Diana Lawrenson

— Writer —

Diana Lawrenson Pages to Places Blog

Welcome to my blog that takes you from pages to places. Come and discover some quirky, little-known, or loose-but-relevant links from books to places around the world. You might even like to add a book suggestion of your own to the topic.

15 November 2015 | Namibia

LAND OF THE SAGGY BAGGY ELEPHANT: NAMIBIA

Hippo and calf, NamibiaSmall elephant herd, NamibiaWho can resist an elephant calf, especially a tiny one? Or any young animal, be it a small rhinoceros or a baby hippo?

One of the first books I read independently was an early Little Golden Book, The Saggy Baggy Elephant by Kathryn and Byron Jackson, illustrated by Gustaff Tenggren. The Tawny Scrawny Lion, another Little Golden Book followed, Lion, Erindi Game Reserve, Namibia and since then lots of others about Africa including one chosen by a member of my book group: Trackers, a thriller by Deon Meyer that’s theme is rhino poaching.

White Rhino cow and calf, Namibia

I’d always wanted to visit a game reserve in Africa, but when the opportunity arose I needed the atlas to see just where Namibia is. It’s in the south-west of the continent, bordered by the South Atlantic Ocean, South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Zambia. Land-wise it’s a little larger than New South Wales, twice the size of Sweden, with a scanty population of just over than two million. It suffered colonisation by Germany and apartheid when a Mandate of South Africa, but now is an independent country governed by a smoothly-functioning democracy.

We drove three hours from the airport. En route we stopped for jerky and passed small troupes of baboons on the roadside before turning off to a private game reserve of 65,000 hectares. Signing the disclaimer on arrival was a sharp reminder we were about to stay amongst wild animals: accidents might happen. It was too late to have second thoughts.

Warhog grazing, Namibia

An electric fence was all that stood between our room and a small waterhole where on arrival we watched warthogs daintily picking their way between the wire strands. How effective would the fence be against carnivores? That evening several young lions emerged from the shadows to drink, but when they realised they were being observed they watched me intently. It was unnerving. We’d been told lions are curious creatures but I didn’t particularly want to experience their inquisitiveness at close quarters. Reluctantly I drew the curtains and hoped the electric fence was in working order.

Safari drives of 3 to 4 hours Giraffe running across road in game reserve, Namibiatook place at dawn and dusk. Loaded with

African Hunting dogs, Namibia

cameras and telescopic lenses we drove for miles and ‘shot’ hippo, lion (alone, in family groups or romantic pairs), elephant herds, an African hunting dog pack at rest, wildebeest, cheetahs, hyenas, weaver birds working on their orb-like nests, warthogs galore, giraffe, crocodiles and much more.

A bull elephant mourned its mate, dead in a waterhole. A hippo Young lions devouring kill, Namibialay in a creek, dying from huge wounds caused by who knew what. Almost fully grown lion cubs cracked and crunched the bones of their kill (yes, we were close enough to hear) while their siblings lower down the pecking order waited for the remote chance of scraps. This was life: raw, grisly, yet stunningly beautiful.

The parched land of Namibia ─ we were there during a drought ─ Dry plains, mauve hills, Namibiabears an uncanny geographic resemblance to outback Australia, minus the eucalypts. Mauve mountains on the far side of dry plains are reminiscent of Namajira’s paintings; dik-diks and springbok camouflage well against the red earth; elephant and rhino are all but invisible amongst swathes of grey thorn bushes. We saw them all, including small elephant calves at home amongst their families, sheltered at night amongst a forest of legs.

 

Impala, Namibia Weaver bird weaving its nest, Namibia Hornbills, Namibia Dik-dik, Namibia

 

BOOKS ABOUT NAMIBIA

  • The Black Rhinos of Namibia: Searching for Survivors in the African Desert, Rick Bass
  • Mama Namibia, Mari Serebrov
  • Soul of a Lion: One Woman’s Quest to Rescue Africa’s Wildlife Refugees, Barbara Bennett https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoaNk0SYnLY
  • The Other Side of Silence, André Brink,

Would you like to suggest another relevant book to add to the list?

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