Posts Tagged ‘desert’

Living with Elephants in the Okavango Delta

Living with Elephants. Okavango Delta. Photo by Pedro Sagüés

Living with Elephants in the Okavango Delta

Botswana is one of Africa’s top safari destinations. In fact, its national parks and game reserves protect almost half of its territory: a fenceless wilderness that allow animals to roam freely.

Botswana host different fascinating places. The best known are:

  • Chobe National Park, probably the most affordable and crowded park, known for the hundreds of hippopotamuses and crocodiles that live together on the Chobe river and its animal migrations and moving safaris. I visited it in 1998 in my way to Victoria Falls. In my oppinion it was just OK allthough many people like it.
  • Kalahari Salt Pans, absolutely magical, stunning and unforgettable huge isolated area full of treasures that I was lucky to visit in 2009 and which I have written an article in this blog. A photographers dream!
  • Okavango Delta: a unique patchwork of environments: waterways, lagoons, forest and savannah grasslands that flows in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, the largest continuous stretch of sand in the world. A fascinating source of life in a country that is 80% arid.

Okavango Delta

In this article I want to focus in the Okavango Delta that, together with Moremi Game Reserve, placed in its heart, host wonderful game and safari camps. However, most of the Okavango’s small camps lie outside Moremi, in their own private wildlife reserves. In my latest visit to this delta I stayed at Stanley’s Camp, a tiny and intimate lodge that borders the southern section of Moremi and is located in seasonal delta so the area around the camp changes with the seasons from lush green to dry savannah. The flood waters arrive in June, though there is often navigable water all year round.

The area around camp is rich with excitement: on game walks, day and nighttime drives, and mokoro excursions gliding soundlessly through the waterways allowing you to get close to the wildlife. This is one of the best places in the world for seeing buffalo in large numbers. In fact, our car was attacked by one of them. It usually never happens, but the buffalo was still scared by a previous lion attack.

Living with elephants

Finally, close to the camp you can enjoy the unique and unforgettable “Living with Elephants” experience. A learning adventure were you accompany a semi-habituated trio of elephants on daily foraging treks. An excursion that transform your understanding of elephants to a deeper and more personal level.

Other useful articles:
The best places in Namibia
The best places in Tanzania
The best Safaris in Africa
Jack’s Camp in Botswana
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Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés.

Best places in Namibia

Sossusvlei. Namibia. Photo: Pedro Sagüés

Best places in Namibia

I will get straight to the point: Namibia is the country in Africa I would recommend the most. I’ll explain why:

This article is part of my previous one: “Best Safaris in Africa“. Namibia is a young and stable country located in southern Africa that I had the change of visiting in 2003, after several trips to Africa. The thing that impressed me most was its variety of landscapes: savage seascapes, lonely deserts, rough mountains, impressive wildlife, colonial cities and an amazing ethnic mix of people. Perfect for honeymooners, adventurers, anthropologists, or photographers… In my opinion, the best places to visit in Namibia are:

Best places in Namibia

Etosha National Park: The safari experience

Although Etosha is not, in my opinion, in the top 5 best National Parks in Africa, it is an excellent choice for enjoying African wildlife. Known for its vast shallow pan, which was once a huge lake and now is usually dry, but fills with water briefly in the summer, when it attracts pelicans and flamingos in particular. In Etosha you can see almost everything: from black rhinos to lions, elephants, impalas and all sorts of birds and reptiles. Etosha has also dozens of waterholes. During the dry season they become an excellent spot to watch game. The best game-viewing time is during the coolest dry months of May to September, but bird watching is at its peak in the rainy season from November to March. As this is a National Park, no off-road or night driving is allowed. For more info, visit Game Reserve website
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Damaraland: The desert elephants experience

Located in the northwest, Damaraland is one of the most scenic areas in Namibia: Amazing, arid, unforgiving and dramatic. In fact, attractions near this area are named “Burnt Mountain”, the “Petrified Forest”, the “Skeleton Coast”. I stayed in an absolutely stunning hotel called Mowani, located in the middle of a rocky desert. During the day I did the best game drive of my life: we tracked down a herd of desert elephants for nine hours (they had special characteristics to adapt themselves to such rough conditions) until we finally found them. Back in the hotel we celebrated our find in the relaxing natural rock pool and with a cocktail while we watched the sunset. This place is definitely one of the highlights of my life and a place for honeymooners. A short distance from the hotel you will find Twyfelfontein, a massive open-air art gallery carved into red rock by ancient Bushmen overlooking an expansive valley below.
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Kaokoland: The Himba experience

Really close to Damaraland you wild find Kaokoland. The most represented ethnic group are the Himbas: a tall and svelt people that rub their bodies with red ochre and butter fat to protect their skins against the climate. These friendly people are herdsmen, breeding mainly cattle and goats while leading a semi-nomadic life. For them, clothes, hair and jewelry hold a special meaning and form an important part of their tradition and culture. Due to the uncontrolled influx of tourists, the Himba’s lifestyle and culture have become increasingly endangered.
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Skeleton Coast by plane: The best sightseeing ever?

on our way from Kaokoland to Walvis Bay we flew over the Skeleton Coast. So-called because of the many shipwrecks that have littered the beaches over the years. Because of the enormity of the area and harshness of the landscape, the best way to experience it is by plane. Flying at sea-level you’ll cross ancient rock formations, wide open plains dotted with zebra and oryx and look down on ghostly shipwrecks buried in the sand dunes where the desert meets the sea. This place is a dream for photographers.
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Swakopmund and Walvis Bay: adventure in the desert

Swakopmund is Namibia’s playground, a holiday destination for tourists and locals alike looking to escape the heat of the interior and to have a little adventure. The real action happens in the desert surrounding: quad-biking through the sand sea, sand-boarding slide down the dunes, exciting 4WD drives, parachute jumps or live out your “Lawrence of Arabia” fantasies on a camel safari… At Walvis Bay you can join a dolphin and whales cruise.
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Sossusvlei: the tallest sand dunes in the world

Namibia’s most outstanding scenic attraction. These dunes, part of the Namib Desert, have developed over a period of many millions of years. Climbing up one of these dunes provides breathtaking views of the whole area. The best time to view Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset when the dunes refract spectacular colors. It’s a photographer’s dream!
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Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés
Fot further info: Namibia, Namibia Tourism, Lonely Planet

Best things to do in Death Valley

Death Valley. Photo: Pedro Sagüés

Best things to do in Death Valley

Death Valley is a National Park 2 hours away from Las Vegas that features the lowest, driest, and hottest locations in North America. For such reason, people recommend visiting the park during the coolest season (December and January). In my opinion, Death Valley is worth a visit especially during the hottest season (from June to August), when temperatures reach up to 134ºF (56ºC). Both days I spent there, temperatures reached 127ºF (53ºC). Few places in the world offer you the chance of experiencing such a high temperature. It makes you feel like you’re risking your life just by standing outside of your car for less than an hour without any water.

At night, the temperature drop to 100ºF (37ºC), so it’s more comfortable to sleep in a hotel with air conditioning (we decided not to sleep in our RV). I recommend going to Furnace Creek, a resort situated in an oasis in the middle of the desert with four restaurants, a saloon, spring-fed swimming pools and an 18-hole golf course (the world’s lowest course at 214 feet below sea level). I stayed at the “Ranch” and woke up at 7am to play golf. It costs $30 (water, balls, clubs and golf cart included) and you can take your time because you’ll be the only one out there. I loved it!

Things to do in Death Valley

There are many interesting places. I asked the locals for the coolest things to do in Death Valley in one day. Their answer was:

  • Zabriskie Point, an amazingly varied landscape, with multiple colors and textures. Go early in the morning or before sunset to get the best light for taking great pictures.
  • Badwater Basin, the lowest point in Death Valley (282ft / 86m under the sea level), is probably the best known and most visited place in the park. It’s a salt flat with small spring-fed pools of undrinkable water. I recommend walking onto the salt flats and standing for a while in the suffocating heat. What an experience! On your way back to the resort, you can visit “Devil’s Golf Course” (so-named because it’s so rough that only Satan himself could play golf there). It’s worth a quick stop just to see the unique rock and salt formations.
  • Stovepipe Sand Dunes are just a short drive from the ranch. Scramble to the top of a dune and enjoy the sunset. Be sure to bring enough water with you.

People also recommend visiting “Titus Canyon“, “Ubehebe crater“, the “Racetrack” and enjoying the magnificence of the valley from “Dante’s View“. I haven’t been there so I can’t recommend it.

I visited Death Valley on my way to the Burning Man 2010.

More information about Death Valley: Official website, map download,

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Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés

Burning Man: extravaganza in the desert

Burning Man 2010 Photo: Pedro Sagüés

Burning Man: extravaganza in the desert

I’ve just arrived from the “Burning Man”, an amazing event held in the Black Rock Desert (Nevada, United States), in the middle of nowhere, where 50.000 people get together for a week, with no electricity, no cell service, no water or food supplies, with daytime temperatures that reach 100 degrees (F) and 45º (F) at night. Everyone provides their own supplies and shares them with others.

Within days, “Black Rock” becomes the third largest city in the state of Nevada. It’s perfectly planned: with avenues, boulevards and public monuments around a central plaza. The principles of coexistence are respected by all and are raised by an excellent organization with more than 2,000 volunteers.

The objective of the organizers is to show that it’s possible to build a society based on participation, civic responsibility, respect, tolerance, self-expression, gifting and one that is 100% free of prejudice.

The only traffic allowed are bicycles and “mutant vehicles”, original mobile sculptures built for the occasion that delight the audience: 40 meters long moving pirate ship converted into a disco, Tiki bars that serve free Rum while carrying their “clients.”

The result is spectacular: People planning a week with a year in advance, wanting to spend the best week of the year, with little sleep and a lot of partying and, most importantly, with the intention of being very faithful to the spirit of the event.

The priorities are the individual and its diversity. Everybody is welcome, regardless of age, creed or sexual orientation. Coexistence happens in hundreds of different camps where you can find almost everything: a three-floor Irish bar that offers cold beer, free massage in exchange for a smile, artists who paint naked bodies, camps that teach how to dance tango, recognized DJ’s or artists who perform daily shows or camps that promote the practice of free sex.

You become the greatest gift for the community.

Once you are a participant in this event, you truly grasp its significance. The key is to act generously, without expecting anything in return. You become the greatest gift for the community.

At the end of the week the city dissolves without a trace, as if nothing had occurred, as if no one had walked there. Participants return to their daily life having lived an unforgettable week, with the intention of maintaining the spirit for the rest of the year and with the conviction that they’ll return in the next edition.

Will you go to Burning Man 2011?

If so, please let me know. This will be my second year, so I am not an expert. Every tip is very welcome: which camp do you recommend? A special picture I should take? Something I should do? Or if you want me to take a picture of you, just let me know!!

Update: This article has had a great coverage. I would like to thank the Burning Man staff for the multiple recommendations and links to this article. The latest, in september’s newsletter

People also ask me about the photographic equipment I used at the Burning Man. I purchased most of the bags, cleaning kits and other accesories in this website with great gifts for photographers called

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Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés

Click here to see more pictures taken by me at the “Burning Man”

Jack’s Camp. Amazing experience in Botswana

Jack’s Camp. Amazing experience in Botswana

While on a trapping expedition in the Makgadikgadi Pans during the 60’s, Jack Bousfield stumbled upon a site that so captured his imagination, he set up camp under an acacia with the unshakeable expectation that others would feel the same.

This place is called “Jack’s Camp” and it was considered in 2009 the Best Safari Camp in Africa. Located in Makgadikgadi, one of the largest salt pans in the world, in the middle of the dry savanna of north-eastern Botswana, the camp and the salt pan are, probably, the most unbelievable places I have ever been to.

Luxurious tents with en-suite bathrooms and outdoor showers, fashioned in classical style with Persian rugs and cool cotton sheets, are set in a palm grove creating an oasis of civilization in contrast with the rugged wilderness viewed from the comfort of one’s own verandah.

There are many amazing activities to do there: meet the Meerkats (Suricate), learn from the Bushmen to hunt and make fire, ride a quad bike along the salt pan and enjoy one of the most fascinating sunsets in your life.

If you can afford it and you want to experience something absolutely different, go there. It will certainly be a major highlight in your life!

UPDATE: People ask me if there is any special equipment you should wear or bring to the bush. Although you really don’t need it, I’d recommend to take a compass with you, good boots, good photographic equipment that protects your camera from dust… I usually buy stuff in this website that has a great selection of gifts.

Jack’s Camp website
Trip organized by Patricia Gallo
Photo credits: Pedro Sagüés

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