Finally south Namibia uncovered by nature photographer, Kollmanskop, Sossusvlei

Namibia Uncovered

XSMP_20130929_7259_Kolmanskop_NamibiaSo finally time to write down my experiences on my trip to south Namibia in 2013. It was a very late decision to go for a visit to Namibia and in the end it took 8 weeks of planning and some negotiating with the travel-company. I decided to book a regular self-drive with accommodations previously booked and some special wishes. I did the southern route on a solo drive with highlights at; Quivertree forest, Ghosttown Kolmanskop, Sossusvlei, Deadvlei. It was a breathtaking experience!

Flying from Frankfurt to Windhoek was no problem at all, service went smooth and because of the night flight I arrived early morning at Windhoek airport collecting my rental car. I rented a 4×4 hilux or bakkie as they call it in Namibia. At the Hertz desk they first told me the car was not ready and I should wait for an hour but on second thought the employee said it was ready.

After collecting the 4×4 and the inspection stuff, which I will comeback to later, I drove straight to Windhoek for the first stop over. This was good idea because I noticed that I was still tired from the flight. Getting used to left-hand driving was a little bit strange but I managed, did see the first baboons on the road and passed the roadblock near the airport without problems. I had an easy day and did catch some sleep and went for a meal at Joe’s Beerhouse (recommended, don’t forget to make reservations). Also the need for coins is eminent be sure to get plenty because tipping is mandatory.

First day on the road

XSMP_20131003_8596_NamibrandNext day first some shopping and then driving south I noticed some cracks in the wind-shield, which I forgot to check at the inspection when picking up the car. Also one front tyre and one back tyre were at the end of their useful lives. In the end the wind-shield didn’t gave any problems but the tires! The back tire was damaged on the stretch from Sossusvlei to Walvisbaai. I managed to put on the spare but had to repair two tires which in the end wasn’t charged but I missed my desert excursion being at the repair shop. But this is “all in the game” travelling Namibia.

But back to the start of my trip I drove using the B1 from Windhoek to the Baggatelle Lodge (350 km) to have a one night stop over. Filled up the tank in Kalkrand and arrived in the afternoon seeing approximate 20 cars the whole day and this is the “busy” part of Namibia. After checking out the dune cabin I applied for an evening game-drive with a nice sundowner. I decide to do some experimenting with night photography but did not totally succeeded, one thing was clear the amount of stars is unbelievable. Almost forget to mention the very fine dinner at the lodge. Next day I would drive even further south following the B1 to Keetmanshoop (240 km) filled up the tank in Mariental.

Looked at

XSMP_20130928_Quivertree_forestKeetmanshoop is known because of the nearby Quivertree forest. Their special shape make them very photogenic. I stayed in Keetmanshoop and when I entered the bar of the hotel a song called “Anton aus Tirol” was played, it was almost like being at a apres ski party in Austria. I was out at the Quivertree forest at 16:00 hours and walked around a little. I felt being looked at and it took a while to find out why? After walking around half an hour I noticed the small creatures called Rock Dassie (rock hyrax). Little rodent like creatures observing the strange person with a tripod. Very funny. I also noticed that you can camp just besides the Quivertree forest perhaps something to remind.  I stayed not to long after sunset because of the fact I had to drive back to Keetmanshoop.

Creepy ghost town

Next day I drove to Klein Aus Vista (230km) filled up at a gas station out side Keetmanshoop at the B1 and because I left early I arrived  around noon at Desert Lodge Inn and checked in and followed the B4 to Luderitz (130 km). On the way to Luderitz I checked the wild horses. They where around near the waterhole but not very active. Could not find a nice image to take a photo and drove on to Luderitz to do some shopping finding an ATM and filling-up the tank. On the way passing Kolmanskop which was totally deserted.  I had planned to return in the afternoon and parked the car in front of the gate. Put the permit behind the wind-shield and head off in this ghost town. It was a Sunday and there was nobody else walking around, a little spooky to enter the first building but I got used to it and started at the end of the town working my way back visiting several buildings. Did even discover the place I was looking for the blue, green room I saw on many images, at first I didn’t realised I found it until I took a photo and looked at it on the display of the camera.

A memory forever

Oryx climbing out a hollow in the dunesAfter a very good diner at the lodge I went to bed early to be ready for the trip to Sossusvlei (380 km). I can only say this was feeling real, what a breathtaking scenery! I took the C13 and C27 and arrived at 15:00 in Sossusvlei, filled up in Helmeringhausen on the way and get some refreshments. Stayed at the Sossus Dune Lodge which is basically 23 very nice cabins and a main building, and also important the food is exceptionally good. Had some nice chat with the bartender. A few hours after arrival I decided to drive to Sossusvlei to checkout the place and take some photos just besides the main road. I already noticed it was quit busy near the 2 wheel-drive parking and  I decided to walk into the dunes and started photographing until sunset…..Nakuna Matata is the only thing I can say about how I was able to drive to Deadvlei at 04:00 the next morning. This part of the trip was prepared very well, taking my own pressure gauge and checking the pressure of a shuttle service vehicle made me confident that I would be able to reach Deadvlei in the morning way before sunrise.

Lowering the pressure and off I went in pitch dark conditions. I was driving the 4×4 track to Deadvlei and I can guarantee that day is being engraved in my memory forever!

After having Deadvlei totally for myself for at least 1,5 hours the first tourists came. They did the usual posing beside and leaning at the trees, not my cup of tee. So I left about a hour later back to the lodge. After a very hot day I was on the road again decided not to drive out to Deadvlei but to climb Dune 45. With the gear weighting about 12 kg it was a struggle but the reward came till we walked along the ridge just a little further than the tourists. A group of Oryxes where hiding in the shade and just decided it was time to climb out the hollow in the dunes. I had left my big lens in the car but managed to make some nice photo’s with extender 1.4 and a 70-200 mm f/2.8. In the meantime I met Steve McMaster from Canada and we teamed up for the climb and the next morning.

XSMP_20131002_8093_Brown_HyenaAnother nakuna matata and we were off to Deadvlei again way before sunrise. Now we drove to the end of the 4×4 track and climbed the dunes around the actual Sossusvlei. And after standing at the top of the dune we noticed a very strange looking creature. It was walking away from us at a distance of 250 meters and was holding something in is mouth dropped it a few times and picked it up again. We followed the track back and found the remains of an ostrich. Later I found out we had an encounter with a very rare Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea). This was the cherry on the cake………..I had to leave Sossus Dune Lodge but had a very nice stay at the Le Mirage Desert Lodge and did a private quad bike tour with a nice guide in the morning. The Namib Rand area is filled with “fairy circles”.

All in the game

After Sossusvlei I drove to Swakopmund the longest stretch of the trip, covering 400 km on gravel roads, I was only 5 km before the tarmac started near Walvisbaai when I noticed a strange sound. My rear tyre was ruined and I had to replace it with the spare, several cars stopped and asked if I needed help. I checked the other tires and noticed the steel belt was visible on the right front tyre. So I decided to drive a little bit more careful the last stretch to Walvisbaai. Called the rental company and made an appointment for a repair on the morning of the next day. That was also my planned excursion in to the desert, but this was more important because I had to be in Windhoek the day after to catch the air plane back to Europe.

Both tires were repaired and I had a very nice diner at Jetty’s with some good company from Germany, Katja & Sabine, which I met on the way travelling through Namibia. Last day was just driving back from Swakopmund to Windhoek  (360 km) taking the B2 and finally the last part was the B1. Heading back to Frankfurt en my home town in the Netherlands.

I did cover almost 3000 km in 10 days and had a very pleasant time! I will return to Namibia some day in the future for sure!

Don’t forget to check the other images of Namibia

Some special tips also concerning photography:

  • XSMP_20131001_8088_Startrail_Sossus_Dune_LodgeNear Joe’s Beerhouse there is a little supermarket;
  • Get a permit for Kolmanskop so you can photography outside normal opening hours;
  • Don’t wear shoes with mesh lining on the outside, the frequent walks in dune sand will fill up your shoes with sand in no time;
  • When using a tripod be sure to extend the lower part of the legs in the dunes, doing that will keep the screw threads cleans;
  • Bring your own tyre gauge so you can check the tyre pressure;
  • You need 1.6 bar (23 psi) to drive trough loose dune sand;
  • Try to arrive at Deadvlei as early as possible but drive at a safe speed on the road;
  • When pulling over to a gas station be sure the pump is set to zero before they start filling up your tank;
  • Check tires and windscreen and tyre pressure at the pick-up inspection;
  • I calculated that you need approximately 1 NAD for every km you travel;
  • Check the position and the tools for replacing a punctured tyre are complete;
  • Don’t save on renting a 2 wheel drive.