Namibia feels like a lost world, an endless expanse of phantasmagorical landscapes that have never lost their primitive majesty. Towering orange sand dunes dominate the west, rising hundreds of meters and subtly changing color beneath the sun. Dusty plains and parched riverbeds stretch to the horizon, punctuated by rusty sandstone outcrops – many engraved with enigmatic Stone Age carvings. Herds of elephants, zebras and unicorn-like oryxes plod between isolated waterholes, while nimble Bushmen stalk springbok on the horizon. Many people call these landscapes a photographer’s dream – yet photos struggle to capture either their elemental power or their delicate nuances.
There’s something paradoxical about witnessing Namibia up close. Initially it’s the vast scale of the land, the 360-degree panoramas that deliver new definitions of beauty. Yet everyone sees a different angle. Every curve of sand is subtly changing, each safari crosses new terrain, and the experience is never shared. In some countries people talk of destinations where you can escape the crowds. Just spotting another person in Namibia usually brings a brief moment of shock. In places like Sousevlei and Fish River Canyon, the otherworldly landscapes are the attraction, enthralling and captivating, pulling visitors into their hypnotic world. But wherever water flows animals invariably follow. Etosha National Park and the country’s numerous private reserves all appear stark and desolate, yet their dusty plains teem with Africa’s great mammals. The action is easily spotted, as the herds instinctively swarm to lakes and immense salt pans.
Water is king in Namibia, the wildlife perennially roaming in search of a drink. Etosha National Park is one of southern Africa’s greatest game reserves: a vast, dusty land centered around the 4800km² Etosha salt pan, which holds seasonal rains and permanent waterholes that draw a steady stream of wildlife. Giraffes and rhinos wander across the plains, lions and leopards rest beside the shallow pan, and a huge array of antelope and zebra tentatively sip from the waterholes lining its southern edges.