Bill Tan's Namibia Trip

Giraffes 'necking'Bill Tan recently travelled through Namibia, which he describes as an "exploratory journey", and something he and his wife Jane try to make once or twice a year. He shares his jottings and photos here:

Etosha Park

We started our 'safari' at Etosha N.P. an enormous game area of scrub, desert and travelled from one waterhole to another in search of wildlife. 'Etosha' has been appropriately translated as the 'The Great White Place' and indeed the centre piece is an elliptical salt pan, absolutely blinding white in the sun, some 100km by 50km, and easily swallowing up four 'Singapores' in area.

Within an hour of entering the park we had already seen hundreds of animals starting with the rare black-faced impala and the unmistakable long necks of several giraffes. Zebras crossed our path at 2 metres distance in a long line without apparent fear and in the distance four species can be photographed in one image: wilderbeasts, ostriches, springboks and zebras.

Zebra "Crossing"The first night at Okaukeujo was a sensation as in the floodlit waterhole huge elephants came to drink followed by a pair of 'white' rhinos (the 'white' is actually 'wide' for the shape of their mouth which evolved to crop grass whereas the 'black' rhino has a narrower mouth more designed to ' browse' ie eat the leaves from bushes, both species having the same grey colour).

Suddenly on the far side of the waterhole the two rhinos pivot round to a back to back position and one could sense that some predator is approaching. With the binoculars one could see on the far ridge several lions gingerly traversing the dark skyline and in a moment one bounded towards the semi-circle of spectators and made a kill of a springbok, all within ten metres of us.

After gripping the neck of the springbok very still for a full minute the lion inexplicably took off leaving its prey behind. Perhaps it sensed the presence of humans, its only enemy. Within a few minutes the jackals were on the carcass and the next morning there was nothing left.

Elephant at 3m from roadThe next night produced another interestng spectacle as three elephants stood on the near edge of the waterhole apparently immobile and showing no interest in drinking. Then we saw the huge male pull some water up with its trunk and inject it into the mouth of another who as it turned out must have been injured and cannot suck up the water. It was a salutary experience of health care in the animal kingdom.

In the Austral winter the nights can be as cold as 4˚C and you would not find any mosquitoes. The accommodations are quite adequate and at the government run Okaukeujo Restcamp in the Etosha Pan one could even rent a luxury two storey house overlooking the floodlit waterhole though you wouldn't get much sleep as the animals bleat all through the night.

Lake Otjikoto, a dolina NW of TsumedWaterberg Park
The Waterberg Plateau was formed about 200M yrs ago over an ancient shield and is now a compacted sandstone 'lump of rock' rising about 250m. It has been designated a wildlife park. Due to the permanent waterholes there it was the stronghold of the Herero (Bantu) tribe and during its uprising against the Germans in 1904 the German artillery on the plains below massacred thousands on the plateau above.

We spent one afternoon and night here. Memorably we had banded mongooses, initially mistaken for mercats, coming very close at the patio tables when we had lunch.

Etosha to Twyfelfontein
Finger Rock at Ogab River, west of OutjoThis rather long 380 km stretch of mainly tarmac road passes through three sightseeing attractions: the ranching town of Outjo, the rock pinnacle called Finger Rock and the National Monument of Petrified Forest.

As in all these towns in Namibia the whites (Germans, South Africans etc) are vastly outnumbered but surprisingly maintained a private school as well as a very large Dutch Reformed Church. Though the official language is English and probably has been since the South Africans took over from the Germans after the first World War, we still meet whites who could hardly speak the language but converse either in German or Afrikaans. Paradoxically all the black Namibians we met spoke excellent English.

Garden of Finger Rock LodgeFinger Rock is exactly as one might imagine it to be, a rock of a finger sticking straight as an arrow into the sky. Not far away are two or three Mesas or as they called them here 'Terraces'. This is the 'Monument Valley' of Namibia and definitely worth the small diversion.

The Petrified Forest is similiar to the famous one in Arizona, with fossil logs scattered in horizontal positions as they had been swept down by glaciers eons ago.

Twyfelfontein ('Doubtful Spring') in NW Namibia has the largest number (2400) of Stone Age Rock Engravings in Africa. The engravings are mainly of animals found in the area though a unique feature here are engravings of both animal and human footprints. The main group is thought to
be a Ceremonial Rock and has 180 engravings. Engraving at Twyfelfontein Lodge, after the rock entrance

We had a Dama lady guide who speaks excellent English. The Damas are part of the Khoisan speaking group which uniquely have four letters of the alphabet which can only be described as tongue 'clicking' noises. When the guide demonstrated them to us one was a single click, one a double click and the third a sucking-kissing sound. It was more complicated than Chinese and when I said so as much the guide fell apart laughing. The Khoisan group typically have brown skin and their facial features vary from the Bushmen type to Caucasoid.

Rock painting

Rock painting showing lion with long tail ending in own footprint, Twyfelfontein

Organ Pips Canyon Waterberb Escarpment, southern edge
Mokuti Lodge and Oryx or Gemsbok Restaurant of Finger Rock Lodge
Bill posing beside the Hoba Meteorite Luxury two-room bungalow at Okaukeujo
Blue Wildebeests at Okondeka Waterhole The rare Black-faced Impala

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