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By Dan Austin /

 

As I get set for today’s update I realize I probably under sold last night’s camp at Otjibumbunde.   We camped at the future site of a JV Lodge.   Our hosts were the owner of the lodge, leaders from the conservancy and the builder.   We enjoyed roast lamb and fine wines well into the night.

A more spectacular setting would be hard to picture.  A spring in the vast valley below keeps things green.  From our vantage point we could see uninterrupted wilderness beauty for miles and miles.  Wildlife were unaware (or at least seemed to be) of our presence.

Over breakfast we reviewed the blueprints for the project and then heard a heartwarming presentation (translated from Himba) about just how much this project means to the local villages.  The prospect of jobs and opportunities has all beaming with pride.

We sat and “chatted” for a few hours and even that seemed short.  With more hugs and pictures we reluctantly had to say good bye and continue our adventure.

What is becoming increasingly clearer to me is the magnitude of the positive impact these JV’s within the conservancies have. As we continue north, I am already thinking how I can get more involved and help support such a great sustainable program, even further thinking ahead how to expand the footprint.

So we continue North to the region commonly just referred to as “Etosha”.   Etosha National Park, (huge saline desert) first gained conservation status in 1907 and has been proclaimed a game reserve by the German Governor Lindequist.   Depending on the season there can be large quantities of wildlife that congregate at the many watering holes.  It is not uncommon to see a half dozen species, encroaching on a head count into the hundreds at one hole.

We arrived at Ongava Lodge situated on the park boundaries and on its own private game reserve to the “buzz” of a Lion spotting.  Festus our Herrera guide suggested we “check in later” and get right after them.  We needed no convincing, we all quickly jumped into the open game drive vehicles and headed out.  We didn’t stop at the giraffes or wildebeest; we were on a mission.  It didn’t take long with Festus listening to a little chatter to find our lions.  A pride of 6 young (a little over a year) were just ahead playfully lounging in the setting sun and finishing the evening meal provided by mom.   We watch and snap a thousand photos and it is well past dark before we return to the lodge.

The Lodge is a beautiful property in heart of the true African wilderness (or at least on the edge). We are quickly shown to our secluded room just feet from a watering hole.  We receive a safety briefing (no sitting on porch after dark and wait for armed escorts to and from dinner).  By day all is good, by night extra caution is encouraged. I am fine with that, Andy would make a fine meal for a pride of lions or leopard and I promised to bring him back in tact.

We dined on an open patio overlooking a “lit” water hole.  We struggled with keeping our attention on the meal and more conversation as rhinos, giraffes, oryx, hyenas and others all stopped by for a night cap.

We have one more day to go and then the trek home.  I am already missing my new friends and traveling companions.  But most of all I am missing Namibia and all is rugged beauty (people and landscapes) and as I said we still have a day to go.

Namaste,

Dan Austin

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