Hoanib 9 – Skeleton Coast

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We had left the camp before seven that morning and it was about half past eleven as we finally approached that infamous Skeleton coast. We headed for the mouth of the Hoanib river. Once upon a time the Hoanib river was a constantly flowing river but now it is a most typical Namibian river – it very seldom has running water and it almost never reaches the Atlantic.Hoanib_9_02

The flood in January this year was massive and it – almost – reached the ocean. Above you can see how close it came with only a few metres separating the flood from the Atlantic.Hoanib_9_03

The sweet river water is very popular, for these cormorants and…Hoanib_9_04

…for these (desert adapted?) Flamingos.Hoanib_9_05

Gert and Hanna had as good a time in the water as they had in the dunes.Hoanib_9_06

We continued driving to see this seal colony with at least hundreds…Hoanib_9_07

…of seals and of sea birds.Hoanib_9_08

Another drive took us to Möwe Bay, the administrative headquarters of the Skeleton Coast Park. Here you find park rangers, a small police station and a Skeleton Coast Museum that we visited.Hoanib_9_09

It was now one o’clock and we were getting quite hungry when we came down to the sea, finding this set table with table cloth and wine glasses. What a lovely surprise!

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Was I pleased!?
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A few metres away was a ship wreck. I think this is the Suiderkus, a fishing trawler that ran onto the rocks here in December 1976 or January 1977.

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It was equipped with modern navigation equipment but still ended up here. Hoanib_9_13

There is something fascinating about rust…Hoanib_9_14

After lunch we drove to the airstrip of Möwe Bay waiting for…Hoanib_9_15

…Bernd and the Cessna 210. While Gert had to drive the car back to camp we had the luxyry of this recap of our activities that morning. Hoanib_9_16

Flying over the “singing dunes” where Gert and Hanna did their jumping…Hoanib_9_17

…the amazing green flood-plain…Hoanib_9_18

…the area in the beginning of the floodplain where we had our Elephant encounter…Hoanib_9_19

…the river bed we followed in the early morning…Hoanib_9_20

…and then we were on base for landing. Driving to the coast took hours, flying back less than 15 minutes!Hoanib_9_21

Home sweet home! Time for a nap and a swim in the pool! There is something special about this Wilderness life style…

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Hoanib 8 – Through the dunes

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On our way from Hoanib Camp to the Skeleton Coast we had reached the dunes…Hoanib_8_02

…and saw tracks in the sand. Made by..?

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Yes, this Elephant. You can see his tracks in the background of the photo as well. These Elephants are really “Desert Elephants”!

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This time there was no need for worry. He noticed us but had no problems with us passing by.Hoanib_8_05

Usually the Hoanib river stops at the dunes but during that heavy flood in end-January this year the river actually made it into the dunes.

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Here are a few pictures to prove it!
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It was a month since the river came this way but in places there is still water…
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…in this part of the oldest desert in the world!Hoanib_8_09

We drove up on a high dune and saw a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean.Hoanib_8_10

Time for some fun in…

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…the dunes!Hoanib_8_12 Hoanib_8_13 Hoanib_8_14

A phenomenon in these dunes is that when you cause the sand to move that movement of sand causes the dunes to sing… or roar!

Can you hear it?
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From that big dune we could also see another phenomenon; an oasis in the desert. This is not water from the Hoanib river and not from the Atlantic but from a fresh water fountain. Beautiful, right?Hoanib_8_17

We were coming down from the dunes and found a real “road”…Hoanib_8_18

…because we were now almost there – the Skeleton Coast!

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Hoanib 7 – The flood plain

We had left camp before 7 in the morning, met the Elephants just after eight and half an hour later we came to the flood plain. End of January rains west of Etosha brought Hoanib river in full flood. The water continued towards the ocean until it reached the high sand dunes along the coast.

Google Earth river

The “Google Earth” picture above is a bit old but is shows how the river flow stops with the dunes. With this year’s massive flood this is the effect:

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A huge green area in the desert! This will affect life here for many years and it was an amazing sight.Hoanib_7_02

Above we are at the southern edge looking north over this fantastic green flood plain but if you turn around…Hoanib_7_03

…looking south it is just dry desert and…Hoanib_7_04

…this picture shows it well. You can see exactly how far the water from the river reached. Outside that line is the dry desert, inside the line is life.Hoanib_7_05

It was a fascinating sight, the greatness of it hard to comprehend.Hoanib_7_06

It is quite unique to be able to see this thick, lush carpet of grass in the desert.

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Desert and a tuft of fresh grass. it must be a miracle for animals living here.Hoanib_7_08

Normally they would rely on this for food.

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Nara melons.Hoanib_7_10

This Black-shouldered kite will end this post. We had reached the end of the flood-plain and entered the dunes…

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Hoanib 6 – River bed to the coast

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Early Sunday morning, first day of March…

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…and we were doing a drive of some 50 km towards the coast. Ahead of us was a drive from the camp, in and along the river bed all the way to the Skeleton coast. We had a quick breakfast and…

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…then we were off. It was cool and misty as we started our drive that morning…

…in the river bed…

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…as the sun came up…Hoanib_6_04

…giving light to the giraffe who came down to wish us luck and…Hoanib_6_05

…showing us more examples of the great powers the Hoanib in flood had a month ago…Hoanib_6_06

…but also showing more examples of the effect of water in the desert. Just look at that lush piece of grass growing in the sand!Hoanib_6_07

Further towards the coast the river bed was not as deep and then…Hoanib_6_08

…we saw the first of those amazing “desert elephants”; today only found in Mali and Namibia! Above is looking north with the rising sun to the right, and…Hoanib_6_09

…this is looking south with Springbok and Oryx.Hoanib_6_10

Straight ahead was a big Elephant bull. He was not too keen of us coming his way and…Hoanib_6_11

…suddenly turned towards us and charged at full speed. Gert, our driver, quickly turned the car around but the bull continued running after us for quite some time. I blame the blurry photo partly on the speed of the car, partly on my pulse!
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Finally, he stopped but was clearly not intending to have us continue our drive.Hoanib_6_13

Behind the bull’s eye you can see a dark streak. As male elephants go into a state of musth (triggered by the presence of females) they secrete a pungent liquid from this gland. Seeing this is usually a sign they are not very friendly.Hoanib_6_14

Further north were other Elephants in different sizes and ages…Hoanib_6_15

…and we saw these Giraffes with Elephants in the background. Most probably friendly animals but the “raging bull” forced us…

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…to find a track circumnavigating our frustrated Elephant. We managed and moved on to the next part of our trip…

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Hoanib 5 – Amspoort

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Saturday afternoon and we were back in the car. Our guide helped us spot these very well camouflaged birds (Rüppell’s bustard, I think) while we…Hoanib_5_02

…where able to spot these Oryx ourself!Hoanib_5_03

The Oryx (Gemsbok) is the national antelope of Namibia…Hoanib_5_04

…and a very beautiful animal!Hoanib_5_05

Our car in the river bed as the sun goes low.Hoanib_5_06

If you are lost this kind of sign may cheer you up? Only 47 km in the river bed and you may find a hot/cold shower!Hoanib_5_07

We were driving here because I wanted to see the Amsport (or Amp’s poort) and here it is. A narrow passage for the river…Hoanib_5_08

…and a nice place for us to visit…Hoanib_5_09

…before we continued a bit further. Here we are only a few hundred metres north of the camp. The width of the river bed is impressive…Hoanib_5_10

…as is the wall. Look at the Springboks! It must have been a special sight as the river came down here in full flood.Hoanib_5_11

Sunset and time for…Hoanib_5_12

…a sundowner. After the sun sets it quickly gets dark but in spite of that our guide Gert managed to…Hoanib_5_13

…spot this Brown Hyena! Can you see it? It quickly continued over and behind the mountain and was gone in seconds.Hoanib_5_14

Another fine dinner to end one fantastic Saturday!

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Hoanib 4 – morning game drive

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Up early Saturday morning, February 28 for breakfast. Do you see Marie and Hanna coming in?Hoanib_4_02

Today we were going by car to the north-east of the camp; to an area that had a bit of recent rain and by that attract animals. Hoanib_4_03

A beautiful giraffe and then…Hoanib_4_04

…tracks of lion! Lions were spotted here the day before and of course we hoped to see them. The lions in the area belong to one of the prides that have been researched for many years in the Desert Lion Conservation Project.
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We continued driving in a valley going north of the Hoanib River…Hoanib_4_06

…and found a herd of Springbok, at least 200 of these…Hoanib_4_07

…beautiful animals…Hoanib_4_08

…and shortly afterwards this group of giraffe and then…Hoanib_4_09

…Hanna spotted Mountain (Hartmann) Zebras high up up and far away. Can you see them?Hoanib_4_10

So, we saw lot of “lion food” but no lions. As the “road” ceased we stopped for a drink and a snack…Hoanib_4_11

..enjoying the view over grand sceneries and…Hoanib_4_12

..small animals.Hoanib_4_13

Returning we saw more tracks, this time of Black Rhino…Hoanib_4_14

…next to this minute flower, but in spite of…Hoanib_4_15

…good attempts by Gert to track and look we were not lucky enough to see Rhino or Lion. Hoanib_4_16

Just being in this landscape is however fantastic enough and we had a beautiful drive…Hoanib_4_17

…stopping on the way back to see the effects of the…Hoanib_4_18

…recent flood.Hoanib_4_19

Another Sprngbok before…Hoanib_4_20

…returning for lunch and a chat with Charles. We met Charles a few years ago when he was guiding and driving us at the Cheetah Conservation Fund near Otjiwarongo and it was good meeting him again. He is now, since a few years, a guide with Wilderness.Hoanib_4_21

Swimming in a pool in a desert in the middle of nowhere is a bit strange, but it is also really, really nice. Time to relax before the next activity…

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Hoanib 3 – river bed and sundowner drive

On our first evening we were offered a short drive and of course we wanted to start exploring the area.

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We headed east with our guide and driver; Gert…Hoanib_3_02

…passed this poor Akacia tree that was ripped apart by an Elephant…Hoanib_3_03

…and then stopped to watch this “Welwitschia mirabilis“. Above is a female plant with red cones …Hoanib_3_04

…and this is a male plant. The Welwitschia plant can be more than 2000 years old and it is endemic to an area from southern Angola in the north down to the Kuiseb river of Namibia in the south. It is only found in the extremely arid areas up to 100 km from the coast. Hoanib_3_05

The bush above may not look like much but it is very important to the eco-system here. As wind blows seed over the surface of land this bush catches it and provides important storage of food for small animals. It is called “the Namibian Star”…Hoanib_3_06

…because of these very small but beautiful flowers.Hoanib_3_07

We continued into the Hoanib river bed…Hoanib_3_08

…where these huge tree trunks tell the story of a recent event. Only a few weeks before our visit (late January) the river came down in full flood carrying tree trunks like this.Hoanib_3_09

Low sun and and a pair of giraffes.Hoanib_3_10

Beautiful and always…Hoanib_3_11

…with a keen interest of people watching.Hoanib_3_12

This is a good time to stop…

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…for a sundowner before returning to camp…Hoanib_3_14

…where the camp manager Clement told us about the geological wonders that once created this place and then…Hoanib_3_15

…world famous researcher Philip Stander told us about the Desert Lion Conservation Project he started in 1998 and which is still running.Hoanib_3_16

It was time to go to bed after a fantastic day that started in Omaruru and ended in the desert next to Hoanib River.

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Hoanib 2 – flying to the lodge

We were at Doro Nawas and still had a bit to go to get to Hoanib – by air this time:

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We departed from Doro Nawas airstrip and headed north…

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…having some 45 minutes over a magnificent landscape.

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Bernd knows the aircraft and the route well…Hoanib_2_03

…and we could just relax and admire…Hoanib_2_04

…this remarkable part of Namibia…Hoanib_2_05

…from above. All these dry riverbeds.Hoanib_2_06

With a little bit of tailwind and a fast Cessna 210 we had a ground speed of 161 knots!Hoanib_2_07

The landscape below us quickly changed in shape and colour…Hoanib_2_08

…from mountains to flat to mountains, until suddenly…Hoanib_2_09

…in the middle of nowhere we saw a group of buildings, and then…Hoanib_2_10

…the impressive Hoanib River, before…Hoanib_2_11

…turning left to approach the air strip from the north. Can you see it?Hoanib_2_12

Short final with our car waiting to the left.Hoanib_2_13

On ground, unpacking a few small bags and…Hoanib_2_14

…into the waiting Defender for a short drive to…Hoanib_2_15

…this almost unbelievable place. The “tent” closest is the family unit and it would be ours for the coming three nights. Hoanib_2_16

Not bad bor being a tent!?Hoanib_2_17

This is the master bedroom. Hanna’s was about the same size…Hoanib_2_18

…and we knew this was going to be fantastic!

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Hoanib 1 – on the road

February 26 and Thursday afternoon. We left Windhoek for the final adventure.

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After 216 km and 2,5 hours on mostly tarred roads we reached…

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…Omaruru, a small but nice little town that was once a trading centre for Namibia with some 40 Swedes in the town…Hoanib_1_03

…and you can still see this house. It was built by a Swedish sea captain Een 145 years ago and is today known as the “Oscar Lindholm House”, named after another Swede who for many years managed a store in Omaruru.Hoanib_1_04

One reason for us coming to Omaruru this time was to make a last visit to “Evening Shade”, our favourite guest house…Hoanib_1_05

…where we were pleased to be able to move into “our room”. A nice dinner and then early to bed…Hoanib_1_06

…and then up for an early breakfast, before it was time to…Hoanib_1_07

…say the last goodbye to Chris Johnston, the host of Evening Shade and one of Namibia’s most talented photographer. Thanks and Goodbye Chris!Hoanib_1_08

We were on the road again. Ahead was 233 km and 3,5 hours of corrugated dirt roads…

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We saw the impressive Brandberg for many kilometres and passed the area near Twyfelfontein before…Hoanib_1_10

..we reached our destination – the lodge at Doro Nawas.Hoanib_1_11

We parked our car, had a cool drink and were then driven to…Hoanib_1_12

…the airstrip and the Cessna 210 that was being prepared for us. Let’s fly!

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REST – Rare & Endangered Species Trust

In October last year we visited REST – Rare & Endangered Species Trust, located on a small farm 47 km south of Otjiwarongo. REST is a non- profit organization founded in September of 2000.  The founder and current director, Maria Diekmann originally became interested in the Cape Griffon while living on the family farm situated near the Waterberg Plateau cliffs.  This is where the last remaining Cape Griffon in Namibia roost.

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Only 60 years ago there were two thousand of these vultures in Namibia. Today Cape Griffon Vulture is Namibia’s most endangered animal and only about twenty are left. We saw three during our visit;

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The Cape Griffon Vulture is one of the largest vultures and it can fly very high. Once a jet aircraft hit a Cape Griffon Vulture at an altitude of 11,000 metres!

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Above is a Lappet-faced Vulture.

Later the interest in the Cape Griffon Vulture expanded to the protection and  research of the “Forgotton Five” which is now “Forgotton Five plus One!”. These are now Cape Griffon Vulture, Dwarf Python (related to the much larger African Python but only about a metre long), African Wild/Painted Dog (the second most endangered carnivore in the world), Damara Dik Dik (the smallest antelope in Namibia), Spotted Rubber Frog (only 5 (!) have ever been recorded in Namibia) and…

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Cape/Ground Pangolin. REST_05

This little creature is very elusive. REST_06

Pangolin is a nocturnal animal that is not often seen by people. People kill them because they believe the scales have special powers. Want to know more about the Pangolin? Read this lovely article!

We also saw other animals during our short visit at REST:

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This owl…REST_08

…I believe is a Spotted Eagle-owl.REST_09

Is this a Bateleur?

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An adorable Wild Cat kitten.REST_11

I believe this is an African Grass Owl. It was burned when two boys tried to force it from a tree by putting the tree on fire! It is now slowly recovering at REST.

Today REST is in urgent need for funds to relocate as soon as possible. To help save REST you can click here! I have…

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