23 June 2011

Back from Namibia

It's been a week now since we returned from this year's Namibia trip. It was totally awesome, thanks to all participants - such a nice group of people. Thanks!

For us it was a particularly special visit this time because of the weather. Ever since our first trip to Namibia many years ago, we have seen the climate changing. Namibia is getting wetter and wetter. 2011 marks the third consecutive year of heavy rains in the region. Flood levels in north-central Namibia this year were eight centimeters higher than in the 2009 flood season, setting a new record for the area where about one million people - half of Namibia's population - live. Every year Efundja – the Oshiwambo name for the annual floods coming from Angola – fills the oshanas (floodplains) in the northern regions. The arrival of the flood is much anticipated as it brings fish, restores grazing capacity and ensures water reserves for the dry months ahead. But in recent years floods have become heavier and more frequent, doing more damage than good.

One of the places that best shows the effects of the heavy rains, is Sossusvlei. Over the years we've seen more and more vegetation on the red sand dunes, which are getting greener and greener. This was also the first year that the whole Sossusvlei pan was still flooded during our visit. To see so much water in what is supposed to be one of the driest places on earth is pretty strange.

Our room in Sossusvlei. Photographed after we returned from the dunes.

But apart from much wetter, it was also much colder than previous years. In the south it was actually freezing during the night, and the early mornings were very chilly indeed. It was kind of weird to see people walking around in jackets, hats and gloves - not quite what you'd expect when you're going to Africa. The good thing though was that the skies were crisp and clear, and the days were pleasantly warm.

To be honest, we were afraid that Etosha would be very quiet this year with water readily available throughout the park for all the animals. The succesful game viewing in Etosha is based on a number of strategically placed watering holes that usually attract lots of wildlife. But with water all over the place, there was no need for the animals to visit the waterholes anymore and they could basically stay wherever they wanted. Luckily this was not the case. The main waterhole at Okaukuejo was much more quiet than usual, but we still got our share of giraffe, zebra and white and black rhino. Compared to last year the game drives were much more productive though. We had some good elephant sightings and an excellent encounter with a pride of active lions right at sunrise. Perfect timing!

All in all a great trip that we thoroughly enjoyed. There were some familiar faces (happy to see you back!) and we made some new friends that we hope to see again sometime!

I've just started processing the first images, and so far the results look much better than I expected. You'd think I would have reached the point by now that there is nothing left to improve upon after having shot many thousands of images, but I'm glad that this is not the case. As soon as I have finished processing, I will post some of the results here so you can judge for yourself. :-)