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26 Travel Namibia Essential Namibian2 tFeast your eyes on Sandwich Harbour This emerald and blue natural lagoon lies elegantly on the coastline of the Namib Desert, on the northern border of the Namib- Naukluft Park. It is a marine sanctuary that supports more than 50,000 birds in the summer time, 20,000 in the winter, and is one of the most important wetlands in southern Africa. Sandwich Harbour consists of southern mudflats and a northern freshwater wetland. The northern section is fed by a freshwater aquifer below the n1 Take the Tok Tokkie Trail p The Tok Tokkie trail gives an opportunity to walk through the intriguing scenery of the NamibRand, a 180,000- hectare private reserve that borders the Namib Naukluft. You sleep and dine under the stars, giving the energy of the desert a chance to seep into your soul. During the day, easy walking takes you through the varying terrain. Your knowledgeable guide will reveal the secret world of the desert which can't be experienced while driving, pointing out desert- adapted plants, white lady spiders found by identifying their tunnels in the sand, tenebrionid beetles – the namesake of the trail, golden moles, endemic dune larks and the barking geckoes whose mating calls dominate the early evenings. With lunch enjoyed under a camelthorn tree laden with a huge sociable weaver nest and nights spent looking through a telescope at starry wonders, the three- day, two- night, 22km trail gives you a chance truly to savour desert delights. n www. trailhopper. com by Ron Swilling Ron Swilling WOLWEDANS

Travel Namibia 27 Shell middens from the earliest inhabitants, trade beads and ceramic fragments lie scattered over the area Namib dunes that seeps into the wetland, and is bordered by a barrier beach that protects it from the crashing Atlantic Ocean. It is considered to be one of the most geomorphologically active areas along the entire Namib coast, changing and evolving continually, its sandbars and beaches shifting with storms and currents. Historically, Sandwich Harbour was a commercial fishing and trading port, attractive for its fresh water, and supporting various enterprises including whaling, fish processing and guano collection. Evidence of human habitation and enterprise still remains. Shell middens from the earliest inhabitants, trade beads, ceramic fragments and remnants of construction lie scattered over the area as the shifting sands and winds absorb human history into the vast Namib Desert. Today it is a jewel- box surrounded by ochre dunes. Green phragmite reeds poke their heads out of the sand amidst the tracks of black- backed jackal, and in the distance pink flamingo dot the water, adding brilliance to beauty. * Guided trips to Sandwich Harbour leave from Walvis Bay and Swokopmund. n3 Drift above the dunes Tessa Clements took a balloon ride while on honeymoon in the Namib Naukluft park. " Where's the seatbelt?" I nervously asked our pilot as I clambered into the basket. The thought of hanging mid- air with nothing but a few inches of wicker beneath my feet didn't fill me with much joy. However, take- off was surprisingly tranquil. And any fear soon lifted when I realised we were already nearly fifty feet above ground – I hadn't even noticed we were moving. In contrast to the earlier buzz of activity as everyone prepared the balloon, time seemed to stand still as we floated over wind- swept crests of sand. A quietness hung in the air, with only an occasional surge of flames piercing the silence like an irregular heartbeat. As we glided northwards, distant mountains punctuated the outskirts of the desert like a protective ring while miniature ostriches ran along the ground beneath us. The first rays of sunshine danced across the desert shorelines picking out the rich tapestry of deep red and orange dunes. When it was finally time to land, heavy hearts gave way to grumbling bellies at the anticipation of a champagne breakfast. Dining al fresco on zebra, kudu and croissants proved to be the perfect end to the morning.