it’s the second least densely populated country in the world. Best of all, it
hadn’t changed much during the past 17 years.
My wife Lori and I spent nearly a month driving roughly 2,000 miles
with the steering wheel on the right, driving on the left side of the road
and leaving a dust plume in our wake that would put the Dust Bowl of the
1930s to shame. We dodged everything from warthogs with crazy hairdos
and festive ostriches, to lumbering desert elephants and skittish springbok.
The endless openness of Namibia was our invitation to absorb as many
natural wonders as we possibly could.
Nothing epitomizes the desolation of Namibia more than the Skeleton
Coast. Humans are scarce and the wildlife elusive. Miles of isolation are
disrupted by the power of the frigid Benguela Current sweeping up the
Namibian coastline and the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s not just the many animal carcasses and occasional whale bones
that give the Skeleton Coast its name; wave-battered shipwrecks are a
constant reminder as well. Countless fishing trawlers and freighters have run
aground on shifting sandbars and unmapped jagged reefs. Dense fog also
hinders travel. We maneuvered our 4x4 in deep, soft sand to see the latest
shipwreck, a boat out of neighboring Angola. Its bow protruded out of the
frothy surf where hardy seabirds, mostly cormorants, claimed its battered
masts and rusty decks for nesting and roosting habitat.
Hundreds of thousands of yelping cape fur seals call the Skeleton
Coast home. Their crowded rookeries are spread along lonely, windswept
beaches and rocky promontories especially at Cape Cross. The surf was
filled with bobbing fur seals frolicking in the shore pound, while on the
beaches the hungry pups cried for their mother’s rich milk.
It’s difficult to determine what’s more perilous for the cape fur seal.
Frolicking in the ocean attracts great white sharks, but on land marauding
black-backed jackals and brown hyenas patrol the periphery of the rookeries
snatching unattended pups straying too far from their mothers.
The Great Namib
– Naukluft Desert
The epic, wind-driven dunes of the Namib – Naukluft Desert were
mesmerizing, possessing the tallest sand dunes on the planet, where
mountains of sand reach heights of 1,000 feet.
With 60 miles of dunes separating us and the Atlantic Ocean, it was
a place to wander. After two steep ascents up two separate dunes, it was
easy to see how someone could get turned around and lost out there in the
shifting sands. The dune troughs are deep and it takes some work to get
from one dune to the next. Small herds of springbok and oryx browsed at
the base of the dunes, and several ostriches waltzed across the dry gravel
flood plain of the desert.