Namibia: Holiday (29th of June to 8th of July 2013)

In June 2013, we decided to visit Namibia again. This time, we wanted to visit Sossusvlei and parts to the South of Windhoek. Did the North during our 2010 Holiday.

The Route

Due to the fact that we were only going to be in Namibia for a week, we decided to fly into Windhoek and rent a car. We missed our own car, but the Nissan X-Trail was not too bad. The first one broke down in Swakopmund, and we lost a day waiting for the agency to get us a new one.

We flew into Windhoek in Namibia, and from Windhoek we traveled to the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge via the Spreetshoogte Pass in the Khomas Hochland. From there we visited Sossusvlei and the Sesriem Canyons. Then we traveled to Swakopmund and Walvis Bay at the coast. From the coast we traveled to Erindi Game Lodge via the Spitzkoppe. From there we went back to Windhoek, and flew back home.

In total it took us 9 days and we traveled just over 1,500 kilometers.

The map shows the route we took and the places we visited:

  • A: Windhoek
  • B: Spreetshoogte Pass
  • C: Namib Desert Lodge
  • D: Sossusvlei
  • E: Sesriem Canyon
  • F: Swakopmund
  • G: Walvis Bay
  • H: Regimental Badges (1915)
  • I: Spitzkoppe
  • J: Erindi Game Reserve

(courtesy Google Maps)

Namibia: Route taken for 2013 Namibia holiday, all 1,500km's of it.
To Sossusvlei via the Khomas Hochland

On our way to Sossusvlei through the Khomas Hochland, with regular pit stops to take pictures. We can really recommend driving through the Khomas Hocland instead of taking the tarred roads. The roads are good and much more scenic.

Khomas Hochland: My girls, on route to Sossusvlei
Khomas Hochland: Taking a break/photos

Along the road, through the Khomas Hochland, we spotted an odd construction in the distance. This turned out to be one of the telescope dishes of the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.).

Khomas Hochland: H.E.S.S. observatory

Spreetshoogte Pass is a mountain pass in central Namibia, connecting the Namib Desert with the Khomas Highland by traversing the Great Escarpment, a geological feature of much of the southern part of the African continent. With gradients between 1:4.5 and 1:6 it is the steepest pass in Namibia, as well as the one straddling the biggest elevation difference, descending almost 1,000 metres within 4 kilometres of road. The top of the pass features a rest place from which there is a spectacular view into the adjacent Namib.

The pass was erected during World War II by farmer Nicolaas Spreeth, after whom it is named. Spreeth owned the farm Ubib just at the foot of the escarpment. Whenever goods were delivered to his farm they would be dropped at a bus stop at farm Namibgrens on top of the mountain. To gather them the choice was to either travel via Remhoogte Pass approximately 30 kilometres southwards, or to trek uphill along existing Zebra paths.

Spreeth decided to do the latter, fortifying the path with quartzite rocks whenever he undertook the journey. Soon the bright white rocks formed a line that could be spotted from a distance. Spreeth even catered for motor vehicles (not very strong at that time), placing long, flat patches of road ahead of every steep ascent. He built the pass literally with his own hands. To flatten obstacles he used dynamite.

The pass today is part of the district road D1275 from Rehoboth to Solitaire, passable only for vehicles without trailers. Trucks and caravans are forbidden to use it. Even trucks and graders of Namibia's Roads Authority only drive uphill when maintaining this stretch of road, and return via the Remhoogte Pass nearby, in order to keep the danger of failing brakes to a minimum.

Khomas Hochland: Spreetshoogte Pass
Khomas Hochland: My girls at Spreetshoogte Pass
Solitaire

The 1st sign of civilization we came across, was the town of Solitaire. Not sure if it qualifies as a town, but it at least had fuel and cold drinks.

Solitaire: Welcome/Population with Old Car
Solitaire: Welcome/Population

They had a whole arrangement of old cars and tractors surrounding the little oasis.

Solitaire: Old Cars
Solitaire: Old Cars

A curious little Ground Squirrel.

Solitaire: Ground Squirrel
Namib Desert Lodge

Our accommodation while visiting Sossusvlei and the surroundings. It is a wonderful place and we can really recommend it. It is part of the Gondwana Collection.

The main building and the chalets of Namib Desert Lodge are spread out along the foot of the fossilised dunes of the ancient Namib.

Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge, our humble home
Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge, with fossilised dunes in the background

Behind the Lodge are the fossilised dunes. Yes, you do get fossilised sand. These dunes are estimated to be 20 million years old.

Sossusvlei: Fossilised dunes
Sossusvlei: Fossilised dunes with some Springbuck

Namib Desert Lodge surroundings with beautiful vistas of the Nubib mountain range.

Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge surroundings Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge surroundings Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge surroundings Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge surroundings Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge surroundings with an Oryx (Gemsbok)

Caitlin and I posing for a photo opportunity, and Caitlin having some fun on the game drive.

 
Sossusvlei: Caitlin and I posing
Sossusvlei: Caitlin enjoying herself

Our guide explaining 'Fairy Circles'. The odd circle with no vegetation behind her (top photo). Scientists speculated for years over the cause of these circles and finally traced it to a tiny sand termite species.

If you pour water on the sand and then dig out the wet sand, you can see how the wind has deposited the layers of sand over the years (bottom photo).

Sossusvlei: Fairy Circles
Sossusvlei: Sand layers deposited by wind

Another place in the world, and another set of footprints left by the Engelbrecht family.

Sossusvlei: Engelbrecht family footprints

Having a sundowner on the dunes while watching the sun set over the Namib desert.

Sossusvlei: Jenny and Caitlin having a sundowner
Sossusvlei: Sunset over the Namib desert

Having some fun the camera, down and up.

Sossusvlei: Fooling around with the camera (down)
Sossusvlei: Fooling around with the camera (up)

Coming back from a morning of sightseeing at Sossusvlei and Sesriem, we decided to take one of the walks at the lodge. They have a number of walkways with different lengths and allows you to check out the fossilised dunes and the local wildlife. We came across some Gemsbok (Oryx) and lots of birds.

From the photo's you can see the size of the fossilised dunes.

Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge Gemsbok (Oryx) Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge fossilised dunes Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge fossilised dunes Sossusvlei: Namib Desert Lodge fossilised dunes

Having a couple of drinks after a hard day of sightseeing. The lodge has a lovely pub to chillout.

Namib : Sossusvlei Desert Lodge pub
Sossusvlei

Had to kick my family out of bed early, so that we could arrive at Sossusvlei in time to catch the sunlight on the dunes. As you can see from the photos, the early morning mist was still hovering on the ground.

Sossusvlei: Welcome to Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei: Early morning mist with the sun just coming up

These mountains of sand are most magnificent at the remote desert moonscape called Sossusvlei, home to the world’s tallest standing dunes. Namibia is named after the 80-million-year-old Namib Desert, one of the driest places on earth. The ancient dunes span the entire Atlantic coast, covering the 800 mile-long, Skeleton Coast.  

Sossusvlei: Namib dunes in the early morning

Stopping to take in the beauty of the suns rays catching the dunes.

Caitlin striking a pose with the dunes in the back.

Sossusvlei: Namib dunes in the early morning
Sossusvlei: Caitlin striking a pose
Resting on our way to Deadvlei. A bit of a hike, but not too difficult (take water). The little Deavlei is in the background. Sossusvlei: Resting on the way to Deadvlei, little Deadvlei in the background

Deadvlei is a clay pan, about 2 km from Sossusvlei. Deadvlei used to be an oasis with several acacia trees, but the river that watered the oasis has changed its course. The pan is thus punctuated by blackened, dead acacia trees, in vivid contrast to the shiny white of the salty floor of the pan and the intense orange of the dunes. This creates a particularly fascinating and surrealistic landscape, that appears in uncountable pictures and that has been used as a setting for films and videos.

Sossusvlei: Deadvlei Sossusvlei: Deadvlei Sossusvlei: Deadvlei, Caitlin made it because she can Sossusvlei: Deadvlei with Caitlin Sossusvlei: Deadvlei with Jenny Sossusvlei: Deadvlei with Jenny and Caitlin

Deadvlei is a fascinating and surrealistic landscape, as can be seen in these photos.

Sossusvlei: Deadvlei surrealistic landscape Sossusvlei: Deadvlei surrealistic landscape Sossusvlei: Deadvlei surrealistic landscape

Sossusvlei (sometimes written Sossus Vlei) is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. The name "Sossusvlei" is often used in an extended meaning to refer to the surrounding area (including other neighbouring vleis such as Deadvlei and other high dunes), which is one of the major visitor attractions of Namibia.

The name "Sossusvlei" is of mixed origin and roughly means "dead-end marsh". Vlei is the Afrikaans word for "marsh", while "sossus" is Nama for "no return" or "dead end". Sossusvlei owes this name to the fact that it is an endorheic drainage basin (i.e., a drainage basin without outflows) for the ephemeral Tsauchab River.

Sossusvlei is about 66 km past the Sesriem gate. The last 6 km can only be traversed with 4WD vehicles as the concrete road ends and sand begins (the place where the concrete road ends is known as "2x4 parking" as any non-4WD vehicle must stop there). Sossusvlei is a clay pan, of roughly elliptical shape, covered in a crust of salt-rich sand. While the pan has been shaped over time by the Tsauchab river, the actual flooding of the pan is a relatively rare event, and sometimes several years pass between one flood and the next one. The river is dry most of the year, and even when it is not, it carries relatively little water to the vlei. The vlei is surrounded by high orange-reddish dunes, partially covered by a vegetation comprising grass, bushes, and some tree (mostly of species Acacia erioloba).

Sossusvlei: The actual vlei (marsh)

For the last couple of kilometers to Sossusvlei, only 4x4 vehicles are allowed, due to the soft sand. You can pay for a ride at the 2x4 parking area.

We saw a couple of tourists get stuck with their 4x4's. It seems that you do not only have to own a 4x4, but you actually need to know how to use it. It's not quite the same as driving on Sandton's roads.

Sossusvlei: Go no further, only 4x4 allowed
Sossusvlei: Go no further, only 4x4 allowed

A Black-backed jackal came to say hi, at the 2x4 parking area. Most probably looking for some food.

Sossusvlei: Black-backed jackal

On the way back we came across a family of Bat-eared foxes (Bakoor Jakkals).

Sossusvlei: Bat-eared foxes (Bakoor Jakkals)
Sossusvlei: Bat-eared foxes (Bakoor Jakkals)
Sesriem

Sesriem is also known for the Sesriem Canyon, about 4 km from Sesriem itself, which is the second most important tourist attraction in the area after Sossusvlei. It is a natural canyon carved by the Tsauchab rivier in the local sedimentary rock, about a kilometre long and up to 30 meters deep. The name Sesriem is Afrikaans and means "six belts", given by settlers returning from the Dorsland Trek who had to attach together six belts (made of Oryx hides) in order to reach buckets down into the canyon to scoop up water. The Sesriem Canyon is only two metres wide in some places, and has a portion that permanently contains water, which many animals use.

Sesriem: Sesriem Canyon Sesriem: Sesriem Canyon with Jenny and Caitling acting like monkeys Sesriem: Sesriem Canyon, but I'm the top monkey Sesriem: Sesriem Canyon, Jenny and Caitlin at the top of staircase leading down the canyon Sesriem: Sesriem Canyon Sesriem: Sesriem Canyon Sesriem: Sesriem Canyon, permanent water pool Sesriem: Sesriem Canyon, unknown bird with beautiful call

The pit stop as Sesriem town. Not much in the town.

Sesriem: Garage

Huge communal birds nest on the way back. These are built by the Sociable Weavers and are the largest nests built by any bird species.

Sesriem: Communal birds nest
From Sossusvlei to Swakopmund

Absolute desolation.

Namibia: Absolute desolation

Greater Kestrel.

Namibia: Greater Kestrel

Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, the southern most reach of the sun during its yearly cycle.

Namibia: Caitlin & Jenny hanging from the Tropic of Capricorn

At the Gaub Pass. The earth just suddenly drops away.

Namibia: Gaub Pass

Entering the Namib-Naukluft National Park.

The Namib-Naukluft National Park encompasses part of the Namib Desert (considered the world's oldest desert) and the Naukluft mountain range. With an overall area of 49,768 km2, the Namib-Naukluft is the largest game park in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. The most well-known area of the park is Sossusvlei, which is the main visitor attraction in Namibia.

A surprising collection of creatures survives in the hyper-arid region, including snakes, geckos, unusual insects, hyenas, gemsboks and jackals. More moisture comes in as a fog off the Atlantic Ocean than falls as rain, with the average 106 millimeters of rainfall per year concentrated in the months of February and April.

Ancient dunes near Sossusvlei, in the relatively frequently visited center of the national park, accessible by road from Sesriem. The winds that bring in the fog are also responsible for creating the park’s towering sand dunes, whose burnt orange color is a sign of their age. The orange color develops over time as iron in the sand is oxidized, like rusty metal; the older the dune, the brighter the color.

These dunes are the tallest in the world, in places rising more than 300 meters above the desert floor. The dunes taper off near the coast, and lagoons, wetlands, and mudflats located along the shore attract hundreds of thousands of birds.

‘Namib’ means open space and the Namib Desert gave its name to form Namibia – “land of open spaces”. The park was established in 1907 when the German Colonial Administration proclaimed the area between the Swakop River and the Kuiseb River a game reserve. The park's present boundaries were established in 1978 by the merging of the Namib Desert Park, the Naukluft Mountain Zebra Park and parts of Diamond Area 1 and some other bits of surrounding government land.

The park has some of the most unusual wildlife and nature reserves in the world. It's an area larger than Switzerland (41,285 km2), roughly the size of the US states New Hampshire and Vermont combined. The region is characterised by high, isolated inselbergs and kopjes (the Afrikaans term for rocky outcrops), made up of dramatic blood red granites, rich in feldspars and sandstone. The easternmost part of the park covers the Naukluft Mountains.

Namibia: Entering the Namib-Naukluft National Park

Stopping to take in the view from the Gramadula view point. Just rolling hills in all directions.

We only noticed, when we were leaving, that we needed a permit. Not sure where we were supposed to get this, since it was in the middle of nowhere.

Namibia: Caitlin and Jenny at the Gramadula view point
Namibia: Gramadula view point entrance

Some interesting structures we saw when driving down towards the Kuiseb river.

Namibia: Stone structures at the Kuiseb river
Namibia: Stone structures at the Kuiseb river

The Kuiseb River in Namibia flows from the Khomas highlands west of Windhoek to Walvis Bay. The Kuiseb is an ephemeral river with a mean run-off of roughly 20 million cubic metres per annum.

It is bordered on one side by some of the tallest sand dunes in the world, and on the other by barren rock. The red sand dunes south of the river reach heights over 150 meters. The prevailing winds blow the dunes northward, but their movement is blocked by the river. In the process, so much sand and silt is deposited in the Kuiseb that it only reaches the sea while it is in flood.

Namibia: Kuiseb river
 

A quiver tree or kokerboom.

Namibia: A quiver tree or kokerboom

A lone bush along the way, with a well hidden little guest (gecko).

Namibia: Bush along the road
Namibia: Gecko

Vogelfederberg rest stop/view point. An easy climb to the top with some fantastic views.

Again we noticed that we needed a permit, which we were not sure where we were supposed to get this, since it was in the middle of nowhere.

Namibia: View from Vogelfederberg
Namibia: Jenny and Caitlin relaxing at Vogelfederberg
Namibia: Vogelfederberg entrance
Swakopmund & Walvis Bay

Hotel Europa Hof, our place to sleep during our stay in Swakopmund. It is a lovely hotel with very helpful and friendly staff.

Swakopmund: Hotel Europa Hof

The Kaserne (German for Barracks), was where I used to stay over during our school camps.

The building of the Kaserne was begun in 1905. It was to accommodate the builders of the quay ("Jetty"), who were living in tents. The barracks, designed by engineers in the German military, form a two-winged building. With its machicolated walls and its corner and centre towers, the building appears to be the largest of any military buildings in Namibia. However, the Kaserne did not serve as a fortification, but only as a barracks for the engineering regiment. This fact is also reflected by the large window openings that would have been out of place if the building were to have served any defensive military purposes.

After the completion of the quay, the barracks accommodated German soldiers. After WWI, the barracks were used as a school. Since then the building as been used for general education purposes, and in 1993, it was converted into a youth hostel. It was proclaimed a national monument on 2 November 1973

 

Swakopmund: The Kaserne
Swakopmund: The Kaserne

Relaxing next to the beach after the "long" walk from the hotel.

During our first day in Swakopmund, we had to explore on foot, since our car broke down. SO much for the sturdiness of Nissan X-Trail's.

Swakopmund: Jenny and Caitlin relaxing

The famous Swakopmund "Jetty". I did a write-up on its history during our last visit in 2010.

Swakopmund: The "Jetty"

Having some fun photo moments on the "Jetty".

Swakopmund: Caitlin and Jenny on the "Jetty"
Swakopmund: Caitlin and I on the "Jetty"

They have done some upgrades to the "Jetty" since the last time we've been there.

Swakopmund: The "Jetty", pretty lights

Here you can see the some of the original steel pillars and the newer concrete pillars from the restoration work done in the 1980's.

Swakopmund: The "Jetty", original steel pillars
Swakopmund: The "Jetty", new concrete pillars

From the "Jetty" you can see the National Marine Information and Research Centre. I spent a lot of time there while working for the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

They have a small aquarium inside, which is worthwhile visiting.

Swakopmund: National Marine Information and Research Centre
Swakopmund: Jenny and Caitlin inside the Aquarium

Having lunch at the Brauhaus in Swakopmund. A definite must visit, for some good German cuisine. 

Swakopmund: The Brauhaus

Caitlin had only one request when we arrived at the coast, and that was to go for a quad bike ride. We went to the team setup at Langstrand. We were alone in our group, so the guide did give us a bit more leeway. Even went to a nice flat area so that Caitlin could also get a turn at riding a quad bike. We had loads of fun.

Langstrand: The girls all geared up and ready for the quad biking Langstrand: All having fun on the quad bikes Langstrand: Caitlin, the quad bike master Langstrand: All posing with the dunes and ocean in the background Langstrand: Caitlin riding the quad bike and dad holding on for dear life! Langstrand: We both survived! Langstrand: The seemingly endless Namib dunes are just amazing

We saw loads of flamingo's at the Walvis Bay lagoon. Mostly Greater Flamingo's.

Walvis Bay: Greater Flamingo at the Walvis Bay lagoon
Walvis Bay: Greater Flamingo's at the Walvis Bay lagoon
Walvis Bay: Greater Flamingo's in flight at the Walvis Bay lagoon

Some kind of Tern, hunting for fish. Most probably a Common Tern.

Walvis Bay: Common Tern

The Raft restaurant at the Walvis Bay lagoon, is always a winner. Good food and fantastic views.

Walvis Bay: The Raft restaurant

A new discovery for us was The Wreck restaurant in Swakopmund. This was recommended by my brother, and what a good recommendation. Fantastic food, ambiance, and views. We can really recommend it. Book in advance!

Swakopmund: The Wreck restaurant
Swakopmund: Caitlin and I at The Wreck restaurant
Regimental Badges (Between Swakopmund and Spitzkoppe)

Between Swakopmund and the Spitzkoppe, we came across these Regimental Badges, which were built in 1915 by the 2nd battalions of the Kimberly Regiment and the Durban Light Infantry. They were part of the invading Expeditionary Force under the command of General Louis Botha.

They are quite large, as can be seen with the photo where Jenny is walking next to one of them. It is amazing to see the condition the are still in after almost a hundred years.

Swakopmund: Regimental Badges (1915) Swakopmund: Regimental Badges (1915) Swakopmund: Regimental Badges (1915) Swakopmund: Regimental Badges (1915) Swakopmund: Regimental Badges (1915) Swakopmund: Regimental Badges (1915)

Caitlin posing on the railway line running past the site of Regimental Badges. Yes, this line is still used, but there were no trains on their way.

Swakopmund: Caitlin posing on the railway lines
Spitzkoppe

Some unknown graves we found at the Spitzkoppe.

Spitzkoppe: Unknown graves

Some interesting rock formations at the Spitzkoppe.

Spitzkoppe: Rock formations
Spitzkoppe: Rock formations

We spotted these two Klipspringers (Rock Jumpers) in the distance, making their way along the rock face.

 
Spitzkoppe: Klipspringers (Rock Jumpers)

Spitzkoppe's "The Bridge", which is a natural rock arch.

Spitzkoppe: "The Bridge"
Spitzkoppe: "The Bridge"
Spitzkoppe: Me standing under "The Bridge"

One of the waterfalls at the Spitzkoppe. Obviously only flowing when they had some rain.

Spitzkoppe: Caitlin and Jenny at a Waterfall

Jenny and Caitlin posing at the Spitzkoppe.

 
Spitzkoppe: Jenny posing
Spitzkoppe: Caitlin posing
Erindi Private Game Reserve

Sunset at Erindi Private Game Reserve. If you look carefully, you can just spot the evening star.

Erindi: Sunset at Erindi Private Game Reserve

An elephant and hippos at the watering hole. Was quite amusing to see one small hippo trying to chase the elephant away.

Erindi: Elephant and hippos at the watering hole

The one rhinoceros we saw.

Erindi: Rhinoceros

My wife's favorite, a giraffe.

Erindi: Giraffe

Waterbuck.

Erindi: Waterbuck

Rooi Hartebees.

Erindi: Rooi Hartebees

A herd of Eland.

Erindi: Eland

African wilddog.

Erindi: African wilddog

A family of warthogs, coming for a drink.

Erindi: Warthog family

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk.

Erindi: Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk

Purple Roller (Groot Troupant).

Erindi: Purple Roller (Groot Troupant)

I've been unable to identify this bird.

 
Erindi: Unknown bird

Twany Eagle.

 
Erindi: Twany Eagle

Crimson Boubou (Rooibors Laksman of Duitseflag).

Erindi: Crimson Boubou (Rooibors Laksman of Duitseflag)

Blackheaded Heron.

Erindi: Blackheaded Heron

Redbilled Francolin.

Erindi: Redbilled Francolin
Windhoek

The whole gang at The Stellenbosch Wine & Bar Bistro.

 
Windhoek: The Stellenbosch Wine & Bar Bistro