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A leopard retreats from the heat in Botswana. (Linda Intaschi; David Silcox)
A leopard retreats from the heat in Botswana. (Linda Intaschi; David Silcox)

Rare rhinos and lazy leopards: Notes (that you can use) from our blissed-out African safari Add to ...

Day 1 – Little Kulala Camp

An African wildcat, looking like a leggy house cat with major ears, presses her nose to the picture window of our kulala (villa). We look over the banks of Namibia’s dry Aub River, lined with Camel Thorn trees, and breathe in pungent wild sage. Springbok bounce as the hot day turns to cool evening. A waterhole attracts black-backed jackals. We are hooked.

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Day 2 – Little Kulala Camp

Sunrise in the desert compensates for crack-of-dawn wake-up calls. The huge dunes, ignited red by the sun, are irresistible. The sand under foot is still cold as we start climbing. Namib-Naukluft National Park is easily accessible by car, and considered the busiest area of our trip. But busy is relative; tourists are few.

The Namib, the oldest desert in the world, stretches the length of the country, about 1,600 kilometres. Flying between camps in small Cessnas thrills with eagle-eye views of a vast land, including ephemeral rivers and a forbidding Atlantic shore, complete with ghostly shipwrecks. It is a land of stunning scenery: rugged mountain ranges, lunar-esque landscapes and wildlife preserves.

The Namib, the oldest desert in the world, stretches the length of the country, about 1,600 kilometres. Flying between camps in small Cessnas thrills with eagle-eye views of a vast land, including ephemeral rivers and a forbidding Atlantic shore, complete with ghostly shipwrecks. It is a land of stunning scenery: rugged mountain ranges, lunar-esque landscapes and wildlife preserves.

Day 4 – Serra Cafema Camp

Tourists are almost non-existent on the northwest border with Angola. After an hour-long drive from a landing strip, through some of the thirstiest looking land in the world, we reach the otherworldly Kunene River. In this ribbon of green vegetation is one of the most remote camps in southern Africa: the luxurious Serra Cafema.

The handsome and engaging Ben is serving in the dining room. He looks right at home in well-pressed khakis, but his family are semi-nomadic Himba and live a traditional life herding cattle nearby. When our Himba-speaking guide suggests a visit, we hesitate: Is it cultural voyeurism? But Ben encourages us: “You’ll meet my mother tomorrow. Say Hi.”

So we go. The village, one conical dwelling and two simple enclosures (one for animals), rests on a stark, dry plain. The women wear only goat-skin skirts and beaded necklaces; their hair is elaborately fashioned and, like their bodies, covered with a paste of fat and ochre.

Ben’s mother sits on a piece of fabric with four other women, surrounded by children. She asks if the weather in our country has been good for our cattle. They had no rain and it was a bad year. If meeting people with the least carbon footprint on the planet doesn’t humble you, nothing will.

Day 7 – Desert Rhino Camp

The Desert Rhino Camp reveals more Namib. Views from our porch are of a wide valley covered with yellow-grasses, mopane tree groves, toxic euphorbia, shepherd trees with their distinctive white trunks, and ancient welwitschia plants. The heat of the day drops to 10 at night.

Black rhinos are almost extinct because of the ludicrous demand for their horns in countries such as China and Korea. It is a privilege to join a team of trackers working for Save the Rhino Trustin tandem with the camp. We are lucky and spot four in one day. A radio call, a race over rough terrain, a quick hike and there they are, grazing.

Save the Rhino Trust, formed in 1982, hired ex-poachers to protect the last free-ranging black rhino in the world. One of our guides is a grandson of one of these men. His grandfather died 12 years ago and, at 15, he was offered the job. “I had to quit school, but I knew that I wouldn’t get a better job than this.”

Fellow guests provide another cultural experience. We are slack-jawed one night at dinner when a lovely blonde from California gushes earnestly to Namibian staff about spray-on tanning: “And you don’t even have to go to a salon. They come to your house!”

Day 9 – Desert Rhino Camp

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