Sunday, November 9, 2014

Namibia - An Overview

The Oryx - Linda's new favorite animal
It has been so long since I posted a blog entry that this is just going to be an overview of our time in Namibia. I’ll post individual entries later along with more from South Africa and Botswana.

Namibia is a dry country of amazing contrasts. Its European colonial history began with ‘discovery’ by the Portuguese as they were searching for that elusive route around Africa to the East and its spices. But as a colony, it was founded by Germany with the exception of the port of Walfish Bay (Walvis Bay) which somehow the British commandeered as a port to furnish its inland colonies. When Germany lost World War I, the colony was given to South Africa to administer. Over the years, the United Nations tried to get South Africa to give up control, but it took fighting and was not until 1990 that Namibia gained independence. Walvis Bay was added in 1994. Meanwhile, South Africa had extended its apartheid regime into Namibia. The legacy remains, but Namibians will tell you with pride that race is not an issue today.

Our camp from the air
The coastal city of Swakopmund is the most interesting urban area in Namibia. The German heritage is easily seen in the buildings and the monument honoring the 1904 defeat of the local tribe. Moreover, even though English is the national language, you are much more likely to hear German spoken on the street and in the shops. Unlike the other southern African naitons we have visited, the overwhelming majority of visitors here are from German or Switzerland. I had to go back four months to find another American in the guest book at our hotel.

Our first stop was Sossusvlei, a national park you have certainly seen in pictures. The red sand and the dead trees are unmistakable. Animal life is minimal which only makes the oryx and springbok more dramatic when you see them silhouetted against the dry landscape. Nor are there  a lot of birds, but eleven of the 23 birds we saw were new ones. The treeless landscape also allowed us the opportunity to see jackals and bat-eared foxes.

From Sossusvlei we flew 140 miles to Swakopmund and then drove to Damaraland for a different landscape experience. With just a bit more water and occasional river flow, this area has enough trees to support a healthy population of elephants. We also saw kudu and steenbok. As in Sossusvlei, the lack of predators means the animals can live in peace and humans are able to walk the property without a guard.

Our next to last stop is the famous Etosha National Park where animals abound. Almost a quarter of the area is the Etosha Pan, a dry lakebed so salty that nothing grows on it. The rest of the park varies from dry scrubland to forested areas. Waterholes dispersed about the landscape provide enough water for a good variety of animal and bird life, incluinding lions, leopards, and cheetahs. The only missing animals are those that need lots of water like cape buffalo and hippopotamus.  Best are the thriving populations of black and white rhinoceros, one of the few places in Africa that can make that claim. The facility manager says that the best anti-poaching unit here is the lions.

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk

Tomorrow we leave Etosha for Otjiworongo and the Waterburg Plateau. More later.

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