Namibia — More Than Just Big Animals

Imagine slogging at sunrise along the crest of one of the largest sand dunes in the world! Red sand, blue sky, and no one else in sight. The charms of Namibia just don’t quit!

P1110676Our trip ended among the giant sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the middle of the Namib desert. Before that, we spent a couple of days in Swakopmund, a charming resort town on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s not a beach resort in the usual sense — the water is too cold and wild for swimming and the breezes are too brisk for lounging on the sand. I did see a surfer, though.P1110383The town is pleasant and walkable and offers great dining, especially fresh seafood, and access to the desert just outside of town and to the south. And if you use your imagination and listen to the German accents and language, you can pretend you are in a village in the German Alps, sans the mountains of course.

The big attraction of the last few days of the trip was desert, starting with the Living Desert Tour in the sand dunes just outside of Swakopmund. Chris, our guide, was like a Namibian Don Rickles with a little bit of Marlin Perkins thrown in for good measure (for those of you too young to recognize these names, Don Rickles was a pioneering insult comic and Marlin Perkins was a zoologist who hosted one of the first wildlife shows on TV from the mid 60s on). Gently making fun of us one minute (usually me, the oldest by far on the tour) and tramping among the dunes looking for hard-to-find desert animals the next, Chris literally brought the desert to life with his explanations, anecdotes, warnings (many of the animals he found are venomous), and especially the animals themselves. He found a lizard, gecko, spider, snake and chameleon and convinced them to sit still long enough for us to get great, up close photos.P1110420P1110436P1110453P1110496In a taste of what was to waiting for us in Sosussvlei, we also trudged up the dunes and gawked at the scenery. P1110405 P1110516P1110513P1110521The next day we drove five hours on gravel roads through the Namib Desert to Sossouvlei. As we pulled into the Kulala Desert Lodge, our accommodations for the night, we could see oryx and ostrich in the dry river bed about 50 yards away from the deck of the lodge. They scattered by the time I pulled myself away from the rustic serenity of the lodge to go for a walk with Astrid, one of the four members of our group. P1110616I think we scared them away by talking. Stefan, our guide and driver, went on the same walk a few minutes behind us and easily spotted the animals just a few yards away. It wouldn’t be the first time my loud mouth drove attractive mammals away. Maybe its the Philly accent. “Hey, yo! Anybody know where I can get a cheese steak around here?”

Our consolation was the sunset. P1110626P1110632We had a very early start the next day to get to the big dunes by sunrise, so we all went to bed early. The other three slept outside in sleeping bags on the roofs of their chalets. I chose the bed. They saw stars. I had easy access to the bathroom. We were all happy with our choices. P1110601(Don’s trip was organized, conducted and hosted by Pack Safari)



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