Touring Namibia

Date of Journey July 2015
Colin James West Sussex

Last Summer’s trip to the sensational desert landscapes of Namibia was not only an explorer’s or naturalist’s joy but a great test for the best clothing. The midday heat of Dead Vlei, surrounded by enormous sand dunes, contrasted with cold dawn climb up Dune 45 only hours earlier.

As did the chilly coastal evening fog that enveloped the German colonial architecture of Swakopmund, as we strode to the Fish Deli in Sam Nujoma Avenue to taste the local seafood, with the arid moonscapes and lichen fields on the following day’s Welwitschia Drive, watered by droplets from the same fog rising from the Benguela Current.

A peaked cap served me well during the heat of the day, as we watched animals arrive in almost biblical proportions through sand storms at Etosha water holes

My beanie hat would have been useful as we sat under the chilly, star-filled night sky watching a black rhino drinking just in front of our lodge.

 

And the highlight of the trip - well, I expected it to be the brilliant experience of tracking and seeing radio-collared leopards at the impressive Okonjima Lodge, home to the Africat Foundation near Otjiwarango - until my Biology student son  asked the guide his rehearsed question. “Can you find us a pangolin?” tends to lead to a smile and shake of head from even the most experienced of guides across Africa. But here, the reply urged us to look for the lady with the stick by the road on the way to the main highway. And that is how we met a young pangolin and  Maria Diekman of the Rare and Endangered Species Trust, a well known pangolin researcher who is studying the behaviour of this wonderful creature, as it digs for  and consumes ants until the formic acid forces it to move on to dig elsewhere. The guide books claim that these little known mammals are nocturnal, when in fact they eat when their food is available – and in the Namibian winter, that is in the day. Praise should go to Princes William and Harry who have put a spotlight on the plight of these endangered animals, whose scales – made from keratin and with no medicinal properties –are now being illegally caught and sold by poachers to replace rhino horn!  

 

The only not so good thing was not being able to spend more time in this sensational, safe and well-governed country!