Final Countdown to Opening of Hoanib with Wilderness Safaris
Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is almost ready to welcome its first guests on 1 August 2014 - all structures are complete as can be seen here.
Ongava Tented Camp
Weather and landscape:
This year has been an odd one with rain still falling late in the year. That said, it made the most beautiful sunsets for everyone on the Ongava Game Reserve – with the rain clouds in the distance the sunset looked breathtaking. The mornings have been cold with the midday being nice and warm, the temperatures hovering at between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius, but at times, the nights have been just as cold as the mornings.
The OTC Pride was seen around camp most of the month until the former ‘true king’ of the OTC, a male called Stompie, accompanied by his two brothers, came back into the area, wreaking havoc with the OTC Pride. One evening, after fighting and roaring, the new dominant male consummated his relationship with one of the females, in full view of the guests having dinner!
Guests also enjoyed great sightings of elephant on the Ongava Reserve at a waterhole frequented by rhino. The Margo House waterhole hide has provided some outstanding viewing of rhino too.
• Sunset rides
• Lion viewing, the rhinos
• Dancing and singing at dinner, rhinos, lions roaring
• Closeness to the lions was special
• Waterhole @ camp, viewing the lions and bush dinner
With the start of a new season, we are gearing up for bush dinners etc. As a team we cleared the area we want to use for bush dinners over the course of three days to the sounds of much laughter, ending up with aching limbs afterwards.
Taking safari to another level we prepared a potjiekos dinner in the main area, cooking over an open fire to allow guests to really feel part of the bush experience
Climate and landscape
June was a cool, windy month at Ongava Lodge and we recorded daytime temperatures of 13-15° Celsius in the shade – though it did warm up around midday.
June was great for spotting animals from the main deck during the day. We regularly enjoyed three elephant coming and going and when they weren’t around we saw large numbers of other animals at the waterhole including gemsbok, kudu, springbok, black-faced impala, giraffe, eland, waterbuck and warthog.
The lions made themselves heard at night, often giving guests a wakeup call at 2 or 3 am… Every now and then we saw them coming to have a drink, giving everyone a great sighting as they watched the waterhole.
We have been seeing a lot more snakes in the camp area. There is a python near camp keeping the dassies (rock hyrax) on their toes!
A guest in camp had a birthday on the Sunday and we presented him with a cake and song. From a cultural perspective, Rosalia enjoys greeting our guests in traditional dress
Climate and Landscape
Winter has finally arrived here in the Kunene. Throughout the month of June many guests had the opportunity to experience a very rare and special sighting in the early mornings: the winter fog surrounding the entire camp and lying softly on the river water. The view of the mist enveloping the mountains and dunes creates a surreal atmosphere where silence reigns over everything. Although the temperature is obviously very low on these occasions, guests are always amazed by this amplified sense of quietness, enjoying the view while waiting for the sun to slowly dissolve the fog and warm up the day. By half-past eight or nine o’clock latest, everything is back to normal: the sun shines in the sky and the temperature rises. Some evenings have also been very cold due to a strong westerly wind blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. This is the best time to light a lovely fire in the main area and enjoy an Amarula in good company.
Sometimes clean windows can be dangerous! A beautiful malachite kingfisher flew into one recently, and was knocked to the ground. We helped him to slowly recover and then we released him on a branch among the trees near camp. He flew away a couple of minutes later as if nothing had happened. The staff was very fascinated by this small, brightly-coloured little bird.
During the month of June Serra Cafema Camp was extremely busy with flights coming in and going out every day. We jokingly renamed our airstrip “Serra Cafema International Airport”.
Desert Rhino Camp
Climate and Landscape
June kick-started winter at Desert Rhino Camp with some Atlantic fog in the mornings, but which brought a lot of the desert-adapted species to the area. There were some mornings where we had very strong winds from the east which had rhino tracking becoming a full-day activity across the entirePalmwag Concession – but the outings were always ultimately successful. The temperatures have fluctuated with some evenings ranging around 22-20° Celsius and others slightly lower.
Wildlife sightings have been great this month. June was the month of ‘unknown’ rhino as we had quite a few newcomers entering the Desert Rhino Camp exclusive zone from other areas such as the Torra Conservancy and Northern Concession. These rhino, even though they are unknown to our Save the Rhino Trust team, are known to the other tracking teams from the respective areas.
We also had some good lion sightings from two prides: the Auob and Axab Prides. The Axab pride has three new cubs.
June also saw the return of two wandering mega-fauna: the desert-adapted elephant and giraffe. Both species have been out of the area since the start of the rainy season but have slowly begun making a return to their dry season/winter zones.
We also had the occasional leopard and cheetah sighting, with spotted hyaena always adding that extra excitement on our drives. We also had a handful of views of the very secretive members of the hyaena family: the brown hyaena and the aardwolf. Towards the end of June we started enjoying more sightings of aardwolf since they are forced to feed on diurnal harvester termites (which possess more pigmentation than other termites and can function in the sun). The other, nocturnal, species of termite goes dormant in winter, relying on their food stores.
Desert Rhino Camp welcomes Lilian to the family, filling the Food & Beverage Manager’s position and taking charge of the kitchen and front of house.
We bid farewell to Erwin who will be joining Doro Nawas as a guide.
Greetings from Africa
“The earth is not ours, it is a treasure we hold in trust for future generations. -- Namibia Proverb”
Exploration guide Jeremia Mwapopi has just return from a Great Namibian Journey and shares the following with us …………….
“Our drive from the central region through Khomas hock land mountain over the escarpment to the dry Desert at Kulala Desert lodge was spectacular , with Klipspringer sighting standing on lime stone being the highlight of the day. Guests loved and enjoyed the red sand sea of the Namib Desert. Two nights at the coast was great with the Catamaran experience going well even though the weather was harsh. Damaraland showcased the best rock formations and interesting geology which exceeded guests expectations. Successful Rhino tracking was the highlights of this area, with a bush dinner under the umbrella of stars gave my guest a true and the best Namibian experience. The Etosha was great, with big herds of Elephants drinking, Black rhino standing a few meters away from the water hole and the “mass” animals congregation at different water holes . Guests loved the species checklist , which we ticked off the last day after breakfast. The food was excellent, great service and It was a great trip, with promises from guests to return”
Ongava Tented Camp
Climate and Landscape
The winter winds are starting to blow, heralding the changing of the seasons. Trees and grass are still green and tall in both Etosha National Park and on the Ongava Reserve. This is good for game viewing as the animals tend to stay relaxed and more at ease.
The mornings and evenings have become really chilly, but midday temperatures are still moderate to quite warm. The campfire is lit every evening and is a central gathering point, not only for good stories but also warmth.
A game drive with Bono that seemed as though it might end with sightings of ‘only’ general game suddenly produced a cheetah on its way to a waterhole! This was one of the first sightings of cheetah on the Ongava Reserve after the rainy season. She drank and moved into the road, relaxing in the warmth of the sand before disappearing into the darkness.
Etosha is drying out and more and more giraffe are being spotted moving to the waterholes. Elephant and huge herds of zebra are also to be found back at the waterholes now.
Is there anything to beat a beautiful Namibian sunset with one of the Ongava Reserve male lions roaring at the top of his lungs? He created a truly perfect African safari experience for our guests!
Bush lunches and breakfasts are always popular with guests (and the occasional jackal), especially as they often come as a complete surprise.
"Sightings of rhinos and lions especially the white rhino. Setting of camp is beautiful and staff very friendly and helpful. Everything was perfect thank you."
"Finding cheetah and 50 elephants and plenty rhino! Big thank you for taking the effort with my gluten free diet."
"Breakfast on the plane with the rhino. The cheetah sighting. Bono and Leon were amazing guides. Festus, Louis and all the staff made my stay unforgettable."
Climate and Landscape
The weather at Doro Nawas in May was a rollercoaster ride with no assurance that the temperatures or wind on any given day would be the same. It did bring a few cold nights, as May is Doro Nawas’ transition month. We had pretty much the same temperatures as in April, with the exception of three or four days with very cold nights as well as a few cool days that only started heating up after lunchtime. Generally we had mild evenings and mornings, making sleeping at night very pleasant. A number of guests even pulled their beds out onto the verandas as we had a few extremely comfortable nights, with Scorpio, Orion, the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross sharing the May sky and shining down on them.
We had excellent wildlife sightings, particularly of our desert-adapted pachyderms this month. Matriarch Rosie was a very generous host, sharing beautiful and very playful visits between our guests and the young ones… We saw a lot more of the elephant bull Oscar this month as well, as he started moving towards the De Riet area. The herd caused a bit of mischief at Reenewoud when they broke some of the piping and the reservoir emptied out a bit. We had to supply water to the locals, which was a big attraction for our elephants, keeping them closer than usual to the camp.
We also saw a lot of wildlife tracks running along the main roads and guests enjoyed excellent sightings just driving into the camp! Other animal sightings included gemsbok (oryx), springbok, giant chickens (ostrich, that is!), steenbok, zebra and korhaan.
Birds and Birding
Our starlings and mountain wheatears frequent the breakfast table in the mornings and they appear willing to clear the buffet before our guests have had their share. We had a meeting with them, but to no avail… apparently Doro Nawas’ buffet is unlike anything they have ever had!
Johan had a patient for three days in the form of a rock martin that crash-landed into one of the windows of the camp. The bird seemed hurt and dazed and Johan kept it on Nella’s Wilderness Safaris cap in the office, feeding it water and checking if its wing was broken or hurt. Happily it did not seem to be badly injured. Johan continued to give the martin, now named Frederik, water and he frequently took it outside to see how the bird would react to the fresh air and wind under its wings, but only on the third day did Frederik show signs of interest in flying. Before this, he climbed everywhere with those amazingly strong claws! Luckily it was only three days as Johan was getting quite attached. On the third day, Johan took Frederik out onto the steps where he finally perked up in the gentle breeze. He took Frederik onto the roof and held him up in the air. Frederik raised his wings, felt the breeze, tilted his head from side to side and took off, circling the camp and then was gone. What a poignant moment!
Camp and Staff News
BIG congratulations to our Doro Nawas Camp Choir! They barely had three days to practice for the song competition in our region and won second place. Unfortunately due to time constraints and the camp being full, they cannot take their place in the finals in Windhoek. But we are sure they would have done extremely well. The group did us proud and on that night gave a memorable performance. Our amazing singers are Veronica, Irene, Susan (with an incredible voice), Gabriel and Bernardus.
We have received and installed the new solar-powered geysers for the rooms. They are awesome and will help our carbon footprint a lot. We are renovating the Doro Nawas Camp swimming pool and our kitchen.
Richard is being promoted from guiding at an Adventures Camp to a Classic Camp and is leaving soon for Damaraland Camp. Well done, Richard, and we wish you all the best for a very bright and successful future. And as we say goodbye to one, we welcome two new guides: Kenneth and Josef. Kenneth has been here for most of the month and he is doing a great job. We officially welcome both of you to our Doro Nawas superstar team. We also welcome a new member to the waiter staff – Sydney – who used to work at Lianshulu. We welcome Sydney with much enthusiasm and hope we can learn a lot from each other.
The housekeepers bid farewell to their Manager. A special thank you goes to Elfriede, Veronica and Susanne for always stepping in and helping out. Finally, this was Johan and Mari-Nella’s last month at Doro Nawas as they start a new Wilderness journey at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp.
Climate and Landscape
We have had some more rain and the area is looking better every day, especially around the camp. More rivers have been seen flowing through this desert area, although we are wondering if these are the final rains for the season. Nonetheless we are enjoying the cooler, cloudy days.
We have had a number of interesting animal sightings including a gemsbok (oryx) and her calf near camp and sociable weavers collecting grass for their enormous nests.
“Everything was a highlight especially the Sossusvlei, Quad biking, Hot Air Balloon. Landscape and Setting and the kindness and warmth of the lodge team”
“Dune climbing, animals, BBQ-Party, Nature colours, stars and the Milky Way!”
“The overall experience was unique and unbelievable. Thank you”
“What an exceptional experience. Wonderful”
Desert Rhino Camp
Climate and Landscape
As summer draws to a close we have recorded less rainfall than in March. However we were still blessed with a couple of refreshing showers which came down in force, blowing from all directions, and giving guests a mid-drive shower to cool off. Less rain also meant hotter weather with highs of up to 46° Celsius but thankfully the gusty afternoon winds swept in and provided relief from the baking afternoon sun.
This month, the zebra were still out in force – very close to camp and in large quantities. There were great close-up views of playful zebra, springbok and gemsbok (oryx).
With the rains, the plentiful food means that the number of carcasses this month was very high and guests had the privilege of seeing many spotted hyaena feeding. The predator activity means that our skies are filled with circling vultures as they patiently wait for their opportunity to feast.
In the later stages of the month, lions reappeared in Zone 1, including a pregnant female. We think the pride consists of two young males, two young females and the older, pregnant female. It seems that Zone 1 was the place to be in April as elephants also returned to the area. Two separate groups joined together to form a large herd of around 25 elephants.
Our expert guides were able to show some lucky guests a leopard kill that had been dragged along the ground and up into a tree. For the second month running, our trackers, spending hours in the blazing sun, gave guests a rhino experience every day. We have new female rhino in the area – we believe that they are previous calves returning to the area of their upbringing.
A very late cancellation meant that dinner was going spare. This created a role reversal with a few lucky staff on duty treated to the evening’s meal served by the managers. The immaculate service provided a demonstration of how it feels to be served at their own top level.
We welcome Johannes to the DRC team as our new head chef and congratulate Staintley, who this month heads into the emerging guide programme at Serra Cafema. Tamite is also now part of the team for the first leg of his programme. Ben, our volunteer, ends his three-month journey this month. His six weeks at DRC are finished and he heads off to Botswana.
Ongava Tented Camp
Climate and Landscape
We have had thunderstorms in the last week with one of them recording 23 mm in about three hours. Although it has been warm during the day, in the evenings the temperature drops just enough for guests and staff alike to enjoy a good night’s rest.
The weather at Ongava Tented Camp has been hot and humid for the past week, with sunny mornings and cloudy afternoons, and scattered rainfall in the late afternoons and evenings. During a thunderstorm on the 24th of March we had the most rain (60 mm) this year – all in one day!
The rest of Ongava Game Reserve has had a couple of very wet days, while Etosha National Park has also had good rainfall in the past couple of weeks.
Sightings have been variable, in general dependent on the rain in the Reserve.
Elephant sightings in the Park were minimal, although sightings of rhino and lion both in Etosha National Park and on Ongava Reserve were good.
In Etosha, guests watched a big male lion observing a springbok in the distance, a herd of elephant on their way to an Etosha waterhole for mud-bathing and to drink, a python having some lunch, two giraffe fighting each other and another big male under a mopane tree.
We have not seen our regular pride of cats in camp in about two weeks although we have heard them roaring a lot lately, so we’re hoping to see some familiar faces shortly.
For a while now the Corn Flakes and All Bran Flakes have been going missing off the breakfast buffet. We have finally caught a glimpse of the culprit… Jimmy, the striped tree squirrel!
Due to the rain, we were restricted in doing meal set-ups in and around camp; however, guests truly enjoyed every special set-up we made including some sundowners and meals in the main area.
Friday the 21st of March was an important day for Namibia as our country celebrated 24 years of independence. We had candles set out in the main area and staff arrived in their traditional clothing in order to give guests some insight into our different cultures. Presentations were made by Bono and Adolf on the flag and Coat of Arms of Namibia as well as about Etosha, including showing guests the Born in Etosha DVD.
The dinner was made up of traditional food such as potjiekos (stew cooked over a fire in a three-legged pot), braaivleis (barbeque), pap (polenta), mielies (corn) and roosterbroodjies (fire-toasted sandwiches). The starters consisted of different types of finger snacks which were presented to the guests around the fire and at the table. Everyone enjoyed immensely and loved learning more about our beloved country.
News from our Camps: Weather and Sightings
Little Kulala had rain! After a few months of watching the clouds build up and rain in the surrounding areas, it finally pushed through to the Kulala’s. The days following the small rainstorm were still very hot and humid and the camp is still hoping for more rain. One can always see a difference in the wildlife in this marginal area after the rains, young springbok lambs were prancing around and the small Namaqua sand grouse chicks were seen following their mother around where previously they didn’t venture outside. Some guests were also incredibly lucky and had a sighting of two brown hyenas on one night drive.
Kulala Desert Lodge is still reporting some very hot days but a few interesting animals were seen around the lodge; Elwert noticed some movement down in the riverbed and upon closer inspection, saw a warthog with a young one in the shade. This is possibly the first recorded sighting of a warthog this far south. Due to the drought at the moment, kudu came down from the mountains as far south as Kulala Desert Lodge’s waterhole; this is also an incredibly rare sighting on the reserve.
- The photo showed the clouds building up in the vicinity of Little Kulala but no rain. photos © Lodine Liebenberg
- Two kudus spotted at the waterhole at Kulala – photo © Bradwin Wilhelm
- An Oryx on the plains around Kulala Desert Lodge
The Ongava Reserve reported hot and humid conditions with temperatures ranging between 16 and 38 degrees Celsius with humidity up to 60%. The reserve also had some rain during the month and recorded a total of 50mm. Ongava Tented Camp had an incredible cheetah sighting at their waterhole and Emsie saw a leopard in broad daylight, while driving on the reserve! We had good rains at the tented camp with a total of 50mm recorded. The rain tested the sense of humour of guests and managers alike at Andersons with a reported 28mm that fell in a few hours. The area is beautiful and green but the rain has affected the game viewing. The animals don’t have to come to a waterhole to drink as there are puddles all over the veld. Birding was incredible this month on the Ongava Reserve and Little Ongava reported great sightings of the Shaft-tailed whydah.
- A Cheetah at the Ongava Tented Camp waterhole
- Leopard as seen by Emsie in the middle of the day
- Dinner with lions at Ongava Tented Camp.
As the month came to an end, Desert Rhino Camp was blessed with almost 39 mm rain which was recorded in two days. The temperature ranged from the minimum of +/- 18 degrees to the maximum of +/-35 degrees; most mornings were much cooler after the rain. There were some difficulties finding rhinos on the concession this month due to rains that has scattered the animals. The rhinos and most animals have moved to specific areas for better grazing and water respectively. Despite all of this, the guides reported quite a few elephant, rhino, and leopard and lion sightings in the area.
- The incredible rain that fell at Desert Rhino Camp
- A chameleon camouflaged against the rocks
- Big herd of elephants on the slopes looking for some greenery
- The guides had to really work hard to find rhinos but, it was well worth it!
The maximum temperatures at Damaraland rose to around 35C during the month but for one whole week the area was covered in fog and some scattered rain showers and thunderstorms occurred. The guides reported wonderful elephant sightings during the month including one where a mother was teaching her little calf to tear bark from a tree. Since the rain fell, the elephants have moved out of the riverbed and this means the guides are doing full day trips with their guests to go and find them in the mountainous areas. General game viewing included Oryx, Springbok, Kudu, Steenbok, Ostrich, Black Backed Jackal and Giraffes. Keen bird watchers were able to spot a rare colour form of the Mountain Chat, Sabota Lark, Black Chested Snake Eagle and the Benguella Long Billed Lark. The highlights this month though was a sighting of two healthy looking Cheetahs in the riverbed and a pair of Brown Hyenas in the middle of the day. Both the Cheetahs and the Brown Hyenas were very relaxed and guests took some incredible photos. Guests spotted two young bull Black Rhinos, who first ran off but, the guide managed to sneak up on the one youngster to enable the guests to take some lovely photos.
- The elephants have moved away from the riverbeds and the guides had to work hard for their sightings
- Very relaxed Brown Hyenas in the middle of the day – a very rare sighting
- A rare sighting of two relaxed cheetahs in the riverbed at D.Camp
- A young male Black Rhino found quite unexpectedly by DCamp guides
February was hot and dry for the most part at Serra Cafema with temperatures reaching 39 degrees in the shade. No one expected a last minute reprieve which started on the 21st of February with strong winds that brought massive clouds over the area but no rain, until a few days later. The rain started falling on the 25th of February and everyone breathed a big sigh of relief. The rain continued for the remainder of the day and into the night. The water level of the Kunene had risen quite significantly, submerging most of the boat landing and the water pushed through under the bridge. The crocodile research is continuing with guests getting more involved and guides becoming more adept at finding the young crocodiles at night.
- The boat landing at Cafema
- The Kunene pushed through under the bridge between the main area and room 6, 7 and 8
- A young crocodile caught as part of the crocodile research project started by the Cafema guides
It was an exciting month at Hoanib and Emsie, based at the camp has sent through some incredible photos. The rivers came down again due to rain in the area and the elephants have found a new gathering place, the management units and the camp’s waterhole. Dr Flip Stander has also been really busy in the area and there have been some interesting developments. “Charlotte” of the Hunkap pride was located in one of the upper Mudorib tributaries where she was with an unknown male. He was darted and fitted with a VHF radio collar so his movements could also be monitored. Everyone’s favourite lion, the Terrace male, had quite a month. Firstly he moved into a conflict situation north of Purros where he killed several donkeys, making him unpopular with the local community. Luckily he moved away from the one conflict situation but straight into another when he moved into the Hoanib River, right into the territory of two Hunkap males. There was some fighting and the Hunkap males displaced the Terrace male to the south. He was later seen with some injuries to his hind legs and the tuft of his tail missing. Flip monitored him closely but it seems like his injuries didn’t bother him much because he was photographed catching a grown Oryx male.
- Flowing rivers – all photos © Emsie Verwey
- Elephant in the valley right where the camp is being built
- Dust bath at Hoanib Camps waterhole
The Elephants are already incredibly comfortable at the management units as well as in the staff village – photos © Emsie Verwey
- The darted unknown male, now XPL94 – all photos © www.desertlion.info
- The Terrace male without his tuft of tail
- The loss of some of his pride by the Hunkap males didn’t hamper him when he caught the oryx a few days later
Gudi and some of the Consultants went on a site inspection to Hoanib:
“On Sunday 16 February, really, really early, Constance, Namasiku and I, Gerhard our ‘nou gaan ons braai’ guide from the Namibia Explorations department, Olwen Evans and her daughter Nicole, departed from Windhoek and drove via Henties Bay and the Skeleton Coast National Park to Moewe Bay, arriving late afternoon. Two Ministry of Environment and Tourism houses were allocated between everyone and dinner was started which basically entailed Gerhard braaing. The team set off North along the beach. A light mist had engulfed the coast with the sun catching the dunes in the distance. Some of the shipwrecks visited included the Suiderkus, Karimona and the Ventura Bomber which crashed along coast in 1942. We also visited the Moewe Bay museum, watched the seals playing in the surf and a short drive to Hoanib River Mount before driving inland to Klein Oase and slid down a steep roaring dune in the vehicle. The drive to Hoanib Camp took the rest of the day, we drove through dune fields, stopped at Auses spring and arrived at the camp with a bull elephant drinking at the waterhole. Chris and Tier welcomed us and soon Gerhard braaied again and everyone reminisced about the days adventures. The next morning we drove via the Hoanib, Mudorib and Hunkab Riverbeds to the Kharakauob Plain. The scenery was stunning and the sightings awesome, including mountain zebras, ostriches, jackals, oryx, giraffe and much more.
The trip was an experience of a lifetime, no words can express the beauty, serenity, sights and sounds, it was a privilege to have been part of this group.”
- Early morning sun catching the dunes – all photos below © Gudi MacRobert
- The Karimona wreck, what is left of it
- Auses spring
Our Service Offering: It’s all about our Guests
- Damaraland Camp outside breakfast
- Valentines dinner at Doro Nawas
- Sleeping on the roof at Little K is a highlight - photo © Dan Myburg
The Little Kulala Pool is very popular with the guests, especially at night, for a drink or for dinner – the first two photos were taken by Me-Gusto Busch and the 3rd one by Dan Myburg
A Moroccan inspired dinner in the main restaurant – this ensured the win for the set up competition for February.
Something very special and rare happened this month at Serra Cafema. All the Himba from different villages in the area gathered together in camp on the 13th of February to register for the next political election of Namibia. The Electoral Commission Team reached the camp with a helicopter and they spent two days to make sure that each and every staff member as well as any of the Himba who want to vote was registered and given an electoral card. All the Himba had pictures
taken and got their personal card to enable them to vote in the future. A few guests came along to spend some extra time with the local tribe and witness the proceedings.
- The Electoral Commission team setting up a temporary office back of house
- Long lines of the Himba patiently waiting for their turn in front of the camera
- The day was quite long but great excitement formed part of this historical day
- Everyone was very proud to show their voter registration cards
Our very own Chris Bakkes was voted as one of the top 25 safari guides in Africa by Conde Naste Traveller. He is no. 7 on the list and this was the write up: “Bakkes is an author, novelist, and guide extraordinaire who, as a game ranger in Kruger National Park, lost his left arm when he was attacked by two crocodiles. He has a biologist's knowledge of the flora and fauna, and a poet's eye for the landscape (one of the highlights of a safari with him is his recitals of epic poems around the campfire). He is passionate about this remote desert wilderness, and although he's now the warden of Palmwag conservancy and not a day-to-day guide, he's always looking for excuses to take guests into the wilderness”
To view in a tablet or mobile device, please click here.
Doro Naws Camp
Weather and Landscape
January was the month where Mama Nature showed what an unpredictable mistress she can be. We had a few drops of rain during the month, totalling not more than 25-30 mm, but for Doro Nawas this is VERY welcome! The locals in the area were very happy with the rain saying that the goats and sheep are starting to improve, but the cattle are still struggling as they prefer a longer type of grass. Just after the rain we experienced a rough hot spell with temperatures reaching the high 40’s Celsius with 65+ % humidity!
Yes… we know… seems strange that we in the desert can complain about humidity… probably why it hits us so hard. The last week of the month was amazing. Temperatures during the day were hot, reaching the mid to high 30’s, but cooling down perfectly at night with temperatures of 12 – 15 degrees Celsius. We still had high winds, but guests enjoyed our rooftop- and bush dinners regardless. January was certainly a month of many seasons!
Elephants, elephants… EVERYWHERE! We have had great luck with our eles, achieving 100% success when looking for the groups. The Rosie Herd was the favourite as they have a small baby of about six to seven months old and a larger calf of just over a year old. The baby was a huge hit and everyone loved him, especially the fact that he has no idea yet what ‘that’ thing is on the front of his face! He looks like a baby clapping hands with no hand-eye co-ordination! The little one also had a very playful day with his larger sister. She was lying down having a nice rest, when baby brother came strolling over and started climbing all over her! The guests watching were awe-struck by the comfortable, playful nature of the elephants, even with people in the vicinity. Nature is so rewarding! Other animal sightings included the usual antelope like oryx, springbok and steenbok.
Johan almost stepped on a South African fattail scorpion (a very venomous species) at the back of the kitchen! He caught it, took the UV light and had a great time showing and explaining to guests what they were seeing. Who said you couldn’t have a neon party in the bush?! The scorpion even performed a bit by scraping its stinger over its back making the rattling sound it is so well known for.
Birds and Birding
We saw quite a few good bird sightings, including the African red-eyed bulbul, olive bee-eater and a very odd looking lappet-faced vulture.
Our waiters are improving their service – even in the kitchen, with Irene learning and helping to bake muffins. Congratulations to Sanna, our Chef for getting so many compliments throughout the month on her marinated game steak. Well done! Well done too, to Chef Judy, almost all our female guests wanted to know her secret recipe for the rusks. Yum!
We have revamped our curio shop and reception slightly.
We also officially welcome our new Housekeeping Manager – Patricia. Great to have you!
Finally, we’re delighted to announce that the airstrip waiting area and toilets are complete.
“Fantastic service from the moment Fiona met us on the steps. Nothing was too much bother and we were surrounded by happy smiling faces throughout our stay.”
“Sleeping outside / showering outside.” “Loved the room’s laundry and food service.”
“The genuineness of the staff, always being prepared to offer assistance. The design of the main lodge, the spaciousness of the rooms. I have stayed extensively in South Africa , Botswana and now Namibia ; this has been the best lodge of them all!”
“The special dinner under the stars.”
"Excellent service, Good food. Will stay here again.”
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes, Fritz, Mari-Nella and Johan
Guides: Richardt, Reinhold, Mwezi and Abner
Desert Rhino Camp
Weather and Landscape
Mother Nature was on our side this year, bringing us our rains early, though they only lasted two days, bringing a total of 30 mm. However, within the week a tinge of green could be seen over the landscape and the animals started gathering, with more than 300 springbok counted in a herd. The changes do not last long in the desert so at the moment we are really enjoying this beautiful opportunity to see the desert flourish!
The Palmwag Concession is a unique semi-desert and among the most beautiful areas in Namibia . We have a very special relationship with Save the Rhino Trust Namibia (SRT-N), giving guests the chance to track endangered desert-adapted black rhino in the spectacular landscapes of Damaraland. We make a donation to the SRT-N for every guest who stays with us at Desert Rhino Camp.
And the black rhino are not the only wildlife in this this remote area; guest also have the chance to see many other animals and birds including desert-adapted elephant, lion and giraffe, to name just a few. The Hartmann’s mountain zebra is endemic to the north-west of Namibia , also specially adapted to enable it to survive in the harsh climate and surroundings.
Birds and Birding
Endemics that we saw over the month include the always exciting bokmakierie and Rüppell’s korhaan.
"We loved the dinner under the night sky and stars, also tracking rhinos in the territory."
"I loved the service, everybody is genuine and down to earth. The rooms were wonderful and so comfortable and we loved the bedtime stories!'
"The food and the staff were awesome, especially the staff singing entertainment for dinner and the gift of the Wilderness Safaris shirt. Thanks so much!"
Staff in Camp
Clement joined us this month from Little Kulala and it’s good to have some of the old family back at camp! He should complete his management training by February and fit right in here amongst the red rocks of Damaraland
Hoanib Skeleton Coast
Three nights and four days of’ epic-ness’. I have been pretty much everywhere in Namibia , except Hoanib, and I admit, I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I went on a rough and tough recce trip in November to the area.
Hoanib is a travel writers dream, full of stories, adventures and experiences – and yet, it’s so difficult to put to words exactly why after just three nights, it has become one of my top favourite places in Namibia and why I can’t wait to get back. I could have easily spent a week here, getting lost in one of the last truly wild places in the world!
It is not at all like any of our other camps in Namibia – it’s like the old Skeleton Coast Camp, and yet, still very different. Yes, it’s in the Palmwag Concession, yet the experience is wildly different from Desert Rhino Camp and actually these two camps would be a dream holiday combination.
I experienced so many adventures, and will always remember the harsh yet beautiful landscape that is constantly changing (as Namibia is famed for); driving along the Hoanib River and encountering many elephants, including a small family with a three week old baby, and an older teen brother peering at us to protect his little baby sister; seeing the many oryx and springbok found grazing all along the Hoanib River, travelling through river canyons, along open gravel plains, then having some fun cruising down a roaring dune and come upon a crystal clear spring in the middle of the desert, with a number of flamingos giving us an aerial show circling the spring. Add to this the discovery of many lion tracks (many of them fresh, but alas, no sightings, they are much too clever for us), and the discoveries never stop. It was a photographers dream with the gracious giraffes posing against the setting sun and I really enjoyed visiting the Möwe Bay Museum with the many skeletons and skulls of whales, dolphins, porpoises, turtles, even a crocodile skull and a human skull and lots of other mementos collected along the Skeleton Coast. There is a small, and still very smelly, seal colony located just south of Möwe Bay, and we encountered a brown hyaena, limping away! It definitely isn’t an easy life and yet, it is all so very beautiful; like the Hoanib River Mouth and the wall of pebbles, with many multi-hued agates catching your eye.
Many of the experiences were very surreal – such as coming across a dead African penguin in the middle of the road near Möwe Bay, not normally found this far north along the coastline, or spotting a scruffy Cape fox hiding in one of the ruined buildings at Möwe Bay. It’s a place forgotten by the world.
Hoanib is one place you have to visit personally to understand it. The promise of a Skeleton Coast experience will persuade you to come for a visit to this far off the beaten track, but once you are there, you discover a wealth of experiences that go beyond just one attraction. There is a rich biosphere of wildlife, surprising in this very harsh environment, and best of all, I felt alive, excited, and happy!
I will return!!
News from our Camps: Weather and Sightings
Damaraland Camp had a very hot and humid month with a tiny bit of rain that fell over a few days with spectacular lightning storms. The elephants are in the vicinity of the camp and delighted guests with their antics. One group in particular stayed close to De Riet and showed off the new baby in the family. The area is still very dry and most of the game has moved away towards an area that is a bit of a drive from camp, but here guides and guests enjoyed wonderful sightings of elephant, giraffe, brown hyena, mountain zebras and even black rhino and lion. Some un-collared lions have moved into the river bed close to camp and the guides had amazing sightings of these three females. All photos below were taken by Willem Retief.
- A stunning sunset at Damaraland Camp
- Two of the female lions that moved into this arid area
- Cool down time in the shade
The Doro Nawas Team reported a total of around 30mm of rain in the area which were very welcome in this area. The local community are happy with this amount and said they can already see an improvement in their goats and sheep, though the cattle are still struggling since they prefer a longer type of grass. The highest temperature during January was around 42 degrees Celsius but the evenings cool down to between 12 – 15 degrees. The guides recorded a 100% success rate when looking for the elephant groups. Rosie’s group were the favourite since there is a tiny baby of around 6 – 7 months and a larger calf of just over a year old. The young calf is still struggling to come to terms with its trunk and large ears, delighting all the guests with his antics and typical of a younger sibling; he is very playful with his bigger sister. Other sightings included Oryx, springbok and steenbok as well as some incredible birding during the month including African Bul Bul, Olive Bee-eater and Lappet Faced Vultures. Johan, one of the managers found a Parabuthus Transvaalicus and promptly caught it and showed it to the guests having a pre-dinner drink under Black Light/UV light. The scorpion performed well by scraping its stinger over its back making the rattling sound it is so well known for. It was later safely released.
- The Parabuthus Transvaalicus caught and later released by Johan
It was an exciting month for our team on the ground at Hoanib, when the river came down! Flip Stander, the Desert Lion researcher, had to struggle through raging rivers to get to some of his camera traps on the flood plains. All of the photos below were taken from Dr Flip Standers website, www.desertlion.info
- The Hoanib river Flip had to navigate through to get to some of the camera traps
These efforts to retrieve the camera trap data was definitely worth it. It showed records of brown hyena, a total of 214 photos of were taken between 1 November 2013 and 20 January 2014 of brown hyena moving west to east. The camera trap is situated 23.9km (in a direct line) east of the seal colony at Mowe Bay. There were 38 photos taken of individual brown hyena carrying Cape fur seal pups toward their den. Another camera trip is located on the western edge of the Hoanib Floodplain (close to the dunes and the coast) and this has captured photos of an adult male leopard. According to Dr Stander, this is the first record of a leopard this far west along the Hoanib River in the Skeleton Coast Park. Our roving Terrace male XPL68 was spotted at the Sarusas spring. Towards the end of the month, they had a very exciting giraffe hunt, unsuccessful, but exciting nonetheless. Flip also took some incredible photos of Bat eared foxes with two pups in the dune belt close to the Hunkap river.
- A Brown hyena carrying a seal cub
- More photos of this elusive predator
- An exciting photo of a male leopard, the first record of any leopard this far west
- The Terrace male resting close to the Sarusas spring
- XPL 10 and two of the musketeers
- Bat eared foxes photographed in the dune belt close to the Sarusas spring
During the last few days of January, Desert Rhino Camp recorded about 15mm of rain during a two day period. Green seems to be the dominating colour at the moment and the animals from all over the concession concentrate in these green areas. On some days the guides saw up to five hundred plus springbok and hundreds of mountain zebra. January was also a good month to see elephant, lion as well as brief sightings of cheetah and leopard. Summer flowers are coming out giving the guides something new to identify other than the red rocks that they are so used to. Some of the flowers seen include the beautiful Hirpicium gazanioides from the Daisy family (Asteraceae). Even shy steenbok are seen browsing on the fresh vegetation. After the first rains of the year, sightings of the black rhino have been up the steepest hills as they find new and fresh browsing against and on the top of the mountains. Our favourite black rhino is called “Don’t Worry”, who is a bull that roams south of the camp and is the most relaxed of all black rhino around. We also saw dominant bulls starting to court the receptive females within their territories.
- Great sightings of mountain zebra recorded during January
- Summer flowers blooming between the rocks
- Don’t Worry – everyone’s favourite Black Rhino
The Ongava Reserve has transformed in a green oasis thanks to some rain that fell during the last part of 2013 and in January. Even though the waterholes on the reserve are quiet now that there is so much water around the sightings on the reserve are still really good.
- Some of the older cubs relaxing and just waiting to cause some havoc
- A baby warthog was caught by one of the lionesses
The Serra Cafema team is continuing to monitor the smaller crocodiles in the Kunene River. They usually go out on a quick boat cruise after dinner with interesting guests and catch, measure and release these young crocodiles. The guests love this addition to the Cafema activities and love taking part in this small conservation project the camp has started.
- Young crocodiles caught to be measured and weighed
- One of the young ones back safely in the water
- Guests gets a chance to get up close and personal to the young ones
Our Service Offering: It’s all about our Guests
- One of the guests at Andersons celebrated a very special birthday, his 90th! The staff organised a beautiful private dinner and a chocolate birthday cake.
- Serra Cafema organised a whiskey themed dinner for their guests as well as pool dinners, deck dinners and dinners in Serra Cafema’s wine cellar
Revamps and Rebuilds
- The Andersons Camp sunken hide is completed and guests are getting fantastic sightings of Black Rhino etc. up close and personal
- This kudu obviously heard a sound coming from the hide but he had no idea where the guilty party was
- The new swimming pool at Andersons is also in progress and the hole was dug to start the construction
The long awaited upgrade of the main area of Ongava Lodge is complete. The change is truly spectacular and plenty of cozy seating areas has been created to make guests more comfortable and at home.
Sightings around our camps
Even though it’s quite dry at Desert Rhino Camp, the guests are still experiencing good game sightings. In some areas there are still in excess of fifty Hartmann’s Zebra and on good days one can see...
up to a hundred in one spot. The zebras are still in good condition, even though grazing is scarce. A family of 14 elephants moved through the surrounding area and guests were very excited to see two very young calves with this group. Unfortunately they moved towards the east but will hopefully return soon. There are still a few solitary bull elephants in the area though. A male lion that has been in and around camp has finally been sighted close by camp at the Salvadora spring. A coalition of five young male lions has also been sighted but the camp staff are not too sure from which pride they come from. Very exciting this month was sightings of aardwolf on two separate occasions.
- A male lion resting at the Salvadora spring
- The Oryx are not doing so well in this drought stricken area
- There were plenty of good Rhino sightings during July as well.
Damaraland Camp also reported that the Elephant families have moved away but the guides did manage to find them on some of the morning drives. There was a memorable sighting where guests came across one of the families and watched a very young calf learning how to use its trunk. A coalition of cheetah has been spotted wandering around the area of De Riet.
- Giraffe in one of the river beds around Damaraland Camp
- A special sighting of a very young calf
- Feeding time
Kulala Desert Lodge had a sighting of the “White Lady”, the leucistic Oryx on the reserve; she is getting quite old now and very elusive. There were some good sightings of small predators like Black Backed Jackals and the sightings of Bat Eared Foxes are always a highlight. Due to the drought, some of the springbok have become quite weak and there’s been a few that have sadly just collapsed, providing a meal for Lappet Faced Vultures.
- The White Lady
- Bat eared foxes on the Kulala Reserve
- Johan came across this very rare Rufus form of the Spotted Eagle Owl in one of the dry River beds around Kulala Desert Lodge
The Ongava Reserve and its animals didn’t disappoint during July. A Hammerkop was seen at one of the waterholes on the reserve, very unusual at this time of the year but possibly because it is so dry in other areas. A little interesting folklore story is that the Hammerkop is known as the lightning bird in the Kalahari Bushman culture. Apparently, the bushman believe or believed that one will be hit by lightning if you try to rob a Hammerkop’s nest. Kudus have been photographed with mud on their horns, they are sometimes seen to rub their horns in the mud, and some environmentalists believe it is to kill insects that burrow into their horns.
- A Hammerkop photographed at one of the waterholes on the reserve
- A Kudu bull with mud on its horns
- Anyone who’s ever thought about sneaking onto the Ongava Reserve at night, think again, this male leopard has been spotted a few times during July just inside of the main gate
Ongava Tented Camp reports that Rhinos have visited the camp waterhole frequently at the waterhole during the evenings. The mud bath is still very popular amongst all the animals. During one check in, the managers had to delay the camp talk because a female lioness was trying to approach a heard of impala in the heat of the day. The guides said the lioness must have been quite desperate, trying to hunt alone during broad daylight, or she could’ve just been opportunistic. Later on that same evening, the rest of the pride joined her for a drink at the water hole. The Ongava Tented Camp pride has a new favourite area to relax, right next to Festus, the camp manager’s house. A small spotted genet has been identified as the camp’s milk thief. Every morning staff finds its tiny tracks across the coffee & tea station, trying to get to a milk jug. He’s also been spotted in the staff village and the camp was lucky to get some photos of this elusive little creature.
- Lions, lions and more lions on drives with Ongava Tented Camp
- The milk thief of Ongava Tented camp, a small spotted genet
- A Long billed Crombec photographed in camp, quite a rare sighting
Serra Cafema had quite an exciting month in terms of wildlife sightings. The now infamous Colgate the Crocodile, as the camp has affectionately named him, has been found along the river a few times passing camp. The monster weighs around 500kg and has a huge appetite for Oryx, cattle and donkeys that often roam close to the water. The bird life along the banks of the Kunene is a big draw for birders. Some birds like the African Darters are regulars along with the Goliath Heron, Egyptian Geese and species of weavers, but to be able to see a Black Crake and a Purple Swamp Hen is a real treat! If one listens carefully you might hear the elusive Black Crake as it makes its way through the thick, tangled undergrowth with its specially adapted long legs and big feet. With a brightly coloured beak, bright red eyes and legs and glossy black feathers this is one awkward looking fella! Meerkat sightings have become a regular occurrence, with no less than three different family groups identified. These sightings happen early mornings and late afternoons as they take shelter from the desert sun.
- Goliath heron on the banks of the Kunene
- Purple swamp hen
- A Black Crake scratching through the undergrowth
- Colgate, photographed on various occasions close to Serra Cafema
- Some amazing photos of the Meerkat families in the area.
Damaraland Camp had one week of extreme cold where no one wanted to get out of bed, the fog was thick in the early mornings and the days didn’t warm up at all. The rest of the month the area had summer-like weather with temperatures going up to 30 degrees during the day and down to between 15 –
- 20 degrees Celsius at night.
- Foggy mornings at Damaraland Camp – photos by Willem Retief
Winter is now in full swing on the Kulala Wilderness Reserve. Kulala Desert Lodge also reported misty mornings where the fog covers the dunes like a blanket. There were two mornings where guests had to return from the dunes because it was impossible to see them! During these mornings it was incredibly cold and temperatures ranged between minus 2 to around 4 degrees Celsius.
Cold weather rolling toward Kulala Desert Lodge from the coast
It is definitely still winter at Serra Cafema and the fog has filled the Hartmann valley quite a few mornings. This beautiful blanket of fog gives the feeling of being on top of the world when staring over the vast landscape and onto the huge Angolan Mountains. Early morning drives reveal that the coastal fog moves well past the camp area to cover the Himba villages kilometres away. Another touch of weather has been the warm east wind that blows during the day and settles at night. These winds bring in cold air that descends from the mountains, causing a rush of air that rises in temperature as it heads west. A common desert event that takes place around this time of year.
- Fog, sun and sand – all below photos by Denzel Bezuidenhout
- A Himba village hidden by the fog
- Early morning sunrise
The training team launched a “Set up Competition”, challenging the camps to do extra special set ups for their guests. The camp with the winning entry will win a sheep or goat and cold drinks for a staff braai and the management team a choice of their favourite fast food. Entries were received by Damaraland Camp, Serra Cafema, Kulala Desert Lodge, Little Kulala, Doro Nawas and Desert Rhino Camp:
- Little Kulala Wine Cellar Dinner
- Candles, sand and a sunset, perfect
- A roof top set up at Little Kulala for private dinner and sleep out
- And the winner of July’s Set up competition is: LITTLE KULALA! All the above images swayed the judging panel but everyone thought the below image was amazing (the angle of the photo belies the stunning views of the Namib Desert).
NAMIBIA NEWS from WILDERNESS SAFARIS
DESERT RHINO CAMP
This month we have been dominated, on a number of mornings, by easterly winds and we have noticed that as July approaches the days and nights are getting colder. The landscape is slowly showing its true desert features as we move towards the heart of the dry season.
Guests had 100% success rate in tracking rhino in June. Some days proved very challenging especially when the winds were blowing from early morning, erasing the tracks of any rhinos into barely discernible signs of their presence. However the skill and determination of our Save the Rhino trackers always produced good sightings. Raymond, one of the guides, always tells guests that tracking rhino is a matter of ‘patience and an open mind’ - and indeed these are qualities needed on the long days spent looking for these great animals. Fortunately this is the exception and not the norm and some days we have come across them in just minutes of leaving camp.
This month we also regularly saw desert-adapted elephant bulls and on a few occasions we even spotted lion. One such sighting was a female lion with her three cubs at the Agab-Uniab junction. We don’t know if she is part of the Obob Pride or Axab Pride who reside in the area.
In and around camp we have also had a lot of action. Seven members of the Axab Pride skillfully chased an oryx into the fence of the staff village and devoured the whole carcass in just 15 minutes. Spotted hyaenas were also seen killing a zebra between the camp and the staff village..
Our new interior furnishings and decor for the main area and rooms have arrived and the place looks awesome. It has added more warmth and friendliness visually to the character of the camp.
Our bush dinners and surprise picnic lunches continue to wow the guests. The surprise sundowners done by the camp for the guests out in the bush are also received with much enthusiasm!
‘A wonderfully warm & friendly camp, we have felt at home here. The staff is all exceptional. Nestor is a superb guide’ – Madden
‘We have had a very memorable stay. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming into their “family”. We have learned a lot about the conservation program which is so important, and we wish you well for the future.’ – Sue Ogden
DRC welcomes Aune Amoomo as a relief Assistant Manager helping out while Thereza Kahorongo is on maternity leave. We also welcome Annetjie Hebach who is on the housekeeping team and Simon as one of our new Maintenance Managers. New to the maintenance team is Trevor Florry and spicing up the staff kitchen now is Bertha Gases.
Serra Cafema Camp, like the other camps in Namibia, is still experiencing very warm days. Temperatures are soaring to 34 degrees Celsius. However, the westerly winds start blowing at midday every day, helping to cool things down a bit. The fog that creeps up in the mornings blanket the whole area and is a regular sight.
The team at Serra Cafema spotted several snake hatchlings in the surrounding area this month. These included puff adders and zebra snakes. One afternoon a member of staff, Denzel, spotted a small puff adder less than 15 cm long swimming from the southern bank over to the Angolan side of the river. We grabbed the pool net, took a few photos and gave him a lift across the river. Even when in water this little adder could still manage to curl its body into striking pose. Another fully grown adder was relocated to Angola as well, to avoid problems in the camp.
Guests have enjoyed our 'scorpion walks' where a particular favourite to show of is Parabuthus Villosus, a black, thick tailed scorpion that can be found from northern Cape in South Africa up into Namibia. An individual was spotted close to camp, an hour before sunset. The Villosus with its black exoskeleton is known to glow when an ultra violet light such as the light from UV torches is shown on it. This “glow” is caused by fluorescent chemicals in the cuticle. This adaption is helpful to guides taking guests out at night.
Serra Cafema was hectically busy this month with our 90-day programme of cleaning rooms, fixing, bringing in parts and overhauling camp to make it looking new and bright for the new season.
“Every day was a highlight! Such wonderful, beautiful and fun locations, we loved the boat trips, the rides in the dunes all the information we soaked in from Clement, the awesome sundowners which totally took our breaths away - the beautiful animals and the incredible desert terrain made my birthday amazing, the staff singing and lovely cake - WOW! Thank you!”
NAMIBIA NEWS from WILDERNESS SAFARIS
|We are extremely proud of our partnership with the community of the Torra Conservancy at Damaraland Camp and of our ongoing commitment to ecotourism in Namibia”, says Rob Moffett of Wilder ness Safaris. “Our country’s unique model of conservation, community development and tourism is setting a global standard in the protection of the environment and wildlife, and in engaging with and empowering rural communities in the process.”|
The editorial team of National Geographic Traveler worked long and hard to find 2013’s best authentic and most sustainable lodges for its more than 8.5 million readers. The select lodges chosen embody the National Geographic Society’s spirit of exploration and commitment to the environment and will be featured in the magazine’s June/July 2013 issue.
After independence in 1990, Namibia was the first African country to incorporate environmental protection into its constitution. The national government reinforced that commitment by giving communities the right to manage wildlife through communal conservancies. As a result, residents of conservancies could set up joint ventures with investors and travel businesses to operate lodges and tented camps, targeting the eco-travel market.
To date, 79 communal conservancies have been established, incorporating 19.5 percent of the country’s land. Over 40 joint-venture lodges and campsites are operating in partnership with conservancies, and more are in the works. Support organisations such as The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation), Save The Rhino Trust and NACSO (The Namibian Association of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM), have contributed to the success of the ground-breaking national policy.
Wilderness Safaris partnered with Torra Conservancy in 1996 to pioneer the joint venture concept with Damaraland Camp, and is engaged with similar ventures with a further four communal conservancies in the remote north-west of the country.
Torra Conservancy holds a 40% equity stake in Damaraland Camp and the democratically elected community body also receives a tourism levy for each guest visiting the camp. More than 95% of jobs at the camp are filled by community members, including lodge and guiding staff. Wilderness Safaris has been in the forefront of empowering local community members, including the manager of Damaraland Camp, Maggie Vries. She and other Wilderness managers have risen through the rank s to work in lodge and tourism management.
Nationwide, more than 1 000 jobs have been created through joint venture partnerships and it is estimated that each job supports a further nine family members. Direct revenue to conservancies from these partnerships is used to fund conservation activities, anti -poaching patrols, school programmes and other needs identified by communities.
The conservancies have made a commitment to conservation and developed innovative strategies to deal with human-wildlife conflict. These wildlife-friendly land uses are paying off – Namibia has increased its free-ranging lion population, as well as numbers of numerous other desert -adapted species such as springbok, oryx, giraffe and even Critically Endangered black rhino. This c ommunity-centred approach to sustainable land use has attracted delegations from 22 countries, including some struggling to save their tigers, to learn how it’s done. The overall philosophy in Namibia can be summed up in five words: “We will live with wildlife!”
DESERT RHINO CAMP
Weather and Landscape
April was the last month to hope for rain here in the north -west of Namibia – and it has come and gone with no relief from the dry weather. All we had was an isolated rainstorm in the southern areas of the concession at the beginning of the month. This stimulated rapid grass growth, extensive flowering and fruiting of some bushes in this area. The rest of the area is dry, especially the lower valleys.
Wildlife Wildlife is quite dispersed at the moment beca use of the lack of rain. The one area that received a bit of rain in the south has attracted springbok, zebra and gemsbok in their hundreds. The most impressive sight must be the springbok filling the valleys, slopes and mountaintops in their hundreds. Gi raffe have also been attracted to the new growth on the trees. Most of the zebra and springbok that we encountered had many young calves and fowls which was quite a treat.
|Rhino sightings have been really good this month, as we were very successful with the tracking excursions. Most sightings which we had were of groups of between two to four individuals.|
A bull elephant took up residence in the Khoabab area for most of the month which produced some
Another highlight for the month was the presence of a c lan of hyaena on the southern side of camp during the darkness of night. The hyaena were chasing a dazzle of zebra. Unfortunately none of the guests got to witness the event as all guests in camp were in the northern side of the camp. However, some staff g ot to witness this. The next morning, guides headed out and found a zebra carcass which had been fed on extensively by the hyaena.
Conservation The Save the Rhino trackers have been out patrolling in the less -visited areas and our Chief Game Warden also did several patrols towards the northern parts of the concession.
The overpowering instinct of a mother's love has yet again been demonstrated at Desert Rhino Camp recently. Imagine a mother breaking her back defending her offspring. Guide Nestor and the S RT trackers saw a rhino cow with a calf in the Uniab River. Both were limping. The three -month-old calf had a bite wound in her haunch. It seemed as if the cow and calf had been attacked by lions. Wilderness and SRT staff guarded the rhinos for two nights. Although lion tracks were seen among the rhino tracks at the first sighting, there was no sign of lions in the vicinity of the rhino for the following two nights. That could be an indication that the lions were driven off, injured or even killed by the rh ino cow.
On the morning of the third day the cow’s injury had become progressively worse. She was not able to stand on her hind legs. She was dragging her hind quarters.
Dr Mark Jago, the state vet flew in from Okaukuejo. The decision was made to try and rescue the calf. It was darted, removed from her mother and taken to Camp where a small boma was constructed. The cow could not be saved. Close inspection showed no external lion wounds. A post mortem showed haemorrhaging around the lower spinal column. T he cow must have injured her back, fighting off the lions.
The calf was kept in the boma overnight. The lion bite on her haunch was very septic and treated by the vet. There she was taught to bottle -feed by Wilderness staff - some of us still have the scars to prove it. A lion male and some hyaena were attracted by the calf’s calls to its mother during the night, but they did not venture too close.
The next day a crate and trailer arrived from Etosha to take her away to proper care and holding facilities. She made the journey and lived for two days more. She drank milk and showed signs of recovery. Then tragically, she died. The post mortem showed an old fracture on her right front leg. It was her limp that probably attracted the lions in the first place. The fracture, the septic lion bite, the trauma of the attack and the eventual capture and translocation proved too much.
Although lions attacking rhino in the wild is a natural occurrence, the decision to rescue the calf was made because of the endangered nature of black rhino as a species. During the poaching incident over Christmas a black rhino calf was also unnecessarily lost. We thought this could partly make up for that loss.
Thank you to all DRC, SRT and MET staff who assisted with the operation.
“The camp staff made the stay for us. Everyone in camp was very knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. Thank you very much!”
NAMIBIA NEWS from WILDERNESS SAFARIS
ONGAVA TENTED CAMP
Weather and Landscape
This month all in Namibia were really lucky as we received some much -anticipated rain - most likely the
Wildlife sightings have been pretty good this month but due to the rain, much of the wildlife has dispersed as there is more surface water available. The late flush of budding vegetation has also caused the herbivores to spread out. This in turn has resulted in the predators changing their hunting strategy and
The mystery bat species which we mentioned in last month's newsletter has finally been identified as a Commerson's leaf -nosed bat. Bono managed to identify the bat after spending much time reading the field guides and researching the subject.
'We would like to thank you sincerely for the kindness and attention you have shown to us during our
Weather and Landscape
At the beginning of the month we experienced some extreme conditions as almost every day the mercury
Sightings this month were incredible! An African wild cat was spotted in front of the guest rooms early
Camp staff have been very busy this month with training programmes. Two of our chefs have visited
Weather and Landscape
February left us with high expectations for rain in March, but unfortunately we only received a few small drizzles and cloudy days, but no serious rain. Generally speaking, the temperatures w ere quite high, but things would cool down a bit in the afternoon as the cool breeze rolled in from the Atlantic Ocean. The
As the landscape becomes drier and drier, the herds and congregations of wildlife have split up and spread
Jacob Basson Combined S chool at Bergsig received a generous donation from camp guest, Mr Monko. The donation was then used to purchase two washing machines. The entire school and hostel staff would like to thank Mr Monko for his donation and care for the community.
'We have been here before, loved our stay here again and will definitely see you in the future.'
DESERT RHINO CAMP
Weather and Landscape
In March, there was no rain to speak of until the end of the month. The landscape is very dry due to lack
Camp News and Upgrades
This month the camp was closed and underwent a small revamp.
'The staff were incredible - very friendly. The food was awesome and we would change nothing at all!'
NAMIBIA NEWS from WILDERNESS SAFARIS
Namibia has once again triumphed as a place of surprises, diversity and guides having to tell little white lies '¦'¦..
Our Exploration guide Regan Fransman relates the following '¦'¦..
I was on a Great Namibian Journey with 2 single guests, who had gotten to know each other the night prior to departure. Before we left Windhoek we went to see some old and interesting buildings in Windhoek like the Memorial Museum, the Old and the New State House, the Christus Kirche and then we also visited Heroes Acre. We did not do that much of a city tour since we left it for the last day. They were amazed about the cleanliness of Windhoek, since we only did the CBD area. We took lunch packs and had lunch under a nice big tree on our way to Kulala Reserve. They were also amazed by the amount of people and livestock that live in this arid area, with only the basic resources. We saw some baboons, kudu's, springbok, oryx and a lot of domestic animals. When we went t hrough certain areas of the semi - desert area they were amazed to see water and were astonished about that. We did not do anything that afternoon as we only arrived at around 5 in the afternoon and had a nice sun downer at camp.
We had an early wake up the next morning and set off for the dunes. The weather was not on our side and it was overcast with a lot of cloud cover, which made picture opportunity not of the best, because Helen is a keen photographer, but only as a hobby. None the less, we had a g reat time in the Dunes. There were certain times that the sun made its appearance through the clouds and we grabbed the opportunity to take photos of the dunes, it was great fun for the guests.
Due to the weather condition, it was nice and cool and made it nice to climb the dunes. We climbed Dune
45 although Helen did it alone, and Grant opted to stay behind as he recently had a knee operation, and could not walk far distances and do climbing. We drove down to Sossusvlei and he decided he will take his chances and walk down to Dead Vlei. We all took the walk at a slow pace and made it down to Dead Vlei and it was nice and cool, they loved it, and were amazed how the dunes can move past places like Sossusvlei without filling it up with sand. After that we vis ited Sesriem Canyon and did a short walk there, and had the Valley to ourselves. In the afternoon we too a drive out to the surrounding mountains, for a sun downer which they thought was amazing. They thought they were on the moon. The next day they did a scenic flight from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund and flew over some interesting places. Grant did quad biking in the afternoon and Helen did some window shopping and town hopping. We had dinner at the Hansa hotel and a nice chat about the history of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. The next day they did the boat cruise in Sandwich Harbour and we had dinner at The Lighthouse. They went down to Sandwich Harbour where we drove on the beach as it was low tide and then they had the dune lunch, which they thought was one of the best places to have lunch and they loved the dune drive after that.
On our way to D -camp, we stopped at the ship wreck, Lichen fields, the desalination plant, Wlotskatsbaken and Henties Bay. We did a small tour of Henties Bay. We drove and had ou r lunch at the SRT Ugab camp. We had some soccer balls with us which the guests gave to the kids at the camp. We also visited the information centre and I explained to them what the purpose of the Save the Rhino trust is about and with all the pictures and information they had a broader understanding about our conservation plans for Namibia. When we went through the mountains they could not believe that a road or actually no road like that could be driven and were also amazed how vast Namibia is. They were also amazed how quickly the fauna and flora and the landscape changes. We had a nice scorpion dinner at the Boma (we told them we were looking for scorpions).
It was the birthday of Grant and when he came down for breakfast the staff sang to him, he a ctually himself forgot that it was his birthday. That morning we went to search for the desert adapted elephants, but it took us such a long time to get to them because we stopped every 100/200 metres to explain other stuff, especially plants and geology. We found the elephants after some serious tracking in the mountains. They couldn't believe that elephants and humans mutually live together like that, for them it was something out of this world how such a huge animal can live and survive in such an arid e nvironment with not a lot of water and food sources, and still be in a pretty good condition. We did half a day and went for lunch at the camp and in the afternoon I took them to the village where they had a long talk with oom Jantjie Rhyn, and then Ben to ok them for a village tour. After that they had a broader insight on how people in rural areas in that specific area survive. We also distributed some soccer balls in the village.
The next morning we went for rhino tracking and the guests got up at 4, an d 4.30 we left. We took breakfast packs since they wanted to see sunrise in the bush. The rhino trackers also went in our vehicle, and we went to the Springbokwasser, but we had our breakfast and sunrise at Dopsteek. The guests said that it felt like they were in a dream to be there and to experience what they experienced. When the sun was up we went down pass the hunter's camp and maybe 10 minutes after that we saw rhino tracks. Trackers got out but the tracks went over the mountain and it was only rocks t hat were there, making the tracking impossible for us. But the rhino trackers got out went after the tracks and the guests said they will never find the rhino on the tracks as it was only rocks. I said to them that the trackers have certain ways to read the signs and I kept myself busy explaining some flora in that area. After about 20 minutes one rhino tracker came running back and said they found 3 rhinos, the guests could not believe it. We had to go around the mountain and upper valley and then we walke d over some serious rocks. We got to the three rhinos, but they heard us approaching and they slowly started to walk away. But the guests did manage to take some pictures. We decided to go back and we had our lunch at camp. After lunch, we went to Peter's pools and then at about 5, we returned to the camp. The next day we went down as we heard some lions during the night. We found some tracks in the riverbed and we were tracking the tracks. It was so confusing, but the guest enjoyed the tracking attempt. Th ey got very excited when they saw the tracks getting fresher and fresher. We tracked it up to Salvadora where the tracks ended. So we knew the lions were in there, we sat there for about 45 minutes but the elusive lion did not show his balls. We had a nice cup of tea with Garth Owen Smith who was camping in the river bed. And we had a nice talk about conservancies with him. We had dinner that evening where the guests drank and partied up to 2 o'clock.
The next morning we had a nice bush breakfast on to p of the mountain and they were astonished by that. We visited Twyfelfontein and then we had a nice drive to Etosha, and in the afternoon since they were tired from the previous night, they decided to just hang out at the pool at Ongava Tented Camp. The ne xt morning we decided to just stay on the reserve, we did an early morning to see if we could find some rhinos but unfortunately none appeared, instead we found some cheetahs. A mother cheetah with her 3 cubs. We came back for lunch and they also relaxed a t the pool. The lions were in camp so we sat there for about 30 minutes watching them play and then we went for a sun downer drive. We saw 2 white rhinos and a lot of other general game. Then they had a nice private dinner with their two Italian friends.
The next day we went for a full day in Etosha. The waterholes in Etosha were relatively quiet, because the majority of the game moved to the north eastern side of Etosha, since there hasn't been a lot of rain in the western side, so we focused on the smal ler things like lizards and stuff, which the guests also found interesting. We had lunch at Halali and returned to camp.
When we returned at the camp, the guests said that they wanted to eat early that evening, but they didn't know that we had a bush dinne r surprise for them. The lions were in camp again and we were watching them, while the staff prepared the area for the bush dinner. They did not want to go for a drive, so I had to 'convince them' by telling them about a possible hyena with a kill. We drove to the bush dinner; they almost fainted when they saw the setup. They couldn't believe that we eat where elephant, rhino and lion move through.
The guests decided that they did not want to fly and they prefer driving back with their guide. We left early the next morning and returned to Windhoek where we did the other part of Windhoek for a city tour. After that we went to Pep Stores and Crazy Store, as they wanted to buy blankets and toys for the village kids. Then I dropped them off at the Olive G rove. The next morning I had breakfast with them, and that was the end of our tour.
NAMIBIA NEWS from WILDERNESS SAFARIS
February 2013 Hoanib River floodplains expedition
It is rare to find a new and largely unexplored destination to such a degree as we experienced at Mowe Bay and on the Hoanib River floodplains of the Sk eleton Coast last week. The Skeleton Coast is vast, wild and epic. We had a radical adventure in an unknown and unexplored area; this is spectacular beyond the telling. Our trip took us up the Skeleton Coast as far as Mowe Bay for the soon-to-open Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp.
Feb 2013 Andersson's Camp
A visit to Andersson's Camp on the Ongava Reserve is always exciting, whether you go on a drive or relax in camp watching the incredibly busy waterhole.
Andersson's Camp - a birders paradise The waterhole is regularly frequented by black rhino
The camp chameleon is always somewhere to be found, There were quite a few young warthog running around, in different colours off course! Enjoying the waterhole and the mud!
Butterflies are also plentiful A purple roller warming up in the early morning sun
Pin-tailed whydah's forage on the grass in front of the The black-faced impala's had some young even though it main building in the late afternoon. Is so incredibly dry at the moment
Some more young ones The ground squirrels are always a source of entertainment a lilac-breasted roller watching the sunset
News article | Little Kulala
Weather and Landscape
The weather has treated us well. The mornings have been pleasantly mild for most of the month. Clouds
As we have not received any rain yet, the animals have be en staying close the ephemeral riverbeds, which
December was the month for celebrations!
Staff in Camp
Guides: Willem, Abner, Petrus, Nicky, Teek and Willy.
News article | Doro Nawas Camp
Weather and Landscape
Summer is finally upon us and it has brought with it the heat we have come to expect. We have had some
The elephant herds in the area are still prospering. The young ones have developed a keen interest in our
We have had an unexpected guest at the Doro Nawas Camp. It was a male black -backed jackal that has decided to make the camp his home, roaming around the edges of the camp in search of food and water.
One of the baboon troops, which we mentioned last month, has decided to move a bit closer to the camp. They can sometimes be spotted from the veranda moving across the plains.
"Finding the desert elephants and getting close to them was incredible. Visiting the school and the village
was fascinating. Michael and Wilhelm are both wonderful guides - They are stars!"
"It is an eye-opener as our guide Michael tracked and found the elephants."
"360 degree views, beautiful pool, absolutely wonderful staff, size of the room, outside places to relax and of course the ability to sleep outside! Oh and shower outside - these all made for an incredible holiday."
"We loved the sundowner s and the view from on top of the roof. Expedition with Richardt on our way back from Twyfelfontein. It was relaxing and inspiring."
Staff in Camp
Managers: Agnes Bezuidenhout, Wayne Du Toit, Rosalia Martin and Agnes Aikanga. Guides: Richardt Orr, Reinhol dt and Michael Kauari.
News article | Damaraland Camp
Weather and Landscape
December was a very hot month for all in Damaraland, with the temperatures cooling off a little at night.