The elephants in Namibia’s Damaraland are smaller than the typical African elephant. They survive on a more limited diet and have to migrate for miles to drink at desert waterholes. However, they have adapted to this harsher way of life and can live up to three days without water.
They are herbivores – browsing animals that survive on desert brush and trees.
Although not a separate species, they have evolved to have larger feet which help them travel miles across the desert to find water.
Sometimes food is sparse….
…and the terrain is always rugged.
But these elephants are hardy and determined.
A herd gathers together in the afternoon.
Two elephants descend over a hillside to join the herd as the sun sets.
The terrain in Namibia’s Damaraland region features rocky rolling hills and desert vegetation surviving the worst drought in the country’s recent history. It is a landscape dotted with animals that are free to roam. They are not confined to game parks, but may be protected in other ways (as I will mention in a bit).
No animals are visible in this typical landscape, but you can bet some are hiding in the bushes!
A stationary springbok is a rare thing. They are usually seen leaping like ballerinas across the bush. The name “springbok” has everything to do with their mode of transportation and nothing to do with the season of the year! In the distance, a pair of zebras graze along a ridge.
At last, we achieved our wonderful guide’s main goal for the morning: to see some black rhinos. We learned that black rhinos are actually grey, as are white rhinos, with the primary difference being the shape of the upper lip. This little family consists of a mother, baby, and adolescent son. The son had apparently left the mom for a while and then returned. Rhinos are greatly endangered due to the black market in rhino horn; and in this area they are protected by an armed, anti-poaching team from multiple disciplines.
Though always exemplifying a rugged desert terrain, Namibia’s Damaraland region nonetheless changes from place to place and from sunrise to sunset.
Standing on a hilltop overlooking a valley, I see the early morning sun filtering through clouds hanging over distant mountains.
Later, the moon sets over stark red earth, stretching out toward flat-topped hills.
A hardy, drought-tolerant moringa tree clings to a rocky hillside.
And finally, while driving along a winding country road I see the sun drop below the mountaintops.
What a welcoming committee! We met up with these guys, free to roam wherever they choose, not long after we landed.
They might be thinking who the heck are you and why are you here?
We spent at least a half-hour with a group of giraffes, including these two lounging beside an acacia tree.
Leaving the Namib desert in a small plane flying at a low altitude, you can see the fantastic patterns in the sand…
…another example of a natural abstract, no artist required.
The red color of the dunes comes from iron, and the black deposits are from magnetite.
We say goodbye to central Namibia’s vast desert with dunes that extend all the way to the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Here are a few last glimpses before heading off to a new and radically different landscape.
On our last evening, we see the sun setting in a very fast descent, glowing orange in a cloudless sky.
Early the next morning, the moon, barely visible through the clouds, sets over a long straight road through the desert.
The desert stretches out to distant mountains, with only a solitary tree to dot the landscape.
The animals we saw in Namibia were totally wild, not confined to game parks. The ubiquitous oryx is known as the national animal of Namibia.
And wild ostriches strut around proudly in their native habitat.
Deadvlei in southern Namibia sits among some of the tallest dunes in the world, and scientists believe that about 900 years ago those dunes began to cut the area off from the Tsauchab River, which nourished its trees. Now the trees, dead for many years, sit surrounded by dunes in a bed of dried clay.
To get to the trees, one must hike over a well-traveled dune ridge and down onto the clay pan.
One can see why this area has become a magnet for photographers.
The first time I saw an image from Deadvlei, I thought the photographer must have had some special magic!
But now I know that anyone can capture a beautiful image here.
Many places today are referred to as the eighth wonder of the world, including Deadvlei with its blackened tree trunks, fallen branches, red dunes, and blue skies.