A MOBILE TENTED NAMIBIAN SAFARI
A soft voice outside our expansive tent wakes us in the pre-dawn. It's our Karibu Safari guide, Lourens Gaseb.
Normally a 5:00 a.m. wake-up would be deadly, but we're happy to rise from our cozy beds and turn on our overhead solar-powered lights. We take turns in the tent's bathroom, using the ‘en suite' facilities and washing with hot water from the thermos provided by our safari crew.
Then we follow the solar lamps leading to our dining room tent. The aroma of coffee entices us to the sideboard, and a grinning Joseph, our camp manager, greets us as he adds a covered serving dish of bacon to the toast and eggs. We greet our fellow safari travellers: Ana hails from Spain, Franck and Sonia from France and Belgium and Mark from England, each of us from different countries but all of us united in anticipation.
This is just day three of Karibu's two-week classic luxury Namibian safari, offering accommodation partially in tents and partially in classy ‘digs'.
It is 5:45 and we roll out in our elongated land cruiser with two pop up roofs; it's a heavy-duty 4-wheel drive accommodating 11 people, so the six of us can scan the veldt in comfort, remembering to ‘look through the bushes, not at them.'
"There...by the side of the Mapona tree! A Black Rhino!" Mark points with one hand while fumbling for his binoculars with the other. We pull over. The endangered Black Rhino is faring better in Namibia than elsewhere in Africa, having actually increased its numbers due to the conservation efforts of hard working agencies striving to educate people, and to protect the beleaguered animals from being slaughtered for their horns.
It's a good start to the late fall day, a day that's quickly turning as rosy as the Rosy-faced Lovebirds we'd seen in the acacia trees the previous night. We're only five minutes from our first waterhole but we don't make it. Hugging the fringes of the dirt road on the next corner, we encounter a serious roadblock: a dozen elephants. "Shhhh!" Gaseb cautions as he pulls to the side behind several other vehicles.
The behemoths clump towards us. The small vehicle ahead is resoundly slapped by the leader's trunk, a wary matriarch investigating potential threats. Another warning from Gaseb: "Don't move or they'll come and investigate." We become rebars. "Is it safe to have our heads out the top?" I whisper. It would be so easy for those mighty beasts to crinkle the car and all therein. Our leader nods hesitantly.
In puffs of dust, the herd shuffles past. "There are over 2000 elephants in the park, but I've never seen them this close up before." says Gaseb, a ten-year veteran with Karibu.
Eventually, charged by adrenalin, we chug on, elatedly adding herds of zebras, wildebeest, kudus, giraffes and Lilac-breasted Rollers to our roster of sightings.
Then, "85!" shouts my jubilant partner, David, hunkered over his bird count list, book and binoculars in hand. He points to a little flash of a feathered rainbow arcing past the Range Rover – a European Bee-Eater.
This is early in our safari adventure, and we have yet to view rhinos and giraffes congregating at the floodlit waterhole at Etosha's southern gate. Okaukuejo. Damaraland, with its 2000 ancient rock carvings in the area called Twyfelfontein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a wonder that lies ahead of us. And the people who give their name to the land, the Damara, will later show us their living museum: how they distill spirits, use plants for healing, make fire, and celebrate their life-spilling-over-the-edge music and dance.
And there's the European-flavoured town of Swakopmund on the Skeleton Coast to savour and after that, the orange skyscraper dunes at Sossusvlei to climb, and gasp at - especially the 170-metre dune laconically called #45 , because it's 45-kilometres from the gate toward Sossusvlei, the salt and clay pan where the road culminates.
"Bring it on!" we say.
All these landscapes and all these experiences wrapped in a country with more animals than people, a strangely empty, uncluttered place where there are more birds on the roadside than rubbish, where the unpolluted skies loom gigantic and safaris rule supreme.
IF YOU GO:
The Safari Partners, located in Vancouver, is the Canadian booking agent for Karibu Safaris. They provide valuable travel advice and can assist in finding excellent airfares to Namibia. The company also dedicates 1% of its revenue to responsible tourism projects in Africa. www.thesafaripartners.com
National tourism site for Namibia. www.namibiatourism.com.na.
1. Deadvlei (meaning ‘dead marsh') located in Namib-Naukluft Park.
2. A jubilant author on the most climbed Dune 45 in the Sossusvlei area of the Namib Desert,
3. The Himbas have largely kept their traditional way of life.
4. Elephant viewing in Etosha National Park is one of the highlights of the safari
5. Until they get too close.Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.TravelWritersTales.com
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