Guide posts

Issue 5 (November 2009)

Recently I was sitting beside a campfire at the PAWS volunteer project, in the grounds of Okonjima big cat sanctuary. I’m a sucker for an African campfire at the best of times, but this one was particularly memorable. Not only did I have a cool bottle of Windhoek lager in my hand, but I had gatecrashed an informal gathering of safari guides. For a woman who can’t glean enough wildlife trivia, it was the perfect evening.


A good guide should be able to give you tips and information that you will not find in a book – an insider’s take on your destination. Clive Johnson, who runs PAWS with his partner Roma, has been a guide in Namibia for years. As supper simmered on the coals, he trotted out a series of facts I had never heard before, but have repeated many times since: “Cheetahs are the only cats that don’t retract their claws – they act like the spikes in an athlete’s shoe.” “Did you know eland can jump two and a half metres from standing?”

I was so enthused that, when I got home, I contacted some more of Namibia’s best guides and asked them to tell us their secrets. The result? Check out the map of top sundowner spots on p48, and our essential feature on Etosha’s waterholes on p24. My hope is that this edition of Travel Namibia Magazine will be like carrying your own personal safari guide in your pocket!

Christiaan Bakkes is undoubtedly one of Namibia’s most colourful guides. There’s an extract from his book on p40 that contains my favourite quote of the magazine: “I come from a family with a proud history of shooting Englishmen.” Suffice to say, Christiaan has never followed in his ancestors’ footsteps. He did, however, get into a fight with a crocodile, in which he lost an arm. For many years Christiaan worked in the far northwest of Namibia where the animals have made intriguing adaptations to survive the arid conditions. The desert elephants are perhaps the best known of these animals, with their especially large feet, evolved over generations to help them walk in the deep sand, but Namibia has desert-adapted rhinos and lions too. Photographers Steve and Anne Toon go in search of them on p28.

I hope this edition of the magazine gives you inspiration for your holiday to Namibia, and if you meet an inspirational guide along the way, we’d love to hear about him or her.


Mary Askew (Editor)

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