Last Wednesday (9 May 2018) members were treated to another excellent travelogue by our own Chris Warby, with typically lavish photographic illustration, about his visit to Namibia in 2017.
Namibia is a large dry country in southern Africa lying on the Tropic of Capricorn. With an area of less than 320,000 square miles and a population of 2.6 million, it has a population density of about 8 people per square mile – this compares with the UK’s 695 people per square mile.
In June 2017 Chris and his wife flew out to Windhoek, Namibia’s capital and largest city, to begin a two-and-a-half-week tour. With four other people and a guide, this took in Seisrem (the gateway to the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei, Solitaire, Swakopmund and the Skeleton coast, Twefelfontein, and the Etosha National Park before they returned to Windhoek to fly home.
From Sossusvlei, within the Namib-Naukluft National Park, they explored the large and colourful dunes and salt pans of the Namib desert. Some of the dunes can be nearly 1,000 feet high. As it is of course very dry (in some places, they were told, there has been no rain for 500 years!) and there is little wind, they remain almost unchanged – apparently, tracks of footprints in the sand may stay visible for decades. A sign at nearby Solitaire showing the annual rainfall revealed just how little rain there has been in recent years.
This is a World Heritage Site and the Namibians are every conservation conscious. So vehicles are not permitted on the dunes and walking is permitted only on some dunes. Temperatures range from cool at night (a fleece was required apparel at first light) to over 40C during the day. And there is very little vegetation.
Chris had some spectacular early morning images of the dunes, which range in colour from pink to burnt-orange, contrasting nicely with the deep blue skies.
The Namib desert stretches right down to the coast and when the touring party moved on to Swakopmund they learned that in these coastal regions, where the cold currents of the sea meet the warm air of the deserts, there is fog for up to 300 days a year. Nevertheless, they found much to explore.
There were images of seals, dolphins, pelicans and oilrigs (servicing oilrigs is a local industry) from a boat trip in Walvis Bay. And pictures of dunes, geckoes, spiders, sidewinder snakes, and beetles from the coastal desert.
They also explored the Skeleton Coast where the fog has been a major hazard to shipping and there are more than a thousand wrecks littering the coastline offering interesting photographic opportunities.
The party then moved on to Twyfelfontein in a valley of Damaraland flanked by table mountains. From here, apart from magnificent landscape views, Chris had images of the ancient carvings on the rocks, desert elephants and other wildlife.
All the people of Namibia appeared to be very friendly. In a visit to the small village of Erwee the tourists found that, despite extreme poverty, the villagers were extremely cheerful and happy to show off their way of life. Under a Government scheme, everyone has a mobile phone and all the homes have a solar panel to provide the power for charging them. And efforts were being made through education, music and dancing (successfully it seemed) to integrate the two local tribes – the Himba (who have long hair, wear little clothing and anoint themselves with red mud) and the Damara who have short hair and wear clothes). Naturally, Chris had colourful images of all this.
In northwestern Namibia, Chris and his companions visited the Etosha National Park, an 8,600 square mile game park. Here there was much wildlife to photograph and his images (some taken at night) included zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, antelopes (of various kinds), elephants, rhinos and lions. They also visited the Etosha Pan, a vast salt pan. Here Chris photographed ground squirrels and golden mongooses.
As always, Chris’s talk was engaging, entertaining and immensely interesting. And it was generously illustrated with numerous delightful images of the landscape, the wildlife and the people. A most enjoyable evening.