We’re spending April in Africa, our 3rd visit to the continent. We’re excited to visit 3 places we haven’t been before – Namibia, the Seychelles and Angama Mara lodge in Kenya – plus spend some more time exploring Cape Town.
Traveling around the world to Africa for the month of April.
We flew Qatar Airlines for the first time, with a connection through the capital city Doha. We were quite impressed with the airline, the airport lounge in Doha – great shower facilities, surprisingly good Indian/Middle Eastern cuisine in the restaurant, plus private, quiet sleeping ‘pods’ – and especially their roomy new 787 Dreamliner from Doha to Cape Town. We highly recommend this airline/route for travel to Cape Town.
A closer view of our 4 African destinations.
Doha from the air.
Doha from the air.
Doha from the air.
From Doha, Qatar we flew to Cape Town, South Africa where we switched to Air Namibia for our flight to Windhoek, Namibia.
Doha from the air.
You know you’re in Africa when the airplane snack is Biltong (African jerky) – toothpick included – Thank goodness!
So why Namibia
- Because it was the closest country to South Africa that we hadn’t yet been to, and
- To visit the country’s dramatic and iconic red sand dunes.
Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, with only 2.5 million people. Love the juxtaposition of the panhandle of Oklahoma and the Capriva Strip of Namibia. Legend has it the Germans gave up the African island of Zanzibar to keep the Capriva Strip as a pathway to the Indian Ocean, only to have forgotten about the small matter of Victoria Falls in between!
Namibia has some fairly impressive claims to fame:
- The Namib Desert is widely regarded as the oldest desert in the world (arid for 55 million years give or take).
- Namibia widely regards the Fish River Canyon as the second largest canyon in the world but there are many other contenders. According to Wiki, it is the largest canyon in Africa. It was too hot still in April (fall in the Southern Hemisphere) for us to want to hike it.
- Brangelina chose to give birth to daughter Shiloh in 2006 in Namibia.
Our first stop: Windhoek
(‘Windy Corner’ in Afrikaans), the capital and largest city (400,000, give or take 50k).
View of Windhoek from our hotel. Green, clean and orderly, Windhoek is a bit of an oasis in a desert-rich country.
The old German architecture in downtown Windhoek juxtapositioned against newer office buildings.
The Gibeon Meteorites Fountain is located in downtown Windhoek. The Gibeon Meteorites were the largest known shower of extra terrestrial bodies ever to fall to earth, with some pieces weighing over a ton. Radiometric dating places the age of these broken asteroid fragments at around 4 billion years old.
The Namibian National Independence Museum was completed in 2014. The theme of the museum is the colonial history of Namibia and the fight for independence. Interesting that Namibia hired the North Koreans to design and build this museum – Namibia received much assistance and support from Communist and/or dictatorial countries during the struggle for independence (N. Korea, Cuba, China and the Soviet Union to name a few).
Near the Independence Museum, this statue depicts a man and woman standing on a dome, breaking the chains of colonialism. Underneath the dome is a wall showing hanged prisoners.
The site of the museum was formerly a concentration camp where native Herero and Nama people were tortured and murdered during German colonial rule. The statue was cast by the same North Korean company that built the museum.
Namibia was colonized by Germany in the late 1800’s (remnants of the German language are everywhere, and German speaking tourists were prevalent at each of our stops), and by South Africa in the mid-1900’s. After struggling against Apartheid rule for decades, Namibia (formerly German
The Independence Museum has little in regards to artifacts but is filled with historical photos and gloriously painted dioramas.
South-West Africa, and then South West Africa) gained independence in 1990. Namib
, a word from the Nama language meaning ‘vast place’, refers to the ancient Namib Desert on the western coast, our destination after Windhoek. Mburumba Kerina is considered The Man Who Named Namibia
The 5.5 hour drive from Windhoek to Sossusvlei was mostly on gravel roads (video).
Driving into the Namib-Naukluft National Park, we noticed some brown specks at 10 o’clock in the distance that seemed to be moving. Cows?
You know you’re in Africa when the specks turned out to be ostriches!
A view of our lodge – Little Kulala – which was adjacent to the Namib Naukluft National Park. The second story of each unit had an open-air bed for sleeping under the brilliant Namibian sky, which we did.
Hiking with our guide, Mamsy, who was an absolute gem.
Deserts don’t generally rise to the top of our travel bucket list (despite loving sailing and the ocean, the only thing Mark hates worse than the grit of salt water is SAND). The fine red sand – while spectacular to look at – is one of the reasons. It coated us head to toe each day, our lunch once or twice, and our phones and computers, even though they were inside our room. The heat that rose up by 8am each day and worked hard until quitting time at 5 is another reason. But the beauty – unlike anything we had seen before – begged forgiveness for the inhospitable environment.
We had an early wake-up call to see the dunes in the best light at sunrise. The moon was just rising also.
Parts of the southern Namib desert comprise a vast sea of some of the tallest and most spectacular dunes of the world; the highest dunes are just over 1,000 feet tall. The colors range from gray to pink to vivid orange – an indication of a high concentration of iron in the sand. The older the dunes the more intense their reddish color – captured best at sunrise here.
It was windy!! The wind is certainly a factor in the shifting sea dunes.
Charlie’s Angels are out in force.
Ok…..quit kidding around. Let’s do some yoga.
Mamsy gets in on the act.
That is a great pose….almost past the point of no return.
Whoops….it is past the point of no return.
Going, going, gone. Mamsy worked on this pose until she got it right!
Some dunes can be hiked as long as the hikers follow the crest. Shauna was so disappointed to miss out due to her recent knee surgery. In her mind, if there’s a mountain, it must be climbed!
One slip and it will be a long roll down!
The complexity and regularity of the dune patterns have attracted the attention of geologists for decades, but why they are the way they are remains poorly understood.
Deadvlei is nestled in the midst of the highest dunes of the Namib Naukluft National Park. The white limestone clay floors and fossilized trees over 900 years old give it an eerie, but peaceful sense of calmness. The name Deadvlei derives from two languages: English ‘Dead’ and Afrikaans ‘Vlei’ meaning ‘Lake of marsh or hollow’. As you clamber over the dunes to the view of Deadvlei, the name really gives you the impression of a ‘lake with dead trees floating.’ The heat rises over the floor giving the area a mirage effect.
A larger view of the broader pan. Sand filled the air (and our hair, clothes, eyes and ears) as we experienced a sandstorm in the desert.
Making footprints in the Namibian desert.
Mamsy took ‘little dunes’ away with her (video)
The next morning dawned clear and bright though and the sunrise lit up the desert.
One of the things we love best about Africa is the people we encounter, and the staff at Wilderness Safari’s Lttle Kulala
was a shining example of this. Sweet, cheerful, smiling and genuine, they had us shedding big African tears as they bid us farewell (video).
A few of our favorite things:
- Losing ourselves in our first (of this trip) African sunset – with sundowners, of course – and marveling at each star that appeared where before there was none.
- Sleeping under a sky so bright with southern constellations we felt we could reach out and touch them.
- Seeing the moon rise after our 4:30am wakeup call.
- Marveling at the majestic red sand dune slopes and ridges in the early morning light.
- Watching two desert foxes prance gracefully within a few feet of us as we enjoyed the sunset from our desert lodge porch.
- Experiencing the joy that was our Namibian guide, Mamsy.
- Dancing to the sounds of Africa as the lodge staff bid us good-bye.
Special thanks to Khashana Travel
for recommending this special, unique and stunning corner of Africa.
We are happy to be traveling again and posting to Two And Fro!!