The land gave way to the wildlife.
P A R T II
The harsh desert landscapes of Namibia gave way to marvelous creatures that evolved over time, adapting to the conditions of their environment. The traditional animals of southern Africa can be seen in this wonderful country plus a whole new world of endemic species born from the Namib and endlessly fascinating.
Throughout our journey, we could feel the presence of animals around us, that sense of wonder and excitement that everyday was a new possibility, a new chance of having an African wildlife encounter.
The antelopes were the first to greet us and welcomed us to the vast land of South West Africa. The massive eland, the wildebeest, the springbok and the absolutely stunning gemsbok also known as the Oryx, national symbol of Namibia. Our guide told us about their wonderful adaptation, their coloring. The black, white and brown of most antelopes is not just for looks and design, it has a truly important significance: temperature regulation. While the brown is needed for camouflage at the desert, the dark stripes are used to absorb heat when heat is needed, and the white bands to reflect light when the weather is too hot. The desert is relentless, the cold can be extreme as well as the heat. Its remarkable what nature is capable of.
The Cheetahs we met along the way. One of my favorite animals of all time, I have always been drawn to their grace, elegance and deadly power. Fantastic creatures of speed with such deepness in their gaze.
Every new encounter was so exhilarating, to meet face to face the animals we all have seen in documentaries, was so satisfying!
Then came the small desert creatures. The coastal areas where the sand dunes meet the ocean are home to some of the most interesting endemic species, totally adapted to the sandy desert life. The Namib Gecko was one of our must see reptiles and we found a little “Tommy” one afternoon while exploring the dunes. We never thought it would stay still for such a long time, just looking at us and cleaning the dust from his eyes with his tongue. Then we saw the Peringuey’s adder, famous desert snake for its flawless camouflage under the sand, with only the eyes peaking through, waiting for one of the Geckos for lunch.
Our final destination was Etosha National Park. After more than two weeks of build up expectation, we were anxious and worried that Etosha would not live up to the hype. An eden in the middle of the desert, with plenty of wildlife in northern Namibia, Etosha is one of the largest national parks in the country.
At the gate, we had an extensive security check, the rangers went over all our belongings and we happily helped them. They do this to prevent poachers and illegal hunters. Etosha is half the size of Costa Rica (22,270 square kilometres) so controlling the safety of the animals is a complicated task. Zebras, Giraffes, Impalas, Springboks, Oryx, Jackals, Ostriches, surrounded us constantly since we entered the park. That first night we went to a waterhole behind our bedroom, we were too excited to sleep, and two rhinos came to drink in front of us, living Eden indeed!
One afternoon we went out for the usual sunset drive to try to photograph the animals with the golden light. No animals to be seen. Anywhere. We drove for hours and nothing. The sun disappeared behind the horizon of the savannah and we couldn’t get a single photo that afternoon. We return to the hotel disappointed and decided to visit the waterhole behind it. More than 100 elephants drinking and bathing! Literally 100 elephants in front of us. The golden light was gone and the night was taking over. I was overwhelmed, what I was witnessing was marvelous and yet I had that annoying feeling that we could’ve been there for sunset with the perfect light.
That night we had booked a night drive safari to see the savannah come to life during nighttime. I was still baffled by the whole elephant experience and I forgot to pack a jacket, I went only with my t-shirt and jeans. What a terrible mistake, 10 minutes into the drive and I was freezing! Had to ask for blanket. I had two blankets at the end and it wasn’t enough! But never mind the cold, I heard my first lion’s roar.
A strong male passed by us during the drive. The roar was deep, vibrating and totally intimidating. King of the jungle for sure!
The following day, we went to photograph sunrise and nature surprised us with our first close encounter with a male lion (during daytime). We photographed him as he walked through the bush and forest. The light enhancing his golden mane. What an experience! I couldn’t believe my camera screen.
After so many years wishing to be in front of a wild lion, my childhood dream finally came true! I saw Simba and he saw me.
That afternoon we knew the elephants most likely wouldn’t be at the hotel again, but we didn’t want to miss our last chance, so we planned to return at 4:30pm. When we got out of the car we went straight to the waterhole. The elephants had returned! This time we where there for sunset light. It was very interesting to see their social structure and hierarchies within the families that arrived. As soon as a new family came running, the other one left so that the new one could drink water. Fascinating!
Their trotting made the dust of the desert rise and bathe in the warm tones of sunset. A magical moment to photograph. You could get a glimpse of their soul when you looked into their eyes, everything they have lived, everything that they are.
Wildlife photography is complicated, definitely trying to capture the fast action of the animals, the emotion, the feelings, the light and composition in a single frame is not an easy task. Namibia was definitely a challenge, but such a rewarding one. I’m so grateful for this experience, I’m even more in love with the natural world now and Africa stole my heart. This trip has been a turning point in my life and in my career. I now want to invest myself into the old African continent and explore as much of it as I can in my lifetime.
Luis Solano Pochet
CEO & Founding Photographer
“And so we are all connected in the great circle of life.”
Check out my other posts on Namibia:
This post is dedicated to our guide!
A loyal follower of Joel Campbell, he dreamed of being a teacher in schools but life rewarded him by becoming a teacher for all those who have the pleasure of knowing him, always conveying his knowledge about the nature of his land. Thank you for all your teachings!
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