In May of 2012 I took six students to Africa for a Best of Africa trip which included, Soweto in South Africa, the sand dunes in Sossuvlei Namibia, The Himba people in Northern Namibia and wildlife in Botswana at King’s Pool, Vumbura Plains and finally Mombo. The trip included helicopters, hot air balloons and private vehicles with special access. The trip was AWESOME and below are some of the photographic highlights of this adventure.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
Great faces in market in the Soweto area of Jonannesburg.
Running down a street in Dobsonville, Soweto, South Africa
We were greeted in Soweto with smiling faces.
A very poor section of Soweto known as Klipspruit
Handprints on a wall in Klipspruit
Inside a school in Klipspruit, Soweto.
Peeking into school window
Window in school
Wire fences at school in Klipspruit, Soweto
More happy faces
A recycling dumpsite with squalor conditions in Klipspruit, Soweto.
Bottles behind mattress springs
Coke sign reflects in the glass of the Old Diamond Building in downtown Johannesburg.
Only in Johannesburg
The highlight of this trip for me was Namibia and specifically the sand dunes in Sossusvlei. Sossusvlei is a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes, located in the southern part of the Namib Desert, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park of Namibia. This area is characterized by high sand dunes of vivid pink-to-orange color, a consequence of a high percentage of iron in the sand and consequent oxidation processes. The oldest dunes are those of a more intense reddish color. These dunes are among the highest in the world; many of them are above 200 metres, the highest being the one nicknamed Big Daddy, about 380 metres high. Everything that excites me about photography was here. The colors and shapes were beyond anything I could imagine. The only place I have ever been where I felt the same kind of excitement was in Antarctica. I will definitely be coming back to Namibia.
Sand dunes after sunset on tungsten
Within the area known as Sossusvlei is Deadvlei, another clay pan, about 2 km from Sossusvlei. A notable feature of Deadvlei is that it used to be an oasis with several acacia trees; afterwards, the river that watered the oasis changed its course. The pan is thus punctuated by blackened, dead acacia trees, in vivid contrast to the shiny white of the salty floor of the pan and the intense orange of the dunes.
Deadvlei was different from every angle and changed constantly with the light
A couple on a dune at sunrise
Hikers at sunrise on dune
Hot air balloon rises over the desert floor at sunrise
Driving across the desert at sunrise
Sunrise on the dunes
Rock formations at the base of the dunes
Pan at Sunset
By far the most amazing sky I have ever seen. The Milky Way is the main group of stars and visible to the right of the trip is the Andromeda Galaxy.
Patterns of vegetation from an aerial view.
View from hot air balloon
Fairy circles in Namibia. These fairy circles consist of round areas barren of vegetation; as yet there is no clear picture as to how they are formed. One theory suggests termites as the creator of these circles, but recent studies have stated that there is no evidence termites would cause this phenomenon. In the oral myths of Himba people these barren patches are said to have been caused by the gods, spirits and/or natural divinities.Studies done by South African scientists shows that these circles are under continuous development. They grow in diameter, expanding to as large as 9 m in diameter, where they One of Africa’s most mysterious natural phenomena still cannot be explained despite 25 years of research, scientists have admitted.The findings will come as a relief to the region’s bushmen who have traditionally attributed magical, spiritual powers to these desert rings.These circles are not moving and after 22 years they have remained in the same spot.
The color of the desert floor was simply stellar.
Patterns from a hot air balloon
Hot air balloon over Namibia
Multicolored sand and vegetation in Namibia
Shadow of our hot air balloon on sand dunes
Copper and iron intrusions in sand dunes
Overall of sand dunes
SERRA CAFEMA, NORTHERN NAMIBIA, SAND DUNES AND THE HIMBA PEOPLE
Serra Cafema in Northern Namibia was our next destination. Here we had sand dunes of a different texture and color and we had the Himba people. The Himba are an ethnic group of about 20,000 to 50,000 people living in northern Namibia, in the Kunene region. They are mostly a semi-nomadic, pastoral people, and speak Otjihimba. The Himba breed cattle and goats. The responsibility for milking the cows lies with the women. Women take care of the children, and one woman will take care of another woman’s children. Women tend to perform more labor-intensive work than men do, such as carrying water to the village and building homes. Men handle the political tasks and legal trials. Members of an extended family typically dwell in a homestead, “a small, circular hamlet of huts and work shelters” that surrounds “an okuruwo (ancestral fire) and a central livestock enclosure.” Both the fire and the livestock are closely tied to their belief in ancestor worship, the fire representing ancestral protection and the livestock allowing “proper relations between human and ancestor.” The Himba wear little clothing, but the women are famous for covering themselves with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre, to protect themselves from the sun. The mixture gives their skins a reddish tinge. This symbolizes earth’s rich red color and the blood that symbolizes life, and is consistent with the Himba ideal of beauty.
Sand dunes in Serra Cafema
Very different sand and light then what we saw in Southern Namibia
In Serra Cafema the sand was deeply striated with strong texture.
A Himba boy plays in the sand.
Body covered in otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre, to protect against the sun
Himba children playing in the sand
Himba woman braids hair
Himba women walking across desert sand in Northern Namibia
Oryx tracks in sand dunes
Oryx crossing the sand dunes
Pano of the sand dunes
Patterns and shadows in the sand
Striations and patterns in the desert sand
Patterns and texture and great light made me very happy
As the sun started to set the graphic nature of the sand dunes became even more defined.
Pit Vipers were very common in the sand dunes
A very large and neat spider called the white lady who lives in a hole in the sand with a trap door.
With the sun down a very long exposure on Tungsten
KING’S POOL BOTSWANA
We left Namibia via private plane and headed to Botswana where our first stop was Kings Pool Camp located in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, a vast private concession in the northern part of Botswana, on the western boundary of Chobe National Park.
Glasses on a table at King’s Pool
Beautiful old dead trees around King’s Pool
Leopard in early morning light
This was as close as you can get which is minimum focusing distance and full frame.
Wild dogs took down a baby kudu in seconds
Lion reflection in water
Hippos showing their stuff
Such beautiful eyes
After King’s Pool we took another private plane to Vumbura Plains in Botswana.
Buffalo running through water
Very close to a cheetah
Majestic gesturing elephant in Vumbura Plains
Giraffe at sunset
Helicopter view over the Okavango Delta
The delta is spectacular from the air and the ground
Red Lechwe cross the Delta
After Vumbura Plains we again went via private plain to Mombo which was the final stop in Botswana.Located in the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Mombo Camp is the flagship property of the luxury safari operator Wilderness Safaris. Widely recognised as the finest safari camp in Africa, Mombo is Botswana’s most famous property.
An ancient Baobab tree in Botswana
Sunrise at Mombo
Nothing like a NY Sirloin, Mombo style.
Nothing like a little cuddle after a good meal.
A little too close for comfort
Definitely a little close for comfort
Ok! Time to move.
Drinking at the favorite watering hole.
And a little more cuddling
Beyond close to a leopard
You can’t get any closer than this
We had great leopard encounters in Mombo
Spectacular light and our last leopard encounter
The leopard had just killed an aardvark and taken it up the tree
Blood stains on chest from dinner
Coming down to say hi and it is time for us to say bye.
All the best,
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