As a professional documentary and travel photographer, I try and keep myself up to date on the intrigues of the geopolitical world as well as on the latest trends in the photography and travel industries. In terms of adventure travel, the best place to find this information is at the annual Adventure Travel World Summit, put on by the Adventure Travel Trade Association. After being infused and enthused with information by panel and one-on-one discussions at the 2013 edition of the conference in Swakopmund, Namibia, it was time to get out and explore the host country.
While the population of Namibia is small at 2.26 million, the country is a vast 825,615 km2 (318,696 square miles). Travel by Cessna from one remote exotic locale to another is by far the best way to take advantage of what Namibia has to offer. I enlisted the support of family-owned and operated African Profile Safaris. With Ole Friede, an experienced bush pilot, conservationist and guide at the controls, I traveled with six other travel industry professionals on a post-summit familiarization trip.
Sossusvlei, in the heart of Namibia’s Namib Naukluft Park, has some of the most dramatic landscapes on earth and a must visit for anyone who steps foot in the country. After exploring its sand dunes and dried lakebeds I climbed into a Namib Sky Balloon Safaris’ basket with a Nikon camera-in-hand for a totally different perspective. The breathtaking views of the world’s oldest desert made for both great photo ops and incredible memories. After our flight we popped the champagne to celebrate an experience that should be on any serious traveler’s bucket list.
Back on the Cessna, a scenic flight up to Etosha National Park revealed the beautiful arid landscapes of the country. Etosha is one of Southern Africa’s most important Game Reserves. Declared a National Park in 1907, it’s home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and one species of fish.
Our group stayed at a magnificent oasis called “The Fort” in nearby Onguma, a boutique hotel with a classic African feel accented by Moroccan and Indian flavors.
After two days of exploring Etosha, we boarded our Cessna Caravan and headed to the remote Desert Rhino Camp in the heart of Kaokoland. This luxury tented mobile camp is designed to be easily relocated if local game movements deem it necessary. This area has the largest free roaming population of Black Rhino. In the early morning we took a Land Rover to about a kilometer from a rhino’s location spotted earlier by a tracker, and then approach on foot downwind, close enough for a good view and photo op without disturbing the animal. This area has the largest concentration of black rhino anywhere outside of a national park.
Next stop, Serra Cafema on the southern side of the Kunene River which border’s Angola, and is one of the most remote and surreal destinations in all of Africa. The Kunene River is the only permanent source of water in the region, creating lush flora along its banks. It is here that the permanent camp of Serra Cafema is located, consisting of eight riverside Meru-style canvas and thatched villas on elevated decks. The word “tent” does not do justice to these retreats on the Kunene.
Only a short distance away from the river, the Namib Desert takes over with its endless stretches of lunar like landscapes. The Himba tribe calls this area home and it is the location where I made what I consider my strongest portrait of the trip, a young Himba tribe girl sitting just inside the entrance to her families hut. The Himba are among the last of the nomadic peoples in Africa.
Last stop was Namibia’s capital of Windhoek, and back to the reality of modern life. Dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse was a perfect time for me and my fellow traveler’s to reminisce about the magnificent experiences of the past 10 days. It seems like we had been on the road for months. Such is the theory of relatively when it comes to travel with time bending in our favor.
All Photographs Are © Mark Edward Harris
Mark Edward Harris Photographer Bio
Mark Edward Harris’ editorial work has appeared in publications such as Life, GEO, Conde Nast Traveler, AFAR, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, The London Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Playboy as well as all the major photography and in-flight magazines. His commercial clients range from The Gap to Coca-Cola to Mexicana Airlines. He is the recipient of numerous awards including a CLIO, ACE, Aurora Gold, and Photographer of the Year at the Black & White Spider Awards. His books include Faces of the Twentieth Century: Master Photographers and Their Work, The Way of the Japanese Bath, Wanderlust, North Korea, South Korea, and Inside Iran. North Korea was named Photography Book of the Year at the 2013 International Photography Awards.
Website: Mark Edward Harris