Morgan Whitaker in Namibia

Expedition to Namibia

On my expedition to Namibia, we traversed varied landscapes and saw much wildlife. The trip took us through deserts, mountains and savannah, and led us on a journey through personal development in ourselves.

Our journey began in our base camp (set up by a few leaders who had travelled out a week earlier) in the Numas Valley, on the northwest edge of the Brandberg Massif, Namibia. We had to spend our first week there to acclimatise to the intense heat (despite the fact that it was the middle of winter there) and to be taught all of the tracking, navigational and survival skills we would need on the expedition. We took this as an opportunity to begin our scientific research, transecting the nearby waddies (dried up riverbeds) for animal tracks and setting up small mammal traps. After this week, we set off on our three day wetlands trek.

This began with a 17km walk (carrying all of our kit) to the wetlands. These weren’t actually wet, but they were valleys containing a lot of dense foliage and trees. On the way there, we almost walked into a huge bull Black Rhino, spotting it only when we were within ten metres of it. This ran away, and we had to climb a hill (for safety reasons). We then looked over the hill to see a Rhino! We still aren’t sure if was the same one or not, but to see it twice (or to see two) was very rare and incredible. Later in the day, we also spotted a Black Rhino cow with two calves trotting along behind it on a distant hill. We were the only group to see any Rhino on the entire expedition. The rest of the day passed without event, and we were soon at the wetlands. We spent the next day on top of a hill overlooking the valley, watching for wildlife. Aside from Guineafowl and a small Wildcat, we saw nothing, but our leader took a tumble on the shaley ground and had to be medevac’d back to base camp for stitches in his arm. The next day, we walked back to base camp, but saw very little wildlife, apart from a group of ostriches that occupied the mouth of the valley where our Base Camp was situated.

Our next eight days in Namibia was spent on Base Camp/Brandberg support. This entailed managing, and doing chores around, Base Camp and also carrying 20 Litre jerry cans full of water several miles up into the mountain range for the group who were up there doing rock art surveys at the time, each morning. We also did a large amount of our scientific work then, collecting data on various mammals caught in the traps and observing the behaviour of Hyraxes (a type of small mammal that lives in the mountains).

We then went up into the mountains for our turn on the rock art phase. We spent 8 days there, in three different camps. Our first stop was Lower Camp for four days, a short way up into the mountains. While there, We caught Lizard to collect scientific data on them, and did transects of the rock art around the area. This involved a lot of climbing and bouldering, and yielded a lot of art as a result. After this, we moved up to Advance Camp, the furthest from Base Camp. We went for a long walk up the valley and hunted for rock art in the day we were up there, but found very little. We then went down to Mid Camp, in between Lower and Advance. We spent the three days we had there climbing all over the mountains finding rock art. It was very strange and altogether amazing to find art that had been there, in the same place, since an aboriginal Namibian painted it between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. We also found beads, and shards of Ostrich shell that had been used by these Neolithic people to carry water in.

Our last stage of the expedition was our seven day trek from Base Camp to the Skeleton Coast, about 160km to the West. This involved trekking through just about every type of environment found in rural Namibia. We found wildlife of all shapes and sizes, and eventually reached our destination, the Atlantic Ocean, which we happily swam in.

Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to find any Elephants, which was one of our main expedition aims, but the trip was not at all disappointing (particularly as Rhino are rarer). I feel I am a different person since returning home. I feel much more independent and able to work hard, I feel that I am not bothered by a lack of luxuries and creature comforts anymore and that I could survive without being spoon-fed information by a guide.