The cormorants, fish eagles and pelicans are gone; only flamingoes remain, feeding on the abundant algae that stains the lake, darkly. Storm clouds cluster above this apocalyptic scene; the birds are a salmon-coloured contrast to the steely lake and sky as raindrops begin to puncture the parched mud.
Namibia’s “Sand Sea” – the Namib Desert , has today been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The desert’s burning sun, unobstructed by clouds or trees, paints with light and shadow on the sloped surfaces – the rust red walls, the white clay floors, the dark, hardy camelthorn trees.
The Batwa – Uganda’s “first people” – were nomadic hunter-gatherers who developed advanced hunting and trapping methods. Their profound knowledge of the forest allowed them to harvest honey, fruit and roots to use produce food, medicine and shelter. But when the forest became a national park, the Batwa were moved out. Now, the Batwa Trail is their only chance to return to their ancestral home.
“We have a leopard situation.”
These words, spoken in the southern African savannah, far from the safety of the safari vehicle, were not exactly what I wanted to hear. But the beeping of the tracker’s aerial, picking up the leopard’s radio collar, was telling us that the creature was close. What’s more, the grass around me was waist-high – and leopards are the kings of camouflage.
The tour introduced us to Namibia in a way that encouraged respect, admiration and a rather healthy (I believe) dose of fear. Standing within 15 meters of a notoriously grumpy black rhino named Hans Otto was a powerful experience; as was tracking radio-collared cheetah through the grasslands, only to discover that we ourselves were being tracked – by a leopard. We knew whose territory this was – and it was not ours.
A bag so good that it reduces pollution, saves sea turtles and employs women. Wow!