Namibia – In search of the Elusive Desert Elephants

In our blog Namibia – It’s like a virus” I stated that we needed no excuse to visit Namibia, so when friends, Pam and Rod (Joe) Stallebras, who are also keen overlanders, told us they were going with a party to Damaraland to explore the dry river beds and canyons, we didn’t hesitate to ask if we could join the em. The desert elephants have been on our wishlist for ages and one of the few areas of Namibia we haven’t yet explored. Because, being solo travellers, we’ve not wanted to do it alone. Without company, in case of a breakdown, even with our satellite phone, we’d still feel vulnerable.

The party was made up of four couples, Estelle and Albert Meyer, Sandra and Henk Roux, Pam and Joe Stallebrass , who’d been in the CKGR, and ourselves, each travelling separately from different directions before all meeting up in Etosha.

We delayed our departure hoping for a DJI Spark drone I’d won in a competition to be delivered. When it seemed that I wouldn’t get it before Christmas we left for our first night in Springbok. Our first night away is always a trial to see that we have everything that we need. In the morning we made a few last minute purchases!

The border crossing at Vioolsdrift / Noordoever went smoothly and we treated ourselves to our customary breakfast at the Wimpy in Noordoever. We learnt that it was not only our 50th anniversary in 2017, but it was Wimpy’s and Pick ‘n Pay’s too, and 50 years since Etosha was officially named a National Park!


Celebrating 50 years of Shared Moments

We followed our favourite route in Namibia along the C13 (or D212) past Ausenkehr, one of the largest grape producing areas in the Southern Hemisphere.

Views of Ausenkehr on the C13 along the Gariep River

Taking our time to absorb the beauty of the river in the harsh landscape of the Richtersveld we also explored the Gamchab canyon once again and spent a night of wildcamping there to get us in the right mood for our new adventure.

We camped in the Gamchab gorge close to where we’d stayed before.

The slow start to our first day in Namibia certainly got us into the right frame of mind. What a fantastic experience it is to be totally removed from day to day events at home and immersed into raw nature. Food for the soul.

I had read in a local 4×4 magazine of a scenic route via the western side of the Fish River Canyon near Rosh Pinah. It seemed interesting enough to include in our itinerary the next day. We soon realised the reason for the absence of photos supporting the story.

The landscape along the Witsputs Rd, D463

It was probably a different time of the year now and unfortunately the landscape was very similar to the tarred road between Rosh Pinah and Aus and few photographic opertunities presented themselves. All we got for our efforts was a puncture! This called for a change of plan in order to get the tyre properly repaired, so we detoured to Keetmanshoop where we also stayed the night in a dreadful campsite in town.

When spending a night near Keetmanshoop, stay at the incredible Kokerwoud instead, even though you are required to pay for extras you may not want…Cheetah feeding, Giants playground etc. Well worth the extra charges though, and the Kokerwoud is beautiful at sunset and sunrise. The only negative is the ‘take it or leave it’ attitude of management, which can leave a bad taste.

A few days later, after a lovely night at Kupferquelle in Tsumeb with its Olympic sized pool, lovely shaded and grassed stands, we arrived at Etosha and stayed our first night at Namutoni.

Sharing the Namutoni campsite with Pam and Joe

We caught up with Pam and Joe’s news and their experiences in Botswana. Also at the Namutoni campsite were neighbours of Ursula Coenen, a good friend from Gordon’s Bay. They too have houses at Rocky Bay. Douglas and Klaus were meeting Ursula the next day with others she was collecting from the airport in Windhoek.


There was water in the pan and the wildlife was spread out, but plentiful.


Plenty of water from the recent rain

Rain soaked lone male

Zebra crossing?

The next day we took a slow drive to Halali where we met up with the rest of the party. On the way we followed the pan route mainly. There was plenty of game and lots of beautiful trees.

Big sky country

We dropped in at Okaukuejo for a picnic lunch at the waterhole…

Christmas eve and Christmas day were celebrated at Olifantsrus in the western part of the park where there is no pan.

Solveig cutting Sue’s special fruit cake, Decorated Christmas Table, and our Xmas spread

Christmas guests !

Olifantsrus had a lovely waterhole that could be viewed from a hide.

Secretary bird 1

Secretary bird at the Olifantsrus hide

On a game drive near Olifantsrus we found a rare Black Rhino

Up until now this trip has been the same as any other. The real adventure was about to begin…. After Christmas we left Etosha via the Galton gate on the Western side of the park and travelled south on the C35 until we reached the Kamdescha road to the Khowarib Schlucht 4wd trail and the start of the Canyon exploration. We split from the rest of the party and took the Beesvlakte trail route to Sesfontein

Rustic outdoor Ablutions at Camel Top campsite in Sesfontein

We met up again at Sesfontein and had a long and grueling day to Puros through the Hoanib River and Giribes Plains.

Gemsbok in the dusty dry river bed

And kudu in a shady spot


After two nights at the Community campsite in Puros we headed off again…

Coffee stop and some of Sue’s fruitcake in the Puros canyon

Wildlife in the canyon…

and the desert elephant!!

Adults with young

Picnic lunch under an Anna tree on a rocky table


Parts of the journey went over plains….. In the extremely dry desert we still found plant life….

Hardy trees growing amongst the rocks and the prehistoric Welwitschia

We camped at Palmwag… An oasis!

We all had a New Year’s Eve breakfast at the Palmwag Lodge before setting off to Desolation Valley.

On the way Albert unfortunately lost a wheel and damaged his left rear brake drum. Albert and Estelle withdrew to attempt repairs in Windhoek. Being New Year’s weekend it was unlikely. Henk and Sandra accompanied them.

Joe, Pam, Solveig and I continued into Desolation Valley and its incredible landscapes

Clear Evening Light

Full moon on New Year’s day

Your imagination could run wild at the bizarre shapes

Our campsite in Desolation Valley

The following morning we continued through Desolation Valley and its variety of differing landscapes….



Fountains; Gai-As quelle

Bare stones

We eventually reached the canyons and river beds again….

Thick swamps prevented us from reaching the Rhino Sanctuary which lay about 15 kilometers upstream from our junction with the Ugab River, so we camped right where we were!

As the Ugab river route upstream was completely cut off we had to explore downstream the next morning. We could always backtrack…..

We got lucky!!

We found a route out of the river bed up the side of the mountain and into the plains beyond.

This whole area is so special I want to do a Part 2 with lots of photographs and more detail and not rush it now.

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