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Trip Report Namibia Nirvana (3 week trip to Namibia and South Africa)

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I took a fabulous 3 week trip to Namibia and South Africa at the end of June through the middle of July with Overseas Adventure Travel. It was one of the most scenic and dramatic trips I’ve ever taken. I wouldn’t recommend this trip as a first Africa trip, but if you have already been on safari and have seen the animals, this would be the next trip to take. Not that we didn’t see lions and giraffes and a white rhino at Etosha Park, but on safari it’s a different feel. In Namibia, it’s more natural beauty and the amazing tribes We saw the bright red/orange of the Namib desert, ancient tribes of Namibia and South Africa, ancient cave carvings 10 - 20 million years old, the amazing Cape Fur seal colony at Cape Cross along the Skeleton Coast and so many other sights. The trip was very well organized, almost everything was included in the cost of the trip, and the food was delicious. Our guide was funny and very knowledgeable. I also took the post trip to South Africa which I would highly recommend. I’m posting my trip journal here. If you’re interested in hearing more about this trip, I can go on for hours about what we saw and did. Just let me know. --Charlotte

Namibia and South Africa
Monday, June 22nd: Boston to Atlanta
Tuesday, June 23rd: Atlanta to Johannesburg
Wednesday, June 24th: Overnight in Johannesburg

Thursday, June 25th: Johannesburg toWindhoek, Namibia
A long few days, we are finally in Namibia. Very impressive roads, as good as any 2 lane highway in the US. Lovely 30 minute ride through flat countryside to the hotel. Very western looking town, with shopping malls, restaurants, quite clean. Our guide, Mbavi, briefed us about the trip. Everyone on this trip has been to Africa at least once, some twice. Had Welcome Dinner. Russian president Medvedev is here also with about 500 of his “people.” We saw him with his armed guards. Dinner was kudu, venison, meat, meat and more meat.

Friday, June 26th:
Wake up call came late at 6:45. Breakfast at 7:15, bags out by 7:45 and meet at 8 to walk to the airstrip. This was the first of our internal flights – this airport was obviously much closer than the one we arrived at yesterday. This was a 16 passenger Caravan airplane for our 60 minute flight to the Namib Desert. Beautiful calm flight over mountains – dry, parched land, dry river beds. Fantastic, unusual scenery. Saw lone Oryx from the air. Last 5 minutes of the flight were very choppy. We landed safely, and went in 2 land rovers to the Kulala Lodge right in the middle of nowhere – fabulous. Cabins are huge, canvas sides but wooden doors. In the summer, you can sleep outside on the upper porch on mattresses provided by the lodge. We were greeted by the staff singing a welcome OAT song. Good fun. We were given hot towels and a welcome drink. Brief talk about activities and meals – some went back to the room to unpack, others just went back. I sat outside on the back porch just looking out at the vastness. At 12:30, I took a walk to see the sociable weaver birds nest. Huge. Also a salt lick to attract the Oryx and Springbok. Then lunch of kudu wrap and salad. Fairly chewy but tasty. All food needs to be flown in since nothing grows in this area. Took another walk after lunch and found the African Moringa tree, a relative of the Baobab family, but nowhere near as large. They are only found in Namibia. It has a bottle-shaped main branch with bark smooth, brown to silvery copper. We met again at 3:00 for our sundowner trip – a drive to watch the sun set and drink a toast. On our sundown drive we saw more Oryx and huge weaver bird nests. The sun dropped very fast. We saw hundreds of fairy circles; apparently no one has yet come up with any kind of explanation as to their origin. Fairy circles are discs of sandy soil anything from 6 to 30 feet in diameter. They can only be found along the west coast of the Namibia desert in Southern Africa. Scientists have looked into possible causes of the "fairy circles" - radioactive soil, toxic proteins left by poisonous plants, and termites eating the seeds. But tests do not support any of these theories for the rings. For now, the botanists are left with "fairies" to explain the phenomenon. They can be quite large, 20’ by 10’. As it got dark and the stars came out, we saw the Southern Cross star formation, seen only in the Southern Hemisphere. The sky was filled with so many stars. No pollution to cover the stars. Back to the lodge for dinner of sirloin, rice and cauliflower, with a starter of bruschetta and chocolate pudding for dessert. Fantastic day! Flashlights provided to get back to the room, although electricity is on all night.

Saturday, June 27th:
First day without a flight since last Monday! Wind was howling last night, the window flap rattled and flapped. Every once in a while, I felt a blast of cold air coming through the window. I finally got up, got my earplugs and wondered whether I would hear Mbavi at the 4:30 his wakeup knock. I didn’t – he had to call 7 times – he thought I might be sleeping outside on the upper deck. Right!!!!! Breakfast was at 5 and we left for the Sossusvlei sand dunes about 5:30. Saw a hare and some Oryx on the road. Still quite dark when we left and it took us about more than an hour to get to the dunes. We arrived at Dune 1 just at first light. We saw mouse tracks, mole holes and many other tracks as well as incredible scenery of white grasses, some low to the ground, some curly, all dry until the rains come then they turn darker. Sossusvlei is an enormous clay pan, flanked by red sand dunes that stand out starkly against the blue sky. These dunes - the most well-known being Big Daddy or Dune 45 - have developed over millions of years, the wind continuously remodels the contours of this red sand sea. Sossusvlei means 'the gathering place of water' in the local Nama language, and, in good years seasonal rains in the foothills of the mountains succeed in reaching the vleis, creating temporary lakes. The vleis have evocative names such as Hidden Vlei and Dead Vlei. Sossusvlei is situated within the Namib Desert and its huge red dunes and flat valley floors make up the archetypical view of the Namib that is world famous. Desert-adapted wildlife such as ostrich, springbok and gemsbok eke out an existence here. Larger predators include spotted hyena and occasionally brown hyena. Smaller creatures such as bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, porcupine, Cape fox and aardwolf can be seen at night in the cool desert air, and one bird, the aptly named Dune Lark, has its entire global distribution limited to the area. Despite the lack of vegetation and low rainfall, many insects, reptiles and rodents make their home here - surviving in part to the coastal fog that creeps up off the sea each dawn and penetrates up to 50km inland.

At 930 feet Sossusvlei dunes are the highest in the world, towering over their nearest rivals in Arabia. Then to we went on to Dune 45, amazing bright red sand and so fine – looked just like cinnamon, and as far as the eye could see. Climbed up one of the dunes. Sands kept blowing along the ridge, but we were told the dunes never change. The play of shadows and light made everything spectacular. We drove to another set of dunes, and then walked about 2 miles to Dead Vlei, the dead sea. Old dead trees look petrified along the dry river beds and will probably not change for centuries because the bacteria that causes decay aren’t present. Then it was back to the lodge for lunch and back to the room to relax until ~3:30. We met again to talk about “controversial” topics – namely Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe and Fidel Castro of Cuba (not very “controversial” topics since there was no controversy). At 4 we went back out again for a nature drive. We saw some Hartmann's Mountain Zebra’s in the distance. They’re different from the usual Cape mountain zebra – they are taller and look more like a horse, the black and pale stripes are about the same size, also their legs are banded. Hartmann's mountain zebras are the largest of the mountain zebras. They look whiter than the Cape mountain zebras because their black stripes are narrower and more widely spaced. Hartmann's zebras have broad black stripes with an off-white, creamy color between them. The black stripes on the animals' sides stop at the belly. The leg stripes are thin, wrap around the entire leg, and extend all the way down to the top of the hooves.

We saw lots of springbok, Oryx, black-back jackals and ostriches. We talked about the formation of Fairy Circles. We watched the sun set over the Naukluft Mountains. Colors went from bright to mute to dark in about 20 minutes. It’s winter in Namibia and it starts getting dark about 5:30/6:00. Oryx for dinner, very tasty, tender. Back to room by 8:30, bed by 9:30.

Sunday, June 28th:
Very warm evening. It was calm until about 3AM, then the wind began to howl, although temperature was still fairly mild. No hot air balloons today. Hopefully they will go tomorrow. We set off at 8 for a nature walk through a dry river bed. Tiny desert flowers lay almost dormant until slight rain, and then they begin to bloom. Lots of thorny plants – originally thorns were leaves, but eventually they evolved into thorns to conserve water. We saw a goshawk and an Oryx in the distance. Saw lots of huge sociable weaver bird nests. A huge tree limb had broken with the weight of the nest. We saw other interesting plants and bugs. Then back to the lodge for lunch at 1PM. Cold eggplant and garlic cauliflower and chicken pie. They use what they have and are very careful not to waste. We met again at 2:30 for tea and snacks and left at 3 for our sundowner. The difference in temperature between day and night is dramatic in the desert –from 40’s in the AM to 80’s when the sun comes up. We drove to Sesreim Canyon near the dunes. It was about a 45 minute ride. Explorers, transport riders and early travelers used to lower a bucket down to collect the water. It usually took six lengths of thong tied together, hence the Afrikaans name: "Ses" meaning six, and "Riem" meaning thong. The canyon was an important source of water for the early inhabitants of the area, and even during dry times there is water in the canyon. Walking through the canyon takes you on a journey back to 10-20 million years ago. The ledges are now inhabited by pigeons, pied crows and chattering starlings. The canyon itself is ~100’ at its deepest and about 3 kilometers long. Lots of caves and weird rock formations. The sun was just at the right angle to provide fantastic photography. We climbed down into the canyon, walked around for a while and then climbed back out. Back into the jeeps to find a good spot for our sundowner. We disturbed 2 black-back jackals who were taking down an injured springbok. They ran away, but will return again once we leave. Sunset was very early. By 6:00 it was quite dark. Dinner was very tasty mutton curry. Back to the room by 8:30, packed up and in bed by 9:30. Again very windy night – the ballooners will probably not go out tomorrow morning.

Monday, June 29th:
Leisurely breakfast at 7. Beautiful sunrise. The staff enthusiastically serenaded us for about ½ hour with Namibian songs and dances. Great staff -- appeared to genuinely enjoy our company. We said our goodbyes and headed over to the airstrip where our 2 planes waited. I volunteered to go on the tiny 3 seater, but at the last minute Elsa, the pilot, thought I’d be more comfortable in the 12 seater Caravan. I didn’t need to be told twice! Our flying time to Walvis (Vulfus) Bay was 90 minutes. The flight over the dunes was spectacular. Mile after mile of red dunes as far as the eye could see. Very smooth flight. As we got closer to the coast, the fog set in, and the landing was a bit bumpy. Two jeeps waited for us and we drove through the town of Walvis Bay to the lagoon to see the flamingos. They were camera shy and kept moving back into the water as we moved closer to them. Next we drove to a nearby restaurant on the pier where we has a delicious lunch of butternut squash soup and a fish dish made up of 3 fish: kingklip, butterfish and monkfish – all were tasty, especially the kingklip. (Just learned that kingklip is an eel) . After lunch we had a 20 minute ride to our hotel in Swakupmond, a very Bavarian looking town. We arrived at 3:30 to the lovely Hansa hotel, located strategically in the center of town. We met for a walk through town and the craft bazaar. Very similar to the stuff we saw in Zimbabwe. We walked around town, bought some postcards, and then walked down to the ocean and picked up some beautiful beach stones. Went to the supermarket, bought some snacks, Beautiful 5* hotel. Tomorrow will be a full day.

Tuesday, June 30th:
Delicious breakfast at 7 (best breakfast so far). We left at 8 for a ride along the Skeleton Coast to the Cape Fur seal colony at Cape Cross, about a 90 minute ride through a very flat area. It was a foggy, misty morning. This area is newly developed, beginning a salt industry with desalinization plants, uranium mining and guano fertilizers. Stopped at a fairly recent shipwreck. The mist and fog lifted just as we reached the seal colony. Thousands and thousands of seals were sprawled all over the beach, honking and basking in the sun. The odor was almost overpowering. These seals do not migrate – they are much smaller than the elephant seals we saw in California. Saw black-back jackals among the seal – looking for a snack?? BBJ usually eat carrion, but will not turn down a seal pup if mama isn’t around to protect it. One out of 4 pups don’t make it. The Cape fur seals are actually sea lions, because they have external ears and rear legs, which is the major difference between the seals and sea lions, but locally they are called Cape fur seals or just seals. We watched the seals for about 45 minutes then went to the Cape Seal Lodge for lunch of Angelfish, a nice white fish. After lunch, we stopped to see the flamingos and the beautiful ocean. Beautiful pink coloration under their wings. They have a fear of people, and kept moving out to sea the closer we got. We stopped at a desalinization plant and stopped along the road to see the beautiful salt crystals sold along the road on stands. Back to the hotel for about 90 minutes before we set out for a visit to the “territories.” We visited a Herero woman who told us about her life also gave us some of her clothing to try, also visited a small colorful, artist’s studio. Daniel, the son of the artist/t shirt designer, did all of the talking. Terrific personality. We drove through a very depressed area, especially after what we had seen in other parts of town. People build their own houses with stuff scavenged from the dump. They buy gov’t land (30,000.00 Namib dollars - ~4,300 US) and build their own houses while waiting for the gov’t to build buildings. School is compulsory, but not free. 50% unemployment, AIDS has decreased from 22% of the population to maybe 17% now. We had dinner at a German restaurant. I had lentil soup with sausages and rosti (potato pancakes) and a Windhoek lager. Good meal! Great day!

Wednesday, July 1st:
Another delicious breakfast. Wandered around Swakupmond. Walked down to the beach again. Surf was pounding. We watched cormorants fishing and Cape fur seals playing in the distance. Walked back and saw 3 Himba women, each wrapped in a red ochre cape. Back by 11 to check our luggage. Water is so scarce in Swakupmond that the hotel shuts off water after 10AM. Left for the airstrip at 11:30 on our 12 seater Caravan for the 90 minute flight to Damaraland, the old apartheid name given to the region north of Swakupmond. The name Damaraland is derived from the fact that the Damara people live in this area (they were relocated here from South Africa during Apartheid). We flew over Brandenburg, the highest mountain in Namibia. It’s an isolated massif reaching 8,550’ and rises much higher than any other feature for hundreds of kilometers around. It is composed of a single mass of granite that rose through the Earth's crust some 120 million years ago. As we neared the landing area, the pilot buzzed over the airstrip to see if there were any animals – there were Hartmann zebras. They scattered as he landed. We also saw 3 female ostrich with about 20 little ones trotting behind. We drove about 10 minutes to the Palmwag (palemvach) Lodge. Lunch was at 2 and we met again at 3:30 for a walk to see the Welwitschia plant – a very strange plant, found only in the Namib Desert. It was first discovered by Austrian botanist Friedrich Welwitsch in 1860 and survives in very harsh localities where the annual rainfall is often less 1 inch and where the coastal fog is equivalent to about another 2”. The Welwitschia's oldest living specimens are estimated at 1500 to 2000 years is capable of surviving severe conditions of stress. The Namib Desert is one of the world’s oldest deserts with extreme arid conditions. It stretches in the western part of Namibia along the coast up to the south-western part of Angola. The Welwitschia is restricted to a narrow path of this desert. The plant resembles a woody carrot. The walk was lovely as the sun was setting. We saw Oryx, Springbok, some sort of eagle, and beautiful yellow hornbills. Walked back to the lodge where we had a delicious dinner. We selected raw veggies, raw beef and spices. The chefs cooked it for us. Early night! Great day!

Thursday, July 2nd:
Up at 4:30, breakfast at 5, left at 5:30 for our trip to Twyfelfontein to see the ancient rock carvings. We did some scrambling to see the beautiful carvings ~5-6,000 years old. Lions, giraffes, Oryx. Interesting in that there are also carvings of sea creatures, meant that the native people traded and traveled great distances to the ocean. Then to Burnt Mountain, where the volcano pushed up the sandstone and then cooled to form a blob of sandstone on top of a hillock. Then to pipe organ, a rock formation that looks like the pipes of an organ, all of shale. Then to the school where we talked to the 4th and 7th graders. Prinicpal was a delightful man – his concern for the kids was apparent. Then to the nearly village. Just this past year, electricity has been brought to this village. One can only imagine the difference this makes to the people. Much singing and dancing. We had lunch at the village – rice, veggies, mutton, all cooked over fire. Then we heard from a 71 year old woman who looked 91. The South Africans moved about 1500 of her tribe to this desolate spot from Namibia. Very few rations. But she has her grandchildren and children here and has made a home in Namibia. Was offered an opporuntiy to return, however she refused, saying her life was here now. Next stop was the Rhino Conservancy. The speaker told us about distributing hunting licences for big bucks. The money is distributed to villages for ambulances and schools. Sounded like a non-profit. The speaker says it culls the heards and makes money for the tribes. Long, dusty ride back to the lodge. Showered, relaxed. Dinner was at 7 – filet of springbok with chutney cauliflower, potatoes and carrots. Fun day.

Friday, July 3rd:
Up at 5 for breakfast and out by 6:30 for our Himba tribe visit. It was a long, dusty ride. Fabulous desert scenery – bottle trees, tall grasses, mountains in distance. Very arid. This is winter – temps are in the 80’s during the day and drops to freezing at night. One of our group had a frozen water bottle one morning. Very bumpy and rocky dirt road in this Palmwag Conservancy. Saw herds of Springbok and Hartemann zebras. Finally saw our first giraffe – very majestic. Much paler in color than the giraffes we saw in Kenya and Tanzania – all the animals here are called “desert-adapted.” Scenery kept changing; we drove over quite a few dried rocky river beds. Climate is harsh. Passed many small villages with just 3 or 4 cow dung huts with corrugated metal roofs and goats and cattle enclosed in fenced areas (bomas). Some of the surrounding areas looked like parking lots – land had been overgrazed. Continued driving and stopping every once in a while for photographs. Finally we arrived at the Himba village. The Himba are herdsmen, breeding mainly cattle and goats while leading a semi-nomadic life. They migrate with their herds to the different waterholes from season to season. Before we entered the village, we need to get permission from the chief and introductions needed to be made. The chief was about 65, with no teeth, but that didn’t stop him from smiling a lot. Happy to see us. Protocol is that no photos are taken until the chief has finished talking. The women were all bare-breasted and completely covered in red ochre, including their hair. For the Himba, clothes, hair and jewelry hold a special meaning and form an important part of their tradition and culture. Even newborn babies are adorned with pearl necklaces while older children are given bracelets crafted from copper and decorated with shells. The proud Himba women spend many hours on beauty care and grooming every day. They cream their whole body with a mixture of rancid butterfat and ochre, scented with the aromatic resin of the Omuzumba shrub. The cream lends the body an intense reddish glow, which reflects the Himba ideal of beauty. We went into a tiny hut where a family of 4 slept. Hard to imagine. To ward off the cold, they build a fire outside, and bring the embers into the hut. There is a tiny window to let out the smoke. The woman spread my hand with butter, and put the red powder on my hand. Can’t imagine doing this to the whole body. In payment for our visit, Wilderness Safaris brings rations to the tribe and encourage the tourists to buy small trinkets. They smile a lot – must think we’re crazy to give them rations just to take their pictures and spend time with them. Then back to the Land Rovers for the ½ ride to the stream for our picnic lunch. We got stuck in the sand and all pushed and offered suggestions on how best to get out. Finally we had lunch and Daniel drove the other van to a nearby village and got some rope and a couple of guys, and eventually we pulled out the vehicle. After a wonderful lunch of beet salad, cheese and meat sandwiches, we packed up and headed back to the lodge seeing more giraffes kudus, ostriches. Back about 3:30. Felt great to shower and get rid of all that dust. We met again at 6 for a talk by Jason, the assistant manager of the lodge. He talked about the relationship that had to be developed between the villagers whose livestock were being killed by the lions, and the conservancy who are trying to tame the lions and other animals and promote tourisms. Talked about the GPS tracking of the animals – how surprised they were to find out the distances that the lions travel just to visit and socialize. Talked about how his mom is working on a project with the Himba women and Estee Lauder. Apparently, the Himba women travel great distances to collect sap from a specific tree and use it to make a very special perfume. The women will gather this sap and send it to Estee Lauder to be manufactured into perfume. Negotiations are set – we’ll look for this perfume in the near future. Dinner was buffet style with many courses – beef, chicken, sausage, salad, waldorf-type salad, sliced tomatoes, onions and beans with ice cream for desert. Great day and great meal!

Saturday, July 4th:
Up early (5:30) for our morning game drive. We drove for miles and miles, but didn’t see any lions or elephants, certainly not for lack of trying. We found lots of evidence that they had been there recently, but not when we were. We saw lots of zebra, kudu and oryx, but no big game. Daniel thought that it was because there was so much available water this time of year; they could be fussy as to where they traveled. We saw torn trees and signs knocked over, but again, no elephants. Back to the lodge for lunch – biltong (oryx jerky), goat cheese, lettuce and honey. Strange combo, but pretty good. We checked out of the Palmwag Lodge and at 2:30, we were on our Caravan plane again for or 55 minute flight to Etosha with Johann. I was co-pilot this time. We arrived at Anderson camp at 3:30. We checked in and began our game walk at 4. Two guards with guns accompanied us. We saw lots of evidence of lion kills, but no lions. We saw a huge spider nest, termite mounds and very unusual trees. Back to the lodge. We just barely got back to the room to unpack, when Franz, one of the guides, came to the room to tell us there were lions at the watering hole. Pretty exciting. There were 2 or 3 lionesses and about 4 cubs drinking. It was getting darker, so no pictures, but great to finally see the big cats. We watched them until about 7. Dinner was delicious potato and leek soup, main dish was a choice of Oryx or stuffed chicken, polenta, corn on the cob, and lettuce and tomatoes. Desert was very sweet apple cobbler, with whipped condensed milk. Good day. Tomorrow full day at Etosha.

Sunday, July 5th:
Wake up knock at5, breakfast at 5:30 and left by 6. Absolutely freezing. Hot water bottle last night was much appreciated. I wore almost all the clothing I brought with me: t shirt, turtle neck shirt, another long sleeved, 2 fleeces and vest. Franz distributed warm ponchos. About ½ hour drive to Etosha. Saw stuff along the way, but nothing that we hadn’t seen before. We arrived at Etosha by 8:30. Very different from what I expected. There were paved roads, lots of rented vehicles, and self driving routes. We went from watering hole to watering hole looking for animals. We found 5 lions – 1 male, 2 female and 2 cubs. Very lazy. Saw Springbok fight. Seemed like very long drives for very little payback. It was very windy even though the sun was up. We stopped for tea at 10, continued on, stopped at another area at 1 then drove back to the lodge, stopping at the first area that we stopped at in the morning. Franz went to check and came running back excitedly telling us there were many elephants at this watering hole. We all raced over, cameras in hand. There were about 14 elephants at 1 watering hole and about 30 at another. Saw male in must – waiting for a female. He stood away from the herd. Sun was in a perfect spot for photographs. Etosha is more touristy and nowhere near as exciting as any of the parks we were in on the Kenya/ Tanzania trip. Almost seemed like Busch gardens. Back to the lodge. Showered in the bizarre outdoor/indoor shower. We all gathered at the lodge watering hole at 6:30. Recap of animals/birds seen. Dinner at 7 – tomato pastry starter, pork with applesauce, rice and raisins, zucchini, and lemon custard for desert. Good sighting day. Tomorrow we’ll try Etosha again.

Monday, July 6th:
Up at 5:30, breakfast at 6:00 and out by 6:30. Another freezing morning. Great start today. We saw a white rhino at the watering hole right in front of our eyes while we were eating breakfast. All meals are served outside – there is no inside at this place – only inside place is the sleeping quarters. The rhino had his drink and then wandered away. Next came the limping lion. He had an injured right rear leg and had a difficult time walking. He also drank for quite a while. Camp management will call Etosha management and will get a vet out to check out the lion. It was a cold morning, he wind was whipping all day. I used the provided poncho and 2 fleeces, a jacket and 2 long-sleeved and a short sleeved shirt. Amazing country. It got warmer, but the dry dusty wind continued. We drove in a different direction this morning – northwest. Can’t imagine how the early settlers made it in this tough climate. In the winter, nights are freezing and days are hot, and in the summer, the heat blasts all the time. In the summer daytime temps can range from 110 to 125 F. We saw ostriches mating – funny to see their tails flapping up and down, like feather dusters. We continued driving to the Morenga Tree forest. The park erected an electrified fence around the Morenga trees to prevent animals from gnawing on the trees. They hope to preserve these trees, since they are endemic to Namibia. It’s a beautiful area. We continued on and had our tea break in an area with huge sociable weaver nests. There were thousands of birds flying in and out of one or two nests, some carrying more thatch to mend the nest. Every once in a while, the nests get so heavy that they crash to the ground. Then they start building again. We then headed over to the huge salt pan area where it looked like the peaceable kingdom with oryx, springbok, ostriches, zebra, wildebeests, lion, lionesses and cubs, all relaxing and drinking. Beautiful scene. Continued driving and saw more of the same. We traveled on to our lunch area with packed sandwiches of tasty spicy meat burger and pasta salad. Food has been excellent for the entire trip. Stopped by the watering hole where we saw the elephants yesterday, today it was the usual oryx, springbok and zebras. Continued driving slowly back to the lodge seeing beautiful birds along the way. My favorite is still the Lilac Breasted Roller, the national bird of Botswana. Showered while it was still warm. Every cottage has its own solar panel and water heater. Back to the watering hole at 6 to chit chat. Dinner at 7 – sirloin with chili sauce and veggies. Back to room by 9 and finished packing. Bed by 10. Late wakeup tomorrow 6AM!!! Leaving for Windhoek.

Tuesday, July 7th:
Noone except guinea hens and birds at the Anderson watering hole this morning. We were just lucky yesterday to have seen the white rhino and the lion. Breakfast, bags out by 8, leave for the airstrip by 8:45. Our bush pilot was from Oregon – she had come to Namibia on vacation and decided that being a bush pilot was much more fun than working in an office. Got trained in Cincinnati and has been working here for 2 years. We arrived in Windhoek about 11. Namibia is one of the least populated countries in the world – so much of the land is uninhabitable, just desert and rock. We checked back in to the Safari Court Hotel and met again at 2 to go into town. Went to the local history museum for about ½ hour, then back to the craft market where we stocked up on last minute souvenirs. We went back to the hotel and gathered again at 6 for our de-briefing. Some are going home tomorrow; some are going on to South Africa. Our last dinner was at NICE (Namibian Institute for Culinary Education). NICE is a chef finishing school that targets professionals from the Namibian culinary industry who wish to polish their skills and further their own careers. The restaurant itself was a private home at time. Good meal and wine. Said our goodbyes and went back to the room to finish packing.

Wednesday, July 8th:
Six left at 11 to go home and 6 left at 3 for Capetown. I sat out in the sun. Perfect weather – 70’s and sunny. Sat by the pool. Luggage down by 2:30, left at 3 for the airport. Said good bye to Mbavi. Flight didn’t leave until 5:40. Long day. Got rid of all Namibian money – not accepted in South Africa, although SA Rands are accepted in Namibia. Overall, the trip was excellent, no where near as exciting (animal-wise) as the Kenya and Tanzania trip, but the sights were spectacular. The dunes were phenomenal, the Himba were pre-historical, and the cape fur seals with the bbj walking among them was amazing! We arrived in Cape Town at 9:30 –all bags arrived. We were met by Janice and driven to the Bantry Bay hotel, a beautiful 4* hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Huge room, equipped with a full kitchen. Weather was quite mild.

Thursday, July 9th:
Doesn’t get light until 8AM. This is winter in Cape Town, but we are fortunate to have an incredible day in the mid 70’s with bright blue skies. We met in the lobby at 8 for a city tour including Table Mountain, the centerpiece of Cape Town. The mountain is sculpted from sandstone and it rises ~3,000’ above the bay and has a broad flat surface measures nearly 3km from end to end, allowing it to appear as a 'table' from certain angles. The mountain is home to approximately 1470 species of plants. Many of these are endemic, including the rare Silver Tree and the wild orchid Disa Uniflora. The Cableway was opened in 1929 and takes ~600,000 people to the summit annually. Since it's opening in 1929, over 16 million people have taken the trip to the top of Table Mountain. The floor of the 65 passenger cable car rotates 360 degrees on the ascent/descent which takes 5-10 minutes to reach the summit/base traveling at a speed of up to 10m per second. Cape Town is very small with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. Three of our group went to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and 2 of our group did the waterfront. I got a ticket on the hop on/hop off bus and went to the Jewish Museum/Holocaust Complex. Very interesting memorabilia that people brought with them when they emigrated from Europe in the early 1800’s. Very tight security. Continued the tour and got off at the hotel around 4.


Friday, July 10th:
We began the day at the Kirstenbosch gardens, the National Botanical gardens of Cape Town. Lucky for us the day was fantastic – bright sun and temps in the high 60’s. The gardens grow only indigenous South African plants and covers about 2 miles. Fynbos, proteas, cycads and rolling lawns are intermingled with streams and ponds and well-laid out pathways for easy walking. Proteas are the keystone species of South Africa's Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest but, biologists say, richest of Earth's six plant kingdoms. The Cape Floral Kingdom is the size of a postage stamp, comparatively speaking, but it has the highest plant biodiversity anywhere on the planet Earth. About 8,000 plant species, three-quarters of which live nowhere else in the world, are found in the fynbos ecosystem. The king protea is an amazing plant. It’s the national flower of South Africa. After spending about 2 hours in the gardens and seeing one amazing plant after another, we left Kirstenbosch and headed south to the penguin colony. The Jackass penguins or the African penguins were an endangered species because of reduced habitat. Two breeding pairs were introduced to this residential area in 1982 because of its wind sheltered and fish rich beach area. The colony has grown to ~3,000. It was a nice set up with the boardwalk that was very close to the penguins’ territory. They freely roamed back and forth on the dunes and in and out of the water and were really fun to see. Next it was a lunch stop at the Blue Marlin restaurant. It began to get cooler and it started spitting so we ate indoors. Beautiful salad and kingklip fish done barbecue style and served hanging on a skewer wrapped in bacon with onions and peppers. Delicious! Next stop was the Cape of Good Hope National Park where we all had our pictures taken. It’s the most southwesterly point of the African continent. We saw Cape Ostriches, very different coloration from the Namibian ostriches. There are also zebra, mongoose and other animals in the park, but they eluded us. We went to the Visitor Center in the park and the took the funicular to the top to get an incredible view of the ocean and then climbed the 122 steps to the Cape Point Lighthouse – breathtaking views of the beach. Walked from one end to the other. The sun came out and lit up the entire mountain. How spectacular! Back in the van and headed back to Cape Town. Saw the baboons that are all over this part of SA. Apparently, they are a real nuisance, break windows and cause major problems in town. However, they are protected, so people just tolerate them and keep out of their way. Good day! Tomorrow is a free day.

Saturday, July 11th:
Another beautiful sunny morning. Slept in and didn’t get to breakfast until about 8:30. Spoke with Rashaad, the incredibly helpful front desk manager, who suggested I take the public bus for 5 Rand , and it would take me right to the waterfront, rather than a taxi for about 40 Rand (5 Rand is about 75c). The bus took me to the waterfront. Went to the Two Oceans Aquarium. Very interesting. Loved the moon jelly fish and the giant spider crabs. Got on the Hop On/Hop Off bus again to stop #4 and walked through Green Market Square and Long Market to St. George’s church and continued on to the Company Gardens to stop #6 the South African museum. The Company Gardens was lovely and it was nice to see families in the park and in the restaurants, lovely palm trees and fountains, but there was nothing growing this time of year. I picked up the bus again and took it to the District 6 museum to show the history of Apartheid in this area. The government forcibly removed 60,000 colored and Africans from District 6 in 1966 and relocated them to an area called Cape Flats. This had been a vibrant community and now 60,000 people had to rebuild their lives. Oral and written memories of those who were removed were displayed. The weather deteriorated and I decided to head back to the hotel. I went out again to the huge Spar store and Woolworth's (no relation to our FW Woolworth's) just to get snacks for the plane tomorrow. Our home hosted meal is tonight. The gulls continue to screech – never heard sounds like these gulls. The home hosted meal was very interesting. It was hosted by Reggie and Ann, colored people, who live in a residential area. Difference between a residential area and a territory – in 1961, the residential areas that were declared “white only” forced colored and Africans to evacuate their homes and move to territories. This house had been in Reggie’s family for generations and he was very lucky to have been able to keep it. The facial characteristics of coloreds are much different from black Africans – the colored look more Indian. Very dark olive complected. Very pleasant conversation. Dinner was excellent. National dish is called Bobotie. Janice told to buy The Cape Malay cookbook by Faldeelah Hendricks for recipes.

Sunday, July 12th:
Dark, dreary, windy and rainy. How lucky we were to have had such wonderful weather. There are other OAT groups just arriving into this mess. We were able to stay in our room until we were picked up at 12. Our flight to Jo’burg was at 2, due to arrive at 4 and we leave for Atlanta at 7:45 for our 16 ½ hour flight. A very long couple of days.

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