Unfreiwillig in Johannesburg (TEIL I)

Dieser Blogeintrag ist Bonusmaterial zu meinem Buch >ÜBERLEBEN<

Denn diese spannende und auch etwas lustige Geschichte hat ganz einfach nicht mehr ins Buch gepasst. Aber zum Glück doch noch seinen Weg auf meinen Blog gefunden.

Erster Teil meiner Bonus-Stroy “Unfreiwillig in Johannesburg”.

Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

Gerade eben noch auf der Rhino Sanctuary abseits der Zivilisation. (Foto: Tom Bickles, Februar 2017)

Orientierung: Gerade eben habe ich die Nashorn-Auffangstation im tiefen südafrikanischen Busch verlassen. Die viele körperliche Arbeit brennt noch in meinen Muskeln. Der „Rhino-War“ und hundert andere Eindrücke drehen sich in meinem Kopf, als ich mich auf den Weg nach Johannesburg mache. Von dort aus soll es weiter gehen ins Nachbarland Namibia, genauer gesagt nach Windhoek. Von der namibischen Hauptstadt werde ich dann weiterreisen auf die Auffangstation in der Kalahari, zurück zu den Raubkatzen und Wildhunden. Soweit der Plan.

Landung in der berüchtigten Stadt Johannesburg. Der Flug, mit dem ich ankomme, wäre fast wegen Unwetter abgesagt worden aber wir hatten Glück und die Maschine konnte abheben bevor das Gewitter den kleinen Flughafen erreichte.

„Joburg“ wie ihr Spitzname lautet, ist nicht wirklich eine Stadt, die mich reizt, aber sie ist nun mal ein Knotenpunkt für den Flugverkehr im südlichen Afrika. Die Stadt galt einige Jahre als gefährlichste Stadt der Welt, zusammen mit den hier erfahrenen Erlebnissen die mir ein paar Leute von der Nashorn-Auffangstation im Vorfeld erzählt haben wirkt die Stadt nicht gerade einladend und alles andere als sicher. Beim Hinflug hatte ich gerade mal vierzig Minuten Zeit zum „umsteigen“ in meine nächste Maschine Richtung Nashorn-Auffangstation und auch jetzt bin ich froh, dass ich hier nur ein paar Stunden Aufenthalt am Flughafen habe bevor es um halb acht abends weiter nach Namibia geht.

Okay Sebastian jetzt bist du nicht mehr im tiefen Busch, sondern in der Zivilisation, sage ich zu mir selbst und beobachte die mir fremd gewordenen hektischen Menschenmassen. Ich schaue auf die Uhr, fast vier Stunden noch bis zum Abflug, mehr als genug Zeit um die paar Kleinigkeiten, die ich mir auf einer Liste zusammen geschrieben habe zu besorgen. Unter anderem brauche ich ein neues Tagebuch, Sonnencreme, eins zwei Souvenirs und eine neue Kappe wäre auch gut. Meine alte ist durch Schweiß, Dreck und die starke Sonne ziemlich „fucked up“.

Während ich den Schildern folge höre ich es plötzlich wieder, vertraut und doch fremd – die deutsche Sprache. Tatsächlich kleine Touristengruppen in karierten Kurzarmhemden, mit unter den Arm geklemmten Jack-Wolfskin Jacken und schlecht gelaunten Gesichtern überholen mich. Ja das sind sie, die Deutschen, denke ich und vergesse kurz das ich selbst einer bin. Nur die weißen Tennissocken in Sandalen sehe ich zum Glück nicht, hat sich wohl endlich nach ein paar Jahrzehnten überall herumgesprochen wie bescheuert das aussieht. Ich fühle mich fast wie ein Naturforscher, der eine äußerst interessante Spezies beobachtet, meine eigene.

Die Spezies mit der ich in den Wochen vor Johannesburg am meisten zu tun hatte.

Den weitläufigen Flughafen erkundend, bleibe ich immer dann lauschend stehen, wenn ich eine Touristengruppe deutsch sprechen höre. Denn ich freu mich nach den vielen Wochen, in denen ich mich auf Englisch austauschen konnte jetzt wieder meine vertraute Sprache zu hören. Doch was ich höre schockt mich, mehr als achtzig Prozent der Gespräche und Äußerungen sind negativ. Sie alle sind mit ihren sauberen Klamotten auf dem Weg in den Urlaub oder kommen gerade aus diesem und haben nichts Besseres zu tun als sich am laufenden Band über Lächerlichkeiten zu beschweren. Sie meckern über die Kaffeepreise der Restaurants, sie sind unzufrieden darüber, dass niemand vom Flughafenpersonal deutsch spricht (Hallo wir sind hier in Südafrika und nicht auf Sylt!) und sie wirken fast alle enorm gehetzt, sind aber gleichzeitig genervt davon, dass sie „noch solange“ auf ihren Flug warten müssen.

Ich selbst stehe mit meiner oliv und khakifarbigen Kleidung, aus der der Dreck der letzten Wochen nur notdürftig gewaschen ist, daneben und staune. Der Großteil meiner Landsleute fliegt offensichtlich nur in den Urlaub, um zur Abwechslung auch mal außerhalb von Deutschland schlechte Laune zu haben. Ich bin wirklich entsetzt. Natürlich gibt es auch Ausnahmen aber die meisten der vierzig bis siebzig Jährigen sind hier von Grund auf negativ. Und aus dieser Altersklasse kommen mit Abstand die meisten der deutschsprachigen Touristen, die mir hier begegnen. Bin ich auch so? War ich mal so? Grundsätzliche Negativität trotz Luxus? Uns geht es im Vergleich zu den allermeisten Ländern doch verdammt gut. Wir sind ein demokratischer Rechtsstaat, haben immer fließend Wasser, Strom und eine funktionierende Infrastruktur. Wir haben sogar ein Sozialsystem und ein Gesundheitssystem. Auch wenn diese beiden Systeme sicherlich ausbaufähig sind, wir haben sie und das ist keine Selbstverständlichkeit. Milliarden Menschen in anderen Ländern können von unseren Sicherheiten und Freiheiten nur träumen. Doch statt das zu schätzen meckern wir lieber, suchen nach dem Haar in der Suppe und haben scheinbar Angst vor jeder Art von Veränderung.

Mich beschäftigt das auffallend negative Verhalten der deutschen Touristen so sehr, dass ich fast die Zeit vergesse. Kontrolle, die Uhr sagt mir, dass ich noch dreißig Minuten bis zum Boarding habe, genug Zeit, um nach einer neuen Kappe in dem Outdoorshop zu sehen. Aus den Lautsprechern krächzen immer wieder mal halb verständliche Durchsagen, meist Personenaufrufe die Gefahr laufen ihre Flieger in Kürze zu verpassen. Ich frag mich wer so knapp anreist, dass er wirklich Gefahr läuft seinen Flug zu verpassen. Klar kann immer wieder mal etwas dazwischenkommen, aber das muss man eben mit genug Puffer einkalkulieren. Flug verpassen, nein so etwas wird mir mal nicht passieren. Ich finde und bezahle eine grüne unkomplizierte Kappe. Nach etwas Smalltalk mit der Verkäuferin will ich gerade wieder mein Flugticket einstecken, welches man zum Zahlen vorzeigen muss als ich nochmals auf die Abflugzeit schaue. Die jetzt ist! Ströme von Hitze und Kälte durchfahren mich wellenartig von einer auf die andere Sekunde. Ich stürme so schnell ich kann in Richtung meines Flugsteiges. Weiche erschrockenen Menschengruppen aus und bleibe an eins zwei unvorsichtigen Personen hängen. Verdammt war ich wirklich so sehr abgelenkt, dass ich ausversehen die Abflugzeit mit Boardingzeit verwechselt habe?! Ja war ich verflucht nochmal! Ich haste die Treppen hinunter zu meinem Flugsteig, aber ich kann bereits sehen, dass er geschlossen ist, kein Mensch steht mehr dort.

Was mach ich jetzt? Ich steuere die erste Flughafenmitarbeiterin an die ich finden kann. Sie erklärt mir, dass ich zur Information Station muss, evtl. gibt es ja heute einen weiteren Flug nach Windhoek auf dem noch ein Platz frei ist. Okay, das mach ich, denke ich mit stark erhöhtem Puls und ärgere mich unendlich über mich selbst. Verschwitzt und gestresst erreiche ich die Information. Der Mitarbeiter teilt mir mit, dass heute kein weiterer Flug nach Namibia geht, ich habe den letzten des Tages verpasst. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! „Sie müssen bei der Airline einen neuen Flug für Morgen buchen, heute geht definitiv nichts mehr.“ sagt er freundlich. Heute geht nichts mehr, ich versuche das zu verarbeiten, das bedeutet ich muss in Johannesburg übernachten! Aber wo? „Doch zuerst müssen sie wieder in Südafrika einreisen.“ ergänzt er noch. „Ich muss was?“ frage ich völlig verwirrt. Ich befinde mich doch noch in Südafrika. „Laut Reisepass sind sie bereits ausgereist und befinden sich in Richtung Namibia. Sie müssen jetzt erst mal wieder rückwärts durch alle Kontrollen bis zur Passkontrolle und sich dort eine Verlängerung von mindestens einem Tag geben lassen.“

Ziel meines verpassten Fluges – die Auffangstation in Namibia auf der ich bereits 2015 arbeitete.

Als passenden Soundtrack für meine folgende einstündige abendliche Hetzjagd durch den Flughafen von „Joburg“ würde ich wohl etwas von KORN wählen. Laut, hektisch aggressiv, ja das würde passen.

Mit rotem Gesicht und schwitzend haste ich durch die Gänge des Flughafens und frage mich im kurzen Kommandoton kommunizierend von einer Stelle zur nächsten. Währenddessen telefoniere ich mit Lisa (meine damalige Partnerin), die mein unerwarteter Anruf in der heißen Badewanne im eiskalten Deutschland überraschte. Sie wiederum kontaktiert meinen Reiseagenten, Herrn Grün. Einer der wohl am meist entspannten Menschen Mitteleuropas. Er erklärt mir in völlig ruhigen Ton, dass eine Sache in Johannesburg elementar ist. Das Gepäck! Ist es hier einmal weg taucht es auch nicht wieder auf. „Aber ist das nicht jetzt schon auf dem Weg nach Namibia?“ will ich von ihm wissen. „Nein, wenn sie nicht an Bord gegangen sind wird Ihr Gepäck wieder entladen. Finde sie ihr Gepäck als erstes, alles andere können wir danach regeln. Ich schaue mich schon mal für Sie nach verfügbaren Hotels in Johannesburg um.“ Gut, seine Ruhe ist so stark das sie ansteckend wirkt.

Mittlerweile bin ich auch wieder laut meines Reisepasses in Südafrika. Auf der Suche nach meinem Gepäck werde ich immer weiter in die Eingeweide des Flughafens gelotst. Andere Touristen sehe ich hier gar nicht mehr. Hin und wieder sitzen ein paar sehr entspannt wirkende Flughafen Mitarbeiter auf Plastikstühlen und sorgen dafür, dass ich mich nicht völlig verlaufe. Endlich komme ich in eine Halle in der sicherlich zwei bis dreihundert Gepäckstücke aufgereiht in zwei Linien liegen. „Alle von heute“ sagt ein an der Wand lehnender grinsender Mann mit Sicherheitsweste. Ich gehe die Gepäckreihen ab, doch mein olivfarbener skandinavischer Wanderrucksack ist nicht dabei. Der Sicherheitswesten-Typ sagt, dass ich es noch in einem Bereich ca. 200 Meter von hier versuchen kann, das wäre die letzte Möglichkeit wo mein Gepäck sein könnte. „Und wenn es dort nicht ist?“

Er zuckt mit den Schultern, okay nicht aufgeben weiter gehen. Ich erreiche nach 200 Metern eine Einbuchtung, in der ein einzelner grauhaariger Mitarbeiter sitzt, neben ihm sind genau drei Gepäckstücke, meines ist nicht dabei. FUCK! Brülle ich in Gedanken. Was mach ich jetzt? Eine Klappe im Boden hinter dem Mann wird plötzlich von außen aufgeschoben. Lauter Fluglärm schlägt uns aus der Luke entgegen und ich kann ein Stück Flugbahn sehen. Ein Rucksack wird von außen in die Einbuchtung gehoben. Er ist olivgrün ein großer roter Aufkleber klebt auf ihm. „OFF LOADED“ steht darauf. Ich atme auf, es ist tatsächlich meiner.

Ende des ersten Teiles meiner Zusatzstory, wie es weiter geht, welche komischen Gestalten mir noch in der Stadt begegnete, warum mein Flug nicht umgebucht wurde und wo ich überhaupt übernachten konnte – alles nächste Woche im Teil II von “Unfreiwillig in Johannesburg”.

“UEBERLEBEN” THE BOOK

IT’S SO FAR! MY BOOK IS HERE!!!

I’m bursting with excitement and joy! After almost one and a half years of intensive work, my first book has now been published! As you can see in the video above I am a little short of words! The feelings simply go crazy…

All my adventurous experiences in Namibia and South Africa have flowed into this incredibly important heart project. I am so happy to finally be able to share everything with you! Intense felt Africa, extraordinary wildlife encounters, backgrounds to safari, volunteer work, hunting and poaching. Simply, about life and survival there. Written as close, honestly and personally as I could. In addition many impressive photos and further bonus material! Just have a look! The book is available in all bookstores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Otherwise it is of course also available online.

LINK TO ONLINE ORDER

The official book description:

“Deep in southern Africa, in the midst of breathtaking landscapes, where cheetahs clean his head, meerkats bite his Achilles tendon and he meets a black rhino on foot, Sebastian Hilpert experiences adventures he never could have imagined. He had been a soldier for twelve years and in the end had distanced himself so far from himself that he plunged into a depression. The path of spiritual healing leads him to orphaned cats of prey in the Kalahari and on to a rhino sanctuary in South Africa, where the Rhino War, the war for the last rhinos, rages mercilessly. As a volunteer he takes care of orphaned and injured animals, raises caracals and rhinos with a bottle and learns first-hand about the harshness of nature as well as the unscrupulousness of poachers. Later he travels as a photographer through the impressive vastness of Namibia and works as a gamekeeper in a wildlife reserve. A book full of commitment and adventure in almost untouched nature and at the same time a story of inner growth that reminds us of the responsibility we bear: towards the living creatures of this earth and ourselves”.

 

SOMEWHERE IN NAMIBIA – ON PATROL

An atmospheric, short personal video with fascinating landscape and animal shots from Namibia.

Our biodiversity is impressive, fascinating and wonderful. But in order to preserve it further, it must be strongly and above all actively protected in many parts of the world. Without this protection it is simply not possible anymore. Within a very short time, many species would be exterminated by the destruction of habitats and poaching. But nature and species conservation is also multifaceted. Research, serious conservation organisations, reception stations and private wildlife reserves are just a few examples.

In August and September 2017 I accompanied my friend Louis in his work as a gamekeeper on one of these huge private game reserves. Wildlife management and anti-wild patrols in the Namibian bush – that was our daily work. This stay was my most intensive time in Africa so far. Neither my stays as a photographer on safari, nor as a volunteer at various wildlife sanctuaries have kept me so busy.

In August 2018 I travelled again to Namibia. Of course I also visited Louis again. This time only two weeks, but together with my brother Alex. Who made these wonderful film shoots of us during this time. We are watching on patrol, the impressive Namibian landscape and wildlife. I hope the short video that came out of it can show you a little why I feel so magically attracted to this country.

PS. TAKE A LOOK AT IT IN HD AND FULL SCREEN. Watch it in HD and full screen.

PPS. LET ME KNOW. Let me know if you’d like to see more of these videos.

PPPS. May very gladly be commented, shared and distributed.

Mein Rückblick auf 2017

Ein ereignisreiches und erkenntnisreiches Jahr liegt hinter mir.

Nachdem meine Militärdienstzeit nach 12 Jahren zu Ende ging hieß es für mich gleich Anfang Januar „zurück nach Afrika“. Erst in den Südafrikanischen Busch auf eine Nashorn-Auffangstation um dort als Volontär die Auswirkungen des „Rhinowar“ hautnah zu erleben. Gleich im Anschluss weiter um den Rest des Februars und den März auf der Wildtierauffangstation in der namibischen Kalahari zu verbringen wo vor fast drei Jahren meine Afrika-Leidenschaft begonnen hat. Nach nur einem Monat Pause und reparieren meiner Kamera in Deutschland ging es im April/Mai wieder nach Namibia, diesmal selbstständig als Fotograf auf Safari. Höhepunkt des Jahres war dann im August und September meine insgesamt fünfte Namibia-Reise. Zu Gast bei namibischen Freunden, wo ich die Möglichkeit hatte sie bei der täglichen Arbeit auf einem riesigen privaten Wildtierreservat zu begleiten. Wildtiermanagement und Antiwilderer Patrouillen waren hier der klare und blutige Schwerpunkt.

So viele neue Erlebnisse, Eindrücke und interessante Menschen durfte ich dieses Jahr kennenlernen. Tausende von Bildern aufnehmen. Doch, 2017 war ein tolles Jahr, wenn auch nicht immer alles super positiv oder leicht zu verdauen war, aber alle Erkenntnisse waren und sind wichtig.
Danke an alle die mich dieses Jahr in welcher Form auch immer unterstützt haben! Ich wünsche euch ein tolles und erfolgreiches Jahr 2018!!!

Ps. Der kleine Beagle Welpe den ich auf dem Foto im Arm habe gehört meinen namibischen Freunden und war im August/September mein ständiger Begleiter.

“Owl Baerbel and double cream”

Together with the Eurasian owl through the forest

Occasional orange sun beams make their way through the dense forest which consists mainly of young birch trees in this area. Baerbel is sitting tightly on my arm and I can clearly feel her claws. Her head with its huge orange-glowing eyes is observantly yet calmly moving from side to side watching every movement around her. Baerbel is a Eurasian owl.

Brilliancy!

This type of owl is the biggest one having a wingspan from 1.70m to 1.80m. It kills its prey with its strong claws right at the spot without any further help of its beak. That way it kills a fully grown fox in less than three seconds. Whether it would take the owl one or two seconds more to kill a Labrador, I’m not keen to find out. Fortunately, the woman passing us by is smart enough to keep her Labrador on the leash and making a big circle around us.

It’s our fourth or fifth time visiting falconer Tanja who has become world famous with her pictures of her German Sheppard dog “Ingo” and her Minervas’s owl “Poldi” during the past two years. She’s humble, grounded and still in touch with reality. Anyway, she wins international awards and her pictures are printed in magazines all over the globe.

Together with “Ingo” and “Poldi” to worldwide fame. Source: Tanja Brandt – www.ingoundelse.de

We leave the forest behind and step onto a field with knee-high weed. Tanja is looking for a good position while holding her Nikon with its great great 300mm 2,8 objective. I take off the falconry gauntlet, so we can see from what we want to take the pictures from: the tattoo of Baerbel on my left underarm together with its living model.

The owl claws into the naked skin of my right arm and Tanja lets us move a little bit to the right so that the background suits the foreground.

Right at that moment Baerbel seems to see something at the edge of the woods which seems to bother her. She wants to fly off my arm but I can grab her just in time to keep her from leaving. I’m making the mistake to grab her with my left hand as well trying to put her back on my arm. Burning pain shoots through my hand because one of her claws had grazed my hand. Luckily, only the top layer of my skin is lacerated by this incidental touch of Baerbel. In just five days the wound will have totally healed; way faster than the bite of a meerkat.

Exterior side of my left underarm. You can see the profile of Baerbel’s head. Black pecker, orange eye and her “ear feathers” can clearly be seen.

Baerbel is back on my arm and Tanja is taking some pictures together with Lisa. Afterwards we walk back through the dense forest to the falconry to look after Tanja’s gryphons.

After that, we leave for the ice cream parlour right in the middle of the “beautiful Remscheid”, or is it Wuppertal? I cannot tell them apart. Here you are driving along the very same street, passing three times the place-name sign “Remscheid” and twice the sign of “Wuppertal”, as someone born in Wuerzburg this confuses me. Well, anyway, GPS will lead us the way.

Like the two years before, Tanja orders the very same dish:” Four scoops of strawberry with double whipped cream please, because of my diet.”

Tanja and Baerbel

The Anteater-dragon

 

Tail of the „Anteater-dragon“

Sun is setting in the west and already that deep that the brim of my head offers no more protection against the still strong sun beams. It’s windy, vegetation is quite dense for that time of the year and we – we’re looking for a needle in a haystack.

The private wildlife protectorate “Erindi” comprises 700 km² or 70 000 hectare. A place where you can easily drive past a herd of elephants which is only 100 meters away, and you still didn’t see them. The animal we’re looking is between 40 to 80cm long and well camouflaged. Our only chance is a little DF transmitter it is wearing. Its range is limited and even we could capture its signal it wouldn’t mean finding our needle.

Right now you might be asking yourself, what animal is he talking about? It’s one of the rarest mammals you can be looking for in southern Africa. It’s one of the less examined, most endangered, most bizarre and most fascinating animals.

To make it short: it seems to be a mixture of an anteater and a little dragon – an anteater-dragon; this would be my attempt of describing it.

The English name is “Pangolin” – a name I kind of like – whereas the German name “Schuppentier” (scale animal) seems quite impersonal to me. Don’t mix it up with an armadillo. Anyway, this animal deserves a melodious name – so I will stick to its English name “Pangolin”.

And that’s the animal we’re looking for. It’s just the three of us sitting in an huge, olive green Land Rover whose driving comfort reminds me of my time in a light wheeled tank during my time in the forces.

The three of us: our guide Warren, Lisa and I. Warren is a Pangolin expert in Erindi. Nobody had ever spotted as many Pangolins as he has. They even have a ranking who of the guides has seen the most Pangolins in his or her life (or if they have seen at least one).

We start in the late afternoon because Pangolins are crepuscular to nocturnal. First, we have an half an hour drive through the scrub to the highest still passable mountain – the “Officehill”. The view is breathtaking. Scrub as far as you can see – only partly separated by smaller ranges of hills or massive mountains in the far distance. Warren gets out, assembles the aerial of the DF transmitter and climbs a bit higher.

On top of “Officehill”

Until he comes back I’m using my time to take some pictures. When he comes back he’s just shaking his head. No signal. We have to try it somewhere else. He tells us, all the last three attempts to find a Pangolin were without any success. We continue the search – of course. We’re driving down the adventurous “Officehill” in order to have a second try near a different rock formation20 minutes later.

This time he catches a weak signal in western direction. Weak – yet a signal!

Unfortunately, that doesn’t automatically mean that we will find it. He could be in an impassable area, or in a cave under the earth or a predator might have ripped it off while trying to crack the Pangolin open.

Neither big cats like lions, leopards, nor wild dogs nor birds of prey have a chance to crack the overlapping scales if it has curled up into a ball. Only hyenas would have a chance because of them having the strongest bite of all animals.

What is a Pangolin eating? Ants, a lot of ants! Wandering through the night, it catches about 300 000 ants with its tongue which is between 20 and 60 centimeters long. That sums up to a weight of 1 kilogram of ants – while only weighing between 8 to 35 kilograms itself.

Next stop, next signal check. There it is – a constant peeping! A clear signal coming from the northern direction but: there’s no bush path to be seen. So, we have to go across country. The signal is getting stronger und the intervals are getting shorter. We stop several times to check the direction while the sun hasn’t set yet. I really hope finding the Pangolin while we have some daylight left so I would be able to take some pictures.

Warren who was focused all the time stops again and gets off the car. He walks a little bit and comes back after two minutes. He’s smiling from ear to ear. “You found it?”, I’m asking excited. “Yes”, he answers, still smiling. “Right over there, sleeping under that little tree. Not in a cave, right here under the sky.” YES! Lucky me! We get off the car and follow our still smiling guide through the bush.

Pangolin, the little face (not visible right now) lying on the ground under its scales. A safe way to sleep.

Suddenly, there it is – a camouflaged little rock, which isn’t one. A rock made out of scales. Its itsy-bitsy face lying on the ground, protected by the scales of its upper body. It’s a fascinating sight and I’m very excited.

Warren drives the car a little bit closer and uses the radio to tell the other guides that he found another of these mythical creatures. I’m taking come close-ups of the wonderful scales when I suddenly hear a sound: a quiet, but deep breathing with occasional sighs – quite similar to our cats at home! That’s just like Peter our tomcat sounds when he sleeps safe and sound. I’m asking Lisa and warren if they can hear it too. Our guide comes closer until the both of us are only about 20 centimeters away from the Pangolin.”Yes, it’s incredible”, Warren says. “He’s snoring, I’ve never heard that before!”.

How awesome is that?! I’m falling right away in love with the anteater-dragon which sounds just like our tomcat at home.

The small snoring Pangolin and I – his newest biggest fan!

In the meantime, the news had reached all the guides who are trying to convince their guests to take that trip instead of looking for lions or elephants. Obviously, most of them don’t really know what a Pangolin is and don’t want to go across country for that not-well known animal. Unfortunately, the average safari guest only want to see the “Big Five”, because that’s what you must have seen. If an animal isn’t exceptional loud or big, it’s not worth looking for. They only want to see elephants or lions and, if possible, all in one day. Poor guides! If it were for me – so much stupidity and ignorance would freak me out!

How exceptional is it to see a wildlife Pangolin? Warren, a guide in Erindi for 9 years, has a clear answer to that:

Only one in a million visitors of the Krüger National park will see a Pangolin – maybe.”

300 000 ants per day… fascinating.

The reason for the rare occurance of the Pangolin is – once again – mankind. The prices are high – the penalties are even higher than for the illegal trade of the horn of a rhino. Main customers, with over 90%, come from China – once again.

My opinion of China is not very. This comes both from my experiences at the rhino rescue center in South Africa (LINK) and several negative encounters with Chinese people. This lead to a strong refusal of the Chinese culture by me which is, in my eyes, without any respect for nature and the animals living on this planet.

In the meantime, our little ant bandit has woken up and has curled itself into a ball. I can see its little sharp face with its beady eyes – for about three seconds.

The sun sets and we leave the Pangolin, so it can go on its nocturnal hunting trip.

When we got into the Land Rover, the wind has slowed down and I add a not-cat type animal to my most favored animals. Well, at least it sounds like a cat while being asleep.

Swakopmund – between the Namibian desert, the Atlantic, emperor and Smallworld

Swakopmund’s landmark at sundown, the lighthouse built 1902

It’s almost like being in Germany, a place you have to go to!” This is what I was told about the little coastal town with its prominent red and white lighthouse during my first stay in Namibia in spring 2015. Frankly speaking, why should I take a 10-hour flight from Germany to Namibia, add a 5-hour car drive just to visit a place which is supposed to be “just like Germany”? I make my trips to South Africa in order to escape good old Germany, not to visit some kind of German offspring. I could have had this way easier – I could have just stayed where I was. These were my thoughts back in December 2015. Soon after that, I visited this town anyway while I was travelling through Namibia – and I was positively surprised. It was completely different to what I had expected. That’s why I paid the small town of Swakopmund and its 43.000 inhabitants a second visit in April 2017. That’s why I’m writing this blog entry.

Mexican-like flat roofs, broad American-like streets – that’s what you can find right next to the oldest desert on earth which you can see if you’re standing on the right crossing looking south. If you turn your head away from the south to the west, you will see the sparkling and ice-cold Atlantic Ocean. “Just like Germany”? Definitely not! Nevertheless, this is the city where you can still see best the German influences of the colonial times. That isn’t bad at all, because that makes it kind of a special place. It’s the most favored holiday destination in Namibia, even for Namibians.

“Bismark Straße” – some old street names still exist

What makes this town one of a kind?


Responsible for that are several factors. First, its remarkable location: the Namibian desert in the south, the Atlantic in the west and the Skeleton coast in the north.

Second, the climatic conditions – you have two days of rain per year. Two days! If you don’t watch out, you might miss one just my oversleeping.

“Jetty” – this catwalk reaches 300 meters into the cold South Atlantic

Third, the architecture of the town centre. The German colonial time between 1884 and 1915 left its marks here – wilhelminische pediments and art nouveau fronts can be found. Right here in Africa – that’s incredible! Right across from our accommodation you can find the Protestant Lutheran Church which was was consecrated in 1912. It looks just like being teleported from a Middle German town. Not only the church, but also the old farm from 1901, the “Alte Amtsgericht”, the lighthouse, the Woermann house, the Hohenzoller house or die old barracks – all of them were designed and built following the example set by the German architecture during the “Kaiserzeit”. Those combined with palm trees and the sand on the street – a special and unique flair.

Safety measures – everyone in Swakopmund protects his/her land with barbed wire and an alarm. In the background: Protestant Lutheran Church from 1912

Activitites

“I’m sorry, we’re completely booked out”. “Nothing in the next three days? All travel agencies are booked out?” “Unfortunately yes.”

The “Living Dessert Tour” was recommended to me from all sides, but obviously we had underestimated the demand. “Most people book the tour at home before their trip. Demand is rising, more and more tourists are visiting our country.” That’s what the nice lady at the information told me. She was right with that.

Two years ago fewer than 25% of today’s tourists were crossing our paths. Luckily, Namibia is still far away from getting this mass tourism flair. Still, I have to advise you to book desert tours, hot air balloon trips, skydiving etc. before your trip, otherwise you will share our destiny…

Fortunately, there are a lot of things left to do.

The Damara tower at the anchorage is perfect to become a good view of the city. The tower is 25 meters high and belongs to the “Woermann” house which was built in 1894. It’s one of the oldest buildings in the town. The view from its top is impressive: right behind the roofs of the town you can see the dunes of the Namibian desert reaching for the Atlantic Ocean.

View from the Damara tower southwards; dunes on the left, ocean on the right

Swakopmund museum is privately run and very interesting, therefore perfect for a relaxed Sunday afternoon walk when all the other shops are closed.

The museum is bigger on the inside than you might think from the outside and offers a big variety of historical and cultural pieces of Namibia.

My little inside tip for those who like to take the unusual and remarkable picture, or wanted to travel the coast northwards anyway:

Take the coastal highway from Swakopmund heading in the direction of Skeleton coast. You’ll have the surf of the sea to the left and wasteland to your right. After about 50km you will see something rising up out of the water which made me shiver when I first saw it. It was December 2015 when I was heading to Damaraland. The coast was foggy and the missing sun made the land look grey and lifeless. Suddenly, a post apocalyptic nightmare of a ship wreck rose right in front of me. Back then I didn’t stop to take a picture. That bothered me and so, I made up for it this year.

We got up in the early hours of the morning to take pictures of the Angolan cutter “Zeila” in the morning light. In the meantime, they had even put up a small sign which tells you about the wreck. Right next to the street, you’ll find an even spot to park your car and gives you the opportunity to walk a few steps to get to the beach. I love photo motifs like that!

Shipwreck at the coast – “Zeila”, 50km north of Swakopmund

Restaurants & Cafés

Food is important – especially good food. If I’m in a bad mood, give me something good to eat or a well-brewed coffee and my mood lightens up immediately.

Good restaurants are numerous, I will only write about those I visited personally.

Imagine that: I’m standing in the burning African sun, 32° degrees Celsius, smelling the salty sea air and read this:”Hopfen und Malz, Gott erhalts”. (God shall protect our hop and malt)

It’s the “Swakopmund Brauhaus” (brewery) with a ceiling decorated with flags from all over the world, but especially those from Germany. Next to the flags of Finland and Wales, you will find those of Bremen, Hamburg, Saxony, Bavaria, and even those from Franconia and Lower Franconia.

The best way to strike up a conversation with locals is to take a seat at the bar. The food are typical German dishes which are accompanied by beer which is mainly brewed after the German “Reinheitsgebot” (beer purity law). Although the whine menu is huge, it seems not to be of a big interest for the South African tourists. That is, right after the German tourists, the second largest group of tourists in Namibia. The South African tourists seem to love the large, boot-shaped beer glasses which contain up to two liters of beer. This is according to their guidebook a typical German way to drink beer. I’m sorry guys, we only have the “Maßbier” which contains “only” one liter – otherwise the beer would become stale before you could drink it up…

Flags and beer – Swakopmund Brauhaus

Sushi in Namibia? Why not? I even think it was the best Sushi I’ve ever had. The “Ocean Cellar” belongs to a hotel, but that didn’t bother me at all. Fish, sea food and the Sushi – it was excellent. Besides that, sitting on the terrace, you have an great view over the little beach where brave ones of every age jump into the sea – which has only about 18 to 20° degress Celsius.

So totally different than the rest of this country. Waiting for our Sushi in the shadows of our sun screen.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

I like good coffee. No instant or filter coffee, only the real good stuff from Italian coffee machines, for example.

Who wants something bizarre visits “Café Anton”. The café can be found in the “Schweizer Haus” (Swiss house) which has a beautiful terrace with a view overlooking the lighthouse. Bizarre is the style of it: it’s completely decorated in the style of the German 1970s. Furthermore, you can order a “Schwarzwälderkirschtorte” (Black Forest gâteau) or a ”Frankfurter Kranz“ (ring-shaped, layered cake with cream filling) to your coffee. For someone like me, for whom Namibia is bush and wilderness, this appears to be quite confusing. That’s Swakopmund.

Colorful, typical African, full of the joys of life and marvelous uncomplicated, and with it huge breakfast sandwiches, that’s what the “Village Café” stands for. The colorful inner courtyard with its old VW Bulli is a great place to veg out. A must-visit place.

The smell of freshly roasted and grinded coffee comes from the “Slowtown”. You could find this café in a hotspot in Hamburg, Vienna or Berlin with its new and modern interior. It’s comfy and bright, with home brewed and grinded coffee which is joined by incredible cakes (I only know one café in Germany which makes better ones). Again, you can see the lighthouse from the terrace. I really love this place. From all the cafes we visited, this one’s my favorite one.

Incredible coffee experience in house or freshly roasted coffee and muffin to go? “Slowtown” has it all – with the best quality

And what else – why Swakopmund again?

What makes a place a spot you want to visit again? The huge numbers of shops? All the shops with safari equipment, books (among others the oldest one of Namibia from 1910) and souvenirs? The achitectural design? The unique location? What is it?

For me, a special place is a spot where people live I want to meet again. For Swakopmund, this is an artist we’ver met in 2015. He’s a builder and a creative jewelry artist. He surfs the Atlantic waves for over 30 years and lives on a farm in the desert. His name is Karsten and he owns a little jewelry shop calles “Smallworld” at the Ankerplatz.

Probably the most beautiful jewelry of the planet – right in “Smallworld”

That’s where he sells lavishly designed necklaces, bracelets and more little works of art. The material he uses are semi-precious stones which come, for example, from the Namibian desert or from the Brandberg massif. Every piece is an unicum and I’m overwhelmed by his work. I’m already wearing three of his bracelets and I would have more, if I could afford it…

Yes, that’s my hand in the sunset…

We had the honor of being invited several times to his place. Outside Swakopmund he has his little creative paradise right in the middle of nowhere. A farm with flat roofs and terraces, designed with all his heart and incomparable to anything I’ve seen before. It’s a pleasure just sitting there, enjoying a good cup of coffee or having a barbecue while experiencing the sunset. The last light if the day paints the desert in a honey color while it becomes more red with every minute, and the shadows grow longer and darker.

Karsten’s new terrace, with overlook of the halfpipe. Marvelous!

Two years ago, several skater pros from Germany, the US and Canada stayed there with us. Why? Because Karsten had built a halfpipe for his sun right between some rocks. A halfpipe in the African desert – something you must have seen, especially as a pro.

Karsten has some plans for his farm. He wants to add some crash pads and a café in the next two years. I really hope, he follows his plan. I couldn’t imagine any place better for my future stays.

Catperson 😉

Rhino sanctuary – Care for Wild Africa – Video

„Hello guys, and welcome to Care for Wild Africa! Today you’ll get an idea of what to expect during your volunteer placement at this rhino sanctuary!“ – Mia

I had the opportunity to support the south africa Rhino sanctuary„not only“ as a hard working volunteer, no also with my camera skills. So I did this short video to show whats going on there.

Thank you Petronel for the opportunity, thank you Mia for writing and speaking the text, thank you Alex, my brother, how made my shots to this amazing little movie.
For more information about the rhino sanctuary: www.careforwild.co.za

And now enjoy the video in HD

Greetings,

Sebastian
animalperson.org