Remember our first campaign, Conservation Destination? Where we followed the exploits of Dara the Damara Tern, Chase the Cheetah, Roger the Rhino and Holden the Golden Mole, just a few of the endangered (but awesome!) species in Namibia? Well, Rob Sambrook from Vancouver Canada was the lucky winner of our grand prize and he and his wife Natasha recently spent ten days exploring Namibia's conservation successes!
Here's what they had to say about their trip, along with some of Rob's incredible photographs:
We were absolutely thrilled to win this trip to Namibia, courtesy of the Namibia Tourist Board. Even so, the experience exceeded our expectations. The itinerary, with our excellent local guide Perez, included two days at the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), just outside Otjiwarongo, and a few hours North of Windhoek. Here, Dr Laurie Marker and a committed group of volunteers and staff run a program which seeks to rehabilitate and release captured or orphaned cheetahs back into the wild; one of the biggest challenges being to find suitable habitat to do this. Therefore there is a lot of outreach work with landowners, as well as the care of the cheetahs themselves. Dr Marker and all the staff made us feel very welcome, and we had a full programme of activities, including feeding the cheetahs, attending their exercise sessions, visiting the genetics lab, and a couple of sundowner drives, where we saw oryx, warthog, hartebeest, baboons, mongoose, numerous birds and a very inquisitive honey badger.
From CCF we drove north to Etosha National Park. It was the end of the dry season, so it was a great time for wildlife spotting, as the animals were drawn closer to the watering holes. We saw many giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, oryx (gembsbok) and springbok, as well as the small and elusive dik-dik and steenbok. We were fortunate to see a leopard on two occasions, as well as herds of elephants cooling off in a watering holes, and on day two, a solitary black rhinoceros doing the same. Numerous hyenas and jackals were on the prowl, and we also watched hyenas, jackals, marabou stork and vultures squabbling over a recent kill.
Driving west through the park on the third and final day, we saw lions on two occasions, including a pride of about dozen, including five cubs. We watched them for about an hour as they played right on the edge of the shimmering white Etosha pan - wildebeest, zebra and ostrich all watching cautiously.
Accommodation was two nights at Mushara Bush Camp, a luxury camp with permanent, spacious, ensuite canvas tents, and one night at the similarly appointed Andersson's Camp. Here, we sat on the terrace and watched and photographed black rhino and giraffe at the floodlit watering hole while a thunderstorm provided a dramatic backdrop.
From Andersson's Camp we drop to Swakopmund, on the Atlantic coast, where we relaxed for the afternoon, and photographed the dramatic sand dunes, which come right up to the edge of town. The following morning consisted of a sandboarding and sand-tobogganing excursion to the dunes. Hard work, but a lot of fun. A spot of shopping, and selection of great seafood, then we were off south-east towards the Namib desert.
The last two nights were spent at the Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust, which offers programs for school children in environmental education, energy and water conservation, as well as desert ecology. We were fortunate to be there at the same time as a school group of around 40 girls and boys, and participated in a number of their activities, including dune walks, scorpion hunting, setting traps for night-active creatures and watching the beautifully clear night sky. We also had a sundowner drive, where we were fortunate to see a pair of wary bat-eared foxes, and to watch the sun setting over the brilliant red dunes.
Overall impressions of Namibia were that it is a safe and welcoming country with a harsh, but spectacularly beautiful natural heritage. It has good infrastructure, with range of accommodation for all budgets. We feel that we have only just scratched the surface, and would certainly like to go back, and explore some more.
Thanks for sharing your travel tales, Rob and Natasha! We're sure you've inspired our readers. We hope you can come back and explore someday soon too!