The vast, rugged and wild Damaraland landscape is one of Namibia`s least populated areas. My wife and I passed through on our way north to Etosha National Park during the dry season when the landscape is parched, although there was still a fair amount of greenery. Although there hasn`t been much rain here in recent years, when the rains do fall the terrain is totally transformed with a lush carpet of plants and grasses and new leaves on the trees and shrubs.
Southern Damaraland is home to two striking peaks, Spitzkoppe (1,728m) and Brandberg, the latter`s summit having the honour of being the country`s highest point at 2,606m (8,550ft). Unfortunately, despite cutting inland from the fogbound C34 Skeleton Coast road, a stubborn haze remained which effectively put paid to distant views and hid both mountains completely.
Our base in Southern Damaraland for two nights was Camp Kipwe, excellent if quirky accommodation, built among the massive boulders of a kopje, or rocky hill. The camp is ideally situated for visiting Twyfelfontein and its ancient rock paintings, but trying to see the elusive Desert Adapted Elephants took priority.
Camp Kipwe, built like a movie-set amongst the red boulders of Southern Damaraland, allows guests to experience the Fred Flintstone lifestyle for real! The official website has plenty of additional information and some excellent high-res images, although they may be slow to load: www.kipwe.com.
Individual stone igloo-shaped chalets with thatched roofs have been constructed among the massive boulders that form a kopjie, or rocky hill. Each chalet has two open-air showers and WCs, screened by a high stone wall. Anyone suffering from excessive flatulence should bear in mind though that any sound produced is amplified by the boulders and can be easily heard by diners on the terrace!
Each accommodation unit has an outdoor seating area with a view over the surrounding plains and several have a large frame tent at the rear equipped with camp beds which are especially popular with younger kids.
The guest information book makes interesting reading. Here are a couple of extracts:
"Mosquitoes and Other Insects:
A spray called Doom has been provided to deal with Mosquitoes and other flying or crawling insects. You may find small Geckos and Lizards in your room. These little creatures are completely harmless, they eat the mosquitoes and flies that bother us. Please DO NOT spray the Geckos and Lizards with Doom or attempt to kill them!"
We paid a bit more attention to the second entry, especially when we noticed the artwork on our chalet gate: "Snake Bites: Inform any staff member, preferably Management. Lay the victim down, away from the snake, keep them calm (I take it this means the victim rather than the offending snake!) and immobilise the bite site. Try to identify the snake without putting yourself at risk." I can just picture the scene : "Aye, ah got a right good look at him mister! It wuz a right shifty-looking Black Mamba - ah'm sure his name is Sid and he stays 'roon the corner under yon ginormous boulder!"
After dinner, it was a pleasure to while away the rest of the evening chatting to the other guests on the terrace although some may prefer to "PARTY ON DOWN!" A path winds its way up between the boulders to a Sundowner viewpoint on the summit.
Desert Adapted Elephants
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After an early breakfast we set off, along with two other couples, on an organised excursion in one of the Camp`s vehicles. Our guide told us that, although the local herd had been spotted the previous day, the animals may take a bit of tracking down. Less than seventy-percent of trips are successful but our luck was in - we spotted them within an hour! The safari truck was driven across the boulder-strewn landscape to within a few metres of the action.
Previously thought to be a different species from the African Elephant, these desert animals have evolved to allow them to survive in an exceptionally arid and hostile environment. They have developed longer legs to allow them to walk further, using less energy in the process, and larger feet to spread their weight and prevent them from sinking into sand during their often far-ranging search for water.
These elephants obtain moisture from vegetation and crushing seemingly dried-out twigs and branches which sustains them until a proper water source is found. Several local but well-spaced communities help the elephants by providing a permanent water supply which the animals can access when they're foraging nearby.
Everyone enjoyed superb views of the elephants as the scattered herd ambled along, making steady progress, while at the same time munching anything that took their fancy. These animals are well used to the safari trucks and we were able to follow the herd, which contained a couple of youngsters, for well over an hour without causing them any distress.
The undoubted Star of the Show was this tiny male calf, only one month old.
Time for a pee! This clearly shows that the animals are getting enough water to keep them healthy.
It was a real privilege to watch these magnificent creatures as they went about their daily routine, unmolested by poachers, with the harsh environment and limited water supply the only potential threats to their survival.
There is some debate as to whether they are a succulent or members of the conifer family but it's estimated that despite the barren, almost totally rain-free environment, they can live for over 1,000 years. The Ostrich pictured on the right were just far enough away not to feel threatened by our presence.
Reluctantly we left the elephants to forage along the riverbed and continued our nature drive, initially stopping on a rocky hillside to view the Welwitschia Mirabilis, (below left), Namibia's most remarkable plant species. Usually found in loose, well-spaced groups on the harsh gravel plains of the Central Namib and western Kunene Region, each plant has just two long serrated leaves.
We regained the dry river bed and took a leisurely drive back to Camp Kipwe, searching for birds and other wildlife on the way. The tree-studded return route was very picturesque and backed by some impressive hills. Hornbills, Mousebirds, Grey Lourie and shrikes added a bit of avian interest. Below, is a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, colloquially known as `The Flying Banana` while the bird below that is a Rüppell's Korhaan also known as the Rüppell's Bustard (Eupodotis rueppelii). This species is native to southwestern Africa and is found mainly in Angola and Namibia, occurring in semi-desert habitats. The bird is named in honour of Eduard Rüppell, a 19th-century German explorer, collector, and zoologist.
A family of Oryx were sheltering from the sun under a large tree. Also known as Gemsbok, these large, distinctive, desert antelopes are widespread throughout Namibia. They are very adaptable and can survive in a wide range of habitats, including deserts, salt pans, open savannah and woodland. The peak below reminded me of Suilven, a mountain near Lochinver, in the Scottish Highlands.
This species of flowering plant native to Namibia is Euphorbia damarana also known as Damara Milk-bush and locally as Melkbos. It is one of two very poisonous plants that thrives in Damaraland and is regarded as one of the most toxic plants in the country. The plant`s milky latex is reputedly capable of killing animals and humans except Rhino and Oryx which feed upon it. Fatal consequences could result if this substance comes into contact with an open wound and the plant`s latex poison has been used in the past by poachers who contaminate waterholes to target game adversely affected after they drink.
Overall this was a fantastic excursion which comes thoroughly recommended - another one of many highlights during my wife and I`s first two-week long holiday in Namibia. Further information on the country and additional images taken there can be found on Clydeside Images.com. Utilise the blog`s search box or the `Overseas-Namibia` fly-out label on the right-hand side of the blog page. Please bear in mind that my Stock Photography Archive has even more shots taken in Namibia. If you wish to purchase any image(s) please email using the Contact Form and I will respond at the earliest opportunity.