It had been less than a year since my last trip to the southern African nation of Namibia. I would see photos from my previous trips and postings on social media from friends there, longing to be back in the heat, photographing the beautiful wide-open desert landscapes and grasslands filled with wildlife. It was time to go back, and I booked another trip. But I would have to wait several months.
My friends Kathryn Haylett of Your Safari and fellow photographers Bruce Colin and Jandré Germishuizen can understand. Africa changed them, and they now have it in their spirit. When we catch up, it’s all we can talk about … how we miss Africa.
Back home, the quiet landscapes feel like a secret place or hideaway, and they are different every time. As the weather changes, the animals move around, and no location is quite the same. A hot spot one week or a year earlier is now quiet. Another location I never thought of going to might now be abundant with wildlife.
That’s the challenge. Do I search for animals alone in the medium-sized SUV I rented or wait patiently at a watering hole in 100-degree heat for wildlife to come by for a drink?
Then there are the places I still have not visited in Namibia. That is why I want to go back, as opposed to the better-known African countries. There’s the Caprivi Strip in the north, the ghost towns in the south, the many shipwrecks along the dunes on the Atlantic coast and Sossusvlei.
I love being alone in the wild. I have made friends there and I know what to expect. In Etosha National Park you can do a self-drive and do not need a guide. There’s a sense of adventure and freedom. There’s no cellphone service and limited internet access, especially when you move away from the cities.
Loneliness does creep into the mind from time to time, but you will find fellow adventurers on the road to swap stories of animal sightings. Handwritten letters given to me by friends back home were a gift to read. It’s all worth it, once you find something unique to photograph. That darkness is lifted, and you get a warm feeling that you’ve got something special.
I tried to visit a place called Sossusvlei during my last visit but didn’t make it. I was warned that the drive was too far and unsafe, and that if I did go, I should stay there a few nights. I thought I would allow for some great photos of the deserts and mountains driving at night. I now know that would be very dangerous.
A lioness plays with her cubs by the Okondeka water hole. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Giraffes eat from trees along the side of the road near the Klein Okevi in Etosha National Park. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
An elephant drinks and eats at the King Nehale water hole at Namutoni rest camp in Etosha National Park. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
The early morning skies just before sunrise at the Halali campsite in Etosha National Park. I needed to move toward a dark area near the edge of camp to capture photos. Movement in the nearby brush made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A lioness picks out the remains of a springbok, after a kill with three other lionesses at the Okondeka water hole. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
Two rhinos drink from the Okaukuejo water hole just before sunrise in Etosha National Park. Many rest camps have water holes protected by high fences and lit at night to view animals all day and night. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
An impala takes a break from eating the fresh green vegetation along the main road just past Halali in Etosha National Park in Namibia. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A young giraffe gets low to drink at the Chudop water hole near the Namutoni campsite in Etosha National Park. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A young male lion begins to make his move on his prey, a springbok at the Nebrowni water hole, Etosha National Park. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
An elephant cools youngster at the Aus Waterhole with a splash of water on a hot midday sun as temperatures reached the 100 degrees. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A brightly lit sunset at the Moringa water hole in Etosha National Park in Namibia. (Photo: Gordon Donovan/Yahoo News)
A zebra eats a hearty breakfast of grass in the savanna plains just after sunrise near Sueda water hole in Etosha National Park, Namibia. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)
A view of the Etosha Pan, a 75-mile-long dry lakebed. Etosha, which means "Great White Place," is composed of a large mineral pan. (Photo: Gordon Donovan)