farm from where it is another 20 km drive on the very good farm track. We passed the Fest Inn Fels Lodge and headed to the reception for the camping and the Schwalbennest. We were greeted by Anke who explained to us the chalet’s facilities, gave us a lantern for the night and we bought eggs and marinated oryx steaks for breakfast and lunch.

The Schwalbennest is located three kilometers away from the farm and nested into the red granite rocks – like a swallow’s nest! The main house is spacious with two beds, a table with chairs and a fully equipped kitchen with gas stoven and gas fridge. Solar power is available for the lights but there are no sockets. The bathroom is in a separate building about fifteen meters away and very big with a large shower area – very nice! We moved in and Gerd started the fire as we were very hungry. It worked pretty well this time; he obviously passed his barbecue masterclass diploma and we enjoyed our oryx steaks very much – they were delicious!

We spent the afternoon at the terrace overlooking the large plain that is surrounded by the Tiras mountains. Very scenic and absolutely quite – wonderful! There were many weaver birds coming to a waterhole and we had lots of fun observing our little feathered friends. It was sunset time soon and we started to explore the area. We found many photo opportunities and the light was just fantastic.

We were still full after our oryx steak feast and did not have anything for dinner. We just sat on the terrace, admired the night sky and enjoyed the tranquility to the fullest. We spotted a pair of yellow eyes not far from us that were reflected by the light of our headlamps and we learned later that it was a wild fox. The moon was just a small crescent in the sky but still light enough to illuminate the landscape. I find the results rather strange with a landscape that looks as if it was taken in daylight with a starry sky above! We soon after hit the pillows early as we were quite tired tonight.

Highlight of the day: sunset around the Tiras mountains

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The alarm clock rang at 3:00 am and we went outside to check the night sky. The moon has set and it was nice and dark so that we could spot the milky way easily. I took some exposures of the mountains with the milky way above them and we went to bed again. Sunrise started at 06:40 am and the landscape and the rocks were bathed in beautiful soft orange light – I was very much delighted about the photo opportunities here on Koiimasis! After half an hour, the light was already too harsh and I walked back to our Schwalbennest where we had coffee and a cup of tea on the terrace. It wasn’t as cold as the previous days anymore and we enjoyed the warm sunshine very much.

Breakfast was easy today: Gerd fried five eggs with some salami which we had along with a slice of bread. Done! We met Anke afterwards to buy oryx steaks for lunch and booked a star gazing guided tour for tonight. We were already looking forward to it! Back at the chalet, I wrote the travelogue and Gerd started the fire for lunch which went pretty well today! My barbecue master succeeded in preparing four very nice and juicy oryx steaks that were just delicious.

I took a shower afterwards and made a short walk to a spot where I would have reception to check my emails. Then something very unusal and extraordinary happened. I was standing next to a small acacia tree when a pigmy falcon settled with his prey. I held my breath, pointed my mobile phone camera at the bird and took some photos to have an evidence of this situation. The falcon finished its meal and even jumped half a meter closer to me posing now on top of the small tree – it was less than three meters away! The bird flew off after a couple of minutes and I was just flabbergasted. It was my late Mum’s birthday today – I believe that she sent me the encounter with this lovely little falcon. It really felt unreal, like in a dream.

It was time for the good light now and we drove to the parking area of the viewpoint. We climbed up the small hill and were blessed with a wonderful view over the farm and the mountains. Another couple, Doro and Peter from Switzerland, arrived and we all took photos of this dream landscape. The air was still hazy and Anke later explained that there was a mixture of water and sand in the air which is quite common this time of the year. Sunset light was great but the colours faded quickly after the sun had set behind the mountains. We left our camera stuff with Doro and Peter and drove back to the Schwalbennest to pick up warm clothes and the headlights. We were soon back on the hill, enjoyed the after sunset light and chatted with Doro and Peter about life in Switzerland.

Anke joined shortly after six and started to explain the night sky with a laser pointer. It was very interesting to learn about the stars and we saw Orion, the hunter, with his dogs and could make out the star constellations of scorpio, libra, virgo, leo and hydra. We also spotted the planets Mars and Saturn – Mars was shining in a wonderful dark red colour! She also explained how to locate the southern star which was quite interesting for Gerd as it is not as straightforward as locating Polaris in the northern hemisphere. We had a great time up there and also learned about the farm and their living which is not easy at all in this desert environment. Water is pumped up from three waterholes that are 140 meters deep and only one borehole is a really good one with much water. They opened the farm for tourism to earn additional income and we think that they balance it well between tourism, horses and farming. Anke suddenly realised that she had forgotten to reapply the shower head after decalcification before we arrived and was completely appalled and embarrassed! But we just laughed because we had booked the “tap” that was coming out of the wall under “this is Africa” and didn’t care at all!

We eventually returned to the Schwalbennest and just had a sandwich for dinner. We spent the rest of the evening outside looking at the stars – no sign of foxes tonight though.

Highlight of the day: the Pigmy falcon

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I went directly up the hill this morning and was greeted by the rising sun. It was such a beautiful place here and the granite rocks looked gorgeous in the warm light. I enjoyed the morning photography while Gerd tried to capture some photos of the birds and we afterwards had coffee, tea and fried eggs for breakfast. We were sad having to leave this lovely peaceful place but we had to continue to our final destination, the Teufelskrallen Tented Camp in the Kalahari desert.

We drove to the reception to meet Anke and paid the bill while we had an interesting chat about snakes and the leopards that live on the premises of the farm. We thanked her for everything and drove back to the D707.

We decided to make a stop at Duwisib Castle that was built 1909 by Hans-Heinrich von Wolf, a german captain in the army. and his american millionaire wife, Jayata. This castle is the most unusual sight ever in Namibia and you find yourself in a completely different world if you go inside. There is a courtyard with two verandas and several rooms like bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms and storage rooms around it. The lounge, salon and living area are a wide open space after the entrance. The castle was built in just two years until 1911 but they both only lived three years in it. They left on a ship from Lüderitz to Europe to buy new horses and were surprised by the outbreak of World War I. They went to Europe where Hans-Heinrich immediately joinded the German army and died just four days later in the battle of the Somme. Jayata never returned to Duwisib and the castle became a national cultural heritage in 1979.

We continued our drive and reached Maltahöhe where we stopped at a supermarket to buy soft drinks. It was now only one more hour to Kalkrand and the Teufelskrallen Tented Camp. This is where the confusion began… We were greeted by Ruby and Rita but they could not decide wether to speak German or English or Nothing… Ruby gave us the registration form and brought a tea for Gerd and water for me. She wanted to show us around afterwards but had already forgotten about it when we returned the form:)So we got the keys and drove about 2.5 km to the Tented camp that is nicely located on top of a red dune. We had booked the tent house which offers more space than the other tents and has a large double bed, a fridge, table, cupboard, two chairs and two additional chairs on the veranda. Unfortunately, the view form the veranda looks over to Kalkrand and the power poles instead of the red dunes at the other side. The bathroom is open and can be reached over a wodden catwalk. We were a bit disappointed, although the tent and the location was lovely. The problem was that we simply could not do anything here! There are no hiking trails and when we looked from our veranda, we only saw the gravel road, fences and lots of power poles. The Teufelskrallen Lodge is the sister lodge of the Red Dunes Lodge and we decided to move over tomorrow for the remaining two nights. The sundowner drive as well as the hiking trails are all operated from there anyway.

So we had a long rest on the veranda and drove back to the reception at sunset time. We grabbed a few shots but felt uninspired because of the fences and poles that were visible everywhere. I explained to Ruby at the reception why we would like to change to Red Dunes and she was understanding and helpful. She would call Johan in the Lodge and ask whether there is a room available for us.

We thanked her and went to the restaurant, where the confusion continued… For aperitifs, Gerd ordered a brandy and a coke and I took a glass of the house wine. We also ordered a bottle of Chardonnay to have it along with dinner later. The other Lady came and took away all wine glasses and I mentioned that we would share the wine later. She disappeared in the kitchen and came back with Gerd’s brandy, the coke and two glasses of white wine that both were half full and said: “It is right that you share the wine, ok?” We had a good laugh together and enjoyed our aperitifs. Ruby joined and explained to us the Devil’s claw project that has been running here for a while and is now quite a success for this rare plant. She is a very entertaining and friendly Lady and we had good fun together. We eventually had dinner (and the bottle of Chardonnay…) which was a vegetable soup and the best oryx steak that we have had so far during our trip. It came with potatoes, carrots and beans and two freshly cooked garlic and mushroom sauces. Yummy! For dessert, I had ice cream with coffee liqueur and Gerd had a piece of cake.

We thanked both Ladies for the nice dinner and Ruby said that she could not reach Johan yet but would call him tomorrow morning. No problem, we went back to the tent where we spent another hour outside at the veranda. The moon was shining brightly now and it was too light for star photography.

Highlight of the day: the oryx steaks

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We had a good sleep in our cosy beds and got up shortly after six o’clock to watch the sunrise. The sun was blocked by thick haze but eventually rose as a big bright ball. We just grabbed a couple of shots as there was no interesting foreground. I afterwards wrote the travelogue and Gerd observed the birdlife.

Breakfast was already waiting for us and we were greeted by our friendly ladies. Rita told us that we could change to the sister lodge without any problem and we thanked her once again for her understanding. We strongly reassured her that we only leave because of the lack of activities and photo opportunities and not because we don’t like the accommodation! We have enjoyed our stay here very much indeed and the three Ladies are just adorable. Breakfast was delicious: we had a big platter with cold cuts, cheese, tomato and cucumber, cereals, yoghurt, toast and tea and coffee.

We said goodbye, paid the bill and drove about 10 km south to the Red Dunes Lodge where Oubaas was already waiting for us. He and Johan gave us a very warm welcome, a drink and we got the keys for our chalet “Nyala”, the same as two weeks ago. Cilas was currently on holiday and not here – what a pity! There was a car in the parking area of the bungalow next to ours and – to our surprise – Beate and Michael came out to greet us! What a Hello! We had a long chat but they unfortunately had to leave as they were flying back to Germany today.

We moved into our cosy chalet and I continued writing the travelogue while Gerd cleaned our bags from the sand that seems to be everywhere now after two weeks! He already packed some things that we won’t need anymore until we fly back and we eventually went for lunch to have a large greek salad. I enjoyed a shower in the outside shower which is just great and we went for a walk to the dune sofa for sunset. The dune sofa is very cosy with a roof for shade,d a couple of pillows and nicely located on top of a red dune with nice views. We stayed until the sun set, took some photos and walked back to the lodge.

Dinner started with a stuffed tomato, followed by a very delicious beef Strogranoff with vegetables and rice and yoghurt cake came as dessert. It has been a very relaxed day that we finished with a glass of wine on our terrace.

Highlight of the day: sunset on the dune sofa

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We got up at 3:30 am to have a look at the setting moon. It was 3/4 full and about to set as a large orange ball because of the haze in the distance. It was really cold now, about freezing point but we nevertheless tried to capture some frames. It proofed to be difficult but it was at least a feast for the eyes. The moon just looked wonderful! We went to bed again for another two hours, got up shortly before 6:00 am and drove over to the waterhole for sunrise. We put on three layers of clothes because it was so unusually cold! We had just passed the first dune when Gerd spotted the four giraffes that live on the premises! They were just about 100 meters away and attentively watching us. We slowly got out of the car and set up the tripod. The red sky of the rising sun was behind them and we were happy about this great photo opportunity. The giraffes stayed with us for almost 15 minutes before they slowly walked away and disappeared behind the dune. We were delighted and continued to the waterhole but it was quiet there and there were only some birds around.

We waited a while and drove back to the lodge where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast. We were just about to go for a dune walk when we noticed a little weaver bird on the floor of our chalet. I opened the door to let it out but it decided to fly into the woodwork of the roof instead! We tried to encourage the bird to fly but it just jumped around in the woodwork. We even tried to motivate it by throwing a plastic bag with our laundry near to her (not at her!!) but this just ended up with the plastic bag being stuck in the woodwork! Hmmm, how should we explain something like this to Johan…? But Gerd is very inventive in such situations: he extended our tripod to the maximum and applied a long stick with a cable tie to it. It was now long enough to reach the plastic bag and we had our laundry back – phew…! But the little weaver bird girl was still hidden in the woodwork and we unfortunately couldn’t do anything than leaving the doors open while we were there. Poor little thing:(

So instead of going for a walk, we sat outside with all doors wide open and waited for the weaver bird girl to fly out. Two hours have been passed by now but it simply didn’t want to come out and so we eventually decided to go to the restaurant for lunch. We were almost ready to leave when Gerd spotted a snake near the door to the sleeping room! I quickly ran over to the reception and informed Oubaas who immediately grabbed a bucket and a broom and came with me to the chalet. Gerd had observed the snake and Oubaas said it was a puff adder. He approached the puff adder with the broom, pushed it into the bucket and eventually released it into the wild again. We were both so glad that he didn’t even try to kill the snake, well – he had no intention at all to kill it as he also wanted the puff adder to be back in nature again!

We finally left the bird in the house and went for our tuna salad to the restaurant. The weaver bird girl was more active when we came back but still did not manage to find her way out; it was really strange! So we left the back door open and hoped for the best: the release of the bird and not another snake! We both took a shower outside and voilà – the young weaver bird girl had finally flown back to her mates in nature. We were sure that she was as happy about this as we were!

We went over to the restaurant for coffee and cake and joined a group of four other people for the sundowner drive. Johan said he had planned something special for us but had to cancel it because of the group. He had hoped they would go tomorrow for the sundowner drive – what a pity, but a very nice idea from Johan! We fully enjoyed the drive, saw many antelopes and the light over the Kalahari was beautiful. We just took a few photos today as we just wanted to relish nature and our last evening. So we had our sundowner drinks and a nice chat with Johan while the sun set the last time during our Namibia holiday.

Dinner was once again delicious and started with an onion-cucumber soup followed by chicken breast with vegetables and mashed potatoes. I was so full afterwards that I skipped the dessert and we had a last glass of wine on our terrace in the moonlight.

Highlight of the day: the puff adder and the lucky release of the weaver bird girl

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The last day of our holiday started like any other day: we got up shortly before six o’clock and drove a couple of kilometers into the desert. It was not as chilly as yesterday but three layers of clothes were still required to stay warm. We parked the car and walked up the path until we found a nice acacia tree with a large weaver bird nest that worked nicely as a foreground against the red sky. The sun rose and we enjoyed our last early morning in the desert. We continued our drive up to the waterhole but it was again very quiet and no antelopes to be seen.

We returned to the lodge and had our last breakfast while we chatted with Oubaas and Johan. Most to our surprise, they both gave us yesterday’s sundowner drive as a present and we thanked them cordially. They are great boys and are doing a fantastic job at the lodge! We still had a couple of hours before we had to leave for Windhoek and enjoyed the time on our terrace and packed the rest of the luggage. We took a shower, finally paid the bill and said farewell to Oubaas and Johan with quite a heavy heart.

We made a quick stop at Teufelskralle to visit the ladies – as promised – and received a big hello when we popped in. Ruby and the girls were happy to see us again and Ruby introduced us to her German husband Rolf. She offered a cup of tea and we had a nice chat with them. Too soon, it was time to drive to Windhoek that we reached in less than two hours. We met Frank and discussed options to go to the Caprivi area the next time we visit Namibia. He has some very interesting tours in his programme that are similar to what we did in Tanzania, i.e. a 10-day safari with guide and driver in a tent. Frank drove us to the airport, we said farewell and went directly to the ticket counter of Air Namibia to ask for availability of an upgrade to Premium Economy. We were lucky and bought two tickets for about 290 Euros each. Premium Econonmy means Business Class seats but Economy service which is perfectly fine as we are only interested in the larger and more comfortable seats during the night flight.

We went through passport control and security check and paid 150 NAD (~ 14 Euro) entrance fee for the Business Class lounge. Unfortunately, the lounge is not included in the upgrade but the price is very fair because drinks and snacks are all free and we would have spent money for food outside anyway. The money was well invested and we fully enjoyed our time in the lounge. We had to be in the airport early because of limited availabilty of the upgrades and so we had more than four hours until departure. I wrote and edited both travelogues and we relaxed on the cosy sofa while we had coffee, wine and snacks.

The plane took off on time, we had dinner and slept until we safely arrived in Frankfurt. We unfortunately missed the first train to Basel by 10 minutes and the second train was delayed by 20 minutes so that we would have missed the connection train in Mannheim – it is not fun traveling with German railway! So we had to wait until almost 10 o’clock for the next direct train to Basel and we eventually were greeted by our bunch of sparrows and green finches at home.

We spent 18 fantastic days in Namibia that surely will remain unforgettable. We saw a lot of new landscapes, experienced a magnificent nature and met some wonderful new people.

We hope you liked reading the travelogue and that we have been able to take you with us on our journey through this amazing country.

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Many thanks for your visit!

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