Namibia gets better each time

Posted on October 22nd, 2008 by Mike Haines in Guest Comments.

Hi Mike and Nigel, Each trip to Namibia gets better than the last. In spite of the fact that my checked bag did not arrive in Windhoek the trip got off to a good start. I enjoy staying at Hilltop and eating breakfast overlooking a valley and enjoying the birds. Wendy Wilson picked me up at the Ongava air strip, it was good to see a familiar face. She and her husband were the managers when I was there three years ago. There was a single female lion that we met several times including with other vehicles. We left to see what else we could see eventually returning to where we saw the lioness. Barnabus our guide stopped the vehicle when he saw her approaching. She started to call softly then sat down twenty feet from our vehicle. Soon after she got up and joined up with her three cubs. No one else was there and we were excited with our experience.

The only thing we hadn’t seen were rhino. When we went out for sundowners, white rhino were eventually sighted and we found a mother and large calf. We were asked if we would like to go on foot to get better pictures. We walked through the brush and saw them from a different angle. Another great moment. The next morning as I was leaving my tent for breakfast two lionesses walked past behind the water hole. You can’t beat that or so I thought.

The next morning my bag arrived from Windhoek so on the way to the airstip we stopped at the lodge to pick it up.  We stopped at Palmwag to pick up some staff members and headed for the Skeleton Coast.

Next morning we left early for Cape Fria. Chris and his crew followed us a short way so Justin could get some photos with a vehicle in them. We drove up and down sand dunes,saw great rock formations, gravel in shades of orange, pink, and amethyst. We stopped for morning tea at a spring and I saw two new bird…white fronted plover and avocet. Gert, my guide also found a desert plated lizard, We stopped at a husfe salt pan that had been a lake in February of this year. We finally made it to the coast and had lunch just south of Cape Fria. On the way to the coast we had seen lots of jackal and hyena tracks. Aver a good lunch we drove to the fur seal colony. We saw lappet faced vultures and jackals scavenging in the colony and also got close to the seals. There were lots of pups. We the drove south for several hours seeing lots of boards from wrecked ships, whale bones including a pelvic one, 100’s of ghost crabs and unfortunately lots of human garbage that washes ashore. We turned inland and headed for camp. The end of great day number 1.

The next day we drove to Puros where we visited a Himba village and the school. The village was very interesting and the way the people lived gave me a lot to think about. We then went to the school. It was a very nice building. I had taken some pictures of Marcellus showing snow, fall colors, spring flowers and a few birds. The teacher explaned them to the kids. I helped the kinds do a jigsaw puzzle. Then we had lunch in the Horasin under an Ana tree with a crimson-breasted shrike. We then drove down the river and saw some elephants, perhaps even some I helped study four years ago. As we drove down the canyon we saw giraffe, baboons, and lots of birds. We saw a total of 32 that day. We had an encounter with a large bull elephant who thought we were between him and the tree he wanted to get to so he could enjoy some nuts. We stopped many times to watch birds saw painted snipe, black crake, Gallinule and moorhen among others. Late in the afternoon we met another Wilderness Safaris vehicle that was waiting for lions. They had made a kill a few days before so they knew they were around. After an hour we went up the bank, behind the tree we found two lionesses and three cubs. We watched them for an hour. There was a male that we didn’t see. Gert suggested we return the next morning to see if we could get a better look.

Once again we left early we arrived at the lion site about 8a.m. We first went to the place we had seen them the day before, they weren’t there. As we drove upstream we saw the other vehicle again and the male lion walking toward the bank. We also saw the two females who were collared and two of the cubs were sitting on the bank where we watched them for an hour. I got some good pictures. We left the lions and continued our journey toward the sea following the Horasib. The rock formations in the canyon were amazing with various rocks, contorted formations, and the clay castles, formed by the erosion of old clay formations. We walked into one of the tributaries that helped create the clay dam that created the formations. Saw a solitary elephant near the clay castles. As we neared the ocean we passed tall sand dunes. We went up one that was a roaring dune that we drove down sounding like a jet. We stopped for lunch a Rocky Point then drove to the grave of a man that was killed on a tug boat that ran aground as it attempted to assist the sinking Dunedin Star. We also saw the wreck that I had seen from the air. We turned inland and stopped at a spring were we saw a Cape shoveler. Our last stop was at another roaring sand dune that we were going to slide down on out backsides. Herm and Gert held my hands so I wouldn’t fall head over heels. As we started to slide down I decided I needed a picture to show my friends who think I am nuts what I do on vacation. Gert went back up to the vehicle and drove it around so I could document my trip down the dune. Then it was back to camp.

The next day I didn’t have to leave until about 12:30 so I had the morning free. Gert and I went exploring around the camp. Saw and heard a bokmarie (not sure of the spelling), looked at lots of tracks, tried to find a trap door spider…I learned to spot the trap door. Gert dug out a palmetto gecko which was a fascinating lizard. We returned to the camp and relaxed for a while. We stopped at Palmetto to drop of Emcie and fly to the international airport where Jackie and Justin were getting there flight. After a short trip to Eros I was back at Hilltop about four. I had the suite so I spent the late afternoon and evening relaxing before my long flight. The next morning I discovered a masked weaver building a nest and enjoyed watching it.

As I said at the beginning each trip gets better. Herm, at Skeleton Coast said he enjoyed my enthusiasm. I can’t wait to go back. Mike, thanks for all your work putting the trip together. I will send you a bird list shortly.

– Molly.

PS Sorry I was so long winded