Highlights from D65's Africa trip to Johannesburg, Namibia and Botswana

 In May of 2012 I took six students to Africa for a Best of Africa trip which included, Soweto in South Africa, the sand dunes in Sossuvlei Namibia, The Himba people in Northern Namibia and wildlife in Botswana at King’s Pool, Vumbura Plains and finally Mombo. The trip included helicopters, hot air balloons and private vehicles with special access. The trip was AWESOME and below are some of the photographic highlights of this adventure.


 Great faces in market in the Soweto area of Jonannesburg.

 Running down a street in Dobsonville, Soweto, South Africa 

We were greeted in Soweto with smiling faces.

A very poor section of Soweto known as Klipspruit 

Handprints on a wall in Klipspruit 

Inside a school in Klipspruit, Soweto.

Peeking into school window

Window in school

Wire fences at school in Klipspruit, Soweto

More happy faces

 A recycling dumpsite with squalor conditions in Klipspruit, Soweto.

 Bottles behind mattress springs

 Coke sign reflects in the glass of the Old Diamond Building in downtown Johannesburg.

Only in  Johannesburg


The highlight of this trip for me was Namibia and specifically the sand dunes in Sossusvlei. 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. This area is characterized by high sand dunes of vivid pink-to-orange color, a consequence of a high percentage 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, the highest being the one nicknamed Big Daddy, about 380 metres high. Everything that excites me about photography was here. The colors and shapes were beyond anything I could imagine. The only place I have ever been where I felt the same kind of excitement was in Antarctica. I will definitely be coming back to Namibia.

 Sand dunes after sunset on tungsten

Within the area known as Sossusvlei is Deadvlei,  another clay pan, about 2 km 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.



 Deadvlei was different from every angle and changed constantly with the light

 A couple on a dune at sunrise

 Hikers at sunrise on dune

 Cracked earth

 Hot air balloon rises over the desert floor at sunrise 

 Driving across the desert at sunrise

 Sunrise on the dunes

 Rock formations at the base of the dunes 

 Pan at Sunset 

By far the most amazing sky I have ever seen. The Milky Way is the main group of stars and visible to the right of the trip is the Andromeda Galaxy.

 Patterns of vegetation from an aerial view.

 View from hot air balloon 

 Fairy circles in Namibia. These fairy circles consist of round areas barren of vegetation; as yet there is no clear picture as to how they are formed. One theory suggests termites as the creator of these circles, but recent studies have stated that there is no evidence termites would cause this phenomenon. In the oral myths of Himba people these barren patches are said to have been caused by the gods, spirits and/or natural divinities.Studies done by South African scientists shows that these circles are under continuous development. They grow in diameter, expanding to as large as 9 m in diameter, where they One of Africa’s most mysterious natural phenomena still cannot be explained despite 25 years of research, scientists have admitted.The findings will come as a relief to the region’s bushmen who have traditionally attributed magical, spiritual powers to these desert rings.These circles are not moving and after 22 years they have remained in the same spot.

  The color of the desert floor was simply stellar.

 Patterns from a hot air balloon

 Hot air balloon over Namibia

 Multicolored sand and vegetation in Namibia

 Shadow of our hot air balloon on sand dunes

Copper and iron intrusions in sand dunes

Overall of sand dunes


Serra Cafema in Northern Namibia was our next destination. Here we had sand dunes of a different texture and color and we had the Himba people. The Himba are an ethnic group of about 20,000 to 50,000 people living in northern Namibia, in the Kunene region. They are mostly a semi-nomadic, pastoral people, and speak Otjihimba. The Himba breed cattle and goats. The responsibility for milking the cows lies with the women. Women take care of the children, and one woman will take care of another woman’s children. Women tend to perform more labor-intensive work than men do, such as carrying water to the village and building homes. Men handle the political tasks and legal trials. Members of an extended family typically dwell in a homestead, “a small, circular hamlet of huts and work shelters” that surrounds “an okuruwo (ancestral fire) and a central livestock enclosure.” Both the fire and the livestock are closely tied to their belief in ancestor worship, the fire representing ancestral protection and the livestock allowing “proper relations between human and ancestor.” The Himba wear little clothing, but the women are famous for covering themselves with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre, to protect themselves from the sun. The mixture gives their skins a reddish tinge. This symbolizes earth’s rich red color and the blood that symbolizes life, and is consistent with the Himba ideal of beauty.

 Sand dunes in Serra Cafema

Very different sand and light then what we saw in Southern Namibia

In Serra Cafema the sand was deeply striated with strong texture.

 A Himba boy plays in the sand.

 Himba boy

 Himba girl

 Himba women 

 Body covered in otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre, to protect against the sun

 The Chief 

 Himba children playing in the sand

 Himba woman braids hair

 Himba women walking across desert sand in Northern Namibia

 Himba feet

Oryx tracks in sand dunes

 Oryx crossing the sand dunes

 Pano of the sand dunes

 Patterns and shadows in the sand

 Blowing sand

 Striations and patterns in the desert sand

 Patterns and texture and great light made me very happy

 As the sun started to set the graphic nature of the sand dunes became even more defined.

Pit Vipers were very common in the sand dunes

 A very large and neat spider called the white lady who lives in a hole in the sand with a trap door.

 With the sun down a very long exposure on Tungsten


We left Namibia via private plane and headed to Botswana where our first stop was Kings Pool Camp located in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, a vast private concession in the northern part of Botswana, on the western boundary of Chobe National Park.

Glasses on a table at King’s Pool 

 Beautiful old dead trees around King’s Pool

 Leopard in early morning light

 This was as close as you can get which is minimum focusing distance and full frame.

 Wild dogs took down a baby kudu in seconds

 Lion reflection in water

 Hippos showing their stuff

 Such beautiful eyes


After King’s Pool we took another private plane to Vumbura Plains in Botswana.

Buffalo running through water 

Very close to a cheetah

Majestic gesturing elephant in Vumbura Plains

 Reed Frogs

 Giraffe at sunset

 Helicopter view over the Okavango Delta

 The delta is spectacular from the air and the ground

 Red Lechwe cross the Delta


After Vumbura Plains we again went via private plain to Mombo which was the final stop in Botswana.Located in the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Mombo Camp is the flagship property of the luxury safari operator Wilderness Safaris. Widely recognised as the finest safari camp in Africa, Mombo is Botswana’s most famous property.

 An ancient Baobab tree in Botswana

 Sunrise at Mombo

 Nothing like a NY Sirloin, Mombo style.

 Nothing like a little cuddle after a good meal.

 A little too close for comfort

 Definitely a little close for comfort

 Ok! Time to move.

 Drinking at the favorite watering hole.

And a little more cuddling

 Beyond close to a leopard 

 You can’t get any closer than this

 Nice kitty

 We had great leopard encounters in Mombo

 Spectacular light and our last leopard encounter 

 The leopard had just killed an aardvark and taken it up the tree

 Blood stains on chest from dinner

 Coming down to say hi and it is time for us to say bye.

Our Africa trip was one of kind but a good sample of our creative location workshops. We hope to return to Africa with our good friends Journeys Unforgettable who help set up our Africa expeditions. Other creative workshops coming up include Seth Resnick and Greg Gorman in Mendocino and Digital Photo Destination workshops with Seth Resnick and John Paul Caponigro in Iceland and Greenland, the Atacama Desert in Chile and a newly announced trip to Antarctica which will be our fifth trip to the continent where we will go South of the Antarctic Circle.

All the best,


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