You can participate in this stunning journey taking in the highlights of Namibia and along the way joining in the unique opportunity to work with local researchers in collaring giraffes in order to assist with conservation efforts.
What makes this trip extraordinary?
By the nature of bringing visitors into an area in a responsible way, bespoke safaris contribute significantly to local economies, communities and to the protection of wildlife and habitat, via contributions to the ground operators, land and lodge owners. It is possible to achieve this by using carefully selected partners who employ local naturalists, safari guides and specialists whose activities support and sustain their environment and educate and enlighten visitors.
You can also visit Namibia’s Etosha National Park, home to wonderful herds of elephant, lion, zebra and if lucky, perhaps rhino and then spend two days as I did recently, undertaking giraffe research on the Angolan Giraffe which is a sub species of the southern giraffe. Their habitat is becoming denuded and the population levels are declining, which is why this vital collaring process will assist with gaining important data to try and help maintain their survival.
We often gaze at giraffe, their agility, their elegance, their beauty, wishing we could get closer to them – and without being on horseback, here one has the opportunity to really understand these graceful, pretty creatures at close quarters, learn about their complex communication patterns and simply have the privilege of being able to be part of such an important project.
One can then go tracking black rhino on foot in Damaraland. This area couldn’t be more different than the desert of the Namib or Etosha or the Caprivi Strip. Damaraland is filled with rocky granite of majestic beauty. Some of the rocks in Namibia have been dated back to 2600 million years. The rocks are interspersed with the succulent Euphorbia Candelabras.
While there you will learn about the tectonic shifting of the plates, learn about the night sky, but most of all, learn about the magnificent black rhino that you will see, which we are sadly losing at the rate of three per day in Africa. These creatures can withstand the sweltering heat of 40’C during the day and freezing temperatures at night.
Being desert adapted, they can go 3-4 days without water although they obtain much of their water through succulent plants. Their range is twice as great as other black rhinos – generally spanning around 200 sq. kms. It is just an incredible experience to see these extraordinary mammals on a walking safari, observing their behaviour and learning about them.
Namibia is one of the most spectacular countries on this planet, with her breath taking scenery, the oldest desert in the world, her incredible geology and of course, the most striking feature being the desert dwelling species that live there – from the oryx antelope with its finely curved horns, to the nimble springbok, to the rare and endangered desert dwelling rhino, elephant and lion as well as the plethora of fascinating vertebrates and invertebrates that have adapted to live in the desert.
The most profound sensation when looking at desert dwelling animals, is the wonderment of their survival and to appreciate the harsh conditions they have to endure on a daily basis in order to simply survive. Yes, one searches for longer to see wildlife, but the reward is so much sweeter and the respect and the appreciation being so complete.
Once all of your sensations have been satisfied to a point of overflowing, you can then move on to the Waterberg Mountains where you will spend time observing cheetah and if lucky, leopard, at close quarters.
The Africat Foundation was originally set up to protect the cheetah and rescue them from farms. The Foundation has purchased huge tracts of land where they have released these wild cheetah and now one can spend time tracking them. On my last visit, I watched a cheetah take down a hare and spent about an hour with it on foot, just a few metres away. This was such an amazing privilege!
Finally, although not part of my last visit, something I have previously done and would thoroughly recommend, is supporting the Namibia Desert Lion project. This is headed up by Dr Flip Stander who has devoted much of his life to the preservation and increase of the desert lion.
This is without doubt one of the most incredible and memorable wildlife encounters I have ever had the good fortune to experience. One needs time – and patience – as in possibly a full day, but the work he is doing is pivotal to the survival of the desert dwelling lion and since his dedicated involvement in this region (35 years), the lion population has indeed increased today to over 100 from around just 20 in the 1980’s.
There is no guarantee of seeing them, but with hard work and perseverance and a genuine interest, then there is a good chance that you will and in the possible event that you don’t, at least know that you’re funding is going to a very good cause!
I think one of the biggest differences is that when one sees a lioness with cubs in a normal African environment, surrounded by prey, there is a strong chance that the lioness will survive and infanticide apart, theoretically so should a proportion of the cubs.
With the desert lion in Namibia, she will often walk 60 kms in order to find the closest food, which can take five days and by the time she returns, she may find that she has lost all her cubs. Such is the harsh reality of this environment and our deep desire to see this species not only survive but indeed thrive.