Brenda and Brent - Namibia, Botswana, South Africa

Namibia - The Route

During our safari we went from Victoria Falls in Zambia, through bits of Botswana then across the top of Namibia to Etosha National Park. We then out to the coast and down the coast to the Orange River and on into South Africa.

This map shows the plan. We followed the plan for the first 10 days than diverted slightly. I will try to get this map updated soon.

Stops along the way We have lots of pictures for Namibia, so decided to split the trip into 4 parts:

Toro Lodge - Chobe National Park - Botswana

A small google map of the area.

First, click on the Zoom here link inside the bubble to get close. Then you can look at the satellite map and navigate around on this map.

We begin the Safari portion of our trip at Toro lodge - these are our digs. The safari vehicle is in back - a Toyota Land Cruiser, the standard for safari travel in much of Africa.
While we spent about half the nights at Lodges, our guide Will of Africa cooked most of our meals. The table is stowed in a trailer. We are pretty self-sufficient.

On other safaris we have had a driver and a guide - here, Will does it all. This means that we do some of the work associated with meals - we set the table, wash the dishes, ...

The activity for the day is a boating safari down the Chobe River. The boats are catamarans with flat decks and chairs. In fact, just two aluminum tubes with a deck bolted on top.

The driver/guide knows the animals and some of the larger birds.

This part of the Chobe River is in Chobe National Park and we are here to see the animals. In the dry season, the animals come down to the river early in the morning before a day of grazing. This is the wet season, so we don't see vast herds. We did see Impalas and Greater Kudu.

Animals don't seem to mind people quite near by, when the people are in boats on the water. Animals also don't seem to mind people in cars.

This is an African Anhinga - aka The Snake Bird because when swimming only the long thin neck shows above the water. This bird is swallowing a fish. The boat got within a few feet of this bird as it sat on a log in the river and beat this fish on the log before swallowing it - a process that lasted several minutes. The Anhinga did not mind that we were within a few feet while it dined.
The Chobe is also a good place to see Hippopotamus. These two were doing a little ahhing - like when your dentists says "Say ahh". Perhaps checking each other for cavities. This was the only place we saw Hippopotamus on this trip.
This is a male Greater Kudu - notice the spiral horns.

In the grass at the front of the picture there is a small Baboon watching the Kudu.

This is one of the very few Water Buffalo we saw during this trip. Perhaps in the dry season more would be down by the river.
This is an adult male Impala - the alpha male, with his harem.

The two-tone brown side is a good field mark for Impalas.

This is the patio/deck at Chobe Lodge. Many of the boat tours set out from here. That is Will (our guide) on the right, with Merrilee and Brenda seated.
This is the nest of a Mariqua Sunbird with the female just entering the nest. We were birding just outside our cabins the next morning.
We did not see a lot of elephants during our trip. This one was along the highway in Chobe Park. Most of the elephants we saw were lone males - kicked out of the herd and wandering alone. We saw no young elephants on this trip.
This is one of the ugliest birds - the Maribou Stork. We spotted the stork and a couple of vultures feeding on a carcase while driving through the park.
This is one of the biggest Baobab trees we saw on the trip. An icon of desert areas in Africa, this one must have been planted by people since it was near the river in quite a lush part of the country.

We left Botswana here into Namibia. We will be back in Botswana in a couple of days.

This is a typical local dwelling in the country - and in Namibia it is almost all country. A stick wall, filled with mud, then plastered with a mixture of mud, dung and straw. Most people don't bother to finish the outside.

This building is a little unusual in that it has flat walls - a rectangular building. Most native buildings in Namibia and Botswana are round. Areas with more exposure to western civilization tend to build rectangular buildings.

We are travelling across the north-eastern panhandle of Namibia - through the Caprivi Strip which is all park - though it has some native style settlements. This is typical landscape - small trees, grasslands. Not a jungle at all. These lands have been home to tribes that maintained small herds of animals - moving from place to place for grazing - for centuries. The land still does not seem to support much crop lands although we saw occasional small corn fields.
This is a much more typical settlement - a few round huts inside a fence. The grazing animals are brought inside the stockade at night.

The hut walls are woven sticks with mud inside the walls. They may or may not plaster the outside of the walls.

Kwando Lodge - Kwando River and Muduma Park - Namibia

The area around Kwando Lodge.
This is our room in Kwando Lodge on the Kwando River that separates Namibia and Botswana. The lodge is pretty classy - very nice rooms. The mosquito nets are excellent - absolutely no bites at night.

Actually we were not much trouble by biting insects at all in Namibia. Even though we arrived at the end of the wet season and had thunderstorms most days, we rarely used insect repellent and had almost no bites at all.

We did a safari - ride around in the Land Cruiser and look for birds and animals - in Muduma Park. This is the office for the Nakatwa campground. Several skulls along the wall.

We saw no other vehicles during the many hours we drove around this park.

Zebra is the most common big game animal in this park. In most parks in Namibia, in fact.
This was one of our best sunsets. During the last part of the Namibia trip, in the western parts of the country, the air is way to dry for a decent sunset. Here in the east we had a bit more humidity and much better sunsets.

Getting exactly the right settings to bring out the orange is a challenge. There are so many options. This is the best of the 21 pictures I took this evening.

Kwando Lodge is right on the Kwando River - the front supports of our porch were in the water. They have a boardwalk along the river connecting several more chalets (what do you call a detached building like this in Africa?). Since the buildings a slightly elevated the lodge calls them tree houses.

The insects and frogs along this river produced the loudest noises of any place I have very been. Very steady calling, very strident calls. Makes heavy metal seem tame. In spite of the racket, we slept well.

Although we stayed in chalets, Will did the cooking. Most lodges offer several options - some camp and cook their own food, some use chalets and cook their own food, some eat at the lodge.

Another old elephant - obviously a male.

Mahango Game Park - Namibia

We drove through this park going down to the Okavango delta and then returning north. The game park is the upper mark, Ngepi is the next, Tsodilo Hills is on the left.
From Kwando we headed west across the Caprivi strip then south through the Mahango Game Park on our way to our next Lodge. We were moving along at about 40 kph when Brenda spotted this guy - a Sable Antelope. This is a mega rarity anywhere in Africa. Game parks pay big money to buy these animals. This is such a bought animal - imported from an area where they still run wild.

This is all the looks we got of this animal. You can see the long curved horns on the left, the small brown area just behind the horns, the black body with the white underside.

An amazing sighting by Brenda. We could barely see the animal in the bush after we had stopped and backed up half a kilometer. How she spotted it at 40 kph we are not sure.

Also in the game park, we spotted this Ostrich family.

Think about it - an ostrich egg is about the size of a 750 ml water bottle. This Ostrich laid at least 8 of those! A large clutch for any bird species, let alone one this big.

While we were taking pictures of the Ostrich family, Will spotted these Wattled Cranes way across the field.

This is quite a rare bird. We had one other fly-over sighting, but this was the only length opportunity to study this species.

We spent longer on the Cranes than on the sunsets!

You can see the typical forest in the game park. Some open grassland, some small shrubby trees, some larger trees. Few trees are taller than 10 metres.

Guma Camp - Okavango Delta - Botswana

The Okavango River flows out of Angola and Namibia into Botswana and floods the Okavango Delta and stops. It does not drain to the sea, it just sits here until it dries up. There are salt pans and salty areas in some islands but we did not see any.
This is the open air patio at the lodge.
It looks out on the waters of the delta, across to the papyrus floating islands.
They take you across in a flat bottomed boat and then transfer you to these Mokoro(dugout canoe). Well, they used to be dugouts until they decided the trees were better as trees than as boats. The president of Botswana decided that only fiberglass Mokoros would be used. (There is no truth to the rumour that he first got the fibre-glass concession for all of Botswana.)
This is a mokoro eye view of the delta. Sitting low in the water you cannot see how the polers decide where to go - which channel to take from place to place.

These low boats would be ideal for sneaking up on birds and animals except for the poler who stands up. Most birds and animals were very skittish - disappearing just before we got them in view. We need much shorter polers for birding in the delta!

There are no real roads between the nearest town - Etsha 13 - and the camp. The route is an unmarked series of tire tracks though the sand. This is very slippery sand - the vehicle was all over the place during the 25 minute drive from the last paved road to the camp.

You really want to be in the front seat for this trip - the back seat bounces a lot more and all you can do is hold on and hope you don't put your head through the roof.

This was the one place in the trip that the 4 wheel drive was essential - there is no way a two wheel drive, or probably even a 4 wheel drive car like a Subaru, would make the trip. Even then Will had to partially deflate the tires to make it. How much do you deflate the tires? Well, not having a tire gauge (real men don't use tire gauges) we just let air out for 30 seconds or so.

Real men also don't pump up tires by hand. Since the Land Cruiser is meant for real men, it comes with an air pump in the engine compartment.

Here we are back in Etsha 13 and pumping up the tires. The air line is not long enough to reach the trailer, so Will did a little fancy parking.

This is not a breakdown, this is part of the master plan.

These two local kids watched the whole thing - clearly interested in what these crazy tourists did for fun.

We had parked by a small local market to inflate the tires before getting back onto the paved roads. The market was just a few women on chairs in the open, each with a few vegetables on a sheet in front of her. We bought a few fresh vegetables here - we were starting to supplement Will's supplies with fresh vegetables whenever we could. (Real men don't eat vegetables, but both Brenda and Merrilee are more or less vegetarians.) Fresh vegetables at this market cost pennies.

These kids are vegetarians too - they are eating corn on the cob cooked over an open fire.

Is the little girl on the right actually wearing some kind of kids high heeled shoes?

Tsodilo Hills - Botswana

Out in the middle of a very flat plain are the Tsodilo Mountains.
They have spent some money to build a museum near the hills. We must have been out of season - we were the only visitors that day.
This is the hill/mountain.

Right now the area is very dry - no real bodies of water within many miles.

From time to time over the last 100,000 years, there have been lakes in the area and the hills have been inhabited. Artifacts have been found suggesting occupation by Homo Sapiens over this period. Further evidence of group rituals - probably primitive religious rituals (are all religious rituals primitive?) dating back as much as 40,000 years.

Archaeologists tend to be able to make more out of a few stone arrow heads than Sherlock Holmes could from a callous on a man's left elbow. However, if their deductions are accurate, it suggests our ancestors were getting organized back here long before the first towns appeared in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East (a mere 8,000 years ago).

These are typical rock paintings.

Most of the images are of animals although a few are geometric.

Some people suggest that the paintings are instructional - this is a class room and this is where kids were taught which animals to hunt.

These two images are interesting. The one on the left is clearly a penguin and the one on the right a whale.

We are about 800 kilometres inland. There is no chance that these were recorded here during Noah's flood!

An interesting theory is that some of the people in the region followed a nomadic life style that included regular (yearly?) migration between here and the sea - 800 kilometres in a straight line. Not a trip you would make on a regular basis, since you would have to walk the whole way, unless you had a good reason for doing it - perhaps bringing trade goods from one place to the other.

Such traders might bring stories of animals they had seen and stories of the ocean itself. It would be hard to draw the ocean - a difficult concept for people who live in a desert (northern fringe of the Kalahari Desert).

Or, some guy with a strange sense of humour back in the 20's might have drawn these.

Brenda is here working her way through a gap in the rocks in which the rock painting is on the roof. This particular painting is called the dancing penises. If you do a google image search you will find pictures of this rock art. The pictures won't help you understand the name though. These archaeologists have some imaginations. (Here is a link to a picture if you want to try your hand at archaeology.)

This was the hottest day of the entire trip. My knees had not yet recovered from the hike up and down Kilimanjaro (10 days ago). I was in no mood to slide though this rock tunnel, but Brenda was up to it.

This is the plain around the mountain - very, very dry and very, very hot.

If this was not a Unesco World Heritage Site, the area would be unoccupied today.

This is a typical bit of the rock art on the hill that we saw. Much more typical than the penguin, whale and dancers.

The art is pretty well preserved. Usually it is out of reach of people on the trail so that anyone wanting to sign one of those pieces today, or perhaps augment them with some designs of their own, would have some difficulty.

In the parking lot, inside a hollow tree, a Green Mamba. The snake body is about as big around as my little finger, perhaps a little bigger.

These snakes are deadly. The bite is fatal unless you can get access to antivenom. The venom stops the lung and heart muscles from operating.

Green mambas spend most of their time in trees.

Will, our guide, found the snake while snoozing in the parking lot during our hike.

The snake is looking directly at the camera, the head tilted almost 90 degrees. The two black spots are the eyes.

Ngepi Camp Lodge - Namibia

Back into the Okavango Delta for another night at Ngepi Camp lodge.
Our stop for the night is Ngepi Lodge. We ate at the lodge here. This is our pre-diner beer. The food was good. They make a point of how big dinner is - but it was not as big as the dinners Will served us. Probably not as good either.

After Kilimanjaro, we shipped all of our warm clothes home. After all, we are in Africa, not that far from the equator. Tonight, we bought polar fleece jackets from the Lodge. So, if you come to Namibia in January, remember to bring your fleece along. Or, you can buy some nice ones at the lodge here.

You may have noticed the white bandage on Dan's head. Dan had a close encounter with an Acacia tree during our hike over the big hill at Tsodilo. The tree first flipped off his hat, then etched a 2" long gouge in his scalp.

Merrilee is used to travelling with Dan - she had the first aid stuff all ready.

Ngepi also has many of its chalets along the river banks. It is a bit different though in that they decided that the buildings did not need front walls. They do have bamboo blinds that you can lower if it is raining and the wind is blowing the rain into your room. We slept with the blinds up.

The Lodge calls all of their chalets tree houses. They are not very far off the ground, but they all are built around existing trees. Our tree was an integral part of our bathroom. You had to climb under the tree to reach the toilet - not that easy at night, in the dark.

The insects and frogs were much quieter here than on the Kwando River.

This lodge also has camping - many people camp and cook on their own. There are several camping areas, each with an outdoor toilet which is open to the sky. If it rains, you get wet unless you are carrying an umbrella.

Each ablution centre has a theme.

The Lodge management prides itself on being quirky. Their web page includes a picture of Bush with the warning: "If you are with him, then we would prefer you not to visit".

This is the general notice board - activities and food.

A tour of the various ablution centres is one of the activities offered.

The exchange rate is around 10 Namibian dollars to $1 Canadian - to give you a feeling for lodge food prices.

We did a river cruise, looking for birds. The captain/guide knew the locations of a number of quite rare birds.

nKwasi Lodge - Namibia

From Ngepi we headed west and north to nKwasi Lodge (yep, they capitalize the second letter of the name). This is our cabin - very nice. Again, we have mosquito netting which we used, but had no bites when hanging around outside, or on bird hunts.

The other side of the river is Angola. The river is only 100 metres wide here and locals go back and forth all the time.

Dan is a big fan of indigenous culture. nKwasi lodge offers an excellent drumming, dancing and singing show (costs extra), using people from the nearby village. Most lodges now try to employ as many locals as possible, although most of the owners are not locals. (But usually long term owners.)

Here the drummers are heating up the drum heads over a fire. We got there first and got a beer, then the drummers arrived and lit a very smoky fire. When it had burned down a little - a few coals - they spent the next 15 minutes heating up the drums.

The dance troupe is organized by the local church. Many of the songs sounded like hymns. Some had English words that sounded a lot like hymns. Fortunately, the delivery was sufficiently atonal that it was hard to make out more than one or two words per line.

The chief drummer - the boss, for sure - donned his feather head dress before he started to drum. Guess they forget to tell him we were birders. I was unable to identify the feathers as to species - I am assuming they are chicken feathers.
When they invited people to get up and join the dancers, Brenda was up and dancing so fast she almost ran over two little kids. Sure did not have to ask her twice.

On the other hand, getting her to sit down took a little longer.

The skirts are quite original. They thread thin bamboo then finish it with a bottle cap. Quite an unusual sound when they move.

I was reminded with some nostalgia of the ballet recitals I got to go to when Brenda was still in her adult ballet class. (I should clarify - got to go is not in the sense "you got to go to the recital", but in the sense "you can go to the recital").

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