Savuti – Fun in the rain with insects.


We have heard so much about Savuti, mostly about the difficult driving conditions. From Chobe to Savuti involves lots of deep sand and we prepare by deflating the tyres as much as we dare. It makes a huge difference in these conditions and despite our best efforts we fail to get Dad stuck! Passengers in both cars would dearly love to post a photo of one
pulling the other out of sand, mud or water. But its not to be.

On our way to Savuti

I find it hard to describe the feeling of being out in the African bush at this time of year. The grass is growing, trees are budding and animals are plentiful and looking well fed, many with babies. The sense of wellbeing you feel from just driving through the bush, or sitting around camp with the sights, smells and sounds of it all around you is fantastic. It makes you feel alive and you feel such a connection to this place that it is difficult to imagine being back in “civilisation” at all. What is it about Africa that so many people feel this connection from the very first time they visit and, for some, it feels like a second home, which they are drawn back to again and again. It is been like this for us for years, and today, in Savuti, we see the first signs of it in Dad and Chris.

Maribou Pan, Savuti
Maribou Pan, Savuti

Shortly after arriving at the rest camp and freshening up we decide to go for a drive and see what’s around before setting up for the night. Within just a few minutes we are bumping along a deep sandy track and spot a pride of lions lying under a small clump of acacias. They must have only just woken from sleeping in the hottest part of the day as they are lying on their backs, stretching, yawning and rolling over in the sand to wake up. The thing about a lion sighting is that when you catch the first glimpse it so exciting. Lion! Wow! How thrilling. Unfortunately, during the day, the just don’t do anything. They just lie there, in the shade, breathing. So its great to see these ones at least moving about a bit. Maybe we will catch up with them again later.

Mostly doing nothing!

We head in the direction of Maribou Pan and here we see a lovely big herd of elies, some of which were making the most of the shade under a lone tree. Good chance for a nice photo of Dad and Chris in their Toyota.

Elies in Savuti

We then head off around the marsh area and see some tsebbee, wildebeest, black backed jackal and warthogs. The land here is surprisingly green, I think it must have rained here too. Every now and then in the flat landscape is a rocky kopjie or a a little copse of taller trees, successfully hiding  a few giraffes, but for the most part we can see for miles.

Savuti

We arrive at a dry river bed a spot another vehicle, a game drive from the nearby lodge. They are watching a lone lioness and we come to a halt a observe her from a short distance away. She is alert, head high and gazing into a thicket of small acacias. Then we see it; a impala. And it seems to be on its own, some distance from the rest of the herd which is unusual and not really a good idea. The lioness begins to stalk, slowly, slowly getting nearer to the impala. But the impala is moving and soon both are in amongst the bush and we can no longer see them. We drive around to the other side of the trees and then around a few other tracks in the immediate vicinity but with no luck. Never mind, it is great just to see the stalking and feel the anticipation.

Zebra in Savuti

During the night we have another thunderstorm and all around us is the sound of elephants and hyenas. It is surprisingly difficult to sleep in the peaceful African bush sometimes.

Big Baobab in Savuti

In the morning we set of again and soon come across some fresh tracks in the sand and they are definitely white rhino. We have a drive around but we can’t follow them far as they head off into the bush where there are no roads. Back at the camp site we let the rangers know what we have seen and they seem surprised. Apparently they haven’t seen rhino here for a very long time but some have been released into Moremi so perhaps they have come from there. Its good news though, rhino are vary much in danger from poaching all over Africa and any sighting, especially when its not expected, is fantastic.

African Bull Frog

Sometimes in the bush it is the smaller things you see, or even don’t properly see, like the rhino who left the tracks, that are the most rewarding. We spend what could have been an uneventful afternoon huddled under the awning during a thunderstorm but nature often has a surprise in store. When the rain finally stops we notice hundreds of aliates, termites with wings, are released from the colonies to mate with others from different colonies in order to start an new one. When they find a mate they drop their wings, join together, and burrow down into the ground. It is an incredible sight as thousands of these things are flying around or crawling on the ground and this annual bonanza of nutritious insects attracts birds, frogs and other insectivores to feast on them. We saw lots of different species and even a huge African bull frog who just sat there, waiting, and as the insects wandered into his path, a quick flick of the tongue finished them off. It was a fascinating afternoon and it was then that we realised that Dad and Chris were truly loving the whole experience. Some come to Africa to see the Big Five but that is to miss the whole point of the place. Beauty, drama and adventure are everywhere here, you just need to open your heart and your eyes.

Late to the waterhole

Lüderitz and the D707 to a German castle

Straight Road to Lüderitz

The B4 to Lüderitz is long, straight and remote. The intense sun causes the road to shimmer ahead of us and the flat, arid land offers no protection from the wind. We were thrilled to witness sand blowing across the tarmac in front of us, offering a good opportunity for a classic desert photo.

B4 Namibia sand
B4 to Lüderitz complete with windswept sand.

We step out of Landy in Lüderitz into a wind in which we can barely stand up. After a brief visit to a campsite on the coast we concede defeat and seek out a guest house instead. Kratzplatz is a funky little place. The yard is filled with all sorts of quirky objects, including lots of vehicle parts and “up-cycled” objects used as plant containers. The rooms are comfortable and they even have a busy attached bar and restaurant. It is the perfect place to catch up on clothes washing and internet use. http://www.kratzplatz.info

4×4 tracks and flamingoes

After a quick lunch we set off along the peninsula to the west of the town which has abundant tracks for the adventurous off-road enthusiast. Some of them are extremely tricky and although Keith enjoys himself I am a little nervous as Landy tips precariously to one side or slides down a particularly rocky part of the track. The views are worth the trouble though, as we find lovely isolated bays, sandy beaches with skeletal boat remains poking out, and beautiful pink flamingoes around every corner. The various beaches and bays have lovely names, such as Sturvogel Bucht, Guano Bay, Halifax Island (which has African penguins) and Diaz Point.

Lüderitz Peninsula 4x4 tracks
Lüderitz Peninsula 4×4 tracks
Lüderitz
Flamingoes in Lüderitz

Reaching Diaz Point involves a careful walk over a rickety bridge and lots of rock scrambling but we are rewarded with the sight of seals sunning themselves on the rocks. Also here is a cross, a replica of the one placed here by Bartholomeu Diaz, the first European explorer to enter the bay. He sheltered here in the late 14th century. It must have been a pretty lonely desolate place back then.

Lüderitz
Decayed boat on Luderitz Peninsula

As we make our way back to town we pass a few signs on fences and at the start of tracks, warning us not to proceed further. This is the Sperrgebiet National Park, previously a diamond mining area, covering 26,000 square kilometres. This park, however, cannot be visited independently and the signs warning of fines and imprisonment are apparently very serious. We duly take them seriously.

Lüderitz is a fascinating old German town with impressive buildings from the early 20th century. It became a supply base for the German Schutztruppe during the war with the Nama people in 1904-07. However, it was the diamonds, first discovered nearby in 1908, that enabled the town to prosper as a centre of supplies for the diamond mines, and the communities that grew up around them. The Consolidated Diamond Mines  company moved to Oranjemund in 1943 and the town slid into decline. It still looks a bit tired but the tourist industry is helping build it back up again and we found that the locals were friendly and keen to chat (without too much of an ulterior motive).

Lüderitz
The waterfront in Lüderitz

A diamond ghost town

The next day we set off to Kolmanskop, once the main town for the diamond industry, but now deserted and slowly being reclaimed by the sand. This place is absolutely fascinating and, although we are not generally fans of guided tours, this one is extremely well conducted. Some of the buildings, including the impressive concert hall, have been restored but most have been left exactly as they were when the workers and their families left them. Amongst sand dunes inside the houses we find bath tubs, rickety stairs and wonky doors and it is all very eerie. We throughly enjoy exploring all the houses and clambering up sand dunes in what used to be someone’s living room. This booming little town had comfortable staff quarters and very beautiful homes for the managers as well as a school, swimming pool, several shops and a hospital. They even had an ice factory and water and fresh food were transported in from Lüderitz. The restored buildings, together with the information provided by our guide, really brought the place to life for us and it is a real insight into the diamond industry and the workers’ way of life.  http://www.kolmanskop.net

Lüderitz
Inside a house in Kolmanskop
Lüderitz
Kolmanskop Ghost Town

Continue reading “Lüderitz and the D707 to a German castle”