Namibia: The Big Empty

You’ve heard the expression, “You can’t see the forest for the trees,”  meaning you sometimes need to step back and look at the big picture.  Well that statement certainly applies to the country of Namibi in Southern Africa.  Since there aren’t a lot of trees in Namibia’s huge, mostly desert landscape, maybe the phrase should be slightly altered to read, “You can’t see the desert for the sand.”

Bottom line, to fully appreciate the texture, color, variety, and the grand scale of Namibia’s landscape a view from above is essential.  Once that perspective is understood, then you can move in for the closeups to complete the picture of the country.  I recently went to Namibia with a group of friends trying to capture as much of the country as possible from both the air and the ground.

My home movies contain a lot of this duel perspective and the images are so strong on their own that even my camera work couldn’t ruin them.  So although I put the pictures or home movies together for the friends who were on the trip with me, I thought I’d share some some of the video with anyone else who might be interested in seeing pictures from this most visually spectactular country.  This is part one of what I call, Namibia: The Big Empty.

Desert Elephants in Namibia

The term Desert Elephant sounds like an oxymoron.  How could an animal that eats and drinks as much as an elephant find enough food and water to live in a desert.  Savanna elephants yes, forest elephants yes, but a huge pachyderm surviving in an environment that is primarily sand, rocks, and gravel is not an easy concept to get your head around.  But a few desert elephants do manage to make a home for themselves in Mali and Namibia.

On a recent trip to Namibia I specifically went to the north west part of the country to look for these elephants.  I was staying at the Okahirongo Elephant Lodge.  I assumed with a name like that I had a good chance of success.  Early one morning we set out from the lodge and quickly found a small group of five elephants at a river in one of the canyons.  I though it had everything these big eaters could want, mainly lots of food and water, and some shade that offered a break from the intense sun.  With those amenities, it would seem logical that the elephants might hang out here for days on end.  But when we went back to the canyon in the afternoon, the elephants were gone, having struck out across the open nothingness in search of something else.

What they possible want and where did they go.  For more than two hours we followed their tracks until we finally caught up with the elephants dinning on a few little scrub trees that must be rather addictive to have lured them so far.  I talk about the desert elephants this week on my radio show National Geographic Weekend, and this video shows my day chasing desert elephants and the harsh environment in which they survive.