Desert Wildlife of Namibia Safari: 3 Incredible Destinations

Andrew Beck All Authors, Andrew Leave a Comment

The Desert Wildlife of Namibia Safari is one of the new offerings that we have added to our list of photographic safaris. Up until now, we haven’t had any safari offerings for guests wanting to experience the arid, rugged landscape of south-west Africa.

Tours to this region typically focus on the landscape photography opportunities but this safari focusses specifically on the desert adapted wildlife of the region, namely Desert Adapted Black Rhino, Desert Adapted Elephants and, with some luck, the desert adapted lions. Combing my passion for animals and their environment, rest assured that the landscape aspect of this safari will be firmly in place as we head out to try and showcase the harsh conditions and environments in which these and other species thrive.

For the landscape enthusiasts or those who want to check Namibia off of their bucket list in one foul swoop, we can gladly assist with an extension to visit the famous Sossusvlei region.

Trip Summary

  • Number of Guests: 4 Singles
  • Duration: 11 Nights
  • Included: all internal flights ex Windhoek, additional luggage allowance for camera gear, all meals, drink, conservation levies,  private activities, Skeleton Coast Excursion from Hoanib Skeleton Coast camp, laundry.
  • Dates: 1 to 12 April 2018
  • Safari Page

Desert Rhino Camp | Palmwag South Concession | 3 Nights

The southern parts of the 450 000-hectare (1 111 935-acre) Palmwag Concession are made up of rolling, rocky hills, flat-topped mountains and stark plains. The Palmwag Concession is a conservancy in Damaraland in the Kaokoveld (Kunene) region of north-west Namibia. Considering the proximity of the concession to the Skeleton Coast National Park and true Namib Desert, this area is home to a rich diversity of wildlife.

Early morning fog, which is generated by the icy Benguela Current in the Atlantic Ocean meeting the warm desert air of the Skeleton Coast, drifts inland over the Namib Desert, and is a reliable source of water for the flora and fauna in this incredibly harsh environment. Adaptation to the desert environment is the miracle of all that survives here in the Palmwag Concession. The Etendeka Mountains dominate the scenery: impressive flat-topped outcrops coloured ochre-brown.

Dry rivercourses like the Uniab River cut through the landscape and occasionally fill with water. The terrain is rocky but often covered with fine golden grasses and interspersed with large Euphorbia damarana bushes, which are endemic to the area. Other fascinating plants in the Palmwag Concession include the odd-shaped bottle tree, shepherd’s tree, ancient leadwoods, salvadora bushes and the unique welwitschia, a bizarre plant with two large leaves that grow along the ground over hundreds of years. Palmwag Concession’s freshwater springs support healthy populations of arid-adapted wildlife. Good numbers of Hartmann’s mountain zebra, southern giraffe, gemsbok (oryx), springbok, kudu, dwarf antelope (such as steenbok and klipspringer), scrub hare, comical meerkats (suricates), inquisitive ground squirrels, black-backed jackal and small spotted genet can be seen.

This concession is also rich in reptiles including Kaokoveld sand lizard and Anchieta’s agama. A major drawcard for the region is the presence of the largest free-roaming population of desert-adapted black rhino in Africa, as well as a healthy number of desert-adapted elephant. The Palmwag Concession also holds the core of the rarely-seen desert-adapted lion population of north-west Namibia. Cheetah and leopard are sometimes sighted roaming through this vast, unspoilt area.

Birding enthusiasts are sure to enjoy the diverse avifauna found in the Palmwag Concession. Raptors include greater kestrel, lanner falcon and booted eagles, spotted in the sky or perching on a lonely shepherd’s tree. Out on drives, it is possible to see Namaqua sandgrouse, Burchell’s courser, the colourful bokmakierie, grey-backed sparrowlark, Monteiro’s hornbill and white-backed mousebird. Other regular endemics include Rüppell’s korhaan, Benguela long-billed lark and possibly Herero chat with some focused searching. Verreauxs’ eagle is often sighted around rocky hillsides.

Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp | Palmwag North Concesison | 4 Nights

The remote, northern reaches of the 450 000ha (1 111 935-acre) Palmwag Concession are in stark contrast to the south. Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is located in this part of the Concession, straddling the Palmwag area and Skeleton Coast National Park, in one of the most remote areas of the Kaokoveld. A land of rugged scenery, the area has a historic coastline, mountains, vast plains, and dry riverbeds inhabited by incredible desert-adapted plant and animal life.

Here the landscape is dominated by the form of the Hoanib River, a swathe of sand that meanders through rocky gorges and past arid sandy plains. The transient Hoanib River, more an underground aquifer than river, supports a ribbon of vegetation along its length, this presenting the only visible food source for the herds of desert-adapted species roaming free among these desert ramparts. The riverbed – an ephemeral linear oasis penetrating the depths of the desert – is lined with albida trees, the pods of which form the staple dry season diet of desert-adapted elephant, giraffe, gemsbok and springbok.

Lions spend the heat of the day in salvadora and salsola thickets waiting for the cool of night. Cheetah and black-backed jackal roam the area. Early morning fog generated by the icy Benguela Current in the Atlantic Ocean meeting the warm desert air of the Skeleton Coast drifts inland over the Namib Desert, providing precious water to the flora and fauna in this incredibly harsh environment. Adaptation to the desert environment is the miracle of all that survives here. The area has fascinating desert-adapted vegetation such as welwitschia and lithops – the succulent “flowering stones” – and the bizarre elephant’s foot found in rocky crevices.

More than a hundred species of lichen are found on the gravel plains and hot west-facing mountain slopes, which change colour as they absorb moisture when the coastal fog presses inland. The iconic oasis spring of Auses lies in the dunefield to the west and is best seen from the air en route to the gravel plains on the coast, where the fur seal colonies dwell.

Birding enthusiasts are sure to enjoy the diverse avifauna of the Concession. Raptors include greater kestrel, lanner falcon and booted eagles. Out on drives, it is possible to see Namaqua sandgrouse, Burchell’s courser, the colourful bokmakierie, grey-backed sparrowlark, Monteiro’s hornbill and white-backed mousebird. Other regular endemics include Rüppell’s korhaan while Verreauxs’ eagle is sometimes sighted in flight. Towards the coast, tractrac chat and Gray’s lark can possibly be seen. The seal colonies often have jaegers and skuas in attendance with parasitic jaeger, pomarine jaeger and sub-Antarctic skua all possible in summer.

Ongava Tented Camp | Ongava Private Game Reserve | 4 Nights

The third and final stop on our Desert Wildlife of Namibia Safari is the Ongava Game Reserve On the southern boundary of Etosha National Park and forming a buffer to the Park. It is a haven to large concentrations of wildlife: notably lion, wildebeest, springbok, gemsbok, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, red hartebeest, giraffe, eland and the largest population of the endemic black-faced impala outside of Etosha. The Reserve is also known for the successful reintroduction of white and black rhino. Ongava also provides easy access to the prime game viewing areas of central Etosha, Namibia’s flagship national park.

During our time at Ongava, we will have the opportunity to view game both on Ongava and in neighbouring Etosha National Park. Large herds of plains game concentrate around the waterholes in the dry season, making for exciting wildlife viewing. Most general wildlife species are present on Ongava Reserve as well as within Etosha, including springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, waterbuck, red hartebeest, giraffe, eland and the endemic black-faced impala. Lion move between the Park and the reserve and both black and white rhino can be seen.

A full day drive will take us out to the well known Etosha Pan, formed as a result of a geological shift that dramatically changed the course of the Kunene River. Its 5 000 km2 / 1 930 sq. miles (120 km / 75 miles across and 55 km / 34 miles from north to south) were formerly an ancient lake. Today the Pan is mostly bone dry, the stark, parched white surface giving the Pan its Herero name, “Great White Place.” The edges of the Pan give way to a surprising variety of vegetation types: from woodland and broad swathes of mopane to open acacia-strewn plains and grasslands. Fringing the Pan are a number of productive waterholes that sustain the high density of large mammal fauna, from elephant and lion to vast herds of springbok, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe and gemsbok.

Birdlife is prolific on Ongava with 340 species including Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Whitetailed Shrike, Short- toed Rock Thrush, Hartlaub’s Francolin, Rüppell’s Parrot and raptors, such as Greater Kestrel, in abundance. Local specials include Namaqua Sandgrouse, Double-banded Courser, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Spike-heeled Lark and Acacia Pied Barbet.

Jono and I will be up in Namibia at the end of the month to get some first hand experience of the camps and look forward to sharing our experiences with you when we retrun. In the interim, there are just 3 spaces left on this incredible safari experience. If Namibia is on your to do list, don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Andrew

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

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