Category Archives: Weekends

A visit to the Southern Drakensberg

We’ve just had a wonderful visit to the Southern Drakensberg in Kwazulu Natal. This particularly beautiful section of the Drakensberg mountain range falls within the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, which was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in November 2000. If you’re a keen hiker, or just someone who loves spending time in the mountains, then this park with its kilometers of paths and trails, abounded by dramatic rocky buttresses and amazing scenery, is just the place to visit.

Dramatic mountain scenery

We stayed in a little fisherman’s cottage at a resort called The Old Hatchery (a trout hatchery in its day) just outside Underberg. Our comfortable chalet overlooked a small dam beyond which were vistas of beautiful farmlands where cattle grazed and clear streams ran over rocky riverbeds. Being winter, the air was crisp and we needed the cozy crackling fire in the hearth every evening. One always hopes for snow when visiting this area, but this time the weather was clear and we weren’t able to see the mountains adorned with their white mantle of snow. The misty mornings were a treat though.

Farmlands near Underberg

Our first hike was in the Cobham Nature Reserve. If you prefer to hike in absolute solitude in unspoilt wilderness, then Cobham fits the bill in every respect. We started out on a path near the campsite and made our way through the indigenous Ouhout bushes that lined the Pholela River. Once out of the trees, Hodgson’s twin peaks loomed ahead, beckoning us to come closer. We decided not to overdo it on our first day as I had taken a tumble and hurt my wrist, so we only walked for a couple of hours. The river was close to the path at all times and if it had been a warm summer’s day we could have swum in any number of crystal clear pools. The campsite looked quite inviting, although this being the coldest part of the Drakensberg mountains, it must get pretty cold here at night and in the early mornings. Summer is lovely in this part of the world, but it too has its drawbacks in the form of heavy thunderstorms that come up suddenly in the afternoons.

Rhino Peak

On our second day we drove along the Drakensberg Gardens road to the Garden Castle Mountain Reserve. This is a spectacular drive as numerous peaks dominate the skyline. The highest, Rhino Peak (3051m) resembles a rhino horn, and Garden Castle (2356m) looks like a castle as its name suggests. It was named by Capt Allen Gardiner in the 1800’s when he travelled to the area and thought the peak looked a lot like Edinburgh Castle. I wish I could visit a place and give it a name that stuck. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Rob with a mountain backdrop

We signed in at the Reserve office and set out on the trail to Sleeping Beauty Cave. There are a few busy resorts in close proximity to this trail, and because the scenery along the way is quite spectacular, this is a very popular hike. We came across many folks intent on getting to one of the caves along the way. Like the trail at Cobham, the path runs alongside a river, this one being the Mashai River. The path heads off in different directions along the way, taking hikers to other caves besides Sleeping Beauty Cave (Monk and Engagement Cave) that are big enough to be used as overnight shelters.

Dramatic mountain scenery

Gamsberg – Namibia’s Table Mountain

We had a weekend with a difference recently when we decided to hike up Gamsberg, a Namibian mountain with an elevation of 2347 m above sea level.  This flat-topped mountain closely resembles Table Mountain in South Africa and it is famous (or infamous) for more than just the tortuous walk to the top.

Gamsberg - Table Mountain look-alike

The farm Weener, where we planned to camp overnight, is about 17 kms off the main gravel road (the C26) and getting there is an adventure in itself.  Just before reaching the farm, the road passes through a narrow gap in the mountain and runs alongside a deep gorge.  Going over the edge is not an option!  We were given the campsite aptly named “Panorama” with stunning views over the hills and folds on the low-lying Namib desert in the west.  What a magnificent campsite – highly recommended.  The bird-life and walks on the farm are worth going back for in the future.

Panoramic view from our campsite

But this weekend was mainly about climbing the Gamsberg.  We left early on Sunday morning and drove the 4×4 track through the farm Dradiwawal to the base of the mountain.  It was a beautiful day and Gamsberg loomed above us in all its splendour.

Rob leads the way

Jane with Gamsberg backdrop

The steep track was relentless from the word go.  An hour and a half later, after gasping my way up numerous switchbacks, I joined (a much fitter) Rob at the top and we marvelled at the views of the Hakos Mountains in the north.  Wow!  The views alone were worth the effort.

Views from the top were spectacular

There were some buildings at the top, probably part of the observatory established in 1970 by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy when this area was identified as a top site in the southern hemisphere for astronomical observations.  The clear Namibian skies are exceptional for star-gazing and the desert conditions add to the suitability of the site.  It would have been useful to have had a guide to enlighten us more on this.

Someone had a sense of humour

We spent some time at the top, looking at the views and the plants and just getting our breath back for the descent.  The walk down, although much quicker, was harsh on the knees, but we made it back safely, happy with our morning’s excursion and exertion.  The beautiful unspoilt scenery and the privilege of having shared the mountain with no-one but its animal and feathered inhabitants was a rare treat.

Weekend at Twyfelfontein

Namibia and Botswana have a wonderful system of helping the indigenous population to share in the spoils of the tourism industry and to realize the benefit of preserving wild animals and the environment.  In association with Conservation Tourism, community campsites have been set up that are run by the local community and the money earned is used to benefit the people of the area.  Not only do they learn new skills running campsites and chalets, but they can display their cultural activities, art and craftwork, do guiding and have gainful employment in the rural areas.

We stayed recently at a community campsite, called Granietkop, about 19 kms from Twyfelfontein in Damaraland.  This delightful spot had about six campsites on and around a granite outcrop, each with its own excellent ablution facilities.  Twice a day the wood burnng stove was lit, so there was always hot water available.  We were sad to see that this immaculate campsite was not as well supported as the rather overcrowded and run down Aba Huab River Camp closer to Twyfelfontein.  Their rates were more reasonable and we had peace and quiet as well as amazing facilities.  If you’re heading in that direction, please give Granietkop your consideration and business – you won’t be disappointed.  And if you want excellent views over the landscape, ask for campsite no. 5!

Campsite amongst the boulders - Granietkop

The area supports the elusive desert elephant, which we didn’t see, but on an early morning walk we did see wild giraffes grazing near the road.

Wild giraffe near Granietkop

There is plenty to see in this beautiful area.  Twyfelfontein has been declared a National Heritage Site because it has the largest concentration of rock art in Namibia.  Whilst there are plenty of the usual Bushmen paintings, where staining material was used for their art, Twyfelfontein is famous because the rock art has been engraved deep into the soft red sandstone rocks.

Rock engravings at Twyfelfontein Lodge

There are over 2500 petroglyphs of various sizes, mostly of animals and people.  Considered a sacred site by the indigenous people, Twyfelfontein was an ideal spot for the Bushmen to tell their stories by means of art about fifteen thousand years ago.  Twyfelfontein means “doubtful fountain” in Afrikaans and the little spring that rises in the area has been supporting life for thousands of years.

Organ pipes

Nearby, the Organ Pipes are an interesting geological feature in the Twyfelfontein area.  We walked down into a narrow gorge and were surrounded by literally thousands of perpendicular dolerite pillars, some measuring up to five meters in height.  These were formed when dolerite that had intruded into the shales of the Karoo Sequence, shrank during cooling and split.

Burnt mountain - not at its best

Our next stop was Burnt Mountain, formed by the Karoo shales and limestone deposits about 200 million years ago.  The dramatic changes that took place over the centuries left a mountain sporting various shades of colour (red, black, grey, purple, white and orange), which, at certain times of the day with the rays of the sun hitting it, give the impression that the mountain is on fire.  Seen at midday, people might wonder what all the fuss is about as it just looks like a black mountain!

Stunning scenery in Damaraland

This is a beautiful area to visit, with so much to see and do.  From here it’s a short drive to the petrified forest, which I wrote about in a prevous blog.

Weekend at Palmwag

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 - an oasis

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.

Our campsite on the Uniab River

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.

View from our campsite

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.

Euphorbia Damarana near Palmwag

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.

Scenery near Palmwag

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!

Beware of elephants!

Weekend at Arnhem Cave

We’re always scouting for camping venues close to home, and have discovered a great farm about 140 km east of Windhoek.  Not only does it have campsites and chalets, but Namibia’s largest cave system is situated on the property as well.  As an added bonus, the farm is serviced by a quiet dirt road, which makes it ideal for Rob to cycle to without having to worry about traffic.  So we headed off to Arnhem Cave for an adventure weekend.

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We left early to ensure that Rob rode mostly in the cool of the day and by doing so we were assured of abundant wildlife on the lonely road.  I drove a short way ahead and waited for Rob at various points along the way.  We both saw loads of kudu, hartebeest, warthogs, black-backed jackals and shy little buck in the early morning light.  As the day warmed up the meerkats peeped curiously out of their burrows, keen to see what we were doing when we stopped to watch them.

Suricate (meerkat) checks us out

If we made the slightest movement, or grabbed a camera, they dashed back into their holes and popped up a few meters further along!  It was lovely traveling like that, as the journey itself became as pleasurable as the destination and Rob had a good workout on those hills!

Arnhem Cave campsite

Our campsite, under enormous acacia trees, was really nice and we had an ablution block to ourselves, complete with resident bat that eyed us every time we ventured in.

Bat in the bathroom

The birdlife around the camp was also good so we knew we’d be fully occupied the whole weekend with walking, caving and photographing the birds and animals.

Southern yellow-billed hornbill

We booked a tour to visit the caves and were soon being led deep into the bowels of the earth.  The caves stretch for 4,5 kms underground and are well worth a visit if you aren’t scared of bats, because they host the largest bat population in Africa with five different varieties being found there. It’s a bit disconcerting having bats flying past your face in their dozens, but their radar is excellent and they never actually touch you (don’t believe that myth about bats going for your hair – it isn’t true!)

The five varieties of bats found there are:
1.    Giant leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros commersoni)
2.    Long-fingered bat (Miniopterus schrelbersi)
3.    Leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros caffer)
4.    Egyptian slit-faced bat (Nycteris thebalca)
5.    Horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus denti)

We learned that more than 100 000 tonnes of bat guano was mined there during the Second World War  Apparently bird guano is rich in mineral nitrates and was used for the manufacture of both explosives and fertilizer.  When, during the war, the use of bird guano collected at the coast was curtailed, the farmers turned to bat guano as an alternative organic fertilizer as it wasn’t subject to the same restrictions, and Arnhem Cave came into its own as a large scale guano producer.

The grotesque remains of a porcupine from the 1930’s is also on display in the cave.  It was very hot and dusty down there and I was relieved to leave at the end of an interesting tour.

The remains of a long-dead porcupine

There are pleasant walks on the farm and at the end of the day it was wonderful to sit under the stars with a crackling fire and a cold beer reliving the experiences that we felt so privileged to have had.

Weekend at Hobatere

Rob and I were full of happy anticipation when we drove up to the Reception area of the campsite at Hobatere Lodge, on the western side of Etosha.  We’d heard that the place was game-rich and that the birding was very good so the weekend seemed quite promising.  Imagine our dismay when the gentleman manning the gate advised us not to wander too far from the campsite as there were lions in the area.  When you’ve just driven over 400 kms to have a birding weekend, hearing that does somewhat put a damper on your plans, but we reckoned that a (safe) lion encounter would no doubt make up for the inconvenience.

Our campsite at Hobatere

We located a nice campsite on the edge of a rocky outcrop and then drove the 16 kms further up the road to the lodge to confirm what we’d been told.  And sure enough, the manager said that we did have to be careful of lions.  He told us, however, that there were folks doing research on black mongooses and that we should go with them when they checked traps.  This didn’t really suit us at all from a birding perspective.

There is an enormous hide at the lodge itself where one can look out over the plains.  We didn’t have much luck with animal sightings there though, possibly due to the time of day.  We were hesitant to book a guided early morning walk* (see footnote below) because of the rather long road we’d had to negotiate to get from the campsite to the lodge.  It looked like we’d be confined to the campsite for most of the weekend.

On our way back to the campsite we came across this beautiful chameleon making its jerky way across the road.   What a magnificent specimen!

Chameleon

We also saw a pair of double-banded sandgrouse sunning themselves in the road.  I love the striking markings on these birds.

Female double-banded sandgrouse

In spite of the lion warnings, the weekend turned out to be very enjoyable after all.  We managed to take a short walk down the river bed and saw lots of different birds.  There was actually also plenty of bird activity around the campsite – enough to keep us occupied and not fretting about not being able to walk far.

Golden-breasted bunting

The campsite also has a hide that overlooks a waterhole, but we didn’t have any unusual animal sightings – all we saw were a couple of klipspringers on the rocky mountainside, baboons and dassies.

The campsite is very well laid out – each site has its own ablution set-up surrounded by sticks.

Toilet in the rocks

There were literally thousands of koringkrieks (armoured ground crickets) around, which was rather unpleasant as they are ugly-looking creatures and make a horrible popping noise if you step on them accidentally!  So an inspection of the shower and loo area was necessary before entering.

Koringkriek (Armoured ground cricket)

If you like to take long walks, then Hobatere campsite is not the ideal spot, but it is a great stop-over if you’re going to Ruacana or if you’ve braved (and survived) the Khowarib-Schlucht.  The rocky scenery is very pretty and the remoteness of the campsite is a big plus as far as we’re concerned.

As a footnote to what I’ve written above about not going on a 6.00 a.m. guided walk at the Hobatere Lodge:  I have four acquaintances who actually went on the walk together, with an armed guide.  They were given strict instructions not to run if they encountered a lion, but to stand dead still and face the animal.  Well, the adult, John, was at the back, with the guide leading everyone in single file, when he noticed two lions nearby.  When John pointed them out, everyone, including the guide, ran for their lives.  John stood his ground and faced the two lions that started to walk slowly towards him.  With the whole party watching, he stared the lions down for a couple of minutes before they turned around and walked off into the bush.  Afterwards they asked the guide if he would have shot the lion if it had attacked John and the surprising answer was that unless you can guarantee to kill the lion with one or two shots, it is better not to injure it, as this would only worsen the situation.   So be warned if you’re taking an early morning walk in lion territory – make sure your guide is a crack shot, and that he won’t run if you’re in danger!  Or maybe you should just be able to run faster than everyone else.

Omandumba – touching the silence

Geologists would tell you that the Erongo Mountains are rich with minerals and gemstones like aquamarine, schorl, jeremejevite, quartz, fluorite and garnets (amongst others), but I have news for you, these mesmerizing mountains are full of magnetic rocks.  They must be magnetic because they are so awesome they draw us back to them time and again.  We have visited the Erongo region often during our stay in Namibia and for the sheer beauty and majesty of the dramatic granite boulders, valleys and incredible landscapes it cannot be beaten.

Dramatic rock formations

Our latest weekend getaway was to the farm ‘Omandumba’ in the Erongo Mountain Nature Conservancy.  The Conservancy lies in a flat basin surrounded by the imposing walls of the remnants of an enormous volcano that collapsed millions of years ago.  The name ‘Omandumba’ means ‘place of bitter bushes’ which obviously doesn’t deter the animals, because the farm abounds with wildlife and birds.

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The appeal to us, of this particular farm, is its remote bush campsite, where we were the only campers and had the entire area to ourselves.  What price can one put on solitude like that – not another human being around, just us, the wild animals and the soothing presence of the silent looming boulders.   At night the silence enveloped us and we often just sat quietly straining to hear something – anything, even if it was just a cricket, but there was nothing.

Beautiful backdrop to our campsite

Our walks were very productive as we found a waterhole in the rocks where we positioned ourselves for hours to photograph the birds that came to drink.

Colourful violet-eared waxbills

Admittedly there wasn’t a very large variety, it being winter, but the ones that came were very colourful and varied (acacia pied barbets, grey go-way birds, red-headed finches, waxbills – both violet-eared and common, bulbuls, larks, buntings, rosy-faced lovebirds, doves and canaries to name a few).  We even had the pleasure of an enormous black-chested snake eagle.  On a previous visit we saw the resident pair of Verreaux’s eagles and caught a glimpse of their chick in a nest high up on a cliff.

Acacia pied barbet

Animals we saw included kudu, warthogs, Damara dik-diks, baboons and the usual dassies that live on the rocks.

Damara dik-dik

Our special treat was a black mongoose that we saw for a few seconds.  We were saddened to hear that leopards had been preying on the farmer’s cattle and had to be hunted down.  It’s awful to imagine these magnificent animals being shot for being a nuisance.

Baboons kept us company

The mountains were once home to the San Bushmen and there is a good collection of their rock art on one of the walks.  We didn’t linger too long there as the overhanging rocks were covered in hornet’s nests and we didn’t fancy being casualties of their nasty stings!  Folks who would like to learn more about the Bushmen can visit a living museum in the area and meet with a local community of them, who demonstrate their survival skills and way of life.

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One has to be totally self-sufficient at this campsite as there is nothing but bush.  There are a couple of long-drop toilets (for the very brave), but no showers or water.  This is part of the charm of the place though and it is a privilege to be in such pristine untouched surroundings.

Weekend at Erongo Wilderness Lodge

If you’re a regular reader you will know that we are avid campers and have camped all over Namibia.  We considered ourselves extremely spoilt therefore when we were given a night at the luxurious Erongo Wilderness Lodge for my birthday (thanks again Mick).  Not to be outdone by Mick, Rob chipped in for an extra night to make it a whole weekend treat!

Tented camp

Situated in the beautiful Erongo Mountains, this lodge stands proud as one of the leading lodges of Namibia.  Guests stay in fabulous tents perched on the side of the mountain.  Each tent has an en-suite open-air bathroom with all the mod-cons.  The entire tent sits under a thatched roof and has its own wooden patio overlooking the valley and the magnificent views.

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Just getting to there is an experience in itself.  To self-drive one has to have a 4×4 as the road up the mountain is very rocky and cannot be negotiated in an ordinary car.  Guests who don’t have 4×4’s are greeted at the gate and offered a lift up.  The drive up to Reception is spectacular and before we reached the office, baboons and rock rabbits (dassies), that sit like sentinels on the rocks, had already called out their welcome.

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After checking in we were offered a guided walk to the top of the mountain so that we could watch the sun going down.   The views from the top were amazing and we were very amused by a lone chair perched on the highest point, that looked out over the vast expanse of land below.   The dry Omaruru River could be seen cutting a swathe through the barren landscape.  Our guide carried snacks and drinks for us to make the sunset even more memorable!

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The open-air dining room overlooks a floodlit waterhole where animals come to drink.  We also saw many nightjars and bats catching the insects that gathered around the floodlight.  We were delighted when a porcupine ambled past the dining room on his way to the kitchen for a snack.  This was the first time that we’d seen a porcupine in the wild as they are nocturnal creatures.  In Namibia you have to carry a camera with you at all times otherwise you miss out on special moments like this

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We were up at six the next morning to take a guided hike around the mountains.  We specifically asked for a guide who was knowledgeable about birds and were very impressed by the young man who accompanied us.  He identified a Verreaux’s Eagle flying overhead and took us on a long detour to find its nest perched on the side of a rocky cliff.   When I mentioned the nightjars that we’d seen at the waterhole the night before, he offered to show us a pair that he said slept quite near our tent during the day.  We notched up a ‘lifer’ with the Freckled Nightjars and were happy to be able to photograph them.   Here local knowledge was essential for finding them, as they blended into the rocks so well.

Sleeping Freckled nightjar

I was fortunate enough to  spot a rare and elusive black mongoose on a rocky plain.  We also saw leopard footprints, a horned adder soaking up the sun and numerous birds.   A common resident in the Erongo area is the White-tailed Shrike. I love these birds with their sweet little grey waistcoats!

White-tailed shrike

As always, the weekend was very special.  Whether we’re in a tent or a lodge, wherever we spend our weekends in Namibia they are certain to offer up many delights in the way of scenery, birds and nature.  This weekend was no exception and we came away with many more memories of this awesome country.

Waterberg Revisted

It’s amazing how two weekends spent camping in the same area can be so different.  We recently revisited the Waterberg about 280 kms north of Windhoek as we particularly wanted to hike up to the plateau with a guide.  Although we enjoyed our first visit to the Namibian Wildlife Resort of the Waterberg, it was marred somewhat by a noisy busload of students who partied the whole weekend.  Not wanting to be caught a second time, we opted to camp at a private nature reserve called the Waterberg Wilderness Lodge,  a short way up the road.  This proved to be an excellent choice.

Campsite at Waterberg

The campsites were a fair distance from each other and were well equipped with a shelter, a barbeque area and a private, albeit very rustic, bathroom. Firewood was provided and on arrival we were offered a number of activities to choose from. We opted for a guided walk up on the plateau and an exorbitantly priced game drive in the afternoon.

Our guide for the hike was a friendly young man called Wesley, who turned out to be very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna in the area.  He took time to stop at the more interesting plants and trees to describe their uses to the indigenous people of Namibia.  His first plant of interest was the sansevieria, similar to a mother-in-law’s tongue, which the Bushmen used for making bow-strings.

Sansevieria plants

He gave Rob a quick lesson on how it was done.

Wesley and Rob making string

The hike up to the Waterberg plateau wasn’t too strenuous as we stopped often to photograph the trees or discuss our surroundings.   Lots of wild animals live up there, but we were only privileged to see two little klipspringers peeping at us through the trees before they made off at great speed.

We are watched by Klipspringers

Whenever we take a guided hike  I like to ask about the spiritual beliefs and traditions of the African people.  Wesley belongs to the Herero tribe, who often combine Christianity with ancestral worship.  His family commune with their paternal ancestors through dreams.  He was delighted that we had taken an interest in his community and their traditions and explained at length about life in their village.  I will write more about this in a blog dedicated to the Herero people of Namibia.

The views from the top of the plateau are amazing.  We stretched our eyes for miles and miles over the plains of the Kalahari sandveld.

Rob on the plateau

Just being at the top of the mountain with the air so fresh and our bodies invigorated by the climb up there, was wonderful.  We almost had to drag ourselves away as we had already overrun our three hour time for the hike.

That afternoon we joined the game drive for a tour around their massive ranch.  We saw lots of giraffes, kudu and other little animals, but the highlight of the trip was seeing a pair of white rhinoceros.  Our guide and Rob left the vehicle and tracked these two enormous animals on foot in the bush, managing to get really close to them.  I had my camera poised and ready in case Rob came haring back with a rhino on his tail!!

White rhinos at a water hole

This beautiful Spotted Eagle Owl was flushed out of the bush as we drove past and settled on a tree just long enough for us to get a nice photo.  It’s not often that birds are so obliging.

Spotted Eagle Owl

It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.  The June weather was perfect and we were treated to a beautiful full moon – always lovely to have that when one is out camping.

Weekend at Dusternbrook Guest Farm

One of the things that strikes us about living in Windhoek is the fact that once you leave the city you are immediately out in nature and you really don’t have to drive very far to see game  in the countryside.  We chose Dusternbrook Guest Farm for a weekend away because it is so close to Windhoek (only 50 kms) and also because, unlike a lot of other game farms, it also offered camping.

In the 1960’s Dusternbrook was the first farm in Namibia to open its doors to paying guests with a view to offering them hunting and game viewing opportunities.  This concept was so successful it spawned the thriving guest farm business that operates throughout the country today.

The beautiful old farmhouse sits on the top of a mountain with stunning views over a dry river bed and the plains below.  There is an abundance of birdlife and one is able to wander around the farm (heat permitting) on various hiking trails, which we took full advantage of.

Purple Roller feeling the heat

On our first morning we walked for about six hours, spending time at their dam where we were shouted at and followed by inquisitive baboons.  The dam is home to many birds, especially cormorants and ducks.

The dam at Dusternbrook

I was fascinated by the numbers of brightly coloured dragonflies that were flitting about and spent a long time trying to capture them on camera.

Magnificent dragonfly

That afternoon we booked a game drive and were driven into their leopard enclosure where we were able to photograph this magnificent animal up close.

Leopard at Dusternbrook

The guide fed it chicken pieces which it obviously enjoyed. Even though we were only meters away from it in an open vehicle, we never felt threatened by the leopard at all.

Leopard at feeding time

From there it was on to the cheetah area.  Cheetahs are always fun to watch as they are so agile and interact with each other a lot.

Cheetahs waiting for food

As their enclosure is very big , they would be difficult to spot if one wasn’t there at feeding time when they rush to the vehicle expecting a meal!  Later we came across a small enclosure with a little cheetah with one leg missing.  It seemed quite happy in spite of its disability.

This cheetah had one leg missing

We were somewhat disappointed with the campsite at Dusternbrook.  The camping area was fenced off and very small, especially for the number of campers that they had.  In a land where space is no problem, it feels like an invasion of privacy to be so close to one’s fellow campers.  We thought that they could have made so much more of their camping facilities.  One thing that we did enjoy about the campsite was the huge tree we were parked under.  It was home to a Pearl Spotted Owl that we picked up in our spotlight.  Owls are always welcome visitors in our campsites!

The birdlife alone is enough to encourage us to return to the farm for another visit.  It’s a photographers paradise, although a little expensive as their rates for accommodation and game viewing are not cheap compared with other places in Namibia.