Damaraland – Twyfelfontein, Namibia

Wow, what a beautiful place. It feels quite literally like the middle of nowhere. It's difficult to describe the feeling and the isolation of the place. From Etosha we drove about 4 and a half hours – and mind you, Etosha is not what any American would call 'civilization' – and we came to a slice of Namibia that is incredibly rugged and beautiful. The main 'road' is graded gravel, winds though riverbeds, doesn't care to warn you of steep inclines or sharp turns and is all in all, wonderful. When we arrived at our campsite at Mowani Mountain Camp, we were a little befuddled since we had not camped in Africa before this. We checked in at the main lodge and they told us what campsite to go to and then we were on our own. Yikes. No electricity…but there was running water which included a toilet, shower and kitchen area with a sink. We barely made it to our campsite by sunset so we scurried to set up the first night. It worked and all but was a little hasty.

We woke up at sunrise the next morning, not having been eaten by lions, hyena or baboons so that was a good start to the day. Kidding of course … We hadn't see any animals in this area and figured it was just too inhospitable for them. Why else would they allow camping? So we got up at sunrise because the Nature Drive (aka Desert Elephant search party) left at 7. Spoiler Alert: yes, we found the desert elephants and that was Awesome! But long before that we got to see how much activity there really was in Damaraland… A lot! Turns out there are elephants, lions, hyena, cheetah, leopard, jackals, kudu, oryx, springbok, baboons, and lots of little birds, creepy crawlies, etc. We didn't see any of the predators except for a few jackal with their babies… Jackals are already pretty little guys – maybe the size of a Sheltie but skinnier…like a miniature coyote – and their pups?, kits? are tiny and so darn cute!

About 3 hours into the drive, we started seeing elephant poo and knew we were headed in the right direction. If you're tracking elephants, follow the poo. They eat plants ALL day, and A LOT of them, so you can imagine they're pretty regular shall we say. Before long we see two bulls at a waterhole and got to watch and follow them for quite a ways down the riverbed (dry as a bone!) until we found about 7-10 females. One of the ladies was heavily preggo and another had a baby with her – the guide said it about 4 months old and was apparently exhausted … it's napping antics were pretty great. Stand up, look around, sway, down on front knees, tumble sideways and then flop into napping position.

Later that day we toured the World Heritage Site of the Twfelfontein rock engravings. Twyfelfontein is an Afrikaans word meaning 'doubtful fountain' because the white settler that found these engravings came there because there was a natural spring nearby that sometimes produced enough water, sometimes not. These engravings into the granite were means of communication between the Damara tribespeople …they we're nomadic and traveled in small groups so this is essentially how they left 'notes' for each other.

That night we made our dinner at the campsite, set up the tent, drank wine and enjoyed the unbelievable tranquility of the 'middle of nowhere'. We only wished our friends were there to share it with us! We were treated to a passing thunderstorm that night at about 2am – just enough rain to get things wet but not enough to make much difference in the desert.

Oh and there's a few photos below … The odd looking plant is a Welwitschia – this one was only about 100 yrs old but there are some where we are going that are about 1500 years old. It grows very slowly and only produces two leaves that twist and fray and give it it's strange look. Ancient though!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Etosha Park

Etosha – meaning Great White Place – is a HUGE national park in Namibia and about 22% of the park is made up of the Etosha Pan which is a large flatland area that is dry most of the time but can get a little water in it when and if they get rains in the area. It's very salty/mineral-y when it does get water so the animals don't really like drinking it. There are several watering holes scattered throughout the park though and that's where the animals congregate to quench their thirst after wandering around eating all day. We are here in the wet season (summer) but it's still pretty arid and desolate. The eastern side of the park was somewhat greener but the central/western side still seems pretty uninviting for grazers. Despite that, we saw several huge herds of elephants, zebra, black faced impala, blue wildebeest, oryx (gemsbok) and springbok. It's also an added bonus that this is the time of year that most species are having their babies. The cuteness is sometimes too much to handle. We saw baby springbok, impala, wildebeest and zebra. We were really hoping to see somebody dropping their babies but that may have been too much to ask. We did see a zebra that was still wet from just being born though. And at our first lodge at Etosha there was a herd of impala that one day had one baby in the herd and the next day had over 15! Their little bodies on spindles for legs was just adorable… And they would spring and hop and frolic all over the place. This is called 'pronking' and was both funny and seriously cute!

Being in Etosha in low season (summer/wet) has some advantages like the above mentioned babies as well as not having a ton of people all crowded around trying to see the same animals at the watering holes. The downsides: Supposedly the animals are harder to find because there is more water available, it's hot. But really, if you're used to Texas summers like we are, this isn't bad at all. It's actually raining right now … A little thunderstorm is passing through and it feels pretty grand.

Tonight is the last night in Etosha area and we are headed into a region called Damaraland tomorrow. That will be our first spot of camping (rooftop tent on the 4×4 style) so that's both exciting and brings me a little bit of anxiety. Pretty sure it'll be amazing but the unknown always puts those good little butterflies in my stomach. While we are there we may go try to find the desert elephants… Pretty unique I'm told. Hope we find them. 🙂

Here are a few snaps of some Etosha wildlife… Including an X-rated lion shot.