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Travel Namibia 37 Christiaan Bakkes lost his arm in a crocodile attack Far left: Tourists play with Himba child Fun in the Skeleton Coast dunes MIKE MYERS WILDERNESS SAFARIS

beach. It was 45 kilometres from our camp, past Sarusasfontein, through the roaring dunes. The ice was broken when I led my clients up a dune and let them slide down slowly. Deep out of the belly of the dune rose the voice of the earth during its creation. At the foot of the dune my clients got up, breathless and amazed. The Namib had sung them its welcoming song. We cruised between low dunes covered with ganna bush. From behind one of these a brown hyena jumped up and raced across the salt pan. I stopped and we watched him until he grew small on the horizon. To the west, the cold ocean roared. I stopped the Land Rover on the beach and we paid tribute to the brave Mathias Koraseb. Through the waves we saw the remains of his Walvis Bay tugboat that was wrecked here in 1942 when he had rushed to the aid of another boat. I placed a pebble on his grave. The safari had begun. When the sun broke through the fog the next morning, we came across a herd of giraffe in the Khumib, upriver from our camp. Tourists from abroad who have travelled extensively in Africa are always pleasantly surprised to fi nd giraffe in this stark landscape. This herd was extraordinarily productive. In the past three years fi ve calves had been born, the latest arrival only two months old. They were outlined against the red quartzite ridges in the morning sun. We stayed for half an hour and unique photos were taken. The bond grew stronger. At Otjivaurua the Himbas welcomed us warmly, as usual. No matter how I tried to play down a visit to the Himbas, the clients were always amazed by what they saw. The sophisticated traveller from Piemonte or Massachusetts stepped into another world as soon as he got out of the Land Rover at Otjivaurua. When we left an hour later, it was with exclamations like " magnifi co", " stupendo" and " fantastic". Then there was a long silence in the vehicle. We crossed the Etendekas, passed Ohorondanomanga peak, and ate lunch under an ana tree at Epako. Now began our search for the elephants. At Okanguma the Himba children came running from the cattle post. They pointed excitedly at the tamarisks downstream: " Ozondjou, ozondjou!" I gave them the fruit left over from our lunch, and the Italian woman caught my eye. We found them in the thickets: the tuskless cow with her tuskless daughter and the bull calf with the good ivory. The large bull, the second largest ivory bearer of the Hoarusib, was also there, and was showing interest in the toothless daughter. The mother felt it was a family matter and charged after the Land Rover as we drove away. We found the cow with the crooked tusk, her calf and three young bulls at Okongombe Thembe vlei, where they were drinking in the company of a herd of cattle. There were also springbok and ostriches. On the slope was the cattle post and I pointed out the children walking through the veld with their dogs. In the setting sun, the elephants passed close to the Land Rover, the cattle fi lling in the background. This is the real Africa, I told my clients. We spent the next day exploring the desert and the coast. The Land Rover sailed over the rolling dunes. Once a barchan dune caught me off guard and I had to dig us out. Springbok and gemsbok grazed all around us as we drove across the endless plains. I told my clients about the Strandloper hunters and we got out of the vehicle to view their round shelters. We drove on, across the salt pan, crossing Agaatberg to Cape Frio. At False Cape Frio we ate lunch. The day was windless and the sun glittered on the waves. The guests were relaxing noticeably. The British couple took a long walk down the beach and the others sat on canvas chairs, staring at the ocean. At Cape Frio we walked among the fur seals. Fifty thousand of them lay on the beach, waddling into the waves at our arrival. Jackal patrolled up and down the beach. When we drove back that afternoon, I knew: the safari was a success. Skeleton Coast 38 Travel Namibia A undulating sea of dunes on the Skeleton Coast