Cruising on Walvis Bay

Swakopmund
We spent the afternoon wandering around Swakopmund and then out for dinner at The Tug which is a former boat. The salmon was fabulous! I enjoyed wandering around the town with the wonderful shops. Keeping in mind that I had no luggage space to speak of, I limited my souvenir shopping.

We stayed at the Hansa Hotel, which was originally built in the very early 1900’s. It was a beautiful place and very comfortable. After another good night’s sleep (it seems as if we are exhausted every day so I was sleeping great) we set off for our Walvis Bay harbor cruise.

Walvis Bay is just a few miles from Swakopmund and one of the main seaports in Africa. About 50,000 people live here, primarily working in harbor related industries. It doesn’t feel like the city is that large. Most people live along the shoreline.

Walvis Bay Cruise

We arrived at the harbor and climbed onto a catamaran style boat. There were probably 20-30 people aboard, but it didn’t feel crowded and we had a great view. Once we were out on the water, the special cruise features began. The birds were amazing. I’ve never been up close and personal with pelicans or seagulls. I’ve seen them before, just not within reach. It was incredible.

seagull walvis bay

Here is where I get carried away with seagull pictures.

seagulls walvis bay

seagull walvis bay

They are huge!

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Crystal was the trained profession. I just watched in awe.

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Gorgeous! I was fascinated by these two birds.

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And then, after having their fishy snacks, they flew off.

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And then, lest we get bored, here came Bronzy the cape fur seal.

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See the knee in the bottom left corner? That was me. I just wanted to reach out and hug this little guy. He was a bit shy so Crystal asked us to stay quiet and still. Wendy, my sister, would have loved this. She has been fascinated by seals since she was a kid.

cape fur seal Walvis Bay

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cape fur seal Walvis Bay

He was beautiful!

This was another jaw dropping moment on my trip. I never expected to see birds and seals so close. It was so special.

Then we left the area and made our way around the rest of the harbor.

Cape Fur Seals Walvis Bay

Here the seals were “checking out the chicks”.

Pelican Point lighthouse

This is the Pelican Point Lighthouse and next to it is a lodge where travelers can stay. That might be fun for my next trip to Namibia.

Hey Wendy, want to go see some seals?

Cape Fur Seals

As we made our way around the rest of the bay, we headed inside because the seas were a bit rough and it was windy. That’s when I started to get a little nauseous. So, I spent my time looking at the horizon. I’m sure the tour guides had some very interesting things to say, but I missed all of them.

Despite a few stomach issues, I loved this cruise. The sea life was stunning and I enjoyed every moment of the first half of the trip. I highly recommend adding this to the itinerary if you are heading to this part of the world.

 

Namibia – From the Air

Every line and shadow of Sossusvlei was incredible. But it was time to leave. After a great night’s sleep, we climbed on the plane to experience it from the air as we traveled from Sossusvlei to Swakopmund to visit another part of Namibia.

Air Namibia

Carlos was our pilot and Aravind sat in as co-pilot. I’m not sure Aravind could have assisted if the plane was going down, because he was just as busy taking pictures as I was.

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Here’s the video view. It was an amazing flight and with the patch and Dramamine, no motion sickness for me!

And here is an aerial view of Deadvlei. It’s not the best picture, but I’m really glad I caught it.

Deadvlei Namibia

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Sossusvlei Namibia

We flew over the fairy circles. Scientists still are not positive about what causes them.

Fairy Circles Namibia

It was incredible to see the Atlantic Ocean from the air.

Atlantic Ocean Namibia

And…the shipwrecks caused by the rough seas and possibly inattentive captains.

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I’m so glad we experienced the area from both the air and the ground. It was beautiful both times, but in very different ways.

Skeleton Coast Namibia

Awesome!

If you’ve missed some posts and would like to read about the whole adventure, click here.

Call of Deadvlei Namibia

Single grains of sand
blowing, building,
Nature’s monuments that reach to the sky

Trees outlasting lifetimes
dead, dry
Strokes of dark brown against a vibrant background of color

Travelers climbing
stepping, sinking,
Trying to conquer what nature has created

Languages of the world
appreciating, celebrating
Still failing to capture indescribable beauty

Footprints in the sand
filling, erasing
All evidence we were here

Memories of moments
breathing, thinking
Surrounded by monuments built of single grains of sand.


This was one of the reasons I came to Namibia, to stand in the pan of Deadvlei and see the beauty of the dunes and the trees. 

Deadvlei Namibia

We began by climbing a portion of Big Daddy, one of the largest dunes in the area.

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While I only climbed a short way, it was still an amazing experience. I climbed to the section just above the travelers in the below photo.

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Looking down to the right, it seemed as though the side was straight down.

Toni, our guide, was with me and asked if I was ready to head down. 

“You mean straight down?”

I thought maybe I’d be walking back the way I came.

“Yes, put your camera inside your shirt and grab my hand.”

“Okay…”

I was very hesitant, but trusted Toni. So I grabbed her hand, leaned back and took my first step. My foot slid down and I took another step. It was a hot day but the sand was delightfully cool as my feet sunk down. Then finally I sat down and slid the rest of the way. It was so much fun. I laughed the whole way.

Then we walked over a small hill, and there it was.

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It’s hard to describe what a beautiful place it is. The pan is made up of cream colored dried clay. The trees died after the dunes blocked the water source hundreds of years ago. They are estimated to be 900+ years old.

Deadvlei Namibia

Here is a photo of people walking across the pan and people coming down the side of Big Daddy. The mirage created by the heat reflecting off the sand is amazing. Yes…this captures some of the vastness of the area.

I had time to sit down beside one of the trees and to take in the beauty and spirit of this unique place on Earth. Seeing, listening, feeling…I will never forget.

There are some grasses and short bushes that have sprung up in a few places- survivors in an area where most things cannot live. It was hot, but the slight breeze helped cool me down a bit.BlogDeadvlei11

Because it is such a large space, it’s easy to find solitude. It was a spiritual experience that touched my heart.

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Once again, the shadows and textures helped set the stage.

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Deadvlei Namibia called and I’m so glad I answered.

Namibia on Safari

One of the best things about an organized safari is stepping off the plane in a country where you’ve never been before, and seeing a friendly person holding a sign with your name on it. Phew!

I was finally in Namibia and Barnabas, from Wilderness Safaris, loaded my luggage into the car and took me to my hotel. I stayed at the Galton House in Windhoek. It was a nice place, but frankly, I was so tired I checked my email and went to bed. I’d had such a busy day, I’d forgotten to keep hydrated and wasn’t feeling up to par. I should know better…

The hotel agreed to store my large suitcase and so I packed my safari clothing into a small duffle bag. I was a bit worried the zipper was going to break, but at least the camera gear was safely stowed in my backpack. There was some good and some bad news. My safari pants? After losing 20 pounds in the months prior to the trip, they were WAY TOO BIG. I looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy with all the extra fabric. I tightened the belt and did my best to evenly distribute the rest of the waistband.

So, while I made a fashion statement on my trip, it was probably “what not to wear” or worthy of the worst dressed list in safari attire. 

Toni, our guide with lovely bright red hair, picked me up and after adding Aravind, another traveler originally from India, we hit the road. Both of them were very friendly and interesting people. Our first day together included hours on the road, much of it on gravel roads. The main roads are very well kept, although dusty.

It had been a long time since I’d relieved myself behind a bush…but…heck, I was in for the whole adventure. It was a bit of a challenge with my oversized pants. I added the used toilet paper to the trash bag and we were back on our way to Sossusvlei and the Kulala Desert Lodge.

Namibia Road Trip

We had lunch at the Khomas Hochland escarpment. The views were incredible!

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I still wasn’t feeling too great, so I tried to drink as much water as possible and to eat what I could. The drive was long and I’m sure I was very quiet. Still, I enjoyed the company.

We did see ostrich and our first Oryx. The oryx is the national animal of Namibia and is represented on the Namibia Coat of Arms.

Namibia Oryx Antelope

After we were welcomed at camp, I headed to my free standing suite where I unpacked and took a quick nap. The accommodations were fabulous and very comfortable. We ate dinner and I fell back into bed for a good night’s sleep.

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It’s cool in the evening at this time of year, perfect sleeping weather. And…the hot water bottle at my feet was an added treat.

Plethora of Penguins – Betty’s Bay, South Africa

I left the Mosaic Sanctuary early the next morning so that I could take Marcelino’s advice and visit the penguin colony at Betty’s Bay. It was worth every minute. The last time I visited South Africa ten years ago, I saw the penguins at Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. I do love penguins.

After paying an entrance fee of 10 South African Rand, or about 1 US dollar, I stepped onto the raised wooden path. Penguins always put a smile on my face.

Betty's Bay Penguins

Betty's Bay penguins

Betty's Bay Penguins

Please excuse the rough video skills. I’m still working on it.

This little guy lives in Unit 53. He’s got beachfront property. We should be so lucky…

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Betty’s Bay was beautiful and I’m glad I had a chance to visit.

Betty's Bay

Then it was off to the airport and on my flight to Namibia.

A visit to the penguin colony at Betty’s Bay and/or Boulder’s Beach comes highly recommended.

Three Days in South Africa

Recap: It was time to go to Africa, again, and Namibia was my first choice. My travel agent, Ian, from the Africa Adventure Company helped with the arrangements for the 16 Day Great Namibian Journey. It was originally scheduled for May and I got sick, so I after receiving my refund from Travel Guard Insurance, I was able to reschedule in August of this year.  As a change to the trip, I had the option to include three days in South Africa. After Ian suggested a cage dive with the great white sharks, it was confirmed.

I arrived in Cape Town and picked up my Budget rental car which had been upgraded to an Audi. NICE!

This was my first time driving a vehicle on the other side of the road and I’d been doing my best to think the process through. In other words, I was a nervous. I had spent a long time worrying about something that wasn’t such a big deal. I’m sure the rush of adrenaline that hit after I climbed off the airplane in Cape Town helped. I couldn’t stop smiling as I followed the other cars down Highway N2. I did get a bit lost as I turned off onto the dirt road, but I turned perfectly into the “other” lane.

This milk wood tree graces the entrance of the Mosaic Sanctuary lodge area. It was a welcome and beautiful sight.

Milkwood Tree at Mosaic Sanctuary South Africa

I loved everything about the lodge including my suite, the food and the people who made my stay so special.

Here is how Simone describes the Mosaic Santuary in one of her poems. She and her husband Marcelino are the sanctuary managers who live there.

” At Mosaic the sun rise can set your soul on fire, the mountains witness to a life time past, the Milk wood leaves moving to the rhythm of the wind. At Mosaic the fish eagle will call your heart to listen, your senses coming alive, at Mosaic a smile cross borders, at Mosaic the nightjar sings to the symphony in the sky. MOSAIC is a place of majestic beauty.”

I saw the fish eagles and the incredible beauty. It was a perfect place to begin my travels. I stepped off the deck of my suite to see this view of the Hermanus Lagoon.

Mosaic Sanctuary Panoramic Photo

My biggest disappointment was that the cage dive with the great white sharks had been cancelled due to weather. The wind was blowing and it was raining on and off. Still, I couldn’t have been happier with the location and the activities. Another trip back to South Africa for my appointment with the sharks doesn’t break my heart. I think I’ll probably be back a number of times, God willing.

So, instead I quad-biked with Vitalis. What a blast!

I’d never done it before, so it was a great adventure and I saw more really beautiful sights.

Mosaic Sanctuary, South Africa

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What’s a visit to South Africa without a wine tasting?

Creation Wines

So the next day, I was treated to a tasting at a local vineyard. Creation Wines had some fabulous options and treats to go with each of them. If I could have added a few bottles to my luggage, I’d be sipping on a glass right now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find it locally.

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Then it was a quick trip to Hermanus. I’ve shared some photos already, but I needed to add one more for good measure.

Hermanus, South Africa

The crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean were magnificent. There was still one final visit to make and that was the beach near the Mosaic Sanctuary. I needed to step into the ocean just like the first time when I visited South Africa in 2004.

Atlantic Ocean

The wind was blowing and it was chilly, but still amazingly beautiful.

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The ocean was C-O-L-D! I was freezing and trying to keep the hair out of my face. Vitalis and I were laughing so hard, it’s amazing that we got a photo. Just looking at it makes me giggle.

While I was looking forward to leaving for the airport the next day and beginning my journey to Namibia, I was still sad at leaving such a magical place and the wonderful people I’d met along the way. I had another great dinner, joined by Marcelino. He’s originally from Namibia, so it was good to talk to him about what to expect.

Marcelino told me that with all the contrasts in Namibia, I couldn’t take a bad picture. I wasn’t sure that was true, especially in my case, but I was still excited to test out his theory.

I headed back to my suite and on my last night at the Mosaic Sanctuary, dreamed about Africa.

Selecting Namibia for My Travel Destination

travel destination deadvlei in Namibia
Thank you for sharing this photo, Aravind.

When I told my friends and family members I was traveling to Namibia, the normal response was, “What?”, then “Where?” They had never heard of the country which is north of South Africa on the Atlantic Ocean side of the African continent. Then, people would ask me to spell it for them. “N-A-M-I-B-I-A”.

If you would have asked me a couple years ago, I would have probably said the exact same thing. So, why did I travel to Namibia?

With so many destinations in the world, how did I narrow down the choices to this special country? That’s easy. I was looking at photos on National Geographic online and did a double-triple-quadruple take on one of them. Yes, I was looking at a photo and no, it was not a painting. I had to look at it so many times because I couldn’t believe this place actually existed. So, one amazing photograph was all it took to entice me to fly 12,000+ miles to visit Deadvlei in Namibia.

Thank you Frans Lanting!

Click here for the original photo by Frans Lanting.

Here are a few of mine inspired by Mr. Lanting.

deadvlei in sossusvlei, Namibia

deadvlei in sossusvlei, namibia

That’s why I traveled to Namibia. Not only did I get to see, experience and photograph Deadvlei, my adventure included a lot more unexpected surprises. 

Why did you choose your last travel destination?

Panorama Preview of Namibia

I’ve been home from my trip since September 5th and frankly, I’m still so overwhelmed with how amazing Namibia was that I’m having a hard time condensing all my thoughts down into legible and concise thoughts. And…of course processing several thousand photos takes time.

So, here is a brief glimpse of what’s to come:

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Can you tell I love panorama compositions?

Enjoy!

Dipping My Toe into the Solo Travel Waters

The freedom of solo travel

The first time I ever traveled solo was the day I stepped off the train into Salzburg, Austria in the fall of 2000. I broke the first rule of solo travel safety by demonstrating that I was an obviously lost tourist as I opened the large noisy map and studied it closely. Thankfully, a small older woman quickly pointed me in the right direction and I was on my way. I loved Salzburg. I had a wonderful time viewing areas I’d been long admiring in the movie The Sound of Music. I returned to Munich and reunited with my friends later that night.

While I’m not quite a solo travel virgin, my upcoming trip will challenge my ability to travel without anyone I know. My first few days, I’ll be on my own just outside of Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve been to the Cape Town area before. It’s a beautiful city where people are very friendly. This is where I have scheduled the cage diving with the great white sharks. There is a BIG smile on my face just thinking about it.

Then, I head to Namibia where I’ll meet up with fellow travelers I’ve never met who are joining me on the safari. There will be a maximum of eight people and our guide. So, my first solo trip isn’t really solo. It was a good compromise to help me begin the adjustment.

My love of travel has taken me to many exotic places, some of them are locations where very few people I know want to go. The trips are usually about two weeks long and can be expensive. I save and plan my vacations around these opportunities to travel. For me, the choice is to learn to travel on my own for those times when my travel buddies can’t come, or to just not go. I don’t consider delaying or missing an opportunity to travel a good option, so I’m on the path for solo travel.

I’m not someone who minds being alone, as a matter of fact, I’m an introvert so I need this time to recharge. I’m also single, so I’m used to doing things alone at times, like eating out and going to the movies. Still, I am a bit nervous about not having someone else to rely on when traveling in other countries.

Luckily, there are women who have already traveled this road and are very happy they did. Here are just a couple of my favorite solo travelers who inspire me and provide great information for those of us on the same path.

Journey Woman

Solo Travel

This trip is an adventure in many ways and I’m excited to get started. Let the countdown continue…

Is solo travel something you’ve ever considered? Any tips?

Ebola and My Trip to Africa

Illustration of the Ebola virus

I’ve been asked numerous times this week whether or not I’m afraid to go on my upcoming trip to Namibia and South Africa with the current Ebola outbreak on the African continent. My answer is no, for the following reasons.

I spoke with Ian from the Africa Adventure Company yesterday to finalize a few details on my trip. I asked him what impact they have been seeing. At this time, he isn’t aware of any travelers who have cancelled their plans, but people are asking if there are specific things they should be aware of while they travel.

Many countries in Africa rely heavily on tourism and if the ebola virus spreads or if travelers panic and refuse to visit, it will be a financial catastrophe for each of those countries. I’m not surprised they are taking it seriously. Not just because of the financial implications, but because they want to protect their citizens.

Will I be taking some precautions? Yes.

  • I’ll be wiping down hard surfaces on the airplane with anti-bacterial wipes. I’m still doing research on which wipes I’ll purchase. I’m not sure if it will help, but it certainly won’t hurt.
  • As always, I’ll be vigilant about washing my hands throughout the trip.
  • There are experts in all these countries that have far more knowledge than I do, so I’ll be listening and acting on the instructions provided at the airport and other locations.

I can’t even begin to imagine the horror and sadness of those impacted by the Ebola Virus in Sierre Leon, Guinea and Liberia. Just following the headlines will tell some of the story. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone suffering from this terrible virus.

Ebola Outbreak Instills Terror in West African Families

As I write about my trip, I’ll be including what I’m seeing and experiencing relating to the impact of this outbreak in the countries I’m visiting. Please sign up to be notified of new posts if you are interesting in following along.