African Safaris Consultants Blog » Namibia Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:28:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Namibia: A Paradise you should never be asked to leave Thu, 13 Jun 2013 11:11:38 +0000 ASC Safari Guru recently spent some time in Namibia where she managed to take in all sorts of interesting sights. The following are excerpts from her travel diary.

13 May 2013

Once again I packed my bags for yet another African adventure, it was a Monday afternoon as I sat at Cape Town airport waiting for my flight to Namibia, my husband begrudgingly let me go – poor guy, especially as Namibia is on his wish list too!!

It was an easy flight up to Windhoek from Cape Town and since Windhoek is 1 hour behind south Africa I re- set my phone clock so that I’d be on time for all things Namibian.

I was joined by 3 other agents from the UK. Caroline, Albie and Aggie were my travel partners for the next 8 days.. By the end of the trip I was speaking with an English accent!! Fun n games I tell you …and if my husband asks it was all VERY hard work.

Liesl and the ladies...

Liesl (far left) and the ladies…

Finally we arrived at our boutique hotel – Olive Grove Exclusive in Windhoek.

It’s not easy to wow 4 agents but they managed to get it right, often a city hotel is a hotel and a room is a room but Olive Grove Exclusive has managed to conjure up some magic with its decor and mixture of textures. Think big marble boulder with the flat top polished as a table, big comfy leather couches in the lounge, huge emotive fabulous Himba portraits adorning the wall. Each room has been decorated with its own unique theme depicting Namibia, it’s a great start to any Namibian stay. The hotel is the inspiration of photographer Micky Hoyle. Not a designer by trade but a man with a great eye for colour, textures and original light fixtures!

14 May 2013

Early wake up call (which set the tone for the rest of the trip!) After my shower I discovered that although they got so many things right here they’d skimped on large towels and good hair dryers. So I had to use my bath towel as my hair towel and the hand towel to dry my ample body! And then the cheapo hair dryer had no power. urrrggh. I really don’t understand a 5 star place that doesn’t follow through to the smaller details. It’s still a nice place, don’t get me wrong, I was just being precious.

Here is my rundown of the 10 properties we saw that day!

Next door to Olive Grove Exclusive is Olive Grove Guesthouse, same owner as OG Exclusive. OG Guesthouse is another perfectly great base for your Windhoek stay, rooms are charming and have everything you need, run with German efficiency and Namibian hospitality. Perfect combination!

Then we popped into The Elegant Guesthouse, small and friendly. No great shakes but perfectly acceptable.

Then it was over to the Grande Dame of Windhoek – Hotel Heinitzberg, run by mother and son team with super-efficient and actually a much nicer hotel than I had in my mind, the rooms are beautifully appointed and the dining area literally has an aerial view of Windhoek a pleasant surprise for an old Windhoek institution. The restaurant is apparently very good and often hosts Namibia’s businessmen and politicians.


Hotel Heinitzberg

It was a race to Eros Airport where we met up with Ziggy our pilot for our fly-across-Namibia trip. Packing up our luggage into the small Cessna 210 was no mean feat and Ziggy certainly has a knack when it comes to packing big bags into small spaces!

On departing Windhoek, our first stop was Okanjumo. As we landed I spotted cheetah and very proudly announced it too (trying to impress my travel buddies), only to embarrassingly realise that this is where they have a huge cat rehabilitation centre with mainly cheetahs and leopards – duh. AfriCat is an incredible initiative where they not only rehabilitate injured or orphaned cats but where they release them back into the wild.

It takes us two hours to zip around and site inspect the property. First stop is The Villa which is based within their nature reserve where they have their predators and other game. It is the only accommodation that is within the reserve and needs to be booked on an exclusive use basis. There’s an impressive swimming pool and outside area. The 2 suites on either side of the main area have a great view of the watering hole. The other rooms around the back don’t have the views but they’re still spacious and lovely.

Shana the new manager gets us back into the vehicle saying she has a surprise for us! We tear off through the reserve and into the plains region where we were lucky enough to see the release of their new zebra and impala – an exciting experience to be with the staff during such a momentous occasion.


The first tentative steps.

Bush Lodge has a large open lounge area with a TV with live feeds of the reserve. (You can log onto this via the Internet too) These TVs are standard issue in all the lodge’s main areas.

Main camp is going through a major renovation. All the garden rooms are going to be closed by the end of the year and a main lodge area and more rooms are going to be built overlooking the open plains of the reserve. The rooms are huge and you open your eyes to the beautiful plains. Only plains game here too, no predators. So the zebra, impala, oryx and other antelope are all (safely) in seventh heaven!

Although The Villa was impressive, Plains Camp was my favourite, although the English girls thought it was a little too modern and preferred the style of Bush Camp.

We walked through the AfriCat Centre and were given the hard sell on the need for donations to keep the centre alive!

We returned to the aircraft where poor Ziggy had had to repack the hold! Next stop was a quick refuel before arriving at Onguma, a private concessions just outside Etosha.

Eric, our ranger, collected us from the landing strip and took us to the Tented Camp where we would be staying that night. After a quick light lunch (I had the game wrap which was divine!!! The others had a salad) it was off to see the other lodges and drive through the impressive 36 000 ha private concession. Out of the 5 different camps, my favourite was Tented Camp and The Fort, Treetop was also lovely but Tented Camp was better. Sadly we didn’t get to see Bush or Ayoba because we ran out of daylight hours!!!!

The Fort has a Moroccan theme and overlooks a waterhole and the pans. It is a dreamy spot! As the sun sets the building transforms and becomes alive with colour… candlelight and lanterns creating a beautifully romantic atmosphere. They are doing a soft ‘refurb’ as I type, and the new manager Juan seems very fired up and oozes passion for his new place. Don’t blame him!

Tented Camp (where we spent the night) has a beautiful large lounge area with a small plunge pool which was a tad chilly for my 5 toes! Only English Aggie was willing to take a dip. The tents are lovely with a beautiful big 4 poster bed, large bathroom and everything you need for a very comfortable night in the African bush.

The perfect conclusion to our stay was seeing 2 of the laziest lions sleeping it off under the tree. We laughed as we watched them literally having to drag themselves to the water hole with their big FULL bellies! All this right in front of the lodge, you really don’t need to go too far to enjoy the wildlife at Onguma.


In NO hurry…

15 May

Another (standard procedure) early morning wake up call, followed by a detailed demonstration on how to make the perfect toasted bacon sarmie… we were off to explore the Etosha National Park and the famous Etosha Pans – it was another pinch me moment! The gates to Etosha are just 20 mins drive from Onguma and within no time we were exploring Etosha with our expert guide Erica from Onguma.

The reserve is vast but you will most likely pass other vehicles as it is a national park. Although Onguma has its own wildlife, including rhino, it would be completely ridiculous not to explore the great Etosha National Park.

Although we only had a morning to explore the park we still drew up an impressive list of sightings – black faced impala (endemic to Namibia), spotted hyena, giraffe with babies scampering across the plains, zebra, gnu and a breeding herd of elephants. Considering our luck with the lions the day before and seeing the ellie’s, we didn’t do too badly! Remember that you can only really see buffalo in the Caprivi so don’t expect to see them here as they are disease carriers and the Namibian authorities prefer to keep them far away from the National Parks.

After a coffee break and our bacon toasties we looked around the Etosha history centre where they showcase how the reserve has shrunk from the original 90 000 square kilometres to around 22 000 square kilometers That’s a huge amount of lost land. There are large private concessions around Etosha but there are still fences between them all, apparently negotiations with private land owners and government are under way but final resolutions may not be in the near future. We learnt however that some animals are capable of digging under the fences!

We looked at another property outside Etosha called Mushara and were pleasantly surprised and impressed. Mushara is a predominantly female run lodge with 3 different camps: Lodge, Bush and Outpost Camps, all with their own entrances and all run independently of one another. It is only 25 minutes from Etosha and the pricing is great value for money. Although this is a dinner, bed and breakfast package, they don’t have safari activities at the lodge itself but have vehicles for game drives into Etosha.

Lodge offers a variety of sophisticated room options from their entry level standard rooms all the way too their private villas and family suites. It is elegant with attention to detail, a substantial lounge area and a large pool.

Bush Lodge offers a great tented experience with tents big enough for a family of 4 (although in my opinion more for smaller kids) within the family tents. They have a play area for kids, a large round swimming pool all tied together with a splash of fun and creativity.

Outpost being the super elegant most luxurious lodge of them all, has a fabulous lounge and dining area. I envy the interior decorator … it is obvious that she had a wonderful time creating the look and feel of these 3 very different lodges.

Mushara Lodge

Mushara Lodge

Back into the aircraft and it’s off to Ongava. Arriving a little later than expected the ‘tour operator’ in us quickly sprang into action – choosing to rather have a look at Anderson’s Camp before going to on to the lodge, desperate save time to make sure we see it all! We tour operators definitely move fast on these educational style trips, and Namibia, even though it’s a vast spread out country, was no exception. 10 lodges in 1 day!

Anderson’s is the Ongava Game Reserve’s entry level camp and Wilderness Safaris’ adventure level experience. The whole lodge has been designed and constructed with eco-friendly infrastructure and materials. It’s a good solid lodge with an interesting slant on design. Perhaps not my idea of style but it fits perfectly into the experience you are going to get here. It has a sizeable waterhole in front of the breezy lounge where all the animals come to drink.

Then off we raced to our lodge, Ongava Lodge where we learnt that the lodge was celebrating it’s 20th anniversary – an impressive milestone. Sadly, that was where excitement ended for me…. It actually looked 20 years old and in desperate need for some TLC. I was surprised and disappointed to discover that all our meals were buffet meals and that the staff were unenthusiastic… and tired too. Compared to all the other lodges I visited during the past 8 days this was my least favourite. Sad considering that I was SO looking forward to my stay there.

The rooms have all been built too close together and the outside balcony area and “outside” shower were not at all private considering people walked past the front of your room! Even the basin area is in front of the room with a window for all and sundry to see you! My suggestion is to request the front row rooms which don’t have access pathways in front of them- more privacy!

Although Abraham our guide was marginally interesting, the passion and pride we experienced at the other lodges just wasn’t there.

When we walked up to Little Ongava we were told that we couldn’t see a room and could only look at the main lounge area. Once again I was overwhelmed with disappointment.

Truly, it would seem that the only redeeming quality of this lodge is the game viewing. Watching the animals coming and going from the waterhole was wonderful – rhinos galore! Giraffe and waterbuck (although the waterbuck are not endemic to the area which seemed a little unnatural… for a Wilderness Safaris property).


Ol’ faithful.

I did like the look and feel of Tented Camp and Adolf who showed us around was lovely. Tented Camp gives you exactly what you are expecting, a tented experience ie: your expectations aren’t disappointed.

I left Ongava feeling sad.

16 May

Another early morning! And we were off to the airstrip and collected by Neels from Mondjila. A 30 minute drive from Anderson’s gate (Etosha National Park) and we arrived at his working farm where he farms sheep and cattle. Neels and some of his workers personally built all the tents and infrastructure at this lovely tented camp overlooking a beautiful valley below. The tents are basic but the en-suite facilities are comfortable and clean. The absolute highlight of your stay here are the charming hosts, Neels and his wife Leonie. Expect real people with good wholesome meals and just being around them for the short time we had lifted all our spirits. Their passion and beautiful human spirit will make you feel as if you are falling into the open arms of long lost friends.

It’s superbly priced so if you want a simple, honest place and want to save on budget, then go to Mondjila. You will love it!

Back to serious stuff… off we went again with our pilot, Ziggy and his trusty Cessna. It was a grueling 1,5 hour flight to Okahiringo River Camp. The flight itself was worth a thousand words and flying above the countryside and mountainous terrain was something only dreams could conjure up. We arrived and were met by the super enthusiastic co-owner Peter (his partners are 2 wonderfully charismatic Italian ladies) who bundled us into his pick-up van and we were off to the lodge. The idea that day was to have lunch here and then move onto his Elephant Lodge… But by the time we got to the beautiful oasis we really didn’t want to move and luckily Peter was happy to let us stay for the night. So after a superbly efficient juggling act we were there for the night.

Close your eyes and breathe.

Picture this. Rocky red mountains and desert sand all around you and suddenly you have a burst of colour and life with the Kunene River running through the region. It’s real life magic and a place that will move your heart and soul.

Breathtakingly beautiful.

Breathtakingly beautiful.

I have a little life story here. Many years ago I lost my cousin to a river rafting accident when she and a group of her friends went rafting down the Kunene. This was my first visit to the area and so the sight of the river and the utter tranquility and beauty of it all moved me to tears. If you could choose where your last breath will be taken, this is where it should be. A simple slice of paradise on earth. Here you will breathe deeper and find a sense of calm amongst the chaos we call life. Put this on your bucket list. You have to see it for yourself, the best photographer couldn’t do the place the justice it deserves.

Our tents were all positioned up on the mountainside with a large bedrooms and inside and outside showers. Do yourself a favour, have an outside shower! You have the rushing Kunene down below as your night time lullaby and above you the most incredible blanket of stars all this while you are taking a hot shower. Could life get any better I ask you with tears in my eyes!

Anyway I digress, we gathered our cameras and waited for our intrepid guide, Harry to take us to meet the local Himba tribe. I had butterflies in my belly as I really don’t like that voyeuristic feeling when going to a village, but there was such an OMG aspect to it too! How many people can say they have been to a Himba village after all?

You always hear the rumours from all sources that the local tribesmen and women always charge for photos – well here the lodges all contribute a village fee so there is no fussing about money for photographs and there is a mutual agreement – the lodges bring their guests and the members of the tribe engage and allow photos to be taken. Harry is very gentle and kindly acts as translator for us and them. So we were officially communicating!

The village comprised mainly of women and children with the men popping in for visits every so often. The women and the children look after the livestock, fetch the water and literally keep everything working in the village. (note to self, must come back in my second life as male lion or male Himba….. Seems like a good one) It was a very interesting. I learnt that the Himba women stop bathing once they reach their first cycle and then use the red powder from the stone mixed with animal fat to rub all over themselves, this is also a fantastic sunscreen.

An elderly Himba lady sits contemplatively.

An elderly Himba lady sits contemplatively.

Someone on the trip with us mentioned that apparently there is a reality TV series where a group of blondie-bimbo types stay at one of the Himba villages, survivor style. I give them a few hours. A Himba Village ain’t no country club people!

I enjoyed my time at the village, took some classic photos but think I was happier to leave. I always imagine a car full of people stopping outside my house while I am cooking and just getting on with life and having them barge in with flashes and cameras Hollywood style….

The question was asked why they don’t go up to one of the local towns and become more western and the reply we got was, this was their life. They don’t know anything better. If you ask me posing for cameras, rubbing on the red mud and keeping your hair in elaborate braids most certainly pays the bills- especially now during the dry years…

Having said all that, River Lodge is superbly remote and I would really recommend flying there otherwise it’s a fairly lengthy road trip.

Back at the lodge we had dinner around their communal table – simple but tasty food, and what better way to end off any meal but with homemade ice-cream! In that heat I felt like a kid again!

We made arrangements with Peter to lead us through a yoga session at 5:30 the following morning and after gin and tonics and dinner my eyes could barely stay open…. I went to bed with the flowing Kunene River rocking me gently to sleep.

17 May

It was a super EARLY morning wake up. So early in fact that we needed torches to find our way down to the main area, but there was Peter, as promised, ready for our yoga session! It was truly spectacular starting off the session under the stars and ending it at sunrise.

It’s a magical place and a magical lodge. In fact it’s so beautiful out there your eyes keep going back to see more and to double check that it is real. Find the time, find the money. Go there.

Reunited with the aircraft, it was off to the Okahiringo Elephant Camp in Purros, part of the Kaokaland. Here you land between the mountains and have the chance to see the Dessert Elephant and if you are lucky, lion too. We saw giraffe and had lunch with the ever gracious and elegant Graziella, Peters Italian partner and the eye for detail and style. I am immediately intoxicated by the beauty of the lodge, it’s location and the space it surrounds. The rooms all have their own private ‘sala’ where you can just lie back and watch the world pass you by or stay in your spacious rooms with large beds and views that go on forever! It’s another one of those places where you think you are in a dream, pinch me moment.

You can also visit the local Himba village and our guide mentioned something about going into his village and meeting the Herero Tribe too which would make for a very interesting contrast considering they have these hugely elaborate dresses with a large head dresses and up to 5 skirt layers (but if it gets too hot they are allowed to wear just 3!).


Members of the Himba tribe.

Me in my ski-pants and vest couldn’t fathom wearing any more than I already had on. I have new respect for you incredible ladies of Africa, I am in awe of you.

After our delicious lunch it was back into our plane and off to another mystical land of wonder and eye popping beauty. On arrival at Purros, our enigmatic and fabulous guide Frederick collected us for a whirlwind tour of the area. We are now in Damaraland territory, a very popular destination for all who visit Namibia (alas civilization is always somewhere on the horizon isn’t it.) It was a bit of a culture shock to see so many people after being so isolated and enjoying the peace of one’s own mind!

Our first stop with Frederick (great laugh, huge smile – ask for him, you will love his company) is Twylfontein which is a UNESCO heritage site because of the rock art and engravings they have, one of the biggest collections in Africa dating back between 2-6000 years. So if you have any walking difficulty or aren’t too steady on your feet then this wouldn’t work for you. You climb up and around rocks to see the art and steep inclines always means steep declines! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s where you can see the famous rock painting – The Lion.

We then went on to the Burnt Mountain and the Organ Pipes, both natural rock formations in the area. We got a long geological explanations…. but I wasn’t paying much attention, sorry.

It was then a mad scramble for Mowani, our lodge for the night. We had to race to keep ahead of the sunset as boy you don’t want to miss this one! Mowani Lodge is built around incredible granite boulders and the rooms and the are in the form of boulders too so as to fit into the surroundings.

We got there in the nick of time and scampered up the pathway to the viewing site, a huge boulder overlooking the entire valley and one of the most sublime sunsets Namibia has to offer! I am starting to run out of adjectives but needless to say with a cocktail in one hand and my camera in the other I truly could not have been happier. I actually had to put my drink down all the time to take a gazzillion photos which I do hope have captured the sheer beauty of this place.


The perfect sunset.

We got to our rooms after dark and left again before sunrise… see… is hard work. We all had just enough time to shower, have dinner and then fall into bed utterly exhausted. Another fine day of experiences and sensory overload. I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

18 May

Another early morning wake up was followed by a quick walk around the property. Always ask for a room with a view. It’s not that much more expensive and well worth the wow moment when you open up your eyes. Also be sure to always sleep with just the netting down as it’s spectacular watching the world wake up from your bed. Live life.

Mowani like many of the other lodges in Namibia have a great culture of promoting their staff. Frederick our superbly able guide moved himself through the ranks from dish washing to guiding, and the lodge staff all had a great sense of pride in what they do as well as a sense of community.

Frederick took us on a nature drive and we finally got to see the Desert Elephants again, this times with the incredible fire red mountains as a back drop. Some of my favourite photos were taken here.

A quick aside before I ramble on…The day before we saw a guy standing on top of the Burnt Mountains (supposedly a protected rock art site!) and later we saw two bright white Swedish tourists going for a stroll through the reserve. Had it not been for Frederick’s quick reactions (shouting at the top of his lungs) those tourists may have been another fatal statistic with the media blaming the elephant which would end up getting shot. Tourists of the world. When in Africa respect nature and the rules and Africa will respect you.

Note on Desert Elephants: They have longer legs than the African elephant and an extra vertebrae on their necks, they look like elegant ballerinas with those long legs….albeit large ones.


Desert Elephants travel great distances for food daily.

Desert Elephants travel great distances for food daily.

Then for a complete change of pace, weather and a mild culture shock we flew to Swakopmund, a small coastal town known for its German-ness and oodles of adventure activities. What I loved about going to Swakopmund was the complete change of scenery, from red boulders and desert heat to mist and ocean.

We are taken to Swakopmund Guesthouse – perfectly central, beautifully decorated with large rooms, wifi, cellphone connection and even a TV – not that I have missed it much!

That afternoon we went quad biking across the Swakopmund dunes. We were well bundled up in our winter woollies and although our hands turned blue, we all summoned our inner child and had an absolute blast. We did stop for a bit to take in the beauty of the dunes before tearing off again. Happy days.

Dinner was with our Namibian ground handler and go-to-guy for anything Namibian, Leander Borg. He took us out to the local Brauhaus where we feasted on German food and told him all about our experiences and impressions so far.

Out on the dunes!

Out on the dunes!

19 May

No surprise that we were woken early again but by then my body clock was now well trained and so it was effortless. We went on a desert adventure into the dunes with the charismatic, superbly entertaining and knowledgeable Chris from Living Dessert Tours. Chris brought the dunes alive and taught us all about the wonders that lie beneath the sand as he introduces us to a colourful gecko that he casually digs up. We got a lecture on conservation and learnt all about the mess that the locals have made of the dunes with their 4x4s and quad bikes creating tracks all over Namibia that will never be erased. Yes a pang of guilt overcame me and I never confess… But at least our quad bike route was based in a zoned area and we had all followed a set path, which according to Chris is at least better than 5 years ago.

We had the most entertaining trip with Chris over the dunes and saw skink, side winder and horned adder (YES 2 SNAKES) and watched him feed a chameleon a worm. Seeing that tongue unravel and grab the worm was truly fabulous! If you are going to do anything in Swakopmund make sure it’s this desert experience with Chris!!! He’ll open your eyes and bring a seemingly static mountain of sand alive.

Then it was a quick drive to the airport for a quick touch down at Sossusvlei. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to go dune walking as alas again….we were running out of precious time! We did pop into Sossusvlei Desert Lodge with its cool signature elegance, its own telescope and star gazing bed. The lodge has been awarded the dark skies award. All the rooms are air-conditioned. To be totally honest with you I just loved the simple but beautiful design of this lovely &Beyond lodge, it may be a little too much for some but if you are looking for all the mod-cons and to stay cool during the hot summer days then this is a great choice!

You can do great activities like different game drive experiences, walking trails, hot air ballooning (at an additional charge) quad biking (our new swear word), climbing either big daddy or little daddy dunes which are apparently higher and better than Dune 45. I am just repeating what I was told…

Before the sun slipped away from us we scrambled back to the airstrip for a scenic 10 minute hop to Wolwedans. What awaited us was some of the most incredible scenery God has painted for us. The ruby red sand between yellow grasses with gorgeous waves of mountains as far as the eye can see. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and in your own little world out here – so far away from pretty much everything although everything that you need is RIGHT there!

Internet access is only available at the “base camp” where all the self-drivers leave their vehicles and home to the Namibian Culinary School as well as where the staff and pilots stay. So if you are DESPERATE, like some of my fellow travellers, to be connected then this is where you get your fix.

Tranquility is...

Tranquility is…

Aaaah…. waking up to the sunrise or watching the sunset from your room or the communal lounge facilities – it doesn’t really matter where you decide to sit and watch the world awake (or go to sleep) – this is where you will be inspired to write a book, paint a masterpiece or just become human again. In our lives in this age we are constantly blasted by information and our stress levels are way past normal, and so if you need to revive your senses and re-fill that empty cup, this is where you’lll have the opportunity to do it. If you do nothing else but watch the sunrise and set you’ll be having a pinch me moment!

The Wolwedans collection of properties is yet another bucket list location.

Wolwedans (Named after the ardwolf found in the region) has 4 different lodges/camps. Dunes Lodge, Dunes camp, Boulders and Private Camp. Their names speak for themselves and we are fortunate to be hosted here for 2 nights – the first night at Dunes Camp and the second at Dunes Lodge.

Dunes Camp has huge beautiful tents overlooking the plains and the mountainside, youlll have Oryx and zebra as your neighbours. Although there are cheetah and leopard around, don’t count on seeing them. If you do, be happy.

We did see bat eared fox, aardwolf and the ‘Impala’ of the area – the beautifully painted Oryx. We saw weaver nests that were built on branches not strong enough to hold their heavy load, giraffe and hyena ….just take it all in and say you have lived a good life after being here.

The Namibian Oryx.

The Namibian Oryx.

Our first night was spent at Wolwedans Dune Camp. We only made it to camp late in the evening when it was already dark and were quickly shuttled to our rooms. My immediate impression was WOW, am I really staying here tonight – another pinch me moment (I am black and blue from all the pinch me moments!).

The tent has been constructed on a large wooden platform with a great space for a patio area complete with loungers and a view. The tent has a huge four poster bed with comfy cushions and bedding. At the back is the bathroom with shower (only, obviously), flush toilet and his and her vanities. It has all been constructed according to “green” principals so don’t expect a torrent of water tin the shower, although I did miss it…..

By the time I was ready to go across for dinner it had started storming – an electrical storm like no other and since it hadn’t rained in the area for 2 years walking with raindrops on my head and lightning showing me the way left me with giggles like a teenage girl about to be kissed for the first time!

Dinner was a fantastic affair with 5 courses of delum-shis-ness (it’s my own word), wines from South Africa were flowing and lively discussion with the other guests – a wonderful family from Germany as excited about being in Namibia as I was. Trying to stay awake started to become embarrassing so I called it quits and went straight to bed.

After the lovely shower and lightning storm came gusty winds (apparently common during winter). When I got into the tent I thought I was about to have a Mary Poppins moment with me and the tent being swept up and away. Ear plugs were provided in case the rattling of the tent flaps got too much. But they were too uncomfortable for me and besides… I was virtually sleeping before my head hit the pillow.

20 May

By then my body clock was in tune with 5 o clock mornings and I lay back in my princess bed to watch the world come alive. I packed and was ready to face the day and waiting in the communal lounge area (where all the camera battery charging gets done), I was eager to have my camera operating again (for obvious reasons of course!!).I snapped away merrily at the scenery and the lodge details, enjoyed a gloriously hearty breakfast before setting off on the day’s journey. It was a day with a mission. We had to see the other 2 lodges that we weren’t staying at as well as see the incredible infrastructure at “base camp”.

First stop is Private Camp, a 2 bedroom exclusive use camp. Here you get your own chef and ranger and the best place to hang out with your family or friends. Sublime views, your every need attended to…and all this in Namibia. Seriously, what more do you need?! I think I recall that there is cell phone reception, but if you dare take out your phone while I am around I will feed it to the hyenas!

Then we trekked cross country to Boulders Camp which is literally on the opposite side of the reserve. Set amongst huge granite boulders this camp has a kind of magic unto itself. Sadly the camp was closed for a few days because there were no guests however I didn’t need to stretch my imagination too far to understand the wonderment of it all.

The only question mark I had about this camp was that the bathroom facilities weren’t within the tent structure. Here you walk along a wooden platform to the bathroom tent alongside the sleeping tent. More than likely a space issue but I am not a huge fan of walking outside in the middle of the night to do my business….

En-route our superbly knowledgeable ranger Lucas told us about their “adopt a fairy circle” initiative, which gives visitors the chance to donate funds to research and to further educate locals about sustainability and conservation initiatives. The Fairy Circles are something of a myth, they are circles dotted all over Namibia (which can be seen from the air) where the grass grows in a circle but nothing grows in the middle of them – just sand. The jury is out as to what causes it. Ants? Termites? Fairies? The scientists are still scratching their heads, my 4 year old daughter would just be happy to think it’s the fairies!

We drove through and around the reserve stopping every now and then for photo opportunities or to just take brain photos (those pictures you will have embedded in your memory banks forever, greater and larger than any photo could ever produce). We ended up at “base camp” where we were shown the re-cycling effort and the herb and fresh food garden – loved it. They have pigs who take care of all the camps’ waste. Eventually the pigs get donated to a community. A great way to reduce waste – instead of burning, its about feeding a community. The lodges are all run on solar and there is a huge solar plant at “base camp” complete with battery storage units and an impressive water system. It must be a massive financial commitment to implement all this but in the long run the low impact on the environment is cemented.

Eco-friendly accommodation.

Eco-friendly accommodation.

We finally got to Dunes Lodge a touch later than our expected arrival but what can you expect with 4 ladies and a ranger let loose in the NamibRand Nature Reserve. A quick tasty lunch was served and finally we were allowed time to take it all in and breath. The English ladies all ordered massages. HEAVEN??

A shower and it was off to our final dinner in paradise. Lively dinner conversation and drinks around the fire side followed as we tried to stretch as much as physically possible out of our day! I eventually broke down and tore myself off to my comfortable bed and nothing but red sand, mountains and absolute silence to rock me to sleep. Not surprising that I slept like a baby.

21 May

I didn’t want to get out of bed and sat there as long as I could watching the sun rise. Armed with camera and my lingering thoughts I almost had a lump in my throat at the thought of leaving that place and Namibia. But alas, like my father use to say – all good things must come to an end.

We guzzled down our breakfast and were hurried onto the vehicle to take us down to the landing strip. It was a sad farewell because we knew it was not just the departure from Wolwedans but from Namibia itself. Oh, if I was younger and smarter when I was younger……BUT I had a family waiting for me at home and they were counting down the days to my arrival. I couldn’t have sent them a message to say I was staying on – could I?

I had grabbed a quick shut eye on all the other flights we had taken around Namibia but that day I did my best to absorb it all and make the day linger and last as long as I could.

But the end was final and we got to Eros Airport with just enough time to say our farewells. The English gals were off on the am flight to Johannesburg and I got to spend a bit more time in Windhoek before my afternoon flight to Cape Town. I got driven around Windhoek which felt like a small city that is itching to explode, with building and construction around every corner. A town where the legacy of the German and South African influences still run deep in architecture and street names. I bought my fair share of Namibian Biltong and later wished I’d bought MORE! I had lunch at NICE – a restaurant and chef finishing school and training academy where the students go for practical training at Wolwedans throughout the course. I had a lovely vegetable curry and typed furiously on my iPad trying to scribe everything I had seen and done.

I am now back in Cape Town and have had to hit the ground running playing catch up after being out of the office for 9 days. But my dreams are still taking me back to the Namibian landscape that has refuelled and regenerated the me I want to be. When the city gets too much I will go back again.

Thank you Namibia.


Its important to have the right expectations and the correct spirit to encounter an experience that will fill your soul and sometimes even move you to tears.

Namibia is not a “tick list” destination. It is a country filled with wonderment, big skies and SPACE! If your focus is on seeing game then rather go elsewhere (although you will get your fill of wildlife and see animals, this is not a one stop shop for the big 5).

As I sit on my last morning in Namibia, at Wolwedans Lodge, I look out at some of nature’s true wonders and am blessed to be here and to be alive. I feel like my battery has been regenerated and although I could sit here for days I understand that the journey has an end too.

I have experienced and seen some of the most beautiful and intoxicating sights, I have met and interacted with faraway Himba people and played with their children. I have encountered a river (The Kunene) I never expected to see and came face to face with packed away heartache and loss.

Namibia is full of beautiful moments.

Namibia is full of beautiful moments.

I have lifted up my arms to touch the stars and witnessed a colossal lightening storm to exhilarate my eyes and dance in the rain.

I have met friendly people who smile not only with their faces but with their hearts and whole being, which is something refreshing and sincere.

After 13 years of roaming around some of the most beautiful sights and sounds Africa has to offer I pause and take a deep breath here in Namibia and truly feel like I have been touched by an angel.

Going home is going to be difficult, but often leaving a place you love gives you perspective too and makes you appreciate the experience even more.

I am going home to a family I have missed but I feel like my soul now belongs to Namibia….until next time!


Although we managed to see a great variety of locations and far-away places we only managed to do so because we were flying, 1251 nautical miles and 11,3 hours of flying time later it was a journey to end all journeys.

Its impossible to see all these locations in a short period of time without flying, and although Namibia is a huge self-drive destination the distances are far and remote. If you are driving, gear yourself up for a road trip of note where you will drive long stretches of road not seeing signs of civilization or passing by anyone for hours. It’s an epic journey and the only way to truly enjoy every moment is to embrace it all, know you are in a far-away country with limited infrastructure and enjoy each and every moment.

Pictures and Words By: Liesl Mathews. Read more about Liesl here.

If you think Liesl’s trip to Namibia sounds like the perfect holiday too, Contact Us about making your trip there a reality.

To see more pictures from Liesl’s trip, check out our Pinterest album here.

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Where in the world is Matt Lauer? Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:12:55 +0000 NBC’s popular TV show “Where in the World is Matt Lauer” began it’s 10th season today, with the location clue reading as follows:

It conjures up thoughts of a child’s worst fright, but there are no people to scare in this skier’s delight

Any guesses?

Matt is (of course) referring to the sand ski haven of the Skeleton Coast in Namibia. The skeleton coast is aptly named as shipwrecks and animal skeletons dot the desert landscape. Only the tough survive out here!

Along with the shipwrecks, the area is famed for it’s distinctive Welwitschia plants (considered living fossils) which are indigenous to the region. These hardy plants thrive in the harshest of conditions and some individuals may be as many as 2000 years old!


The fascinating Welwitchia plant.

Colonies of Cape Fur seals are found all along the coast whilst inland one can expect to see animals as diverse as elephants and crocodiles to a myriad of bird life.

The skeleton coast provides adventurous types with a real ‘off the beaten track’ feel, and one cannot but marvel at the fascinating landscape which all sorts of weird and wonderful fauna and flora call home.


Shipwreck Skeleton Coast

The Skeleton Coast is famed for it's many shipwrecks.


Speak to African Safari Consultants to arrange your Skeleton Coast experience.

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We’ve been nominated for Travel & Leisure magazine’s A-List Travel Agent awards! Mon, 03 Oct 2011 08:50:42 +0000 “As long time T&L (Travel & Leisure Magazine) readers and subscribers, we want to tell you about our recent trip to South Africa, Botswana, Zambia & Namibia, and to nominate our Tour Operator, African Safari Consultants, for your 2012 A-List. We were celebrating our 20th anniversary, and wanted to plan a “trip of a lifetime.”  We knew we wanted to go to Africa, but had no idea where to start or how to narrow down our choices.  Enter African Safari Consultants.  With over fifteen years of experience, and a wonderful, informative website, ASC’s head honchos Jeff Ward in NY and Liesl Matthews in Cape Town worked tirelessly with us to figure out which countries, habitats, and lodges would best suit our needs.  They were wonderful at planning a trip that fit our budget, and the varied needs of two old fogies, as well as our teenage children.  They were endlessly patient as we went back and forth about cost, level of luxury, and types of lodges, giving advice that was helpful, accurate, and based on a thorough first-hand knowledge of the locations we were considering. They even considered when we would need unscheduled down time (after our two day journey from IAH-LHR-CPT), and when we would be happy to go-go-go.

We were particularly cognizant of the value of having someone in NY and in Cape Town looking out for us when, in the middle of our trip, a Chilean volcano eruption caused the cancellation of one of our flights.  Liesl quickly got us rebooked and all of our downline transfers re-organized so that we were able to rejoin our intended itinerary as soon as the skies cleared.  This had the potential to be a nightmare, but ended up being a small blip on our radar screens thanks to the excellent in-country support of ASC.

Our expectations were high, but our trip far surpassed them.  Every part of the trip was just as advertised by the folks at ASC.  There were no unpleasant surprises, and we would HIGHLY recommend them to anyone planning a trip to Africa.

We would be happy to answer any questions you might have about our experience with ASC.”

Jill & John Pollock, Houston, TX





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My Favorite African Places Mon, 29 Aug 2011 12:42:27 +0000 That ultimate African destination

With Irene causing havoc along the coast of the USA it is a good time to remind you of why you should visit our beautiful continent Africa!  I have also covered some good tips on how to choose your Safari in previous blog posts (so go back and have a look) which just adds substance to the above!

The main difficultly I have with this subject is actually where to start!  There is so much here to indulge in.  You are also spoilt for type of holiday – from adventure, to romance, viby cities to desolate wilderness, vacations for retired folks as well as vacations for families!  Maybe the easy way to do this is to list some of my favorites and hopefully that sparks off a desire in you to get away from the first world havoc and come and see what Africa is all about!

Having grown up in South Africa I have been privileged enough to regularly enjoy areas like the Kruger National Park, Garden Route, Kwa-Zulu Natal, and even the Malaria free areas of the Eastern Cape and Madikwe.  I can speak endlessly about the sea, mountains, wildlife, people and just awesome beauty that South Africa holds.   It honestly is one of the most beautiful countries I have been too – and I have traveled fairly extensively!  If you want variety – South Africa is it!

My favorite for game experiences has to be Zambia and the South Luangwa National Park.  I don’t think I have ever seen so many lion and the hippos – wow!  But the other awesome thing about South Luangwa is the walking.  If you’ve had a few safari experiences in your life and are looking for something a little different, than walking safaris are the way to go!  It is super thrilling and you really have the opportunity to get very close to nature and wildlife.

I also relish the opportunity to get away from it all, leave the rat race behind.  I love going to places where I don’t see many people, have amazing views, can see millions of stars at night (this is quite common throughout Africa actually!) and have experiences that are just totally different to everyday life.  One country that gave me all of this was Namibia.  The baron vast endlessness……..and honestly, it is impossible to take a bad photo (unless of course you stupidly have your camera on the wrong settings)!  Namibia delivers on so many levels.

My final thoughts for today are with the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana.  A truly magical place that not many people have the opportunity of experiencing!  The desert adapted wildlife throws a whole new perspective on how remarkable nature is.  Whether you travel in the wet season or the dry season this place puts the world into perspective and reminds you of what is actually important.

Don’t forget to contact us if you want any advice on the above!  Or please let me know your favorite places?

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How to choose your Safari – Part 2 Wed, 24 Aug 2011 14:55:59 +0000 Choosing the right safari

Last week I promised a few more tips on how to choose the right safari.  Last week I covered:

1.  When do you want to go?
2. Winter vs Summer?
3. Malaria Free Safaris?
4. Your budget?

With these 4 questions covered we can look at getting a little more specific about your experience.

Once you have covered the above the next thing that I would ask is what kind of vacation or safari are you looking for and who are you traveling with?
There are options out there that are more suited to families, older generations, honeymooners, adventurers, 1st time safari goers and those looking to volunteer and give something back.  So believe it or not, this is an important consideration and really helps your consultant provide you with the product best suited to you.

Although your budget might decide where you can go – it would be good for you to have an idea about this too?  There are plenty of choices out there – somewhere like East Africa with Kenya and Tanzania and of course the Gorillas in Uganda and Rwanda – has been on the safari circuit for decades.  They are awesome destinations for game viewing and they can be busy and expensive.  Botswana is going to give you an exclusive wilderness experience.  I think it has been said that there are more beds in the Cape Town Waterfront, then in the whole of Botswana!  Because of this exclusivity there is a premium cost attached to staying in this beautiful country.
South Africa has marketed itself well over the years and certainly is a destination that has something for everyone.  So if you are looking for other experiences to include with your Safari, then perhaps South Africa is the right place for you.   Of course – if you like Deserts……nothing compares to dunes and ancient paths in Namibia.

The last thing I would consider when making my safari choice is how much support these establishments are providing to the local communities and how much they are giving back to wildlife.  This is actually something that you do find often now and I think it is an important consideration.  You want to know that you are also giving back to the local people and wildlife you are seeing.

In this way we all play a small part in preserving our Earth’s amazing treasures.  I hope this has been useful.  I always value any comments or thoughts so please feel free to add yours!

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A story about the Cheetah – a Safari highlight Wed, 17 Aug 2011 12:38:08 +0000 The beautiful Cheetah

A newsletter popped into my inbox yesterday from a lodge in the KwaZulu Natal province of South Africa.  At the bottom they added some really interesting facts about Cheetahs which I didn’t know.  So I thought I would do a little research and see what else I could learn for myself.

Here are the facts in the newsletter from Nambiti Hills:

-  A cheetah’s body temperature at rest is around 39ºC (102.2F).  When the cheetah hunts, her body temperature gets up to 242.5ºC (468.5F)!
-  A cheetah can eat 14 kg of meat in a sitting. That’s close to one third of her body weight
-  A cheetah’s heart, liver and lungs are nearly three times the size of those of a lioness. That’s because they need to get as much oxygen into their system as they can

Using a few resources I found a few other things about the Cheetah that I don’t think are common known facts:

-  A cheetah can go from 0 to 60 miles (96 kilometers) an hour in only three seconds
-  The cheetah hunts by vision rather than by scent. Prey is stalked to within 10–30 m (33–98 ft), then chased. This is usually over in less than a minute, and if the cheetah fails to make a catch quickly, it will give up. The cheetah has an average hunting success rate of around 50%
-  When cheetahs run fast they use their tales to steer.  Their tails work like a rudder of a boat to help them turn the direction they want to go
-  Cheetahs do not roar like lions, but purr just like a domestic cat. They also chirp like a bird, hiss, whine, growl in anger or fright and moan in distress
-  The cheetah has a small head with high-set eyes. Black “tear marks”, which run from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its mouth, keep the sun out of its eyes and make it one of the most deadly hunters
-  It is the only felid with non-retractable claws and pads that, by their scope, disallow gripping (therefore cheetah cannot climb vertical trees, although they are generally capable of reaching easily accessible branches).

Most wild cheetahs are found in Eastern and South Western Africa. Perhaps only 7,000 to 10,000 of them remain, and those are under pressure as the wide-open grasslands they favor are disappearing at the hands of human settlers.  The average life cycle for a Cheetah is up to 12 years in the wild, but most survive around 8 years and in captivity they can live up to 20 years.

If you looking to see these animals in action then chat to us about a vacation to Phinda, the Eastern Cape, Namibia or Tanzania and we can tailor make the perfect itinerary for you!  I have only seen these beautiful mammals a couple of times in my life and always hold my breath.  I find them magic!

And in case you have missed it – don’t forget to go and see The Last of the Lions, a National Geographic movie!

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One of Africa’s deadliest mammals – the hippo! Wed, 03 Aug 2011 12:30:27 +0000 Learn about this African safari icon

There was a bit of focus on the Hippo last week – with Lise’s visit to Hippo Hollow and then also finding out about the almost human hippo, Jessica.  I thought it might be worthwhile to delve a bit into these huge animals and see what interesting things I could find out about them.

As much as I love the Big 5 – I always enjoy looking for hippo when out on safari.  I find them pretty awesome creatures!  They are fairly common throughout Southern Africa’s National Parks, obviously in those parks where there is water… you not going to find hippos in Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Pans or Namibia’s Etosha!
If you are looking for abundant numbers of hippo then my advice is the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, particularly at the end of the dry season!  I have never seen such dense populations, literally hundreds and hundreds in huge pods.  The reason you get to see such numbers is because the wet season ends around March / April so by the time the rains arrive after the dry season, usually early November – there is very limited water in the normally water logged Luangwa River.  So the hippos are reduced to very specific areas of the river, that still have some water.

This does result in some super aggressive behavior, and we were witness to some spectacular duels in the week we were in the Luangwa Valley.  That said – a hippo will rarely kill another.  They will generally stop fighting when it becomes clear that one is stronger than the other.  However to humans, they are incredibly dangerous and are one of the biggest killers in Africa.

Abundant hippo pods in the South Luangwa River

Here are a few facts I thought I would share about the hippo:

  1. After the elephant the hippo is the second largest land animal, but the third largest by weight behind the white rhinoceros
  2. During the day they remain in or close to water and mud, this helps protect them from sunburn.  At dusk they come onto the land to graze, sometimes traveling as far as 8km (5miles)
  3. They are herbivores.  Their digestive system has not adapted to eat meat
  4. They can outrun a human on land – with speeds up to 30km/h (for short distances)
  5. They can run along the bottom of a river due to their specific gravity
  6. Adult hippos will surface to breathe every 3 – 5 minutes.  This is an “automated” process and will happen even if the hippo is sleeping.  It will raise to breathe without waking itself

This is usually what you are looking for

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Can we do more for our wildlife? Mon, 25 Jul 2011 14:49:40 +0000 Wildlife news and conservation stories are hot in the press at the moment.  With the recent  exposure of a Rhino poaching syndicate; the talk of Elephant hunting in East Africa; the sad poisoning of the Hoaruseb pride of Lions in Namibia; the burning of illegal Ivory by Kenya’s President with a street value of $100 million; the “Serengeti Highway” debate, approved, not approved, good for some, not good for others; Botswana’s stance to ban all hunting; Gorillas being butchered – wild life concerns are endless and all demand immediate attention.  Sometimes I feel the earth is saying “enough” when we consider all the natural disasters that have occurred in the last decade.  What is our wild life saying?

Even today I read an article that the Masai Mara – one of the most famous National Parks in the world – has lost more than two thirds of its wildlife over the last three decades – that is all in my life time!  Are we able to do something?

It can be tough to be forward thinking.  To wonder what it would be like not have wildlife reserves.  To think about our kids and grandkids and what they might not see.  There are so few fighting for the rights of our animals and protecting them.  The odds against these individuals and organizations are huge….yet they are passionate and committed!

The big threats out there are drought, population pressure, tourism overdevelopment and political mismanagement.  These are all huge topics.  Africa is a continent that has been torn by war, natural disasters like flooding, famine, drought, minimal education and in many cases, wildlife that knows no borders and boundaries.

I don’t really know what the answers are.  I guess, the more we talk about things and the more we expose – made easier these days by the internet – the more people will join together in preserving our wildlife.  We have to keep remembering that every little bit counts, it doesn’t matter how insignificant we think it might be.  We have some of the most awesome wildlife attractions in the world and there are positive results that do keep shining through as the war on Rhino poaching shows:  decreased from 40 Rhinos poached in March 2011 to only 2 poached in June! So please lets all make an effort!

We need to protect and preserve!

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Photo of the Week: Lion Cubs Fri, 01 Jul 2011 13:35:25 +0000

Lion Cubs Drinking

There has been a fair focus on Lions this week with the release of “The Last Lions” movie trailor featuring Ma di Tau.

They are also one of the huge reasons people travel to Africa, to see these amazing creatures in their wild, natural habitat.  Part of the Big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo & Rhino) group of animals that has made South Africa and the Kruger National Park famous, you can also see plenty of Lion in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, Etosha National Park in Namibia as well as in Botswana and of course lets not forget Tanzania and Kenya!

The interesting thing that I learnt this week about Lion Cubs – is that only about 20% of them survive to reach adulthood! I was quite stunned by that figure…..

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Photo of the Week – an old favorite! Fri, 24 Jun 2011 13:00:39 +0000 I was reminded of this special photo today as it popped into my inbox.  I didn’t actually know the origin of the photo until I read the newsletter (thanks to The Safari Book).  Here is a quick summary of where it came from:

The Hatted Hippo

This fabulous image has been around since 1979 and was taken by Paul Dutton.  Shot with a pre-digital 35mm Pentax camera, the hippo in question, tried on a good 35 “hats” before finding the perfect fit.  With almost the entire film dedicated to this particular hippo, it was a once-off photo shoot with famous results for Paul!

It was taken while carrying out field work in the Urema Floodplain in the Gorgongosa National Park.  The floral hat in question is an invasive aquatic weed called “water hyacinth”, first introduced into Africa’s wetland system from South America.   Although a serious pest for impeding water flow and causing excessive oxygen up-take to the detriment of fauna and fish, it was fantastic fodder for the hippo, who has the capacity to consume 50kgs of herbage a day!

The image has appeared on the cover of the Wildlife Society of South Africa magazine, as well as being printed into large posters and used to advertise conservation areas in Southern Africa.  The original slide came back from the printers damaged, and only the digital era has managed to “repair” the damage and return the image to its original format.

The civil war that plagued Mozambique destroyed the population of hippos in the Gorongosa National Park.  The numbers declined from around 6,000 before the war to a staggering less than 20 in 1994.  The ivory and meat supplied by these huge animals helped sustain the war.  With the Carr Foundation now involved in Gorongosa National Park, massive rehabilitation efforts are returning the animal populations back to their original numbers!

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