African Desert Elephants and the South Atlantic Ocean

Mowani to Swakopmund

It’s a busy day today as we are booked in for an early morning nature drive this morning with Moses, Ben-onie’s brother and in the afternoon we will be leaving Mowani and driving to the South Atlantic coast and the town of Swakopmund.

Shipwreck on the Skeleton Coast

I’d set the iphone alarm to 6:25 which gives us 5 minutes warning before they come knocking. As the drive doesn’t get back until after checkout we will have to have everything packed up and ready to be picked up before we go on the drive. The alarm goes off and it’s straight out of bed and outside for a shower. Hmm it’s definitely a bit cooler this morning than yesterday and I can really notice the chill after a really warm shower.

We finally get everything packed and cleaned up just after 7am and head over for some breakfast. Kelly didn’t see the sunrise yesterday so we go up to the Sundowner rock but unfortunately there’s a fair bit of dust in the air and the mountains aren’t as clear as they were yesterday. Also the little Rock Dassies aren’t out yet so as we head back to the dining room, for a quick brekkie before the drive starts, Kelly gets a shot of one of the many boulders that perch precariously around the camp.

One of the many boulders

...and a picture of the signs showing the way to the tents.

Camp signage

We meet Monique and Walter for breakfast and talk about what we hope to see this morning. The animal to see while staying at Mowani is the African Desert Elephant, there is a debate amongst zoologists and scientists as to whether these desert dwelling animals should be classified as a different species of elephant. Desert elephants are apparently very well adapted to living under the particular conditions of the desert. They routinely move great distances between feeding grounds and the scattered waterholes where they drink during the dry season, distances of up to 70km are being regularly traversed. Beinbg able to cover such a lot of ground can make them very hard to find from one day to the next, I’ve read about some drives going out for hours and not seeing anything.

We are finishing up when Moses arrives in the safari vehicle and we saddle up for the morning drive. As we head past the gatehouse mad Heinrick jumps out waving his arms and saying good morning to all of us! We head off down to the main road and am I glad I put on my hoodie this morning because, with the wind whipping through the vehicle, it’s bloody freezing.

Tony & Kelly trying to keep warm

Tony & Kelly trying to keep warm

Moses heads off down the D2612 in the direction of the C35 toward the location where yesterday’s safari drive saw some elephants. After about 15 minutes Moses brakes, backs up, scours the road and discovers some recent elephant tracks. He turns around and drives off the road going cross country, stopping every now and then to check the tracks and readjust his direction. He’s bloody brilliant because about 5 minutes later we come across a large herd of the Desert Elephants.

Mother and Bably

There’s some babies, mothers and a bull elephant as well just moving slowly across the plain eating and occasionally interacting.

Old Bull Elephant

I think Moses is happier than we are that he actually found them. 

Baby Elephant

We sit and watch them for about an hour as they move and graze through what little bush there is. Moses suggests we head for the waterhole at the Twyfelfontein Country Lodge as he thinks there maybe some more there. We get to the lodge passing the dirt airstrip on the way and in the distance a Giraffe and some Orix.

Twyfelfontein Country Lodge

There’s no elephants at the waterhole but Moses finds some more tracks and off he goes, about 20 minutes later he comes across another herd and he’s exceptionally happy with his tracking skills, so are we!

Elephants against the mountain backdrop

There’s also a lone little Springbok out all by herself.

Springbok

After a really successful safari drive it’s time to head back to the camp, for a final lunch with Monique and Walter, we wish them well on their travels and promise to come visit them in Switzerland. Unfortunately it’s Ronnies day off today so we thought we wouldn’t get a chance to say goodbye, but just as we are about to leave he turns up at reception to see us off on our next adventure.

Ronnie

Our destination today is the Boutique Hotel at Swakomund, a distance of 345 kilometres. We head out of Mowani on the D2612 and have a 65 kilometer drive until the turnoff to C35 that will take us to Uis. I’m hoping that the C35 will be bitumen until we get to Swakompund, but we hit the T junction and it’s still gravel, but a lot wider than the D2612. We pass a sign that says it’s 70 kilometers to Uis and just beyond that another sign that warns us about elephants wandering across the road. Quite a bit different from the Kangaroo ones we are so use to seeing on outback Australian roads.

Watch out for Elephants

The roads out here are really wide and there’s not much traffic so we make pretty good time heading for the coast.

Road to Uis

You still need to watch out for the donkeys.

Donkeys

and goats, and there is the occasional donkey powered cart to avoid. We met this young man called Mike, and said hi, helping him out with a cold bottle or two of water.

Mike and his donkey cart

The other thing you see, interspersed along the roads, are the roadside craft markets. This one looks decidedly abandoned.

Craft Market

Not far out of Uis across the flat plains ahead of us is Namibia’s largest mountain, Brandberg, 2,573 metres at it’s highest point. It’s under consideration as a World Heritage site as it contains one of the world’s richest galleries of rock art. Unfortunately we aren’t going to have time to visit it this trip and we put it on our list of things to do on our next trip.

Brandberg Mountain

We reach Uis at about 3:30pm and head toward the gas station to fill up. On the way through we notice the tourist centre, with toilets, and head over there once the car is all gassed up.

Tourism centre

Uis was once known as Uis Mine, and the town was an extension of the tin mine. The mine is closed now and much of the town’s population left and tourism is about there only form on income. At the centre we buy some cute little ornaments made by a woman there using the round plastic balls from deodorant bottles! There is also a small shop that makes tea and coffee so I’m happy to sit for a minute or two and relax.

Tony’s tea time

We head out on our last push to the coast, it’s really flat out here now and the ostrich are easy to spot.

Ostrich crossing the road.

Finally we hit the T junction for the C38, and wow, the temperature has dropped from about 34 C to 16 C! We turn left onto the C38 and head for Swakopmund. After all those kilometers of dirt road it’s good to get back onto something more substantial, in fact the road we are on is what is called a salt road. Made of salt, gypsum and gravel compacted hard over the years, it has no loose surface and is almost as solid and safe as tar. We drive over toward the sea just to feel the sea breeze on our faces.

Kelly braves the cold

The coastline above Swakomund is called the “Skeleton Coast” so named because of all the shipwrecks on the uncharted sandbanks. We’ve barely gone two kilometres when we spot what looks like a large trader listing badly past the sand dunes.

Shipwreck, I guess it really is the Skeleton Coast

We pass Henties Bay and a weird settlement called Wlotzkasbaken, funny houses with towers and what looks like barrels on them, before arriving in Swakopmund and the Boutique Hotel. By this time its quite windy and we are freezing when we get out of the car and we hurry into the hotel lobby. After registering and checking into the room we head up to the roof deck to see the sunset. We find a poor guy, named John, huddling behind the bar trying to keep warm, Kelly goes back to the room but I hang out with him and buy a beer and freeze while watching the sunset.

Sunset over Atlantic

Back in the room we break out the warm weather gear and head out for dinner. We’ve been craving a pizza and we are heading for the Lighthouse Pub & Restaurant as we hear they have a good pizza. We drive down to the Lighthouse Pub, and the streets are quiet and deserted, but once we go into the pub it’s full of people, warm and noisy. We get a table for two and order the house special pizza, when it arrives we can’t believe how big it is and can’t get further than halfway through, even though we try our hardest.

At the end of the night I’m still feeling the effects of this virus I’ve picked up and it’s mutating into a nasty bronchial cough and runny nose so all I want to do is get back to the hotel and hit the sack. I’m not even sure what we are going to do tomorrow.

  

Tony Redhead

93 Maud Street, Unley, SA, 5061, Australia