Bushman paintings in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

A dust storm raged all morning as we set out for our hike in NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

A dust storm raged all morning as we set out for our hike in NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

 

One morning we left &Beyond’s Sossusvlei Desert Lodge before sunset for a hike with our guide, George, along the desert edge of the surrounding mountains to a cliff and hidden cave with an overhang, about 300 feet (91 meters) above the desert floor.  The area we were staying in is at the eastern boundary of the Namib-Naukluft National Park in the privately owned NamibRand Nature Reserve.  Our destination was a series of bushman paintings on the cliff edge of the cave, done by the local bushmen approximately 2,000 to 2,600 years ago.  For paint, they mixed animal blood with ground ochre rock dust.  We were surprised at how well the paintings had been preserved, as they are completely exposed to the elements.  As seen in several photographs, the area is very arid and the morning we hiked was one of the windiest (35 knots steady wind) – i.e., dustiest — in quite a while.

 

A jackal – painted 2,000 to 2,600 years ago, Bushman paintings in NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

A jackal – painted 2,000 to 2,600 years ago, Bushman paintings in NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

 

A giraffe (no longer local to the area) – painted 2,000 to 2,600 years ago, Bushman paintings in NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

A giraffe (no longer local to the area) – painted 2,000 to 2,600 years ago, Bushman paintings in NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

 

Two ostriches – painted 2,000 to 2,600 years ago, Bushman paintings in NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

Two ostriches – painted 2,000 to 2,600 years ago, Bushman paintings in NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

 

&Beyond_s Sossusvlei Desert Lodge with dust swirling all around the desert valley, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

&Beyond’s Sossusvlei Desert Lodge with dust swirling all around the desert valley, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

 

A view of the sandstorm from up on the mountainside, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

A view of the sandstorm from up on the mountainside, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

 

An Arabian oryx (or white oryx) watched us descend down the cliff, walking around an old stone sheep corral, partially hiding while keeping a wary eye on us, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Na

An Arabian oryx (or white oryx) watched us descend down the cliff, walking around an old stone sheep corral, partially hiding while keeping a wary eye on us, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Namibia

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Deadvlei (near Sossusvlei), Namibia

Deadvlei, Namibia, #1 – a panorama of the entirety of Deadvlei, with Big Daddy dune on the far left (in shadows) and lots of dead acacia trees visible in the white salt floor of the pa

Deadvlei, Namibia, #1 – a panorama of the entirety of Deadvlei, with Big Daddy dune on the far left (in shadows) and lots of dead acacia trees visible in the white salt floor of the pan

 

After finishing our drive from &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge to Sossusvlei and photographing the spectacular red sand dunes along the way [see our previous blog post “Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia”], we parked in the Namib-Naukluft National Park parking lot for a hike into the spectacular Deadvlei.

“Deadvlei is another clay pan, about 2 km [1.2 miles] 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.  This creates a particularly fascinating and surrealistic landscape, that appears in innumerable pictures and has been used as a setting for films and videos.” — Wikipedia

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #2

Deadvlei, Namibia, #2

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #3

Deadvlei, Namibia, #3

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #4

Deadvlei, Namibia, #4

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #5

Deadvlei, Namibia, #5

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #6

Deadvlei, Namibia, #6

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #7

Deadvlei, Namibia, #7

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #8

Deadvlei, Namibia, #8

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #9

Deadvlei, Namibia, #9

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #10

Deadvlei, Namibia, #10

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #11

Deadvlei, Namibia, #11

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #12

Deadvlei, Namibia, #12 — hikers on “Big Daddy” sand dune

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #13

Deadvlei, Namibia, #13

 

Deadvlei, Namibia, #14

Deadvlei, Namibia, #14 — in the 104 degree (F) [40 degrees (C)] heat, it was a surprise to find both living grass and some clouds on the horizon!

Deadvlei, Namibia, #15 -- our guide, George, frying up bacon and sausage and then eggs, for a hearty breakfast after our hike and exploration of Deadvlei

Deadvlei, Namibia, #15 — our guide, George, frying up bacon and sausage and then eggs, for a hearty breakfast after our hike and exploration of Deadvlei

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #1 – sunrise was around 6.10 a.m

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #1 – sunrise was around 6:10 a.m.

 

We left &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge one morning at 5:30 a.m., after coffee/tea and some freshly baked pastries, for the long drive over mostly gravel roads to the Sossusvlei area and its spectacular red sand dunes.  At the end of our drive [see our next blog post] we parked in the Namib-Naukluft National Park parking lot for a hike into the spectacular Deadvlei.

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #2 -- shortly after sunrise, the shadows were quite long

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #2 — shortly after sunrise, the shadows were quite long

 

“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.  The name “Sossusvlei” is often used in an extended meaning to refer to the surrounding area (including neighboring vleis such as Deadvlei and other high dunes), which is one of the major visitor attractions of Namibia.”

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #3 -- dune grasses highlighted by the early morning sunlight

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #3 — dune grasses highlighted by the early morning sunlight

 

“The Sossusvlei area belongs to a wider region of southern Namib with homogeneous features (about 32,000 km² or 12,355 square miles) extending between rivers Koichab and Kuiseb [see our earlier blog post, “Flying Over the Namib Desert (Walvis Bay to Sossusvlei), Namibia”].  This area is characterized by high sand dunes of vivid pink-to-orange color, an indication of a high concentration 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 [656 feet], the highest being the one nicknamed Big Daddy, about 325 metres [1,066 feet] high, however the highest dune in the Namib Desert, Dune 7, [in Walvis Bay] is about 388 metres [1,273 feet] high.

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #4 -- dune grasses highlighted by the early morning sunlight

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #4 — dune grasses highlighted by the early morning sunlight

 

“The highest and more stable dunes are partially covered with a relatively rich vegetation, which is mainly watered by a number of underground and ephemeral rivers that seasonally flood the pans, creating marshes that are locally known as vlei; when dry, these pans look almost white in color, due to the high concentration of salt.  Another relevant source of water for Sossusvlei is the humidity brought by the daily morning fogs that enter the desert from the Atlantic Ocean.”  — Wikipedia

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #5

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #5

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #6

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #6

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #7 – this is Dune 45, so called because it lies 45 km (28 miles) past the Sesriem gate to the national park on the road to Sossusvlei; it is

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #7 – this is Dune 45, so called because it lies 45 km (28 miles) past the Sesriem gate to the national park on the road to Sossusvlei; it is 80 meters [262 feet] high and it is composed of 5-million-year-old sands

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #8

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #8

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #9

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #9

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #10 – Big Mama, located across from “Big Daddy”

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #10 – Big Mama, located across from “Big Daddy”

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #11 – a close-up of “Big Mama” (see above, #10)

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #11 – a close-up of “Big Mama” (see above, #10)

 

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #12 -- Big Daddy is the highest dune in the Sossusvlei area, at about 325 meters [1,066 feet], located past Sossusvlei proper, near Deadvlei,

Sand Dunes at Sunrise, Sossusvlei, Namibia, #12 — Big Daddy is the highest dune in the Sossusvlei area, at about 325 meters [1,066 feet], located past Sossusvlei proper, near Deadvlei, facing another very high dune known as “Big Mama”

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

 

Petrified Dunes in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

Red sand dunes in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

Red sand dunes in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

Our first evening sunset drive from &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia, was south and then west from the lodge to catch sunset at the Petrified Dunes in NamibRand Nature Reserve.  We were fortunate on the drive to see many of the local animals that have managed to survive in the arid desert.  Just before sunset we arrived at a region of petrified dunes – sand dunes that have solidified into rock and are believed to be the oldest dunes in the Namib Desert.  The petrified dunes are noticeable because of their much darker “burnt” red color, compared with the red sand dunes.

All along our drive, we were surprised to find circular patches of ground on the dunes that were barren of grass, and many at what appeared to be regular intervals – so called Namibian “fairy circles” (see photograph below).  Of course, being Americans, we suggested that they were drawn by Aliens.  The actual explanation only came to light a year ago through computer simulations at Princeton University – explained at the end of this blog post.

 

An ostrich in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

An ostrich in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

The red of the sand dunes contrasts with the darker soil of the mountains, behind, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

The red of the sand dunes contrasts with the darker soil of the mountains, behind, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

An Oryx watched us warily as we drove up, stopped for some photographs, and drove on, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

An Oryx watched us warily as we drove up, stopped for some photographs, and drove on, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

This “table top” reminded us of the namesake mountain in Cape Town [see our previous blog post, “Cape Town, South Africa (2018)”], NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Nami

This “table top” reminded us of the namesake mountain in Cape Town [see our previous blog post, “Cape Town, South Africa (2018)”], NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

Fairy circles in the Namib Desert are circular patches of land barren of plants, varying between 2-15 meters (7-49 feet) in diameter, often encircled by a ring of stimulated growth of gr

Fairy circles in the Namib Desert are circular patches of land barren of plants, varying between 2-15 meters (7-49 feet) in diameter, often encircled by a ring of stimulated growth of grass, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia; see the article at the bottom of this blog post from The Guardian (2017) that details the scientific research at Princeton University that finally explains the secret

 

The road to the petrified dunes in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

The road to the petrified dunes in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

When we arrived at the darker red petrified dunes, we were greeted by an Oryx on the slope of a dune, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

When we arrived at the darker red petrified dunes, we were greeted by an Oryx on the slope of a dune, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

Dune grass, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

Dune grass, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

A panorama of some petrified dunes in front of the mountains in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

A panorama of some petrified dunes in front of the mountains in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

Grasses alight at sunset on a petrified dune, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

Grasses alight at sunset on a petrified dune, NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

Your blogger-photographer_s shadow at sunset on at the petrified dunes in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

Your blogger/photographer’s shadow at sunset on at the petrified dunes in NamibRand Nature Reserve, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

 

 

“The secret of Namibia’s ‘fairy circles’ may be explained at last” The marks on the ground in the Namib desert resemble a vast sheet of polka dots, or to the less romantic observer, perhaps a bad case of chickenpox. In local myths, the bare, red circles fringed with grass are footprints of the gods, or patches of land once poisoned by the breath of a subterranean dragon. But even among scientists, who strive for more convincing theories, the curious, repetitive patterns have proved hard to explain. Since “fairy circles” became the focus of scientific study, researchers have proposed a host of ways by which the bare discs of soil may form. One idea points the finger at underground termites that engineer the landscape above their heads. Another proposal claims the patterns, which can grow to 25 metres [82 feet] wide, arise from natural competition between desert grasses.  In the latest effort to nail the answer, ecologists at Princeton University turned to computer models. To start with, they ran simulations to mimic the impact on desert grasses of termites building colonies underground. Sand termites in the Namib desert eat the roots of low-lying vegetation, meaning more moisture for them, and dead patches on the ground above. In the simulations, the dead zones were confined to patches created when neighbouring colonies of a similar size came up against one another, and settled on a border between their territories.

“‘The termites start with their own mound and go out and forage,’ said Corina Tarnita at Princeton. ‘If they find a smaller colony, they simply kill it and expand their own territory. But if they run into a colony that is about the same size, they cannot do that, and end up with a boundary where there’s permanent conflict, but not a full-blown war.’ But the termites did not explain the patterns completely. Tarnita next built a computer model that simulated the warring underground termites as well as the natural competition that arises between desert greenery. If a plant takes root in the desert, it can provide moisture and shade for others nearby, and so give them a helping hand. But as the plant grows, its roots spread out to draw in more water, making it harder for more distant plants to find water themselves.

“When Tarnita ran the new simulation, fairy circle-like patches appeared as the digital termites went about their business. But the conflict between plants in the simulated desert gave rise to their own fresh patterns – small clumps of vegetation in the spaces between the fairy circles.

“‘You find a much smaller scale pattern that’s driven by the plants self-organising in response to water,’ Tarnita said. To check whether the patterns might occur in the wild, the scientists went to Namibia and took photographs of the landscape. ‘We found an exact agreement, as you zoom in you see these very striking patterns,’ Tarnita said. The researchers, who report their findings in Nature, do not claim to have an explanation for how every fairy circle forms. But when they combine the two theories, the patterns that arise more closely match those seen in the desert, Tarnita said. ‘We get a much more complete description of the patterns,’ she said.

“‘One of the most striking things about nature is that despite the complexity of all of its interactions and the many processes that act simultaneously, sometimes, and more often than we expected, you find these amazing regularities,’she added. ‘We wanted to know how can these messy things results in so much beauty and order on such enormous scales?’” — http://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jan/18/

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, near Sossusvlei, Namibia

&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia, is located at the northern end of the NamibRand Nature Reserve in the Namib Desert, approximately a 93 km (58 miles) drive to the end of the fam

&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia, is located at the northern end of the NamibRand Nature Reserve in the Namib Desert, approximately a 93 km (58 miles) drive to the end of the famous and oft-photographed red sand dunes at Sossusvlei (literally meaning “where the two rivers end” as the buildup of the sand dunes blocked the flow of two parallel rivers there; literally, something like “dead-end marsh”); this panoramic view is from the lodge terrace, looking south

 

&Beyond’s “Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (formerly Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge) is situated in the northern foothills of the 184,000 hectares [445,000 acres], privately owned NamibRand Nature Reserve, some 26 kms [16 miles] from Sesriem.  The reserve lies on the eastern boundary of the Namib-Naukluft National Park.  It is a small and exclusive lodge, within easy reach of the Sesriem main gate and subsequent (self-drive or organized) tour on to the fabulous dunes of Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon.  The lodge can be reached in a saloon car.

 

Breathtaking views of the Namib Desert and mountains can be had at the lodge_s terrace and dining areas (indoors and outdoors), as well as from the ten guest lodges, &Beyond Sossusvlei

Breathtaking views of the Namib Desert and mountains can be had at the lodge’s terrace and dining areas (indoors and outdoors), as well as from the ten guest lodges, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

 

“This desert wilderness is home to a surprising variety of animals which thrive in a desert environment. Oryx, springbok, aardwolf, ostrich, hyena, bat-eared fox, Cape fox, Burchell’s Zebra and Hartman’s Mountain Zebra, can all be viewed here.  There are also over 115 different variety of bird species here, including sociable weavers, black and martial eagles and the dune lark.

 

A close-up of the previous scene with the cone – note the airplane on the runway on the far right; &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

A close-up of the previous scene with the cone – note the airplane on the runway on the far right; &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

 

“The split-level lodge has a fire-lit bar, comfortable sitting area and a mezzanine library with CD/book collection, all encompassed in wraparound verandas.  The Safari Shop has an assortment of branded goods and clothing.  At sunset, wildlife can be observed from the viewing deck, the perfect excuse for a sundowner.

 

White and red sand dunes are visible in front of the distant mountains, behind the large sand and rock pan in front of the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

White and red sand dunes are visible in front of the distant mountains, behind the large sand and rock pan in front of the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia; Where’s Waldo? Can you spot the two ostriches and more than ten oryx?

 

“Fine fare is served at both indoor and outdoor dining areas, and the delicious Pan African meals can be complemented by a fine selection of wines, on display at the walk-in cellar.

 

An outdoor terrace provides a perfect spot to enjoy dinner and stargazing after the day_s heat (hitting 40 degrees C (104 degrees F] the days we visited at the end of December -- warme

An outdoor terrace provides a perfect spot to enjoy dinner and stargazing after the day’s heat (hitting 40 degrees C (104 degrees F] the days we visited at the end of December — warmer than usual) has diminished; &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

 

“10 stone and glass split-level desert suites, have been built in the side of a mountain.  Each suite is equipped to cope with the climatic extremes of the desert.  Air-conditioning and outside showers for those hot summer days, and an en-suite, glass-encased bathroom and an inviting fireplace for those cold winter evenings.  There is a large star-viewing window above the bed, and the rooms are equipped with a CD system, a personal compact telescope, and a service-intercom to the main lodge.  The powerful telescope provides exceptional opportunities to observe the cosmos, as well as game viewing, all from the comfort of your own room.

 

The living room of &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia, provides a comfortable spot to relax upon arrival and for cocktails before and-or after dinner

The living room of &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia, provides a comfortable spot to relax upon arrival and for cocktails before and/or after dinner

 

“The suites are generously spaced apart for extra privacy, with a shaded deck to marvel at the wonderful horizons of the Namib Desert.  There is also a swimming pool, fed by an underground spring.

 

Five guest lodges flank either side of the main lodge and restaurant, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia; ours was the closet one in the photo, with total privacy and spectacular v

Five guest lodges flank either side of the main lodge and restaurant, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia; ours was the closet one in the photo, with total privacy and spectacular views of the desert to the south

 

“Activities include morning and evening nature drives in open 4WD vehicles.  There are guided walks, and marked walking trails for the independent explorer.” — www.namibian.org/travel/lodging/private/

 

Mid-afternoon, we spotted a group of Burchell_s Zebras enjoying water from the lodge_s water trough (supplied daily by truck, from the lodge_s spring), &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lo

Mid-afternoon, we spotted a group of Burchell’s Zebras enjoying water from the lodge’s water trough (supplied daily by truck, from the lodge’s spring), &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

 

On the desert pan this photograph captured two oryx, 2 Burchell_s Zebra, a springbok (midground), and a resting oryz under the shade of the Acacia tree, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge

On the desert pan this photograph captured two oryx, 2 Burchell’s Zebra, a springbok (midground), and a resting oryx under the shade of the Acacia tree, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

 

Just before we went out on our sunset drive, we were greeted by a Sociable Weaver, a common resident of the lodge, on the terrace; &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

Just before we went out on our sunset drive, we were greeted by a Sociable Weaver, a common resident of the lodge, on the terrace; &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Flying Over the Namib Desert (Walvis Bay to Sossusvlei), Namibia

Flying from Walvis Bay to Sossusvlei (our destination), famous for its spectacular, tall red sand dunes, we followed part of the course of the Kuiseb River out of Walvis Bay east through

Flying from Walvis Bay to Sossusvlei (our destination), famous for its spectacular, tall red sand dunes, we followed part of the course of the Kuiseb River out of Walvis Bay east through the Namib Desert, Namibia

 

From Walvis Bay, Namibia, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, we flew south on a chartered single-propeller plane over the Namib Desert to reach the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge where we spent two days exploring the region with our expert guide, George.  The flight was a great introduction to the Namib Desert that stretches along the coast of Namibia for 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles).  “Namib” is the local indigenous (Nama) word for “vast”.  Our pilot told us that while the red sands are millions of years old (the “old” sand), the encroaching regions of white sand (the “new” sand) are much younger and can be seen “crawling” up the slopes of the red dunes in many areas.  The red color is from iron and the black regions in the dunes are iron that hasn’t yet been oxidized.  From the air very few bushes or trees are visible in the dunes, as the rainfall in the desert averages only 2-5 mm (less than one-fifth of one inch) of rain per year.  However, the coastal fog does provide some moisture that the desert plants have adapted to for survival.  The one exception in our photos, taken closer to Walvis Bay than Sossusvlei, is the vegetation along the banks of the Kuiseb River that flows west from the capital of Namibia, Windhoek, in the center of the country, to the Atlantic Ocean at Walvis Bay.  Note that the Kuiseb River, 300 miles (500 km) long, only reaches the ocean in rare flood years, as it dies out in the Namib Desert.

 

Our pilot flew away from the river bed for a better view of the rolling red sand dunes of the Namib Desert, Namibia

Our pilot flew away from the river bed for a better view of the rolling red sand dunes of the Namib Desert, Namibia

 

Red sand dunes in the Namib Desert, Namibia, #2

Red sand dunes in the Namib Desert, Namibia, #2

 

This canyon of the Kuiseb River shows the underlying rock canyon walls that are slowly being covered by white (“new”) sand, Namib Desert, Namibia

This canyon of the Kuiseb River shows the underlying rock canyon walls that are slowly being covered by white (“new”) sand, Namib Desert, Namibia

 

“The Namib Desert is often referred to as the world’s oldest desert and has been in existence for some 43 million years, remaining unchanged in its present form for the last 2 million years.  The Namib is an immense expanse of relentlessly moving gravel plains and dunes of all shapes and sizes that stretch along the entire coastline.  The most widespread and dominant type of desert sand dune are linear dunes, with crescent shaped dunes common along the coast and clusters of star dunes, such as the towering horseshoe of dunes at Sossusvlei, found in the eastern reaches of the sand sea.

 

Kuiseb River canyon, Namib Desert, Namibia, #2

Kuiseb River canyon, Namib Desert, Namibia, #2

 

Kuiseb River canyon, Namib Desert, Namibia, #3

Kuiseb River canyon, Namib Desert, Namibia, #3

 

“It comes as no surprise therefore to discover that the entire western section of Namibia is comprised of the Namib, which spreads beyond the borders of Namibia and flows into southern Angola and the northern Cape Province of South Africa.  With ephemeral rivers flowing unexpectedly across an ancient landscape, its dunes, plains, rivers and a foggy coast have all become vital components to support an outstanding and fascinating array of bizarre desert flora and fauna.” — http://www.namibian.org

 

Red sand dunes in the Namib Desert, Namibia, #3 (closer to Sossusvlei)

Red sand dunes in the Namib Desert, Namibia, #3 (closer to Sossusvlei)

 

Red sand dunes in the Namib Desert, Namibia, #4 (closer to Sossusvlei)

Red sand dunes in the Namib Desert, Namibia, #4 (closer to Sossusvlei)

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Lüderitz, Namibia

Halifax Island, part of a group of 20 or so islets known collectively as the Penguin Islands, is about a 45-minute catamaran cruise from Lüderitz, Namibia

Halifax Island, part of a group of 20 or so islets known collectively as the Penguin Islands, is about a 45-minute catamaran cruise from Lüderitz, Namibia

 

Lüderitz, Namibia, a coastal African town on the Atlantic Ocean, “is sandwiched between the barren Namib Desert and the windswept South Atlantic coast.  As if Lüderitz’ unique geographical setting wasn’t impressive enough, its surreal German art nouveau architecture will seal the deal.  A colonial relic scarcely touched by the 21st century, Lüderitz recalls a Bavarian dorfchen(small village), with churches, bakeries and cafes. Unlike its more well-heeled Teutonic rival Swakopmund, Lüderitz feels stuck in a time warp, a perception that delivers both gloom and a certain charm (at least for visitors).  In short, it’s one of the most incongruous places in Africa.” – http://www.lonelyplanet.com

Our morning outing was a catamaran cruise to nearby Halifax Island.  Part of a group of 20 or so islets known collectively as the Penguin Islands, Halifax is known for its sizeable colony of African “jackass” penguins (Spheniscus demersus).  On our catamaran cruise we also saw a few Heaviside’s dolphins.

 

At one point the penguin guano (droppings) was collected on Halifax Island – the ruins were the home for the isolated workers, Lüderitz, Namibia

At one point the penguin guano (droppings) was collected on Halifax Island – the ruins were the home for the isolated workers, Lüderitz, Namibia

 

There are still hundreds of African “jackass” penguins (Spheniscus demersus) on Halifax Island, Lüderitz, Namibia

There are still hundreds of African “jackass” penguins (Spheniscus demersus) on Halifax Island, Lüderitz, Namibia

 

The lighthouse on the Atlantic Ocean coast is only a short distance from the Namib Desert, Lüderitz, Namibia

The lighthouse on the Atlantic Ocean coast is only a short distance from the Namib Desert, Lüderitz, Namibia

 

The main industry of Lüderitz, Namibia, is fishing and fish processing in the facility pictured

The main industry of Lüderitz, Namibia, is fishing and fish processing in the facility pictured

 

This church overlooks the harbor at Lüderitz, Namibia

This church overlooks the harbor at Lüderitz, Namibia

 

Besides the French SPAR grocery store, Lüderitz, Namibia, has a locally operated grocery with low prices (“OK Foods”)

Besides the French SPAR grocery store, Lüderitz, Namibia, has a locally operated grocery with low prices (“OK Foods”)

 

Most of the older buildings in Lüderitz, Namibia, date to around 1909, just after diamonds were discovered nearby and the German art nouveau architecture flourished

Most of the older buildings in Lüderitz, Namibia, date to around 1909, just after diamonds were discovered nearby and the German art nouveau architecture flourished

 

The development of Lüderitz can be traced to the nearby discovery of diamonds.  Diamond fever struck Lüderitz in 1908 when the much-prized gemstones were discovered in the nearby Namib Desert.  In less than two years, Kolmanskop rose from the sands, complete with a hospital, school, handsome houses, even a bowling alley and a casino.  Forty years later, after the price of diamonds dropped, the town was abandoned to the wind and sand.  Today the village is an open-air museum and many of the buildings have been restored.  Because we opted for the catamaran cruise to Halifax Island we didn’t get out to Kolmanskop – a destination for a future stop in Lüderitz!

 

Nedbank today occupies the circa 1909 bank building in Lüderitz that housed the first bank in Namibia

Nedbank today occupies the circa 1909 bank building in Lüderitz that housed the first bank in Namibia

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Waterfront Cape Town, South Africa (2018)

A view of the north waterfront of Cape Town, South Africa, from the lower cable car station at the base of Table Mountain; our ship is visible just to the right of the three blue roofs o

A view of the north waterfront of Cape Town, South Africa, from the lower cable car station at the base of Table Mountain; our ship is visible just to the right of the three blue roofs of the Sun Table Bay (hotel) in V&A Harbor

 

Cape Town, South Africa “has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and something to offer everyone.  It is no surprise that South Africa was one of the first countries outside of Europe to earn blue flag status for some of her beaches – there are three on offer in and around Cape Town

 

Apartments and The Bay Hotel in very popular Camps Bay, tucked under the western side of Table Mountain [the view of the “flat top” of Table Mountain is from the north], Cape Town, S

Apartments and The Bay Hotel in very popular Camps Bay, tucked under the western side of Table Mountain [the view of the “flat top” of Table Mountain is from the north], Cape Town, South Africa

Victoria Road as it goes through Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Victoria Road as it goes through Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

 

The northern end of the popular beach at Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

The northern end of the popular beach at Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

 

“The west side of the Cape Peninsula, on the Atlantic Ocean, has a very definite style of beach.  This is where the more fashionable set go to see and be seen, particularly along the Atlantic Seaboard, also known as Cape Town’s ‘Riviera’, which stretches from the V&A waterfront [where our ship was docked] on the north shore of Table Mountain up as far as Hout Bay and is connected by one of the most picturesque, scenic drives along Victoria Road [which we did, again].” – www.SA-Venues.com

 

A very large public swimming pool along Victoria Road in Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa

A very large public swimming pool along Victoria Road in Sea Point, Cape Town, South Africa

 

The Green Point lighthouse, Cape Town, South Africa

The Green Point lighthouse, Cape Town, South Africa

 

Local musicians playing at V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa

Local musicians playing at V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa

 

The intrepid traveler in front of the wild animals at The Trading Post in V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa – probably as close as is possible with the African elephants…

The intrepid traveler in front of the wild animals at The Trading Post in V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa – probably as close as is possible with the African elephants…

 

Almost daily in the summer, the South-East winds blow enough moisture up and over Table Mountain to spread out the “table cloth” on top of the mountain_s plateau, Cape Town, South

Almost daily in the summer, the South-East winds blow enough moisture up and over Table Mountain to spread out the “table cloth” on top of the mountain’s plateau, Cape Town, South Africa

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Central Cape Town, South Africa (2018)

A statue of Bartholomeu Dias, the Portuguese explorer who discovered the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, sits at the foot of Heerengracht Street in downtown Cape Town, South Africa

A statue of Bartholomeu Dias, the Portuguese explorer who discovered the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 (Vasco da Gama followed in his footsteps, rounding the Cape of Good Hope to become the first to sail on to India), sits at the foot of Heerengracht Street in downtown Cape Town, South Africa

 

From the V&A Harbor (where our ship was docked), we took a bus to the center of downtown Cape Town, South Africa where we took a downtown tour, ending up on the edge of Company’s Gardens at the South Africa Jewish Museum at 88 Hatfield Street.  Since we first visited Cape Town in 1998, and even since our last visit in 2015, there has been a lot of new construction with modern high rises all across the downtown district now.

 

We were invited to a cocktail party at the top floor and roof gardens, NASDAK, of a local media company_s building, Media24, in the Foreshore District at the edge of downtown

We were invited to a cocktail party at the top floor and roof gardens, NASDAK, of a local media company’s building, Media24, in the Foreshore District at the edge of downtown – the sunset views of Table Mountain were spectacular; Cape Town, South Africa

 

Modern, high-rise office buildings have raised the skyline of Cape Town, South Africa, over the past 20-plus years

Modern, high-rise office buildings have raised the skyline of Cape Town, South Africa, over the past 20-plus years

 

The Central District of Cape Town, South Africa, contains buildings from multiple generations of business people, nicely interspersed, avoiding the monotony of all glass skyscrapers foun

The Central District of Cape Town, South Africa, contains buildings from multiple generations of business people, nicely interspersed, avoiding the monotony of all glass skyscrapers found in many major cities

 

Another scene of diverse architectural styles in the Central District, Cape Town, South Africa

Another scene of diverse architectural styles in the Central District, Cape Town, South Africa

 

The Castle of Good Hope is a bastion fort built by the British Dutch East India Company between 1666 and 1679 in Cape Town, South Africa; it is a prime example of a star fort

The Castle of Good Hope is a bastion fort built by the British Dutch East India Company between 1666 and 1679 in Cape Town, South Africa; it is a prime example of a star fort

 

Great Synagogue in Cape Town, South Africa, is the oldest Jewish congregation in South Africa, established in 1841; the Baroque-style building was opened in 1905 by the President of the

Great Synagogue in Cape Town, South Africa, is the oldest Jewish congregation in South Africa, established in 1841; the Baroque-style building was opened in 1905 by the President of the Congregation and the Mayor of Cape Town

 

The interior of Great Synagogue in Cape Town, South Africa; the 2013 stained glass windows (pictured) replaced the original stained glass dating back to 1936

The interior of Great Synagogue in Cape Town, South Africa; the 2013 stained glass windows (pictured) replaced the original stained glass dating back to 1936

 

A close up of the interior of Great Synagogue in Cape Town, South Africa

A close up of the interior of Great Synagogue in Cape Town, South Africa

 

The entrance to the South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town, South Africa, is through the classical revival-style building, St. John_s Street Synagogue, the first custom-built shul ever

The entrance to the South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town, South Africa, is through the classical revival-style building, St. John’s Street Synagogue, the first custom-built shul ever established in sub-Saharan Africa, 13 September 1863

 

The South African Jewish Museum was officially opened by Nelson Mandela in December 2000; it is a moving tribute to one of the great Jewish communities of the Diaspora.  The shtetl reconstructed in the pictured gallery, below, of the South African Jewish Museum portrays a typical village in Lithuania, the country from which most South African Jews trace their origin.  Although Jews in Eastern Europe lived in cities and towns, a large percentage lived in country villages.  The shtetl (small village in Yiddish) consisted of modest wooden houses and each shtetl had its own synagogue and Beth Midrash (Torah learning place).  Built also of wood, the synagogue was usually the largest building in the shtetl. While its external appearance was modest, its interior was sometimes beautifully decorated.

 

On the ground floor of the South African Jewish Museum is a reconstructed shtetl that portrays a typical small village in Lithuania, the country from which most South African Jews trace

On the ground floor of the South African Jewish Museum is a reconstructed shtetl that portrays a typical small village in Lithuania, the country from which most South African Jews trace their origin, Cape Town, South Africa

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Stellenbosch Winelands (near Cape Town), South Africa (2018)

After an excellent wine tasting in the Vergelegen Wine Estate wine tasting and information center, we had a tour of the property, beginning in the herb garden, Somerset West (Stellenbosc

After an excellent wine tasting in the Vergelegen Wine Estate wine tasting and information center, we had a tour of the property, beginning in the herb garden, Somerset West (Stellenbosch wine region), South Africa

 

Thanks to the expert guidance of our ship’s Head Sommelier, we planned a one day outing from the ship’s dock in the V&A Harbour in Cape Town, South Africa, to the Stellenbosch wine country – an area we have visited several times on previous trips, and always a joy to return to.  Madeline Puckette, a certified sommelier and writer (e.g., Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine) posted an excellent description of the area:

“Many of the photos we see of South African vineyards – positioned in front of striking granite mountains – are from the Stellenbosch area.  It contains the most developed winelands; it is home to an important wine University (University of Stellenbosch); and it is the center of wine tourism.  In short, Stellenbosch is to South African wine much like Napa is to Californian wine [emphasis added].  Of course, finding good wine from Stellenbosch can be challenging because there are so many producers.  However, there is a secret to exploring the area.  The highest rated wines tend come from vineyards that are on alluvial fans of the granite mountains.  The wines from these locations are often described as having a subtle mineral note which many believe is from the decomposed granite soils.  The granite mountains are approximately 600 million years old, over 3 times as old as the soil in Napa.” – http://www.winefolly.com/review/wines-south-africas-stellenbosch-district

Our first stop was at the Vergelegen Wine Estate in the Stellenbosch wine subregion of Somerset West.  “Vergelegen, meaning ‘situated far away’ [in Dutch], was granted to the Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, in 1700.  Since then, the estate has been crafted by some of the world’s greatest explorers and visionaries, who each in their own way, have helped shape Vergelegen to what it is today: a world-class Estate.  Vergelegen has been owned by the Anglo American plc group since 1987.

 

The Vergelegen homestead, well preserved and open to visitors, including many historical displays along with period furniture, Somerset West, South Africa

The Vergelegen homestead, well preserved and open to visitors, including many historical displays along with period furniture, Somerset West, South Africa

 

Classical 18th century Dutch South African architecture as seen in the back of the Vergelegen homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

Classical 18th century Dutch South African architecture as seen in the back of the Vergelegen homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

 

“Vergelegen has twice won the coveted Château Pichon-Longueville-Comtesse-de-Lalande Trophy for the best red blend and continues to achieve critical acclaim for its success in maintaining the delicate balance between wine production, the conservation of its rich heritage and the environment…  The philosophy of our award-winning gardens is to reflect the best from all of the historical periods of the past 300 years.  There are 17 unique gardens to explore and wander through, ranging from the only Camellia Garden of Excellence in South Africa, to the splendid Octagonal Garden.” — Vergelegen Wine Estate brochure

 

Flowers in the Octagonal Garden, leading up to the Homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

Flowers in the Octagonal Garden, leading up to the Homestead, Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

 

The Camphor Tree (Cinnamon Camphora) is a native of China and Japan was introduced to the Cape region about 1670 by the Dutch East Indies; these trees were planted by W.A. van der Stel b

The Camphor Tree (Cinnamon Camphora) is a native of China and Japan was introduced to the Cape region about 1670 by the Dutch East Indies; these trees were planted by W.A. van der Stel between 1700 and 1706 and were proclaimed a South African National Monument in 1942; Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West, South Africa – note that commercial camphor is extracted from the camphor tree wood

 

We enjoyed a tasting of the olives and olive oils grown, processed and produced at the Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

We enjoyed a tasting of the olives and olive oils grown, processed and produced at the Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate, Somerset West, South Africa

 

A short drive away, on a parcel of land that was originally part of the old Vergelegen land grant, was Morgenster Wine and Olive Estate.  Breaking up our morning of wine tasting, we decided to just do an olive oil tasting – some of the finest in South Africa, with all of the olive trees having been imported from Italy over the years by the estate owner Giulio Bertrand.  “Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate in Somerset West, 35 minutes from Cape Town, is at the gateway to the Western Cape wine-growing region.  It is a thriving olive and wine farm dating back to 1711, producing internationally acclaimed Bordeaux-style wines and extra virgin olive oil of astounding quality.   The Morning Star within a scallop shell as depicted on the front gable of Morgenster’s beautiful manor house, the private home of owner Giulio Bertrand, is the Estate’s signature and features on the labels of its fine wines and olive products.  Visitors to the Estate’s stylish Revel Fox designed tasting room, which is set against the Schaapenberg and overlooks a reed lined dam and the Helderberg, can enjoy a wine tasting experience unique in South Africa.  The Estate’s philosophy is to release its red Bordeaux style blends only when they have developed and aged to potential and the cellar therefore houses highly awarded earlier vintages under its Morgenster and Lourens River Valley labels. ”www.morgenster.co.za   We enjoyed the olive oils in the tasting so much that we bought several bottles to take back to our kitchen aboard the ship – the award winning extra virgin olive oil and the lemon enhanced extra virgin olive oil.

 

Vineyards at DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Vineyards at DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

Heading north up towards the town of Stellenbosch, we then went a little to the west to our final winery visit of the morning, DeMorgenzon, founded in 1699.  “All wine estates in the Western Cape are beautiful and all have unique terroir.  However, we believe that DeMorgenzon is the most extraordinary of them all.  Our slopes rise from about 200 meters (656 feet) to nearly 400 meters (1,312 feet) above sea level and our vistas embrace Cape Town, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Cape Hangklip, the Hottentots Holland mountains, Helderberg and Simonsberg with the ocean as a backdrop.  While we could call ourselves ‘mountain vineyards’ we prefer to be known as ‘garden vineyards’.  In Spring specially chosen wildflowers flourish between our vines.  We have no doubt that a biodiverse and ecologically sensitive environment produces infinitely better grapes and the beauty of our gardens is captured in every bottle of our wine…  DeMorgenzon, ‘the morning sun,’ was so named as it is the first part of the Stellenboschkloof valley to see the sun because of its high altitude and aspects.  We cover the top southern and eastern slopes of Ribbokkop, overlooking the pinnacle of Kanonkop from where a cannon was fired to alert the farms in the region that a ship had put into Table Bay.  The first road from Cape Town to Stellenbosch ran through the Stellenbosch Kloof.” — www.demorgenzon.com

 

Chenin Blanc (the leading varietal of South African wineries) vineyards, DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa; we brought back some of the excellent Reserve Chenin Blanc to our apartm

Chenin Blanc (the leading varietal of South African wineries) vineyards, DeMorgenzon, Stellenbosch, South Africa; we brought back some of the excellent Reserve Chenin Blanc to our apartment on the ship, along with several other varietals from DeMorgenzon

 

The gardens at DeMorgenzon were stunning, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The gardens at DeMorgenzon were stunning, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

The spectacular planted landscape at DeMorgenzon includes the garden flowers, vineyards and olive groves, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The spectacular planted landscape at DeMorgenzon includes the garden flowers, vineyards and olive groves, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

TOKARA is the embodiment of GT Ferreira_s philosophy that good wine, good food and good art go together to make a good lifestyle; the magnificent installation art by Marco Cianfanelli,

TOKARA is the embodiment of GT Ferreira’s philosophy that good wine, good food and good art go together to make a good lifestyle; the magnificent private commission of installation art by Marco Cianfanelli, The Mind’s Vine, encapsulates the narrative of the creation of TOKARA and reflects the winery’s origins as a superlative wine growing environment — Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

For a late afternoon luncheon and wine tasting with the meal, we headed back to Stellenbosch and then drove east up towards the pass in the Simonsberg Mountains towards Paarl and Franschhoek.  Near the summit we pulled into Tokara Wine Estate for a mid-afternoon repast at the Tokara Restaurant.  We had an excellent multi-course South African cuisine meal with excellent wines from the estate.  We were very disappointed to learn that the delicious, off-menu 2015 Tokara Pinotage was sold out at the winery store.

A note about Pinotage — it is a red wine grape that is South Africa’s signature variety, originally bred there in 1925 as a cross between the French varietals Pinot Noir and Cinsaut.

 

One of several tapestries by a well known South African artist on display at the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

One of several tapestries by a well known South African artist on display at the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

The terrace room of the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate overlooks the vineyards on the Simonsberg Mountains, Stellenbosch, South Africa

The terrace room of the Tokara Restaurant at Tokara Wine Estate overlooks the vineyards on the Simonsberg Mountains, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

In 1994 GT Ferreira purchased the Tokara farm for residential purposes.  But that was until the wine-making potential of this land was discovered.  The cool air makes for great wine and soon classic varietals were planted along the slopes of the Helshoogte Pass.  From the estate, visitors are able to catch a glimpse of Idas Valley, False Bay and the Simonsberg Mountains.

 

Vineyards and olive grove on the Simonsberg Mountains, Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Vineyards and olive grove on the Simonsberg Mountains, Tokara Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2018 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.