The small airport of Windhoek in Namibia is full of effervescence with local people calling out to one another in their respective dialect. Very quickly, we are seated on a small aircraft and listening to the safety instructions in English told by the pilot himself, punctuating his speech by a jovial smile. We are leaving for the south of the country or to be more precise for the Namib Desert.
Along the trail leading to the entrance of the Desert, the dunes light up one by one, subtly changing from dark purple to mauve colour, then to purple, before exploding in red and bright orange under a cobalt blue sky. The highest dunes in the world are located here, some as tall as 370 meters high.
Dune 45, located at the forty-fifth kilometre from Sesriem, reaches 170 meters and the courageous ones might decide to climb it to observe, from the summit, a unique panorama. The landscape from this viewpoint is ochre as far as the eye can see and the sound of the breeze blowing the grains of sand resonates through the valley.
Overlooked by these abrupt rocks lays a flat territory with orange-coloured sand dotted with some grass, sometimes pale green, sometimes golden yellow.
In this natural reserve where the fauna and flora are protected, the rides in 4 × 4 allow us to come across the numerous Oryx, Springboks and Zebras who live peacefully, not bothered by the aridity.
At sunset, we enjoy a drink in front of this grandiose panorama showing off one last time with bright red colour lighting up the sky.
Then, the private air shuttle heads back north, following the Atlantic coast where the last dunes disappear in the ocean.
After a quick stop at Swakopmund to recharge in fuel, the volcanic setting of Damaraland appears.
Canyons emerge amongst large areas of black rocks. Their peaks – reminding us of the background of some American western – look as if they are proudly standing high; contrasting with the arid savannah where one can, with a bit of luck, spot elephants from the desert.
Capable of staying about 4 days without drinking, they were able to adapt themselves, walking in groups in the bed of dry rivers, digging the earth to draw the last drops of ground water.
We drop our suitcases at the Damaraland Camp, a friendly address with pretty tents where fabrics of ivory natural fiber and raw wood blend nicely. Before continuing the journey, we visit the archaeological site of Twyfelfontein which reveals the cave paintings of the first Bushmen – engravings of animals – almost intact, having gone through about 5 to 6 millennia.
The excitement is palpable when we arrive at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, a unique part of the journey, once again signed by the Wilderness Safaris collection. Leaning against the hills, modern tents with teak verandas face a landscape of savannah and scrub.
The walk of the day takes us to the rare water points and their oases near the river Hoanib where we track down the famous lions of the desert. The weather is on our side and the next day is bright, allowing us to go on a day trip by Cessna to the mysterious Skeleton Coast.
On the narrow strip of sand that runs along the north coast of Namibia, the undulating dunes collide with the raging waves of an ocean hostile to the wild currents. Full of bones of whales and other various animals, of wrecks of stranded boats, the Skeleton Coast is subject to the whims of nature. The Cessna stops and we take this opportunity to photograph the noisy colonies of seals on the beach.
The last stage of this journey in the extreme north of the country takes us to an islet on the river Kunene which constitutes a natural border with Angola. The private terrace of the tent of the Serra Cafema camp, with its open sky bathroom, is hidden under the acacias, near the meanders of the Kunene, where the hungry crocodiles sneakily lay around.
The hammock on the deck offers a relaxing break before exploring the Kaokoland inhabited by ostriches, zebras and Oryx. We go on a quad bike trip in dunes impossible to reach in 4×4 in order to meet the Himba tribes, one of the last nomadic people in Africa, with ancestral customs.
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