‘This place is going to be amazing’
we said as we were greeted at the border by a big herd of elephants.
Namibia, the second least densely populated country on earth (behind Mongolia), had been talked up the entire journey as our guides favourite and after seven weeks of traversing the African Continent we’d crossed into the second last country of our trip. After a fond farewell to Tom, our driver for the duration of our trip to date, Moogs his replacement had some big boots to fill.
Crossing from Botswana into the Caprivi Strip, we spend the night at Rainbow River Lodge in Divindu along the banks of the Kavango River, a tributary of the Okavango Delta. A small pleasant site renown for wandering hippos it thankfully had a triple level swimming pool to refresh in, a great seating area jutting out over the river, the most original urinals in Africa and more importantly the English Premier League on TV. We sit down to super cheap Savana Dry Ciders on the terrace with nothing but the calls of the Go Away birds there to break the tranquility. Another example of Africa’s great symbiotic relationships, the birds lead honey badgers to bee’s nests in the trees which the honey badgers then eat, throwing some honeycomb down as a reward to the birds.
Grunted awake by the resident hippos it’s another early start with a long drive ahead of us. A flat straight stretch of tarmac opens up to big blue skies, seamlessly unending in their reach. With a short stop in the bustling border town of Rundu there’s one bend in the road followed by another dead straight 200 kilometre stretch to Roy’s Rest Camp.
A cross between a Mad Max film set and a Texan horror movie transplanted from Arizona USA the quirky campsite is set in its own parched corner of paradise. Another quick overnight stop sees us only really enjoying the pool, again with its own unique twist. Unfortunately we didn’t get to enjoy that nights attempted dessert of apple crumble, most of which ended up burnt and in the bin. Not sure our guide will let us lot cook again!
The next morning we ventured out to visit the largest single meteorite in the world, the Hoba Meteorite. This 80,000 year old 60 tonne chunk of mostly iron (83%) left no visible crater which is either proof that aliens put it there or it fell to earth a lot slower than other meteorites after skipping like a stone across our atmosphere. A quick walk around it we check out the vandalism which along with scientific sampling has chipped away 6 tonnes before we’re back onto the truck, passing through the charmingly named Grootfontien (Large Spring) that was disappointingly less that pretty.
We’d not been on a game drive since Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania we enter the site of our last, Etosha National Park, and are luckily greeted by seven lions.
‘Don’t wake me unless there’s a leopard’
says Matt as we turn into the interestingly named Dik Dik drive. Also known as the Great White Place, at this time of year (October) Etosha is for the most part a parched, dry salt pan with scattered natural and man-made watering holes increasing the chances of seeing elusive species of wildlife. Our first stop inside this world renowned park is Namutoni with its fort which has been a German police post, a veterinary control point and an English prison during the First World War
A long dip in the swimming pool to beat the midday heat, it’s back to the truck to try and tick off the final wildlife, namely a black rhino close up and a cheetah. Our first waterhole lives up to it’s reputation having an abundant variety of animals. Giraffe lean in to drink as black faced impala tentatively copy and a hyena takes a rest under a nearby tree, too hot to hunt. Zebra, springbok and the striking war-like oryx stand sentinel watching as a giraffe, which we initially took for dead, struggles to free itself from the gripping mud (returning the next day the Park Rangers had sadly dragged it’s body out to avoid contamination of the water).
Moving along to the next waterhole we keep pace with a big old bull elephant, his cracked tusks showing signs of entering the twilight phase of life. Arriving to the man made waterhole animals are scarce and those that are present are on edge. Soon enough a cunning hyena pops its head over the walls to scope out any prey stupid enough to venture closer. Driving back towards camp many kudu take refuge in the tall grass only noticed by their large protruding ears, a cheeky jackal sneaks up to steal part of a lions kill as goshawks stand guard in the trees.
Back at camp we’re served the biggest BBQ t-bone steaks we’ve ever seen for dinner and head off for some night time wildlife spotting. The Namutoni Camp has its own watering hole that’s lit up of a night time and rarely misses having some form of wildlife. Yep, this was one of those nights that eluded us. Sitting for over an hour in the strictly enforced ‘silence’ area results in naught. Waking the following morning particularly early we catch a celestial rarity with a red sunrise adding to the alignment of Jupiter, Mars and Venus in the brightening sky.
Driving along the Etosha pan as heat waves tickle the horizon kudu, hartbeest and springbok mill around in an attempt not to use vital energy. Visiting the waterhole from the previous evening our drowned giraffe is been divided up by the jackals and hyenas in ‘The circle of life’. The wildlife extravaganza didn’t finish here on what was our last on this epic journey from Nairobi. By 7:30 we had also come across three cheetahs lazing under a tree.
Our lunchtime rest stop is spent around the pool at Halali campsite. In the baking heat the lack of sunbeds has new arrivals hawking over us in a vain hope that we’d vacate. With the rest of the group finally deserting the sleeping Matt he comes back thanking everybody for ditching him. Turns out he’s been woken by a guy who thought he reminded him of an ex drug addict friend who’d found the light, as he did, in the Lord Jesus after which he started on the bashing of the bible around Matt’s atheist head.
Hightailing it back to the safety of the truck we try our luck at Halali’s waterhole and are graced with a herd of nine elephants and a lounging lion who’d been feasting on a dead baby elephant. Back to the truck it’s our final game drive over to Okaukuejo where we retire for the evening. This drive became one of the most enchanting of all as we came across three black rhinos, one of which we followed as it crossed immediately in front of us allowing us our closest encounter of all.
HOT, HOT, HOT barely describes the conditions out here and with huge social weaver nests overhead we pull into Okaukuejo Camp. Before the trucks engine is off we’re all up at the triple pool relaxing and drinking the coldest beers in Africa, complete with glasses straight out of the freezer. Well, we had a hard earned thirst!
Jackals have the run of the camp here. The daring animals are known to steal food straight from the table and we encounter them everywhere. A dusty, hot day is washed off with some of the best showers in existence (maybe it was just the heat and dust) as we prepare for our final night time watering hole. This time there is abundant wildlife and we’re entertained for hours by a comical stand-off between an elephant and black rhino as another black rhino proceeds to wallow right in the middle of the pool.
With goshawks circling in the morning sky and jackals howling beside the tent we awake and head south to the Anderson gate, bidding farewell to the early rising ostrich and elephants. Today we’re in for another close encounter of the feline kind, stay tuned!
You can check out more pics of Namibia’s amazing landscape and wildlife on our Flickr page.
Tips for Namibia
- Our overland tour was the 73-day Absolute Safari from Nairobi to Cape Town through Absolute Africa, the details of which you can find here.
- The height of the truck gave us the opportunity to see and spot wildlife which others in lower 4WD’s and vans were unable to.