A visit to the Palmwag Concession in north-west Damaraland has long been on our ‘to do’ list, so it was with great anticipation that we left the Skeleton Coast Park and headed to our campsite at Palmwag Lodge. The scenery along the way was quite spectacular, made even more enjoyable by the remoteness of the area and lack of other vehicles on the road. This 450 000 hectare Concession is home to Africa’s largest population of free-roaming desert-adapted elephants, black rhino’s and occasional lions.
Palmwag Lodge is surrounded by waving palm trees and is situated on the banks of the ephemeral Uniab River (‘Uniab’ meaning ‘the one that carries you away’ in Damarana.) It has about six campsites, some of which overlook the dry riverbed and the plains beyond. All the campsites have shaded areas and private kitchen sinks. From our idyllic spot we were able to see a variety of game and birds – of special interest was a hornbill’s nest that Rob will write about in another blog.
We hired a guide from the local community and spent a wonderful morning with him searching for desert elephants. Unfortunately we didn’t have any luck, but he took us over the Grootberg Pass to remote settlements that we would never have visited otherwise and it was great to see how the locals live in such an isolated and demanding environment.
There are beautiful walks around the Lodge which give one a feel of the countryside. The area is dotted with weird looking trees, like the bulbous Herero Sesame-bushes (Sesamothamnus guerichii) which are reminiscent of Baobab trees. The Euphorbia Damarana, Namibia’s most toxic plant, is everywhere. Although this bush is lethal to humans, it is grazed on by kudu, black rhino’s and steenbokke with no ill effects. It leaks a deadly milky liquid when the branches are broken and needs to be avoided at all costs.
The valley around Palmwag is surrounded by flat-topped mountains and conical hills, with the massive Grootberg visible in the east. The ground is scattered with basaltic rocks that add their own beauty to the scenery.
Although the Lodge looked a bit ‘tired’ to us, with unkempt gardens and buildings in need of repair, it was well worth a visit. For folks planning a trip in the dry season, there is every chance that elephants could walk through the campsites or Lodge grounds. What a drawcard!