Friday, November 19, 2010

NAMIBIA -Beauty and the Beasts- Closing thoughts

As promised some closing thoughts on my recent trip to Namibia. For those of you that missed the initial posts here you go: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4

All of the Namibia -Beauty and the Beast- images can be found here.

PREPARATION
We ( my wife also actively participated in the planning ) started preparing for the Namibia -Beauty and the Beasts- trip early 2010, leaving date-8 months. Pretty early we decided on the way of transport within Namibia, since a lot of the further planning depends on it. 


The decision was made to rent a 4x4. Even though a lot of the stuff is accessible by normal saloon car, I do definitely not recommend to do it that way. Most roads (>90%) are gravel and sand roads and a car with good traction control and increased ground clearance makes the trip much safer and more comfortable. If on a tight budget, a little Kia will do the job just fine.
Next we had to decide on our overnight stays. In most places there is a large selection of lodges available ranging in price from mid range to very expensive. 

We wanted to combine a bit of camping with some lodge overnights. So it quickly became evident that our best option would be a 4x4 with a rooftop tent. Even though none of us had travelled with one of these before it turned out to be a great experience. The tent large enough for two adults, is comfortable and sets up in less than 5 mins. Actually, some of our best nights sleep were in the tent!

Now that we knew what to drive and where to sleep, it was time to start the road planning.
Early 2010, I found a very detailed classic Namibia paper map while over on a trip to South-Africa. Next, a website called www.namibian.org also proved very useful. They are a tourist agency based in Windhoek and have different online tours varying from a few days to almost 3 weeks. 

Map of NAMIBIA  -Beauty and the Beasts-
We ended up combining different tours and booked a tailor made 14 day tour (click  above for more details)) with them just under three months before leaving. Booking early turned out to be wise since some of the more popular lodges like the ones in Etosha and the Sossusvlei lodge fill up quickly. Even outside the school holidays.

We had used the Lonely Planet books for our adventurous travels in the past and were once again not disappointed! Further on, I used the power of Google Earth extensively in order to check on small things we couldn't find in any of our travel guides.

A few months before the trip, I got a 64GB Apple iPad 3G. This together with the application GPS Motion X was extremely helpful for the navigation on the road. It allows one to download Google Earth maps and use them with the iPad's GPS, which strangely enough only comes with the 3G version. On the main roads signs are fine, but it just makes live so much easier with a good electronic map. 
Drinking Elephant family at Etosha-Goas waterhole
As an example, at home I downloaded a list of all Etosha waterholes GPS coordinates, which made it dead easy to drive from one animal drinking place to the next one. Always make sure you are familiar with entering coordinates in your device, be it an iPad, iPod, Garmin or any other GPS unit.

CAMERA GEAR
As always when traveling on the airlines, there is a limit to the amount of hand luggage that one can bring on board. Except for my tripod, checking in expensive camera gear is a big no-no for me! The limiting factor on the 4 sector flights (DXB-JNB-WDH-JNB-DXB), turned out to be the one piece of hand luggage per person (max 12kg) on the South African Airlines flights between Johannesburg and Windhoek. I know my loaded camera bag (Lowepro Compu Trekker) often flirts with the 25kg mark on the scale... Only option  to keep it below the limit was sharing a second bag with my wife. Needless to say, one has to plan and weigh this beforehand!


It is a normal photographer reaction wanting to take all equipment but the kitchen sink! Knowing this, I did leave quite a bit of stuff, e.g. Speedlights, Macro lenses...

So what "did" I take... 

NIKON D700 
Nikkor 2.8 lenses, 14-24, 24-70, 70-200
Remote shutter release
Visible dust sensor cleaning kit + Rocket Blower
Circular polarizer
26 GB digital film (mostly 4GB and 1 8GB CF cards)
Battery charger + 1 spare battery
Gitzo G1257 Carbon tripod with Markins ballhead
MacBook 12inch with 250GB external hard drive
iPad 3GB with car charger
iPhone 3GS with car charger'
Canon G9 Powershot, mostly used by my wife

Notice that the longest lens I took was the 70-200 with the 1.7 converter (making it 340mm). I surely realize that I missed some shots, but then again, I don't promote myself as a "wildlife photographer"! That 200-400mm VRII can still wait a bit... 

While on the trip I downloaded my CF cards every night to my Macbook AND to my external hard drive. Both I always kept in different places. Just in case! I only reformat the cards whenever I'm short of space... So for most images I had three copies. The golden rule of image backup.


During the planning phase I was slightly worried about the amount of dust in Namibia. If one resists from changing lenses outside, he/she should be fine. To be honest I did only clean my sensor once with the dry solution (Visible Dust Arctic Butterfly) and waited to give it a wet sweep until back in Dubai. The in camera dust removal is surely I good invention!

I initially hesitated to take the tripod with me, but in hindsight was glad I did. It proved to be very useful for nighttime photography at waterholes and I really enjoyed my first time star trail experiments.


FINALLY
Would I do it again? Absolutely. No doubt! Driving a 4x4 from Windhoek to Cape Town to explore Southern Namibia is on the list as well. But as always, the list is long!

I have a feeling that our next African Safari might be to Botswana, another jewel in the South African hemisphere. Time will tell...


A special thank you to my wife Djamila, for all help with the planning and the overall support. Thanks! 

I like to close this blogpost series by referring to a post written by top class photographer and author, David du Chemin. Please take the time to read his latest post, Life is short. In the last 12 months, David has been a big inspiration to me and once again proves that we all:

NEED TO ENJOY LIFE TODAY AND NOT TOMORROW!


Take that lens cap off,
BJORN
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hebben genoten van je blogpost en zoals je schrijft : nu genieten en niet morgen klopt als een bus. Carpe Diem...

pa en ma