Just over a week from today I will head back to the African continent and my favorite country in the world of Namibia. I pretty much always get at least a bit excited about upcoming travels, but down right ecstatic when it comes to heading to Africa. This trip will be no exception and will highlight both new regions (Skeleton Coast and The Dunes) as well as re-visit some of my past favorites (Damaraland, Palm Fontein and Etosha NP)
There are some real special nuances of this trip that is sure to make it very special. First I will be traveling with Andy my son and it’s shaping up to be one of my favorite family adventure vacations. This will be his first gig as a photographer, shooting the incredible landscapes and ever present wildlife. That’s a good start! Next up is the unique nature of the program itself and our traveling companions. We are traveling as guests of The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and our new partner Wilderness Safaris (W.S., The leading safari company in all of southern Africa). WWF and WS are looking to not only educate us, but seek our input and insight on the local village conservancies. Namibia is “ahead of the pack” in how they work with local communities to create truly sustainable tourism opportunities. The majority of the lodges are on community land and staff by locals in a partnership with WS.
I will share a lot more on the conservancies when I return and have an in depth understanding – you can count on that.
Now while this is “work”, no trip to Africa would be complete or even close without the traditional safari tour. We will spend the first few days exploring The Dunes out of Sossusvei, the largest Sand Dunes in the World! (this is a first for me). Next up we will head to the Swakopmund and the Skeleton Coast for a few days of exploring ship wrecks and kayaking with one of the largest sea lion colonies to be found anywhere in the world.
Then its fly north to start our adventure with the good folks from the WWF. We will visit conservancies and camps throughout the north. “Stalking” the elusive desert elephant along the dry river bottoms of Damaraland. (our home for the night Damaraland Camp is the oldest JV Conservancy in Namibia and our host and camp manager is one of the few women in such a high position!)
Then on to tracking black rhino (doesn’t that just sound cool?) out of our camp outside of Palmwag (my favorite camp in all of Africa). Tracking rhino as part of a JV with Wilderness and the “Save the Rhino Trust” and partnership that has clearly resulted in the largest population of the endangered black rhino anywhere on the planet.
Moving on we will be headed to Grootberg Lodge, the first 100% conservancy owned property in the country. A region rich with predators, the conservancy works with the locals to be more tolerant of the cheetahs and lions that also call this home.
Now into the “real” bush and a camping expedition at Otjimumbunde. You really haven’t experienced an African Safari until you sleep in a tent with the only thing separating you and the wilderness is a thin strip of canvas. The night comes alive with all the sounds of Africa and is sure to keep your blood pumping just a bit more than a luxury lodge. The “stories” around the camp fire by the locals will only help to set the stage.
Always a highlight we work our way to Etosha National Park and is 22, 270 sq. KM if saline desert, savanna and woodlands. An amazing 114 different species of mammals are represented in the park – watering holes will set the stage for endless hours of photography literally thousands of animals. It is about as rich of a wildlife experience as you can find. Highlights will be herds of the largest elephants on the continent (measuring 4 meters at the shoulder), one of the few “growing” populations of black rhino, the trio of “Big” cats (lion, leopard and cheetah) more antelope (Kudu, gemsbok, eland and dik dik to name a few) than one can imagine and over 300 species of birds.. (including flamingos), of course then there are the reptiles and just so much more, Etosha should be on any wildlife lovers bucket list.
As we wrap up what might be my favorite adventure vacation packages we will then spend a few days in Windhoek. Here we will introduce the group to our efforts with Wheels of Change. Andy and I will spend some time at one of the BEC’s and just get caught up with the bike crews and work on plans for our next shipment later this summer. Time allowing we will visit with some friends running cycling tours into one of the Windhoek townships.
Then unfortunately it is back up and head home – if all goes well with Andy, we will return with literally thousands of images and video to sort through and relive (and share) our adventure over and over again.
If I wasn’t excited about going before I penned this “blog” I sure am now. In closing I share an old African Proverb “Return to an old watering hole for more than water, friends and dreams are there to meet you!”
More to come…