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Author Topic: Northern Namibia: is this itinerary ok to see elephants and wildlife?  (Read 310 times)

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Offline maria41

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Hi everyone, we made it to Swakop and will need to return as we found a Yamaha dealer and ordered some fork seals. Both our bikes are leaking!  ::)

Anyway, I am taking time today to design our itinerary. I canít really ride in deep sand. The rest  is ok, I can make good progress. A bit of deep sand is ok but I am no rallye rider. With this in mind I have designed the following itinerary but I am open to suggestions too. Would love to see elephants and giraffes!
So my plan: from Swakop:
Ride up to terrace bay as a good tourist, then down and at Torra bay pick up the C39 to Twyfelfontein, then Khorixas for fuel. Then the C35 down to the coast and back to Swakop to get the seals replaced once they arrive. Ordered today so should take up to 7 days to arrive.

Then off again. Probably back to Kharixas or via the salt road, make my way to Palmwag And continue by the C43 to Sesfontein.
Then continue north up via Opuwa to Epupa or Ruacana ( not decided yet).

Can i, in these last few locations, get a guide and car for a day, somewhere.  to discover wildlife with someone who know what he is doing? Or we will be able to see stuff on our own?
Would the D3710 that runs parallel to the C43 between Sesfontein and Opuwo be more interesting for wildlife?
What is the conditions on that D road?

Any suggestions most welcome. So far it has been a blast. You can read details on my blog, and of course, once I am back home, I will write a nice ride report for you guys and advrider.

Thanks a lot,
Maria

Offline Xpat

To be honest, not the most exciting of routes - though most people on GS do just that, kind of Coca Cola. Kind of missing the really good stuff in the northern Nam, so the question is - are you able to ride off the main dirt highways (C roads) and why do you want to go up north? If it is just animals, they are there (and I will describe below how to get some chance to see them), but quite frankly then you can just ride up to Tsumeb or even Etosha gate and get 100% success there either by joining guided safari ride or by renting a car in Tsumeb and driving through Etosha yourself. Is there any other reason you want to go up north? Sure, it is about the most beautifull place on the planet, but for that you might need to get off the C road dirt highways.

What is the problem with riding - can you ride off the main roads at all, let's say on rocky double track (not technical just little gravel rocks) or let's say 10 km of deep sand (if the rest 160 km are good gravel), or are you just sticking religiously to the roads? The advice kind of depends on understanding what kind of limitations you have in terms of riding (I understand you don't want to do 100 km of deep sand, but can you suffer through let's say 10 km if it will allow you then to do 200 of beautifull scenery?)

If you want to explore a bit and not just stick to the main roads (altough dirt ones) I believe it is highly advisable to get Tracks4Africa on your GPS. Do you have it? If not you can buy it in Swakop in the main tourist shops or ask in Yamaha.

And how many km on average you do a day - what do you consider doable distance per day?

For your 7 day loop back to Swakop I would recommend this:
- Do the ride up the coast if you know there is something of interest (I know about seals in Cape Cross, but never been up to Torra/Terace Bay (just check with people in Swakop whether the bikes are allowed in the Skeleton NP - probably yes, but rather check).
- Ride up from coast on C39 to Twyfelfontein (there is petrol there so no need to go to Khorixas, unless you have some special reason - nothing of interest there as far as I know). Depending on the time either camp in Twyfelfontein (there are some rock paintings if you are bored), or ride another 70 - 100 km to the main attraction of this loop - Brandberg White Lady lodge and campsite situated on the eastern side of Brandberg mountain. This is the lodge where elephants and even lions roam freely often and even David Attenborough used it to film his Planet Earth footage.

There are two ways to get to Brandberg White lady lodge and campsite:
- 1. easy peasy on D 2612 / D2319 / D2359
- 2. much more interesting and juicy double track called Valley of Desolation - check Day 12 of my Ride Report. This is very remote and much longer as it circumnavigates around Brandberg mountain from south, but much much better. Most of it is rocky double tracks with few sections of riverbed sand of about 5 - 10 km. It is over 200 km, but can be broken down into two days as there is campsite in Ugab river called Rhino Camp. This is absolute highlight of Damaraland and you have a chance to run into elephants, lions and other crikets (not guaranteed - these are wild animals and don't stay in one place, but can be very risky if you have breakdown (do you have satellite phone?). If you are interested you can get the GPS tracks in my RR for Day 12 (but that route bypasses the Rhino camp - you will find that one on T4A).

- Stay day or two in Brandberg White Lady lodge (they have campsite if you are on budget, but watch out in the night, because elephants often frequent the campsite - even lions sometimes). From there you can either ride yourself up Ugab river (risky - narrow, deep sand, lots of dangerous animals) which sits right next to lodge, or just get safari ride with guide in car from the lodge - they organize those. I believe the place is worth at least two nights. Next day you can visit the White Lady painting in Brandberg, which is about 30 min - 1 hour hike from the bottom of the mountain, and maybe go for another safari ride (or chill in lodge pool).

- From Brandberg White Lady lodge I would hit C35, refuel in UIS (petrol station) and make it to Spitzkopfe about 130 km away, where I would camp for the night and enjoy the scenery (you can actually climp on top of one of the outcrops there).
- From Spitzkopfe it is just easy peasy ride back down to Swakop either on dirt via Hentiesbay, or on tar direct.

Please give some indication about what do you struggle with riding and if you are interested in any offroad exploration (offroad being double tracks, not complete offroad) at all, before I go at length explaining the route up north. Generally, if you don't want to venture off highly frequented roads, it may not be worth it, but then - maybe to you it might. I need some guidance on that.




 

Offline Dwerg

Itís a bit like asking where can I see a leopard in the kruger. Itís a big place and the animals move around. We had lions in our camp at brandberg last night. Heard them and saw the tracks but didnít see them. We had a leopard in our camp at Puros but only knew because we saw fresh tracks. Saw lots of elephant tracks and frash dung but only a few in the group actually saw the elephants. Some saw cheetas, most didnít. Saw lots of giraffe and antelope


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Offline maria41

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Thanks for all the suggestions.
We donít have track4africa, only OSM, because I did not plan to do real dirt roads.. In term of communications, we only have our mobile phones (uk SIM cards, although we could buy a local sim I suppose) and an iPad.

I would be reluctant to go too much off the beaten track and on isolated places. If one of us comes off the bike and break something, what then? Without signal for our phones, how to get help? And there is the wildlife....

We can ride and paddle through sand. We did 20kms of sand out of Aus and many more in Mongolia. I hate it but I can put up with it, IF I have no other alternative. We are travellers, not die hard off road seekers.  In places where I can get help and there are people I could ride more aggressively in such surface, but as I said, for us right now, safety is our prime concern.
And I understand that the perception of danger is a very relative and personal notion.

Getting on a guided day tour out of a lodge, into the river beds and see beautiful spots would be my option, rather than try on our own, not knowing where to go and what it means. I will look at the white lodge. We can do rough surface and rocks if we have to.
I also came across a couple of more lodges / campsites suggested by our hosts at the backpacker place where we are staying.

Maybe I am  a bit of a ďsissiĒ compare with what you guys do, but, well, I have nothing to prove. I am on a long holiday and like an easy life when possible  :ricky:

Cheers

Offline Xpat

OK, then I would do the same loop I have already recommended for your return trip to Swakop (without Valley of Desolation). And from there I would go up to Epupa Falls the same way you suggested - on the C43. For animals viewing you can stop at Palmwag lodge and they will organize safari drive with guide for you, and they do even hikes with guides I think (or you might get elephant in the campsite as well), your next option is Sesfontein Fort lodge, where I think they also organize safari drives down Hoanimb river (may be pricey).

Those are your options to see animals in north west if you stick to C roads and do not want to even buy T4A (which works all over Africa). Brandberg White Lady lodge, Palmwag lodge and Sesfontein fort lodge.

Should you muster up some appetite for real Kaokoland, the right way from Sesfontein to Opuwo is not C43, but D3707 via Puros (and ideally Hoarusib river, but if you don't have T4A, or didn't download tracks from this forum, then rather just stick to the road).

Be very carefull on those C roads up there. There are lots of dips and hills you will cross with lots of horizons you cannot see behind. Most people drive there in the middle of the road often in excess of 100 kmh. So make sure that you always stick to the left of the road as much as possible before each horizon.

Enjoy.

Offline ClimbingTurtle

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Good Avise from Xpat in the last post - be aware!

Regarding the Skeleton coast, you can go through on a bike, i have done it, however you may not be allowed to go to Torra or Terance Bays - these are fishing enclaves, only open in season (November/December) - we could not even get a permit to travel up there in a 4x4, we "snuck" up to Torra Bay to have a look (nothing there) - you have to sign in & out of the Skeleton Coast & hand in your transit permit, so be aware of that - but ask at the gate anyway, you may get lucky!

We traveled the "dirt highways" up to Epupa, was worth the trip - we were on 1200 Adventures.

Be awrae that you need around 420km of fuel going the the Skeleton coast - next stop after Henties Bay is Palmwag - there is nothing between these 2 going via the C39 & C43 - but it is so worth the ride - you also have to go through the Vet Fence line at Palmwag to get fuel) its about 200m inside the fence-line - you cannot take fresh uncooked meat/chicken OUT (south), so if you have anything, stash it on the outside (before you go in), or leave one bike there if you have anything.

We stayed at the Ongongo Hot water springs - about 3-4 km up the D3710 (turns north off of the C43 about 8-10km before Sesfontein - great camping, take all your food in, there is a shop in Ondongo village, but nothing at the Springs. Sesfontein has a great hote, but we felt the cost was more than we wanted to spend. We are cheap.

Enjoy!
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Offline ClimbingTurtle

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Oh - Elephants & Wildlife - Go book a Safari at Etosha - that will be the best place to be sure you get to see animals, there are plenty of tour operators that can book you for a day or 2.
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Offline Xpat

@ClimbingTurtle : You have to go through the vet fence in Palmwag anyway if you are going up to Opuwo, not just for fuel.

And if you have problem with fuel between Hentiesbay and Palmwag, you can make detour to Twyfelfontein - there is fuel there. It is a detour, but will shorten your required range by about 100km.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2018, 11:28:07 am by Xpat »
 

Offline ClimbingTurtle

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@ClimbingTurtle : You have to go through the vet fence in Palmwag anyway if you are going up to Opuwo, not just for fuel.

And if you have problem with fuel between Hentiesbay and Palmwag, you can make detour to Twyfelfontein - there is fuel there. It is a detour, but will shorten your required range by about 100km.

All correct - I meant that you wont be able to take meat out of Palmwag going south - going north is fine obviously - we came from Etosha going towards the SCPark - hence the meat issue - the OP is going back that way i think, returning to Swakop for the fork seals.....?
We did the detour to Twyfelfontein as well - k@kkest road in the whole of Namibia in terms of corrugations, but we were in a 4x4 then, bike will be fine!  :o

And here is a pic of a water-hole in Etosha - it was dry season, the actual pan was empty - whet your appetite.....  :biggrin:
« Last Edit: June 14, 2018, 11:36:42 am by ClimbingTurtle »
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Offline Xpat

@ClimbingTurtle : You have to go through the vet fence in Palmwag anyway if you are going up to Opuwo, not just for fuel.

And if you have problem with fuel between Hentiesbay and Palmwag, you can make detour to Twyfelfontein - there is fuel there. It is a detour, but will shorten your required range by about 100km.

All correct - I meant that you wont be able to take meat out of Palmwag going south - going north is fine obviously - we came from Etosha going towards the SCPark - hence the meat issue - the OP is going back that way i think, returning to Swakop for the fork seals.....?
We did the detour to Twyfelfontein as well - k@kkest road in the whole of Namibia in terms of corrugations, but we were in a 4x4 then, bike will be fine!  :o

And here is a pic of a water-hole in Etosha - it was dry season, the actual pan was empty - whet your appetite.....  :biggrin:

My understanding is they are doing 7 day loop from/to Swakop that doesn't go up to Palmwag and once the seals are sorted they will ride up north to Epupa via Palmwag. But I'm sure Maria by now has good idea.

Offline ClimbingTurtle

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@ClimbingTurtle : You have to go through the vet fence in Palmwag anyway if you are going up to Opuwo, not just for fuel.

And if you have problem with fuel between Hentiesbay and Palmwag, you can make detour to Twyfelfontein - there is fuel there. It is a detour, but will shorten your required range by about 100km.

All correct - I meant that you wont be able to take meat out of Palmwag going south - going north is fine obviously - we came from Etosha going towards the SCPark - hence the meat issue - the OP is going back that way i think, returning to Swakop for the fork seals.....?
We did the detour to Twyfelfontein as well - k@kkest road in the whole of Namibia in terms of corrugations, but we were in a 4x4 then, bike will be fine!  :o

And here is a pic of a water-hole in Etosha - it was dry season, the actual pan was empty - whet your appetite.....  :biggrin:

My understanding is they are doing 7 day loop from/to Swakop that doesn't go up to Palmwag and once the seals are sorted they will ride up north to Epupa via Palmwag. But I'm sure Maria by now has good idea.

Ahh - Could be actually!!
Either way - wish I was there!!
www.majita.co.za - we sell tools!

"And if I knew I was going to be this thirsty, I would have drunk more last night"

2010 R1200GS Adventure - 1981 XT500 - 1980 XT500 - Gone to Mud Island for a better life with Roadcat the Lordly, Keeper of the Mead...!