Aboard the Desert Express: Namibia’s Deserts, Canyons and Wildlife by Private Train.
[click] means you can click the image for a larger or different image. Routes Taken

We flew into Namibia's capital, Windhoek, where we met the second type: [click].

Following fine dining and a great room at the extraordinary Auas Game Lodge (Oryx sirloin for dinner!), we took a safari ride to see Oryx, Wildebeest, Springbok, Waterbuck (above),...

We returned to Windhoek to meet our train--the Desert Express. Our comfortable cabin (3 seats!), en-suite, space for luggage, ...

...had some special features [click].

After a restful night at Holoog siding, we breakfasted in the fine dining car [click], then set off for Africa's largest canyon.

Precambrian gneiss basement rocks topped with Namagroup metamorphic rocks and sediments were cut with dolorite dikes to create the impressive Fish River Canyon. A graben initiated the canyon, later cut down by the Fish River. [click]

A path leads to the bottom of the canyon. [click]

Black nama limestone boulders litter the canyon rim. [click]

Red Hartebeests browsed along the road back to our train.
We explored an abandoned lime kiln near the train siding.=>
It obtained lime from black limestone. On to Keetmanshoop.

Granitic rock areas like the Giant's Playground provide good Kokerboom (Quiver Tree) habitat.

The white material streaking Giant's Playground rocks is Rock Hyrax excrement. [click]

After they decimated a band of livestock, these Cheetah brothers had to be rescued-trapped and removed to the Gariganus farm.

It is a myth that these predators take only enough to eat: they will run down and kill anything that runs away from them. [click]

Lunch the next day was at the quirky Maltahöhe Hotel, with this welcome sign at the door. Inside: toilet GPS coordinates. [click]

Sociable Weaver Birds build large communal nests, on utility poles if trees are sparse. They sub-let space to Paper Wasps. [click]

Home for the next two nights: the delightful Namib Desert Lodge, base for exploring Namib-Naukluft Park.

The lodge is also home to herds of Oryx, Springboks, Jackals, ...

Our afternoon vehicle for Namib exploration came in for a landing. Due to significantly higher than average precipitation since 2010, the Namib had much more dried veldt vegetation than usual.

Our flight plan took us over Sossusvlei and the Namib-Naukluft Park to the Atlantic Coast, with a return over the dune fields.[click]

The Atlantic Benguela currents carry sediments from the Orange River up the coast, where they are deposited by the surf, then moved inland by the wind. The reddish color of the dunes comes from oxidized iron. [click]

As far as the eye can see: sensuously-shaped dunes.

The next morning, we rode a 4x4 to hiking areas in Sossusvlei, where we saw another way to get a birds-eye view of the area.

A hike over these dune shoulders got us to Deadvlei and the dramatic scenery of this dry salt pan with dead Camel-thorn trees. [click]

"Namib" translates to "vast". The dot by the tree is an Oryx. [click]

The Tsauchab River cut Sesriem Canyon conglomerates.[click]

The Namib Desert Dune Ant adapts with long legs, to lift it off hot sand, and lower ventilation rates, to limit water loss.

That evening, Sundowner wagons took us over fossilized dunes.

Motoring north to Walvis Bay the next day, we stopped in Solitare for some of Moose's excellent Apple Crumble and to catch up on precipitation reports. [click]

We saw a band of Mountain Zebra and herds of ostriches.
Later, we stopped at a sign noting our location. [click]

Drivers who regularly run isolated C-14 know, exactly, what locations get adequate mobile phone signal to make a few calls.

Old, tortured, broken schists and quartzites define the much more sere topography of this part of Namibia. [click]

Lunch stop: a picnic area in the shade of a granite overhang.
The area featured a long-drop dunny. [click]

We met a large flock of Greater Flamingos at Walvis Bay. [click] Then, we motored to Swakopmund where we met our train.

A Germanic town has to have a brew pub--even if it only has lagers (SIGH!) At least, it was by the Atlantic in Swakopmund, so we could walk along a beach and dip our toes in the surf. Our physician J.R. and Great Guide Bianca are at the entrance. [click]

Every beach city needs an iconic lighthouse.

After a rocking overnight train ride, we arrived near Spitskoppe. [click]

Our hike included a scramble under this granite bridge [click]

Rock Hyrax sun themselves in the morning cold. [click]

Some aberrant individuals simply insist on standing out, defying convention (note the tree)!

San people painted images of animals and people [click] at

Small Bushman Paradise [click] and nearby Bushman's Paradise.

Odd African Moringa/Ghost Tree grew at the base of the granites.

This Euphorbia secretes a toxic latex that Bushmen use for medical and cultural purposes.

Rejoining our train at a siding, we rode north to Karabib to meet our bus to Outjo and Etosha National Park.

The next morning, after enjoying large beds and a huge bath at Etosha Safari Lodge, we traversed the Andersson gate to a typical waterhole. The animals came in to drink in cautious waves: Springbok, Zebra, Wildebeests, Kudus, Giraffes,...WONDERFUL!

This Black-backed Jackal roamed the Veldt, while its kin scavenged at a nearby waterhole. [click]

Two Zebra broke into an altercation: this water hole is not big enough for the two of us! [click]

A Giraffe gently pulling Acacia leaves with its tongue and nibbling past thorns is a good clue that you are in Africa. [click]

Scuffles seem to break out wherever animals gather. Here, Oryx contention sends a Wart Hog scrambling: Wildlife!

This male African Lion was doing what lions do best at mid-day: hide out in the shade and stay cool!

Desert Elephants just seem to know how to have fun! [click]

Added to the bird list: Hornbills and Kori Bustards. [click]

The Etosha Pan: home of mirages, Zebra, Oryx, and a tail-less Wildebeest. [click]

Rare sight: a Giraffe lying down.

Impala watched as this colt took a much-needed nap. [click]

This Black Rhino walked out of the bush as we drove by. STOP!

Dik-Dik, Etosha's smallest antelope: 14" tall at the shoulder. [click]

Even vultures need to drink! [click]

Weaver nests occupied a tree at the Mokuti Lodge.

The next morning, we watched a Black Rhinoceros assert dominance at the water hole by shooing away two lions. [click]

After the lions left, their wary prey came in to drink.[click]

NE-oriented chimneys on termite mounds help to control heat.[click]

Fastidious Steenbok bury their urine/feces to conceal their scent.

Once-thought extinct Bontebok mowed the grass at Mokuti.[click]

That afternoon, a small group of us went on another safari with the potential to spot a Leopard. We got to report that we saw four Leopard (tortoises)--brought out by the rain.

With puddles available for drinks, few animals went to waterholes. This family of Banded Mongoose ran about the yard at Namutoni.

This Puff Adder was captive in Ontouka Reptile Park. [click]

Heading south, we stopped at Lake Otjikoto, a karst sinkhole.

Leaving wild animals behind, we toured the Tsumeb Museum. It featured many weapons discarded in Lake Otjikoto.[click]

Winemaker Michael of Kristall Kellerei describes the process for making brandy (both grape and cactus). We also sampled delicious locally-produced breads, cheeses and olives. [click]

Our last night on the train was on a siding back at Karibib.

As we left the train in Windhoek, Great Guide Bianca Preusker, led our kudos for the fine crew of the Desert Express.

In Windhoek, we visited the open market, where this butcher area offered a wide variety of meats. We also toured Penduka, a women's manufacturing and educational cooperative [click]

While our flight back to Johannesburg was simple, we got stuck by Superstorm Sandy. After delays and canceled flights, we spent two nights at the Premier Hotel. Its non-operating telephones and intermittent internet access increased the difficulty of arranging an outbound flight. On the plus side the delay meant we got to attend a granddaughter's choral concert back in California!

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