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Namibia: Damaraland, Etosha National Park, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Ongava, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Windhoek
Damaraland, Namibia: In search of the desert elephants
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Between the Ugab and Huab Rivers in the southern Damaraland lies a vast, beautiful and unspoilt wilderness of beautiful desert scenery, unusual geological formations, interesting archeological sites and a unique variety of desert fauna and flora. Not to forget the elusive desert elephants.
After breakfast at the Ongava Tented Camp, we commenced our drive towards Damaraland. The distance was about 350 kms. and would call for a 4-hour drive, not including the breaks that we may take on the way.
The road took us through wilderness, as expected of course, and through quiet little towns of Outjo and Khorixas. We made a stop at a supermarket in Khorixas to fill up our supplies and recharge or local SIM cards. From Khorixas to our lodge in Damaraland, the road was gravel and had plenty of ups and downs. During rains, the road is usually closed and a detour to Damaraland needs to be planned for.
We were booked at Mowani Mountain Camp. In the heat, dust and stunning landscapes of Damaraland, there is this sanctuary. Dwarfed by massive ochre boulders, the camp is absorbed into the landscape, making it one in this prehistoric land. Every soft curve or ragged edge frames the landscape in a different way, as if you are seeing for the first time, every time.
The rooms open out to unending views of the table top mountains and cone-shaped peaks and the majestic Brandberg. A manmade rock pool carved skillfully out of the surrounding stone, blends perfectly with the natural surroundings. An adjacent wooden deck entices visitors to relax and soak up in the sun. An enormous flat boulder serves as a sundowner spot, offering the guests spectacular vistas of the Aba-Huab Valley.
After lunch we checked into our rooms (that’s an understatement though) and were soon ready to explore Bushman engravings at Twyfelfontein.
Twyfelfontein is a site of ancient rock engravings about a 20-minute drive from our lodge in the Kunene Region of north-western Namibia. It consists of a spring in a valley flanked by the slopes of a sandstone table mountain that receives very little rainfall and has a wide range of diurnal temperatures.
Twyfelfontein valley has been inhabited by Stone-age hunter-gatherers of the Wilton Stone Age culture group since approximately 6,000 years ago. They made most of the engravings and probably all the paintings. 2,000 to 2,500 years ago the Khoikhoi, an ethnic group related to the San (Bushmen), occupied the valley, then known under its Damara name Ui-Ais (jumping waterhole). The Khoikhoi also produced rock art.
It's a protected site and there's an entrance fee to visit the slopes. It's a good walk and a healthy climb up the slopes of the mountain on which we find the works of art. Though there are many caves that can be visited, we restricted ourselves only to open areas and the ones that were easy to negotiate. We wanted to be back, well in time, to enjoy the sunset from the lodge’s deck. Sunset from out there ranks amongst Africa’s finest. And the sundowners in hand only improve the viewing pleasures!
Early next morning we were in open vehicles ready to spot the Damaraland’s elusive elephants. These elephants cover over 50 kms. per day and they keep walking in search of food and water. That’s the reason why they are a little difficult to spot.
Like on all African Safaris, the drivers are excellent guides too. Following the footmarks, we eventually traced a group of elephants… majestically grazing and enjoying the morning sun. This group had 14 members and was led by the bull elephant named Oscar. I was told that there were 2 such groups each with its leader. Of the two, Oscar was naughtier – whatever that meant.
Two siblings, a brother and a sister, in the group were quite in a playful mood. At one time, the little one actually came very near to our vehicle and touched me with his trunk! And at that very moment, Oscar came and nudged our vehicle a bit... probably telling us to go our way.
For an hour or so we were with the group. On our way back to the lodge, we visited a tribal camp. The entry fee was N$80 per person - steep, but then we got to see the way the local tribe live, dress and dance.
It was now time to check out from the lodge and drive towards Swakopmund – our next destination.
Damaraland Image Gallery Photo viewer
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