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#Go Big Namibia Campaign

The Namibian Tourism Board was established in April 2001 and their task is to market Namibian culture and attractions to the world.  This year they are focusing on the country’s various adventure opportunities available.  Four bloggers from key markets were invited to come together for this trip to use the power of social media to share their experiences and adventures with the world.  Their aim was to display Namibia’s treasures and unique opportunities to audiences worldwide through the power of social media.  The adventure travel trip was packed with exciting activities throughout the ten days;  eating bugs, climbing red dunes, walking amongst 900 year old trees, sandboarding, and learning how to survive in the Namibian bush were all in store for the visiting bloggers.

I was the trip’s official photographer.  My job was to document the bloggers’ experiences, as well as the daily activities.  In this Photo Essay, all the highlights of ten days will be represented by a picture of the day.

Kapana Vendor at the Single Quarters Market, Katatura Township, Windhoek

Kapana Vendor at the Single Quarters Market, Katatura Township, Windhoek

The campaign kicked off with a City and Township tour.  The first stop was at the Single Quarters Market in the Katatura Township.  Here the group got to experience a typical day at the local market.  The Kapana was a big favorite amongst the bloggers.  Kapana is a barbequed meat, dipped into salt and other spices.  You can try a piece from a couple of vendors before you decide to buy.

The tour visited a variety of markets and projects.  Eveline Street, known locally as “the street that never sleeps”,  hosts many Shebeens (bars), hairdressers, car washes and other informal traders and Penduka Craft Center, where women make and sell beautiful Namibian handcrafts, were both highlights.

Lunch at Xama Cultural Village in Katatura Township

Lunch at Xama Cultural Village in Katatura Township

The group had an enjoyable, but truly “foreign” lunch experience when sampling the local food at the new and popular Xama Cultural Village.  The restaurant has a large menu filled with local traditional dishes like; Oshiwambo chicken, spicy Mopane worms, Oshifima (Mahangu Porridge) and wild spinach.  The list seems endless.  Omalodu, a traditional beer made from water, sorghum and Omahangu flour was served during the meal.

View my images of the Katatura Market and Xama Cultural Village on Flickr.

Cheetah at the CCF near the town of Otjiwarongo

Cheetah at the CCF near the town of Otjiwarongo

3 hours drive from Windhoek, is the The Cheetah Conservation Fund.  This was the next stop for the #GoBigNamibia group. Founded in 1990, the CCF has had great success in protecting and rehabilitating cheetahs all over Namibia.  CCF’s strategy to save the wild Cheetah is a process of research, conservation and education.  The morning there was spent making cheese at the CCF’s onsite creamery and feeding the cheetahs.

Keep an eye out for a follow up Photo Essay: “The Cheetah Conservation Fund”.

Bushmen Demonstration at the Treesleeper Camp in Tsintsabis

Bushmen Demonstration at the Treesleeper Camp in Tsintsabis

Treesleeper Camp is about 100km from Ohange Safari Lodge and 60km from Etosha National park.  It is a Community based Tourism project which focuses on the Bushmen Culture (San people).  Here visitors can venture on a morning Bush Walk, accompanied with a local guide teaching you the tricks of the bush.  The Bushmen maintain a close relationship with the bush by continuing to use the techniques of their tribal ancestors in their daily lives.  Elvis, the guide, showed which plants were edible, poisonous, or good for medical uses.  He demonstrated how to set traps, make fire, and how to hunt.

View my images of The Bushmen Walk and Ohange Safari Lodge on Flickr.

A giraffe and Oryx at play at a water hole in Etosha

A Giraffe and Oryx at play at a water hole in Etosha

Etosha National Park spans an area of 22,270 square kilometres and gets its name from the large Etosha pan which is almost entirely within the park.  The park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species like the black rhinoceros. We spent our first night at the Namutoni Camp and the second at Okaukuejo camp.

You can spend hours at any water hole, watching all sorts of animals coming and going, quenching their thirst and interacting with other  animals.  This particular herd of elephants (photo below) was very entertaining.  There were infants playing amongst, and dodging, the tall legs of the adults.  These intelligent giants prefer to drink alone, so some of the young male elephants chased other antelope and guinea fowls away from the water.

A herd of Elephants quenching their thirst at a water hole near Namutoni Camp in Etosha National Park

A herd of Elephants quenching their thirst at a water hole near Namutoni Camp in Etosha National Park

Etosha is any photographer’s paradise!  Zebra and Springbok are in utmost abundance. The landscape stretches far and wide, and you can really enjoy a full day of driving through the park game watching.  At night, one can quietly sit at an illuminated water hole, 5m from your bush bungalow, and enjoy the sight of a Rhino family’s reflection in the water or listen to the footsteps of the next unknown animal making their way through the bush to join them.

Laurel Robbins was one of the bloggers on the #GoBigNamibia tour.  Check out her post about Animal Reflections in Etosha National Park.

Marianna, a local Himba woman living in the village in Koakoland,  went through the process of “perfuming” herself with smoke and ochre

Marianna, a local Himba woman living in the village in Kaokoland, went through the process of “perfuming” herself with smoke and ochre

The Himbas are one of the last nomadic and traditional people in the world.  Their first contact with Westerners was only 15 years ago.  The village where Marianna (above) is from, is located in a small settlement behind the hills of Palmfontein.  The area is surrounded with makalani palms and dry river beds.  The Himba people are herdsmen, owning cattle and goats, while leading a semi-nomadic life.

The Himba women are famous for covering themselves with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre, to protect themselves from the sun and as a mosquito repellent.  In the photo above, Marianna demonstrated how she uses smoke to “perfume” herself twice a day.  The women never wash with water, they only rub themselves with the ochre mixture, whereas the men are allowed to bathe.

View more of my photos of the Himbas in Kaokoland here.

Rhino Tracking is an amazing experience

Rhino Tracking is an amazing experience

Grootberg Lodge is situated in the heart of Damaraland on the top of the Etendeka Plateau.  It has a breathtaking view over the Klip River Valley. The Lodge is the only one in Namibia that is 100% owned by the community.  The endangered black rhino roam freely, sharing the land with other animals like lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, and antelope , which all roam freely in the Khoadi/Hoas Communal Conservancy.  It took the #GoBigNamibia group 4 hours to find this Rhino bull.  It was a WILD, and surreal experience!!

Lions in the Klip River Valley

Lions in the Klip River Valley

While driving back to Grootberg Lodge, after a full morning of Rhino tracking, we spotted 3 lions laying in the shade.  One of them ran deeper into the thick Mopane bush, while these two younger ones stayed behind to watch us.  It was amazing to have a “stare-off” with these beasts, knowing that we were completely in their domain, THE WILD.  Namibia has dedicated 45% of the country’s land to ensure a wildlife experience to the tourism industry.  I highly recommend stopping at Grootberg Lodge, for at least two nights, when traveling through Namibia.  I fell deeply in love with the landscape and “other-worldly” feelings it gave me.

The Lion’s Claw, a famous rock formation at Twyfelfontein in Damaraland, Namibia

The Lion’s Claw, a famous rock formation at Twyfelfontein in Damaraland, Namibia

The next stop, one of my many favorites, was Twyfelfontein about a two hour drive from Grootberg Lodge.  Here tourists can choose between 3 different Bushmen Engraving tours, depending on how much time you have to spend.  I love history, and to hear about Bushmen that lived in these areas 2000-6000 years ago was fascinating.  To then turn around and witness the same incredible environment where the history took place made Twyfelfontein a destination that shouldn’t be missed.

Read more about the Bushmen rock engravings here: Discovering the Dancing Kudu .

Chris Nel from the Living Desert Tour’s LandRover trucks in the Dorob National Park, in Swakopmund, Namibia

Chris Nel from the Living Desert Tour’s LandRover trucks in the Dorob National Park, in Swakopmund, Namibia

Another very special place is the town called Swakopmund.  It is the second biggest city in Namibia and is located amongst the dunes of the Dorob National Park which shoulders the Atlantic Ocean.  The #GoBigNamibia group went on a morning excursion with the Living Desert Tour company for an informative trip to view how native creatures and plants can survive the harsh desert conditions.  Our guide, Chris, was very entertaining and passionate about the desert.  In the afternoon the group returned to the dunes to attempt some sandboarding.  It was great fun to watch, but the conditions were terrible for my camera.  Despite a couple of bloggers eating some sand during their boarding attempts, it was agreed that sandboarding Namibia’s dunes was a thrilling experience.

Check out my Photo Gallery: The Living Desert for more images of the Dorob National Park near Swakopmund.

The Big Daddy is the highest dune in Sossusvlei

The Big Daddy is the highest dune in Sossusvlei

Our last stop on the road trip through Namibia was the stunning Sossusvlei.  I’ve been there many times before as a child,  but it was my first time as a photographer.  We stayed at the beautiful Sossusvlei Dune Lodge, situated at the Sesriem canyon.  The group awoke at 4am the next morning to see the sunrise over the red dunes of the mighty Sossusvlei.  The moment did not disappoint and the rising of the sun created a shifting pallette of shadows as it past.

The 10 day tour was living proof to me that Namibia has endless opportunities and subjects for a photographer and is a “must do” on any travelers list. Thank you to the Namibian Tourism Board, and Solimar International, for choosing to include me on this adventure and providing an incredible professional and personal experience.

Visit my Scenes of Sossusvlei Gallery for more photos.

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