Trip Report – Part 2
We arrived at Swakopmund late in the afternoon and settled in, aware that we were in for a very busy schedule here as well.
Then we walked across the road to the Tug restaurant to enjoy a rare spectacular sunset and some sundowners on the deck of the restaurant overlooking the ocean. A fantastic dinner followed and the atmosphere in the group was amazing as we laughed and enjoyed the moment – all with that beautiful sea vista in front of us.
Early the next morning we were picked up by Tommy Calder (from Tommy’s Living Desert Tours). We had reserved an exclusive tour, and were guaranteed his undivided attention on our trip into the desert in search of the small, elusive creatures that may be found there if you know what to look for … and Tommy, with his great sense of humor and his intimate knowledge of the region, is an expert. He was able to find and point out ‘critters’ that would be invisible to any but the most practiced eye.
He quickly found a Fitzsimons Burrowing skink, then a Namib Day Gecko, and a large Desert Chameleon. The chameleon provided both entertainment and fabulous photographs as it ate at least 15 of the meal worms that Tommy had brought along for such an occasion. We all lay on our stomachs with long 400mm-600mm lenses shooting macro’s, as the chameleon rolled its eyes around to check the area, then darted out its incredible tongue at lightning speed to snatch yet another worm. A great opportunity to catch this little guy in action..!
Everyone felt quite euphoric after this, as this was the first time that some had attempted this type of photography with such an obliging subject
Then driving along Tommy spotted an almost invisible pattern in the sand. “Aha” he said. A Sidewinder has been here. Probably within the past 4 days or so. We watched in amazement as he leaped from the vehicle to climb a small dune. Then a minute later he called for us to join him. “Here it is!” Tommy reported. We climbed the dune and saw – nothing! We peered around at the sand. “There!” said Tommy, pointing to an almost indiscernible ridge of sand on the crest of the dune. “He is in there, sheltering from the elements!” Then aware of our presence the snake peeked out. Now we could just see the snake’s two eyes peeping out from the sand. The eyes are situated on top of the head, so the head does not have to emerge for the snake to look around.
Tommy gently coaxed the sidewinder from its hiding place so that we could get a good look and when it started its unique ‘sidewinding’ motion to propel itself across the dune, we were thrilled to get some stunning photographs.
By now it was time for a pit stop … and of course Tommy had even more entertainment for us. Understanding that we were a wildlife photography group, he took out another batch of meal worms which he placed strategically on bushes in the area. Within moments the local Tractrac Chats and Grey’s Larks arrived for a feast and we were able to photograph them mere centimeters away from our lenses as they hovered for a second or two before grabbing the bounty.
Then a leisurely drive through the dunes was followed by our meal before we departed for Walvis Bay.
We deflated our tyres to drive along the beach, but within moments one of the vehicles got stuck. No problem … amidst much hilarity and teasing I winched the vehicle free with my Landcruiser and we continued on to Pelican Point.
Pelican Point is home to about 20 000 seals and photographic opportunities abound. Seals surfed in the waves, riding each swell and crest like the experienced surfers they are. Some enjoyed the warmth of the sand while others concentrated on fishing for their next meal.
We spotted a large beach master on the shore with his nose in the air, giving us a chance to photograph the setting sun in the background like a ball balancing on his nose.
Back in Swakopmund we visited the legendary Hofbräuhaus for dinner where the most enormous eisbeins defied anyone to finish them.
The next morning we knew that we were in for a treat … and what a fabulous time it was. We headed to the Walvisbay harbour and set out on our chartered boat at least a half hour before the boats got started. This meant that as soon as the seabirds spotted us they swarmed after us, hoping for a fish handout.
The Pelicans spotted us first and flew up to us, their huge wings beating us in the face and head as they checked for handouts. It was fabulous! We used long lenses, wide angles, everything imaginable to capture a variety of shots. Then the Pelicans started to land on us, perching precariously on shoulders or any part that offered a promising perch.
One landed in my lap, surprising me with how soft and ‘downy’ it felt. I gave it an appreciative hug, aware that this was the first time that I could actually embrace a wild Pelican.
Then the other seabirds joined us … including Arctic Skuas, Kelp Gulls, and Cormorants. There were so many seals peeking at us out of curiosity and hoping for a handout that we had to close the gates on the boat to stop them from hopping on board.
We also had Dolphin on the cruise. There were two types – Bottlenose Dolphins and Broadside Dolphins. They jumped, plopped, arced over the water, providing entrainment for both us and themselves.
Then a Humpback Whale also popped up. We tried to position our boat in the direction where he was swimming towards but we kept missing the big guy and only got a few shots of his dorsal fin when he dived. But we were happy that we did get some really good shots.
Back in Walvis Bay we were treated to a champagne brunch, complete with oysters and other delicacies from the sea. Delicious!
By the afternoon, a strong wind was blowing and although we ventured out for some photography, we actually gave up. All the animals stood with their backs to the wind, thereby placing the sun directly behind them, so we decided to call it a day.
Instead, I led the group late afternoon to Long Beach and drove to one of the massive dunes. Here with a bit of encouragement and tuition we all managed to drive successfully to the top of the huge dune in our 4X4’s. We parked at a spot overlooking the beautiful sunset and harbour. We had a double celebration … Clive and Sue were celebrating their 38th Wedding Anniversary, and we toasted Ben on his birthday! It was wonderful! Out came the champagne I had bought that afternoon, and our glasses were raised to the celebrants – and to the magnificent vista before us! All to the sound of the dunes, the sea, and some oldies music playing on my car stereo.
After dinner at the Raft Restaurant we retired, aware that tomorrow would start the final phase of our adventure in Etosha.