With Gratitude to Wildland and Make-A-Wish
I cannot say enough about the extraordinary experience we had on our Wildland Adventures safari in Namibia. Little Kulala Camp is a beautiful resort and the staff were warm, intelligent and attentive. Our first big adventure was scaling "Big Daddy", rated the tallest dune in the world, which was quite a challenge and the scenery was spectacular.
En route from Sossusvlei to the Atlantic and up the Skeleton coast to Swakopmund we saw pods of seal, flocks of flamingo, shipwrecks and an abandoned diamond mine. We spent the afternoon walking the beach and shopping at the outdoor markets where we bargained with local artisans for some lovely sculptures we purchased as gifts. The next day we went dune boarding which was fun -- if a bit intimidating the first time -- the dunes are steep!
Our next destination, Ongava Tented Camp was really special. As we drove in from the airstrip, we saw a herd of Eland (very rare we were told) as well as wildebeest, impala, kudu, springbok and zebra. We loved the tented camp and our safari rides with Binius were the best. He is a very skilled and dedicated naturalist guide. In addition to all the above, we saw lions and rhinos. Our last trip with Binius was tracking rhino on foot. He told us that rather than shoot a black rhino, he would run toward it and try to divert its attention away from us. All your guides really convey that we are the guests in the land of animals. Fortunately we only found white rhino and loved the adventure. Another highlight at Ongava was our last night @ 4:30am being woken by a large male lion who lay down 10 meters outside our tent, woke us with a roar, and began an hour of deep guttural "communication" with another lion on the other side of the camp. At dawn he sauntered off and we all resumed normal breathing.
In Damaraland, we had a couple of safaris looking for the endangered desert-adapted elephant with a wonderful guide, Everest. We stopped to visit his family and invited some of his relatives to join us. We all had a wonderful time meeting and interacting with his family while being chased by "Oscar" and his tribe of elephants. Hugo loved Oscar and we all had a lot of fun. I especially appreciated the opportunity to really engage with the Namibians.
Next we flew to Otjiwarengo which was the culmination of Hugo's wish - a close encounter with cheetah! Whereas I thought it would just be a photo-op with a tame, aged cheetah, it was much more. We were picked up by an employee of the Cheetah Conservation Foundation who took us to their 36000 hectare (approx. 90,000 acre) reserve. When we arrived, we were brought into an enclosure where three cheetahs (Harry, Ron and Hermoine - the Hogwarts) were being exercised. They chased a flag on a pulley system powered with a car battery at 40 mph. We then fed them bits of meat as rewards. We then went to the home of Dr. Laurie Marker, founder of CCF and spent a couple of hours playing fetch with the youngest resident cheetah, Kaninni. Hugo felt he really bonded with Kaninni and was so pleased. After tea, we went for a walk in the bush with the eldest cheetah, a large male named Chewbaaka. It was a very moving experience for me to see my son, a cancer survivor,have his wish come true.