Photographic Tour of Namibia

About a year ago an old collage friend of mine, Shem Compion, asked me if I would be interested in helping him out on a tour. Of course, I said I would.

Shem is an accomplished photographer and runs a tour company taking exclusive photographic safaris called C4Images.

I picked up Shem in Windhoek and we began organizing our tour, all the while chatting about what we had been up to in the last 10 years. After getting our tour vehicles we went out to the Airport and picked up the guests. They slept in Windhoek that night.

The next morning we set off for Sossusvlei. We stayed at Sossus Dune Lodge, run by Namibian Wildlife Services.  There website has been down for some time but just to be fair to them, here is the link.  The lodge was built really nice but management very poorly. However, it sports one overwhelming's in the park. For photographers that's a big advantage as we could literally be in or out of the park any time we chose.

We took full advantage of our time there, with three nights we did many trips down the Sossusvlei Valley each time picking different spots to explore and photograph.

I really love Sossusvlei, and it was just a pleasure to spend the time there.  I am certainly not a hotshot photographer, but with all the time one has on a photographic tour, even the guides have lots of time to take pictures.  I took full advantage and really learned a lot from the guests, from Shem and from the tour leader of the group who was from Hosking Tours.

Despite having some guests who were not that young anymore, we did a fair bit of walking in to locations, which gives you the advantage of capturing and experiencing the more pristine areas.  It also means that, because vehicles are not allowed there, they stay pristine after you have gone.

We had rather windy conditions at Sossusvlei, but because these winds warmed the area up, we got to see various animals we otherwise wouldn't, including a couple Barking Geckos...Small little ground dwelling geckos you normally only hear, but struggle to see.

After Sossusvlei we left for Erongo Wilderness Lodge.  It was a long drive getting there, but we made it with some good light to spare.  The guests didn't waste a second...they started taking pictures right as we got there.

Erongo Wilderness Lodge is a bit like The Flintstones in Luxury.  The lodge is set in a hilly area near the Erongo mountains.  The area is made up of huge Granite bolders and outcrops.  It is a really beautiful place.

Being a keen birder, the area is rather special to me for all its specials.  Perhaps the most special is the Hartlaub's Francolin, which I didn't manage to see on this trip.  I did have some luck with Rockrunners, and got a few pictures.

Rockrunners can be rather hard to get hold of because of their habit of running between the rocks and not doing much flying.  In the years where the rain was good this can make it really tricky, but this individual gave me a few tries.  I don't have such a long lens, and so it's not very sharp, but it was sitting so nicely in good light.
We also had fun taking pictures around the lodge in the morning, especially the huge numbers of the beautiful Rosy-faced Lovebirds.
We only spent one night there and had a big drive again the next day.  We stopped at Twyfelfontein area around lunch time and visited the famous rock art site, now Namibia's only World Heritage Site.  It is certainly advisable to try to do the Twyfelfontein walk in the early morning or late afternoon if possible.  And it's lots of ups and downs.
From there it was on to Sesfontein.  We stayed at Fort Sesfontein Lodge, which is a bit of a poor lodge, but gives access to an amazing area.  We were there three nights.
Our first full day was a trip down the Huanib River.  Our main interest was to capture images of the Desert Elephants.  The springs in the riverbed on the eastern side had lots of water and we were hopeful of a great day.  We saw lion tracks along with many others.  We found some interesting birds, including a female Painted Snipe...rather special for the area.
Around eleven o'clock we found our first Elephants.  From there we had a few good elephant encounters.  We spent some time watching each group we found, being careful, of course, not to be intrusive, but to let the images come from the animals naturally.  Despite this, my best image of the day was of an elephant gave us a little display, shaking his dust (after dust bathing) into the air above us as we moved away from him into the riverbed.

This image is posted on my flickr account.

We had a really long day, with an 11 hour game drive, but it was certainly worth it, considering the experience we had.

The next day we took it easier and arranged a trip to visit a Himba village.

Himba people still live a nomadic pastoral way of life in North-western Namibia.  Since Namibia's independence the Himba have become a very popular part of the tourism circuit in Namibia.  If you plan to visit the Himba people, please be sure to visit them with a local guide, and be sensitive to are visiting people in their own homes.

After our stay at Sesfontein we moved on to Etosha.  Etosha is just plain fantastic!  I have never been through Etosha without a feeling that my stay was to short!

Our first to nights in the park were at Okaukuejo.  Okaukuejo is the rest-camp within the park in the center.  There are a further two rest-camps further east, namely Halali and Namutoni.

Okaukuejo is famous for it's waterhole.  It is floodlit at night and both night and day the waterhole is interesting to watch.

 A bunch of Elephants drink at Okaukuejo in the image.  Elephants can be found both day and night at the waterhole.  At night the highlight is frequent visits by Black Rhino.  Etosha supports one of the biggest populations of Black Rhino.

Our full day at Okaukuejo was simply spent watching the waterhole.  I ran around birding and trying to find birds for the guests to photograph.  They got great images of Pygmy Falcons, that gave us great opportunities to really study them and compose great pictures.  My lens was a little to short for great pics, but I had a go non the less.

From Okaukuejo we made our way accross the park.  We stopped at Halali where we had a lunch stop and found some Owls to photograph with the help of the staff at Halali Rest-camp.

The tiny African Scops-owl is always fun to photograph.  This image has been uploaded to The Internet Bird Collection website.

After lunch the game drive vehicles from Mushara Lodge came out to Halali as a special favor so that the guests could do the afternoon in open vehicles...better for photography than our mini vans.

Our last two night of the trip were spent at Mushara.  We spent the full day doing game drives on the Eastern side of the park.  We moved at a slow pace and spent a lot of time with any game we found, regardless of weather they were lions or springbok.  It was a great way to finish off the trip.

The very last waterhole we visited was certainly one of the highlights of the whole tour, with over 50 elephants on a single waterhole in great afternoon light!

The next day was an early morning, long drive back to Windhoek for the guests flight home.  It certainly could have been my favorite trip ever.

I would like to add a special thanks to Shem Compion from C4Images for using me to help on the trip, and to Martin Withers, the group leader from Hoskings Tours and a master wildlife/nature photographer.  Of course, I would also like to thank the guests if any of them ever see this blog post.  It was fantastic.

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