May 272014
 

A New Species Named in the Palmwag Concession

It seems incredible that anything could live in the harsh Damaraland mountainlands and gravel plains – the place is comprised almost entirely of pyroclastic (that’s volcanic to most people) rocks. It looks like, at some time in the distant past, the entire place simply exploded. But, we were taught at school, nature hates a vacuum.

The arid land is a paradise for beetles and reptiles. There are around 125 species of lizards here, more than anywhere else in Africa, maybe the world. But mammals, large ones, like springbok, oryx, Hartmann’s mountain zebras. What would they want with the place (not to mention the Herero, Damara and Himba herders and their stock who live around the concession)!

Namaqua dragon

Namaqua dragon

But most astonishing, bizarre it seems, are the desert-adapted black rhinos (Diceros bicornis bicornis) which can live entirely without water. More amazing even, is that when the small shrubs and bushes lose their leaves and and the land is like a furnace before the summer rains arrive – if they do – these antediluvian creatures survive by nibbling on euphorbia milkweed, which to just about ever other living creature is deathly toxic.

W mirabilis

W mirabilis

When I first saw one of these beasts appear out a gully, its horns and pointy ears just visible above the white-gold grass, it seemed more like a dinosaur, kind of tricerotops, than a modern-day mammal. On the spot I renamed it Rhinosaurus bicerotops.
If you don’t get to see this place before you die you will be missing out big time. And remember, you cannot take all that money and all your stuff with you when you die, no matter what the ancient Egyptians might have told you.
Rhinosaurus

Rhinosaurus


Little Kulala Invasion

 Namibia  Comments Off
May 222014
 

Little Kulala camp, in the Sossusvlei area of Namibia (that is, abutting the great Namib Desert sand sea), is wonderful enough place. The location, the design, service, food, are all outstanding. But whoever created the mosquito net superstructure over the beds was way off the mark. Mine had enough holes for a Black Hawk attack helicopter to get in.

Simply put, they don’t close. Now a mosquito will spend patient hours through the night trying to find a way in while you are zzzzing away. You might not expect to find mozzies in one of the driest locations on the planet, but at Little Kulala (thanks to the swimming pools), they are legion. Add to that thatch ceilings over the sleeping area and latter over the bathroom area, and you have enough hiding dark places to a small Taliban army equipped with heat-seeking missiles. Sit for any length of time on the loo and you will be hit.

It took some deft engineering with wads of cardboard (a diary cover) and some sticks to secure my sleeping area. Roger and Pat reckon the fiends follow them around their spacious quarters in tight formation.

But you soon forget all that. We were up at 5am and out by 5.30am to get into the Sossusvlei dunes before the sun and the crowds. The wide valley and then Dead Vlei, are one the most iconic and photogenic places you will ever see. Two hours and some 1,500 frames later, we headed for Sesriem Canyon, another highlight of the area.

Tomorrow, inshallah and the weather depending, we will be taking off at first light, either in a balloon or a chopper, to photograph the sand sea. Watch this space.

Dead Vlei one the most iconic and photogenic places you will ever see

Dead Vlei one the most iconic and photogenic places you will ever see

David Bristow

May 202014
 

We are in Namibia to shoot the next two icons for our African Icons book project. The first stop is the delightful Little Kulala Lodge, part of the Wilderness Safaris stable, located in the Sossusvlei Valley near Sesriem. The icon here is the stunningly beautiful Namib Desert, know for its rugged mountainous terrain that gives way to a huge, red, dune field that contains some of the highest dunes in the world.

It is definitely a place for panoramic photographs and as a result have been shooting a bunch on the Nikons as well as these shot on my iPhone. Hope you enjoy them. If you would like to receive our newsletter please drop me an email. We are also on Facebook.

Wide open spaces near Sossusvlei

Wide open spaces near Sossusvlei

kulala-namibia-2

Rugged terrain of the Namib Desert near Sossusvlei in Namibia.

kulala-namibia-3

Little Kulala, Namib Desert near Sossusvlei in Namibia

David Bristow

May 012014
 

The Singing Stones of Africa

The notion of jungle drums is an image of old Africa as ubiquitous as cartoons of missionaries in cooking pots. It’s true, missionaries and a few others white explorers were eaten in days long gone, but the drumming continues. It’s the best way to communicate in places where you cannot see beyond the tree canopy. It’s also a great party starter.

But in ancient times there was a far more important kind of music that issued forth, virtually from the ground. In his book ‘The Lightning Bird’ paranormal scientific writer Lyall Watson alludes to special stones. The book is a biography of “white boy” Adrian Boshier who was initiated into the way of the spirits, the ancient lore of Africa, by one tribe.

Among the things he learned was that, hidden in secret places, were special stones, rocks really, that made music. Not any kind of music, but sounds that could talk to the ancestors. In Africa the spirit world, where the ancestors reside, is the heart of belief systems. Even today, from cattle herder to president, no black person would turn his or her back on their ancestors.

They are to be consulted in times of trouble as much as for important celebrations and rites of passage. When struck these rocks, usually granite or dolerite, issue forth clear, bell-like tones. Rock gongs are invariably associated with rock paintings, implying they are, together, sacred sites.

Rock gongs, or lithophones are found not only in Africa but also at some European and Asian archaeological sites. However, it’s where they are still in use. In the Serengeti game reserve Roger photographed rock gongs on top of a granite koppie with a series of perfectly hemispherical indents ground into the rocks. When struck with a hand-held stone, you have a rock piano.

Local pastoral communities were evicted from the area when it was declared a game reserve back in 1951, without any consideration for their ties to the land. Since then these rocks have remained mute and, like the rock paintings of Africa, offer a fading memory of a time when the ancestors – including ours – roamed these plains.

David Bristow

The Singing Stones of Africa

The Singing Stones of Africa