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Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe

Three amazing African countries, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe

by Anne Stoll

How to begin – this was such a special trip. Been up before sunrise every day since returning, processing images and memories in hopes of reporting something to you. Now, nearly a week later, ignoring an irritating sense of inadequacy and the great pile that still need attention, I can at least begin to send a few images. George and I visited three amazing African countries, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe (with brief interludes in Johannesburg, South Africa while in transit). Happily, there were no misadventures and we were on our own this time, no tour or fellow tourists, with arrangements made ahead by the Africa Adventure Co. in Florida. Everything went very smoothly and painlessly. Our only briefly stressful episode was driving a rental car (VW Polo) in Windhoek, Namibia but George did very well on the wrong side with the manual transmission and thankfully Windhoek is not a very big city.

     Outside of town, driving in Namibia is a breeze – good roads, no traffic. We drove northwest of Windhoek to the Erongo Mountains (below), for a return visit to the Ai Aiba Lodge and our friend Martin Steppe. Note the “lawn mowers” (wart hogs, above) in action at the lodge.

   This trip was all about rock art – you know, those mostly painted images made by prehistoric people that have so fascinated George and me for years. But one can’t go to Africa without complete immersion in the natural world – life is open and outdoors there. Landscape, animals, people, odd vegetation – it’s all in your face in Africa, to be marveled at and absorbed, if possible. Namibia is terribly dry right now, in the second year of drought. The people in the foothills of the Erongos have been drilling new bore holes as the water from their usual wells becomes too mineralized to drink. The kudu can become sick and will even die if the tannin in their forage becomes too concentrated by drought (this doesn’t bother the grazers like the springbok or the oryx, though). The “farmers” (we’d call them ranchers) in the Erongos had already sold their cattle at a reduced price through lack of grass and have stepped up culling the wild herds. We watched an oryx being skinned and butchered at our second stop, Farm Omandumba. Hard though it was for me, we came to understand that controlled hunting of wild game is vital to these people. Poaching is on the rise in the area – the recent death of two of the Conservancy’s 16 precious black rhinos at the hands of poachers with dogs brought the government guys out for a visit while we were there. Can you imagine – a single rhino horn can be worth $65,000 USD now – not, by the way, primarily for sexual enhancement but because in Asia it is thought to cure cancer. Landowners in the Erongo Conservancy shoot poachers on sight (usually in the leg), yet the poachers claim they are only night-hunting for bushbuck in order to feed their families – nothing in Africa is simple.

     Still plenty of water for birds and elephants in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, though less rain than normal at the source in Angola. Elephants (like the teenage male on the right) are such fascinating creatures but they do have some rather destructive habits. Because of poor digestion, they must eat constantly – at least 18 hours a day – and a herd will tear up many trees in the process. This is hard on young baobob trees and the rest of the forest of course, but browsing elephants also open up land for grasses -- which helps the impala and other grazing antelope – which means dinner for the leopards and the lions. And around and around it goes.

     We stayed in two wonderful places in Botswana with raised wooden walkways and amazing views. We silently toured the waters in a mokoro, a canoe-like boat propelled by a man with a long, forked pole.

     Our final week was in Zimbabwe, primarily in Matopos National Park. I will share some photos of this place in my next installment, to come shortly.


Anne Stoll