We will enjoy a final sunrise landscape photography shoot in Sossusvlei before departing for the spectacular drive out of the Namib Naukluft to Swakopmund for an overnight stay at a comfortable hotel. During this drive the landscapes of Namibia change dramatically almost at every turn as we will descend into rocky canyons before climbing out to rocky promontories to take in the view. We will make many stops on this trip to ponder the landscape but the highlight will come as we make a detour to see some of the oldest plants in the world, the Welwitschia mirabilis.
Although they look like a cactus or succulent, Welwitschia are actually a conifer, with distinct differences between male and female plants. Although many of the plants we will see on the Welwitschia plain are between 500 and 600 years old, Welwitschia can live up to 2000 years!
Large Welwitschia create their own micro-habitat, harbouring many occupants in the shade beneath their leaves, including a variety of bugs and bees. The leaves themselves are eaten by rhino, zebra and even horses if they cannot find an alternative fodder. The Welwitschia is endemic to Namibia and is one of the rarest plants in the world.
The trees beneath your feet in Deadvlei
After breakfast, we will embark on a brilliant journey through the coastal dune systems of the Dorob National Park just south of Swakopmund. Namibia is one of two places in the world where the cold waters of the Benguela current running along the coast cool down the heat of the desert to create a coastal fog that supports an entire ecosystem of its own. The other place this occurs is the Atacama Desert of northern Chile in South America.
The coastal fogs of the Skeleton Coast support such a tremendous amount of life that Namibia’s dune systems are, quite literally, some of the most alive deserts on earth. We will be searching for incredible reptiles during this excursion like Shovel-nosed Lizards, Namibian Web-footed Gecko, Namaqua Chameleons, legless lizards, and Horned Vipers. To Dorob is also a fantastic place to explore the dunes for uniquely desert adapted plants like Dollarbush and birds such as the Tractrac Chat.
We will also learn more about the origin of Namibia’s shifting sands in the reserve and the mineral make up of the different coloured sands of the dunes.
Stopping in Swakopmund for lunch, we will then drive north via a coastal marshland to view Greater Flamingoes, towards the largest colony of Cape Fur Seals in the world at Cape Cross.
Nearly a quarter of a million Cape Fur Seals call Cape Cross home during their peak breeding months of October and November. In the lead up to the season, well over 100,000 are present in this gargantuan coastal colony. To see Cape Cross is a visual spectacular of seals, seabirds and if we are lucky, predatory animals like Hyena who take advantage of young, elderly or unwell seals as prey. It is a seething mass of wildlife that is unrivalled anywhere in southern Africa. We will visit the colony late in the afternoon for a photo shoot before dark.
Cape Fur Seal at Cape Cross
Leaving Cape Cross, we will drive north to Torra before we travel inland to escape the fog of the Skeleton Coast. When the dunes subside, they give way to the incredible red granite landscapes of Damaraland, one of Namibia’s most untouched and spectacular wilderness areas. Our adventure inland begins here as we traverse a rugged 4WD, unmarked trail to reach our destination of the Palmwag Concession, where we overnight at a comfortable lodge. On our drive we will see massive outcrops of Euphorbia Damarana and red mesa type mountains as we search for this region’s uniquely adapted desert wildlife that includes Black Rhinos, Elephants, zebra, giraffe, Klippspringe, Steinbok and a myriad of birds. If we are lucky we may encounter a leopard in this red granite country, surely one of the most incredible animals to see in this stunning backdrop.
Damaraland is when we get our first taste of the real Africa. It is home to two wonderful tribes of people that are distantly related – the Herero and the Ovahimba and on our journey into Damaraland we will begin to see the beautiful Herero women in their Victorian dresses and unique cow-horn shaped head dress. We will also begin to see the red-ochre coloured women of the Himba.
This northern region is also where we will see the first large stands of beautiful Makalani Palms and we will be seeking these out for sunset photography during our trip.
Palmwag Concession’s predator population is the largest outside of the Etosha National Park, with over 100 lions, cheetah, leopard, brown and spotted hyena. Bird life is prolific and diverse with most of Namibia’s endemics present. This concession supports a healthy population of desert adapted black rhino and elephants, under the management of the Save the Rhino Trust.