So finally we get to Number 1 of my "29 of the Best' and dum dum dum... it goes to my favourite African country - Namibia!
On arrival in Windhoek, I dined at the famous Joe's Beerhouse in Nelson Mandela Avenue and sampled local delicacies such as Gemsbok fillet and Kudu loin steak. Have I told you how good these taste?! After that, Etosha National Park beckoned - and I was straight into safari mode. Joining a local safari company for 3 days, I travelled through Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni. I remember the black backed jackals joining us for dinner around our roaring camp fire and observing black rhinos around the watering holes at night. We also had the heaviest rain I've ever known whilst putting up our tents one afternoon. Now I know the true meaning of "being wet through"!
Whilst getting out of the vehicle is strictly prohibited in Etosha and most other National Parks in Africa, if the true wilderness safari experience is what you’re really after (as I was!), a visit to the Palmwag concession is certainly a must. On this journey through Damaraland to Palmwag Lodge, it was just me and my guide and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. The drive into the concession area was even more stunning with timid zebras and desert elephants giving the vehicle a wide berth as we made our way over rough tracks deeper and deeper into the wilds, heading for our mobile tented camp which ups sticks and moves every time the Game moves, so you’re always guaranteed sightings of these wary animals. That night, when I lay down to sleep in my luxury tent (recently occupied by Richard Branson's father), I felt as if I was the last person on earth. The remoteness engulfed me and thrilled me all at the same time. Sightings on the game drives were privileges and I needed a lot of patience... but rewarded tenfold when lions, leopards and cheetahs came out to hunt, or stalk, or simply to watch. There were no jostling vehicles, no strict rules and regulations to adhere to (only common sense of course), and the opportunities for quality wildlife photo shots were readily available. The constant change in lighting made for interesting backgrounds. Even going to the toilet was exhilarating and never a problem. I just found myself some shrubbery, took one last check over my shoulder - and away I went. And at the end of a satisfying day in the bush, my driver guide always knew the exact spot for that perfect sundowner.
Namibia has some great conservation ventures like Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) and the Okonjima project. Tracking the rare black rhino on foot is an experience that will stay with me forever, as will being able to get just a few feet away from cheetahs and leopards at Okonjima. I LOVED my gorgeous rondaval in Okonjima and I even visited the villa where Brad and Angelina stayed just days before! Talking to the staff who catered for them was a real insight...
There is no better way to reflect and ponder on your travels thus far then when you are driving down the Skeleton coast. We had the tunes on as we cruised through the lunar landscapes and complete barrenness. There’s a whole lot of nothing out there - but it’s beautiful. Stopping the 4WD, it’s worth a short walk over the dunes to the beaches which are studded with ship wrecks as the waves relentlessly crash in. You appreciate the physical force of mother nature when you look along that coastline!
The time for thinking was over as we drove into Swakopmund. Sitting on the edge of the Namib desert, this German colonised seaside resort has plenty of adventure and action on offer. We ate at a great restaurant situated in the jetty called the Tug. It’s an actual tug with excellent sea views and a nice way to unwind after a hectic day.
I stopped off in Okahandja for some last minute shopping as we headed east back to Windhoek. The hassled bartering is not for everyone but the markets sure were fun. I must have visited every shop - and there were quite a few!
I could post pics all day and night from this fabulous trip, but here are a small selection of my favourite wildlife shots...
WHAT A MAGICAL TRIP! TAKE ME BACK!
Blogging is an amazing concept so here I am giving it a whirl. You'll get words. You'll get pics. Sometimes a vid or two. You'll get tongue in cheek, the odd humble opinion and an honest insight into my travels and writing life. Maybe even a few gems along the way. I'll be musing on home turf as I see more and more of the UK and sharing my experiences further afield on holidays and adventurous trips across the globe.