s/y Nine of Cups
Namibia
February 2007
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Republic of Namibia

Capital City:
  Windhoek
Land area:          382, 261 sq miles...about 1/2 Alaska
Population:         ~2.04 million
Language:           English, but German, Afrikaans and native
languages spoken
Currency:           Namibian dollar  (~N$7 = $1 US)
Highest Point:     Konigstein, 2,606M
Government:       Parliamentary republic headed by a President
Political Units:   13 Regions
Chief products:    Copper, diamonds, uranium, lead, zinc

Previously known as German Southwest Africa, Namibia only
became independent from South Africa in 1990. It is the first
country ever to incorporate environmental protection into its
Constitution.
We originally planned to sail to Namibia and then we
ran out of time...as usual, but didn't want to miss the
opportunity to visit this interesting country of deserts
...Kalihari on one side and the Namib Desert on the
other. So we rented a car and drove from Cape Town
with the primary intent of seeing Etosha National Park,
the finest in Namibia and one of the best in South
Africa. It was an 1,800+ km drive but we weren't
disappointed for our efforts.  We had the opportunity
to spend 4 days in the park and slept in park rest
camps (very comfortable and very affordable) each
night affording us the chance to view floodlit waterholes
during the night. Though it was considered the
off-season for animal viewing, it was prime season for
the birds. We were delighted with what we did see and
experience. We saw something new each day on the
many gravel road trails throughout the park.  We
couldn't drive a kilometer down the road without seeing
animals...sometimes in great numbers...herds of
springboks and zebras. It was fantastic!
We were thrilled to see our first giraffes in the wild and there were lots of them. They crossed in front of us, behind us and
munched on trees beside us. It was a thrill watching their long necks and heads peek out from between and above trees.
We saw lions every day, but this encounter on the second day was the
most exciting. This male was lying on the side of the road under a tree
about 10 feet away from us.
The birdlife was most impressive. We purchased a park map which
offered a good identification guide to animals and birds and we used it
constantly. Above, a colorful European bee eater.
We saw lots of raptors including the kestrel (above) and     
several eagles.
Blue wildebeest and calves
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We saw literally thousands of springboks.
There were several very large birds in residence
including the Kori bustard above.
We would typically head out of the camp at sunrise when the
gates opened since it seemed the best time for game viewing.
Once it got hot in the afternoon, the animals hunted for shade
and we headed back to the camp for rest. We had breakfast
with zebras one morning as they gathered in great numbers at a
waterhole. We sipped our tea, ate our yogurt and just watched
them for an hour as they socialized with each other. What an
unforgettable experience. We find ourselves humming "Whim a
way" quite often.

As we write this update, we are still in Namibia at a hotel with
Wi-Fi, no less. We have still to see the great dunes at Sossuslvei
in the Namib Desert, but will probably be back aboard Cups
within the week in hopes of heading back to sea by
mid-February. We'll update further when we arrive in the States
sometime in May/June timeframe.
Well, it took awhile, but we finally managed to finish the photo-journal
of our trip to Namibia. (October instead of May/June, but who's really
keeping track?)  We regretfully left Etosha and headed west towards
the inhospitable Skeleton Coast, infamous graveyard of ships. It was
named "skeleton", we're told, because if you managed to survive the
wreck and made it to land, you would probably die of exposure in the
desert or be eaten by the local animal population. There are few stops
along the coast and the gravel road seemed to stretch forever.  Even
today, wrecks are not uncommon as evidenced by the ship below
which had gone aground just months before and was left to break up.
Down the coast to Swakopmund, simply "Swakop" to the
locals. A mix of German and bohemian, the city, though lovely,  
smacked heavily of tourism and Euro influence. We wandered
a bit, stayed a night and moved on.
Above, view of the beachfront in Swakop. To the left, cormorants
line the beach drying their wings.
We drove the coast road to Walvis Bay (right). Lined with palm
trees, it was beautiful, but the constantly blowing sand reminded
us that the Namib Desert was always in contest with the ocean.
The Walvis Yacht Club (below) was small, but most friendly.
Made us wish we had brought the boat...maybe next time?
Walvis Bay was more to our liking. Though still a bit touristy, it was
smaller and less hectic than Swakop. We stayed a couple of days and
enjoyed walks along the beach and a hotel with A/C and
wi-fi...absolute luxury!

Walvis is also a large salt harvesting facility. Some areas appeared to
be ice packed with snow and others gleamed like the mirror surface of
a skating pond. Watching bulldozers plow the salt into large rows for
harvesting and later into 30-meter high mountains was fascinating.
The salt marshes were part of a large bird conservation area and we
happily identified avocets (above) and white flamingos (right) midst the
usual shore birds including ducks and sanderlings.
Stretching 1200 miles and averaging only about 70 miles wide, the
Namib Desert is home to the tallest sand dunes in the world...
obviously a must-see. In the Nama languague, Namib means "vast"
and this proverbial dune sea lived up to expectation. The
Namib-Naukluft National Park (50,000 sq km) is the largest
conservation area in Namibia and one of the largest in the world.
We were fascinated by the herds of gemsbok (above) and
springbok which managed to survive in this dry, harsh climate.
Dune 45, so named because it is located 45 km from the entrance is an easier
climb than most. But trying to climb a mountain of soft sand, the wind howling,
taking one step, sinking in, sliding back two, proved to be a challenge
nonetheless. I had grit and sand in my camera for days after.
David climbing Dune 45...Marcie lagging behind
with camera.
Though sparse, some vegetation like the naramelon
blossoming above, manages to survive.
The orange sand dunes of Sossuvlei are the highest in the
world at 300M.
It was time to head back to South Africa and we knew it, but
there was still so much to see. We stopped for a day at the
Hardap Dam Reserve not too far out of the way. This dam,
the largest in Namibia, retains the largest lake in the country
and is surrounded by a game park.
The unusual quiver tree above is so-named because
the indigenous people used the branches as quivers
for their arrows.
Wildlife and birds were plentiful although we never did get
to see the elusive rhinos that supposedly roam the park.
Above a springbok with baby.
There were hundreds of Maribou storks near the shore of
the lake. We also saw osprey, sacred ibis and grey
herons.
Finally, we couldn't put off the inevitable. It was time to return to South Africa. "Cups" was
waiting for us and so was Jelly (some cruiser friends were cat-sitting). As usual, we could
have toured about for months instead of a mere three weeks and as we recounted all we had
seen, we also noted what we had missed. Sounds like an opportunity for a return visit.
We saw a huge number of birds here.
Click
Birds of Africa to see more.
Check out the South Africa page or our
second trans-Atlantic in 6 months in which
we stop at
St. Helena & Ascension
Islands en route to Charleston, USA.
Black Shouldered Kite