Chitabe Guides: From Delta to Desert
By Moalosi Levi (Guide at Chitabe)

The guides’ team from Chitabe were awarded an incentive before the pandemic. The original trip was meant to take place in 2020, but finally, on 1 February this year, we set off on the most incredible visit to Namibia.

Just a Holiday

As we entered the Namibian border, there were quite a few questions by passport control. It appeared that seven men who travelled from Botswana to Namibia without partners and who stated they were on holiday were deemed suspicious. One officer, during interrogation, joked that we were on an assassination mission – and after what seemed like forever, finally agreed to let us through with a warning that it was a serious offence to enter the country other than for the purpose stated. We appreciate that the border patrol was doing their job – we promised that this was the holiday we were dreaming about since before COVID-19.

We arrived and were welcomed by the Wilderness Namibia team, each one happy and cheerful. Abner Simeon, our private guide, extended this welcome. He exceeded our prediction to host the most fabulous week-long trip. Energetic and as excitable as we were, Abner treated each of us with the utmost respect and showed us around his country with care. He was so knowledgeable and answered all our questions with pride for his country.

The Land of Many Faces

We headed south to Wilderness Kulala Adventurer Camp. Six hours’ drive through some truly spectacular scenery – we were fascinated to see the desert in so many different faces, dominated by mountains, open spaces and endless sand dunes. We soaked in the transition of the different areas and habitats. We arrived in Sosssusvlei and were met by the vibrant and enthusiastic Clement Lawrence, a Manager and Guide Trainer. We feasted on a delicious and hard-earned lunch before heading to the camp. It was one of our Chitabe guide’s birthdays. A message was sent to camp and BB was welcomed with a song and big desert cake – a wonderful birthday treat for him. We immediately felt right at home because of the warm welcome.

That evening, we had the most pleasant and happy evening when guides from neighbour camps joined us for dinner. We sat around the fire, socialised, drank and barbecued. We got so carried away with the splendid company that before we realised it was midnight.

No Small Feat to Climb Big Daddy

After a short sleep, we woke early to a well-prepared breakfast by two camp aides. Immediately after, we set off for Sossuvlei. We’d been so eager to experience this area after seeing all the photos – it was hard to believe that it was really happening. This place deserves its name as one of Namibia’s flagship tourist spots; simply delightful. The main activity is to climb sand dunes – specifically one called Big Daddy, which is the favourite, highest and longest. When I looked at the height of that dune, I knew that I would never make the climb and chose to ascend the smaller dunes alongside into the Dead Vlei area.

It was fascinating to see preserved dead trees dating back hundreds of years. Some guides climbed all the way to the top, and got closer to the finishing point. Some of us decided to shortcut and ran down the dune into Dead Vlei – it was all fun to see older people playing like school kids here.

After our excursion to the sand dunes, we headed to Sesriem Canyon. This place was simply breathtaking and certainly a natural wonder. We felt like we were in an underground mine when inside the gorge – we looked up at the 20m walls that played tricks on our eyes. To fully enjoy it, I decided not to look up anymore. One thing that struck us about Sesriem was the formation, pattern, history and the uniqueness of this area. From above the ground, it’s almost invisible.

If I Don’t Live in Your Camp, I Am Your Guest

We headed back to our camp for lunch and to prepare for the drive to Swakopmund the next day. In camp, Clement and his team made sure we were well taken care of and did not need anything; from food to drinks it was all laid out there for us to enjoy. The generosity and kindness of the team truly made our stay memorable and we were made to feel like we paid a million dollars to stay there. They positively emphasised the Wilderness Way: “If I don’t live in your camp, I am your guest”.

“Thank you Flamingo, Thank you Chitabe”

The next morning, we started the day with a delicious breakfast prepared by our wonderful camp staff. When I saw us being given lunch packs, I knew it is going to be a long day for us. The drive was so fascinating again through different part of the country. As we got closer to Walvis Bay, the habitat changed with a much cooler breeze. The mood in the car changed to show the sheer excitement of seeing the ocean – for some of us it was the first time. Those who had seen the ocean before were also excited to see it again; for us from landlocked Botswana, every time you see the ocean is like the first time. We drove along the ocean for at least 30 kms before we reached Swakopmund, got off the vehicle, stretched our legs in preparation to “play” in the ocean water. We lined up on the shore, with water splashing our legs while shouting “Thank you flamingo, thank you Chitabe”.

We visited the reptile park and the aquarium at just the right time when the diver was feeding the fish while we stood underneath the tank. It’s quite an experience and I felt like I dived underwater. The next morning, we took a boat trip from Walvis Bay. We visited the seal colonies. We watched them congregate, swim, dive and play with the current. We had lunch on the boat just before docking – most things on the menu were new to us but we wanted to try everything. Other guests on the boat from Germany, France and South Africa were excited at our excitement and helped the crew to explain how to eat the different foods.

Don’t Break the Camel’s Back

Around midday we spent a beautiful hour quad biking on the sand dunes. At one long steep dip, the guides briefed us to not accelerate or brake. As I went up, I saw a bike upside down. I thought it had been left there because I couldn’t see anyone next to it, but suddenly BB emerged from underneath and that was the laugh of the day. We just had to go camel riding. There were weight restrictions which is fair enough for the camels. Only two out of eight guides qualified to ride and they had the best time of their afternoon.

On our last day in Swakopmund we were thrilled by “The Living Desert Experience”. Again, the guides were gems. The took us on a slow drive on a sand dune that appeared to have no life. We got out of the car, talked and looked for signs and tracks. These guides showed us life where we thought none existed. This is where we also got to see small creatures like lizards, snakes, beetles and chameleons that are endemic to the Namib Desert. It was fascinating to see them in their natural habitat. The dunes were so amazing with unique striking colours.  Another delightful event of our day was to be hosted for lunch by Wilderness and Chitabe multi-repeat guests, Mike and Lindsey Viljoen, who live in Swakopmund. Mike and Lindsey visited Chitabe in January, and when they heard of our trip wanted to host us for lunch. They chose a very beautiful restaurant and we felt so special to be hosted by our guests.

As our time in Namibia drew to a close, we headed back to Windhoek. On arrival in Windhoek, the most difficult thing was to part ways with our friend Abner, whom we spent the whole week with and who became one of the Chitabe gang. We joked and laughed as if we’d known each other for a long time. He treated us like his guests and not his colleagues. He was always punctual and made sure we were as well. As we drove back home to Botswana, the authorities at the border were happy to see us back with no jokes this time.

Why this is the Perfect Trip for Guides

Apart from the educational elements, it was great to see and experience the different guiding styles in different environments. All guides and staff, from Abner to Clement to the boat guide, were dynamic and strong individuals – unique in their own way. They showed us so much and made every experience special and interesting. They showed us that there is life even when we thought there was none; highlighting those small features of the environment do matter. These guides were not only informative about general things, but also passionate about delivering a high-quality guest experience. Their ability to keep guests active and involved was amazing.

Feedback from Moalosi – Guide/Manager:

With honour, I share my deepest appreciation. I would like to thank all who contributed to make this trip possible. Thank you to Wilderness Air for their minibus and driver, Wilderness Namibia for the touring vehicle, and the very experienced and caring Abner Simeon. Our wonderful stay at Kulala Adventurer Camp with Clement Lawrence and his team deserves a special thanks too. Thank you to Wilderness for making this trip possible. We’re immensely thankful to Flamingo Investment Management for the once-in-a-lifetime gift. Thank you to Aukie for the effort in putting the itinerary together. I would also like to thank all the guides and Wilderness Air driver Tshephi for their enormous contribution to the trip.

Feedback from BB – Head Guide:

My first thanks goes to Flamingo Investment Management for making a dream come true for me. Thanks also to Aukileen for the logistics planning. This trip was great exposure for us. Thank you to the Namibian team for making our visit enjoyable. Thanks to Kulala Adventure Camp for the best service. Abner and Clement were great company – thank you. The highlight of my stay at Kulala was the special birthday cake, followed by the night call of the hyena – the guides mentioned that they had never heard one before. A huge thanks to Alex Henderson at Wilderness Air for the transport and driver who was also fun to travel with.

Feedback from Goodman – Guide:

Thank you to everyone who was involved in making this trip happen. I learned so much from the Namibian guides Abner, Chris, Jakob and Clement. They were knowledgeable, passionate and committed to what they do, and they delivered service with Duracell-energy. If I were to write a book about my Namibian trip, the title would be: Guides Guiding in Namibia. I cannot stop talking to my guests about my whole experience in Namibia.