Namibia, A Road Trip – 5 – Off the Coast And To Wolwedans
The drive was, again, long and warm. But the scenery was incredibly beautiful. Just as we crossed Walvis Bay, we casually turned our heads to the ocean and saw a whale breach! It was pure serendipity! After crossing town, we turned off the coast and drove down the C14 through the Kuiseb Canyon and the Gaub Pass.At one point we simply had to stop to take pictures!Our only scheduled stop was at Solitaire! While this little hamlet seemed to get precious little rain,…the population seemed to be booming!The reason for this particular pit stop wasThe famed apple pie proved to be absolutely delicious – perfectly cooked apples with just the right textured pie served with generous dollops of unsweetened whipped cream. We completely endorsed this notice …Solitaire offered other delights too. Some more skeletons! Of cars!
Wolwedans is located in the heart of the NamibRand Nature Reserve. This is a privately owned reserve, 200,000 hectares, bordering the Namib-Naukluft Park in South-West Namibia. It was created to bring alive a dream of extending the desert frontiers through the integration of former sheep farms. A sanctuary free of fences was created allowing wildlife to roam their habitat unhindered. There is a selection of small and elegant safari camps which provide a high quality, low impact tourism experience that makes the whole project financially self-sustaining.
We parked our car at the reception and were transported to the Wolwedans Dunes Lodge in game drive vehicles. The Lodge is perched on top of a dune plateau.
That evening we drove around stopping to photograph the oryx or gemsbok – a dramatically coloured antelope,and the incredible red sand.The sunset was quick and the oranges of the landscape gave way to a range of pinks, lilacs and purples in the sky. But the earth retained its hues of red.As the darkness closed in, a silvery sliver of the moon rose and glittered in the inky black sky.
Just before dinner we took a short walk away from the lodge and set up our tripods to do another astrophotography session. The NamibRand was designated as a Gold Tier International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark-Sky Association. Gold Tier is the term used to describe reserves with nighttime environments that have little to no impact from light pollution and artificial light. NamibRand’s nearest neighbouring communities are small and lie almost 100 kms away, so the reserve’s sky is one of the darkest yet measured across the world.Since there were no large animals in the vicinity of the camp and no breeze to cause any “shake”, we decided to leave our cameras “open” and undisturbed on their tripods till we finished our meal. About an hour of recording the journey of the stars across the heavens revealed this …The following morning we made an early start to catch the sunrise at the right location. We pitched our tripods on the top of a dune that overlooked the adjacent valley and the distant hills. Hot cups of coffee kept us company. As dawn broke across the sky, the light crept onto the peaks and shadows were born in the valley. Sky and land came alive in a veritable painter’s palette of colours. The next couple of hours was pure magic.
Once the sun rose completely, we turned our attention to the wildlife of the NamibRand. We tracked an orb spider that digs itself into the sand.We found a hideaway that was probably a nest, but decided not to disturb the little creature. We did find a colony of very busy ants whose colouration was in stark contrast to the sand and blades of grass!Slightly bigger in size was this oryx who watched us for a few moments before charging away to the safety of his herd!We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the serene silence of the camp. In a very hectic road trip, it was our one day of leisure!
We definitely recommend this camp if you visit this part of Namibia. Each of the 9 chalets is built on a wooden structure with canvas blinds and run on solar power. It leaves a very low imprint on the surrounding desert, both visually and in terms of environmental impact. Friendly and helpful staff complement the luxurious accommodation as does the fantastic food. There is even a small waterhole opposite the main deck that draws in the animals during the heat of the day. But the real show stopper is the panoramic views all around the camp.
As the sun set over the dunes opposite our camp,the staff began lighting up the lodge with torches and set up a campfire.We took the opportunity to use all this beautiful light for some more photography lessons … A small library…A cosy lounge …and warm, happy staff!As the dusk faded into darkness, the lodge took on a magical beauty,that set off the Milky Way …and the countless stars visible over this vast desert.We awoke early next morning to watch another beautiful sunrise across these dunes.
As we drove back to camp, we stopped to marvel at the fairy circles we could see all around us.There are many theories about these strange perfect circles of all sizes – they have no vegetation within them even if the surrounding land has some. All we saw on them were occasional tracks of insects and some animals. One theory is that there are special bacteria growing in the soil that cause this odd effect. The other is that there are sub-soil gases escaping like “bubbles” that cause the death of vegetation. The most romantic one is, of course, from folklore – that the ancestors of the local tribes gather at night and dance in circles and wear away the grass!Wolwedans offers an ‘adopt-a-fairy-circle’ concept, whereby guests and nature lovers can ‘adopt’ one of the thousands of mysterious fairy circles that are unique to the Namib Desert. A numbered disk will be placed in your specially chosen circle and you will receive a certificate acknowledging your donation and recording the exact GPS-coordinates of your fairy circle. The funds thus collected are used exclusively for conservation, research and education.
Back at camp, as we rushed to pack our bags, we stopped to greet …We had a delicious, prettily laid out breakfast.One last treasure we found in this camp in the desert was this dull pink flower that had bloomed overnight. The Hoodia Gordonii. The plant is used by the traditional San Bushmen as an appetite suppressant in the arid land as well as for its other medicinal properties.Nature, as usual, with her resourcefulness, gave this flower a perfume (?) that is much like rotten meat – to attract flies to pollinate them!
Once again, we left Wolwedans very reluctantly. After bidding goodbye to the staff, we were driven back to our car at the reception. And we set off for the final leg of our adventure towards Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei.