The Art of Travel: Skill or struggle for survival? - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

Namibia with Heart and Soul: Take our hand and let us introduce you to this awe-inspiring country. Come and stay with us, experience Namibia.

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Where the Namib Desert stretches languidly from the Atlantic Ocean and wild land extends into infinity, dreams become real. At this place where fantasy meets reality, you'll find the Gondwana Collection safely positioned.

Take our outstretched hand and let us introduce you to our extraordinary country, Namibia. From the massive chasms of the Fish River Canyon, the fossilised dunes of the Namib Desert and the red sands of the Kalahari Desert to the waterways of the Kavango and Zambezi, there are countless marvels to behold. Explore this awe-inspiring wilderness from the warmth of our lodges, created with conservation cognizance and ample character. And return to relax after an exciting day of discovery.

This is the Gondwana feeling: Namibia with heart and soul.

Come and stay with us, experience Namibia.

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Namibia2Go Car Rental

Experience Africa like never before. Explore Namibia your way with our well-maintained and fully inclusive rental vehicles. Easy. Hassle free. Unforgettable.

We offer a comprehensive travel service including car rental, accommodation, safaris and self-drive itineraries and day trips. Interested?

Boxed2Go Self-Drive Safaris

Let us spoil you with Gondwana Collection’s exceptional self-drive safari packages including accommodation, vehicle and a detailed route map guide. Make use of our comprehensive travel services to book an unforgettable safari. Discover the spectacular secrets Namibia holds. more

GO EPIC - Experience Namibia’s famed locations (11 days)
GO BIG - Discover Namibia's main attractions (13 days)
GO WILD - Track Namibia's awesome wildlife (12 days)

Safari2Go - The easiest way to travel the country!

10-Day Namibian Highlights Tour
Enjoy Namibia’s most popular destinations on this compact guided tour that incorporates visits to the Kalahari and Namib deserts – including the famed Sossusvlei dunes, the intriguing coastal town of Swakopmund, the Twyfelfontein rock engravings and Etosha National Park. more

3 Day / 2 Night – Sossusvlei Safari Shuttle
Exciting adventures await those who partake in this exhilarating safari to Sossusvlei, one of the most spectacular sites in the world. The magnificent star dunes are a photographer’s dream and the spectacular landscape will leave memories to last a lifetime. more

Namibia Road Map 2019/20

Anyone touring Namibia should definitely take our road map along. It is available from Gondwana free of charge, or as pdf download. This map features fascinating experiences plus recommended accommodation. At the same time it is an ordinary road map with all the essential information of the official Namibia road map by Prof. Uwe Jäschke and the Roads Authority of Namibia.

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The Art of Travel: Skill or struggle for survival?

Avatar of inke inke - 24. October 2018 - Discover Namibia

May 2018: A man and his two kids had driven – without guide or satellite phone – through treacherous and remote terrain and got his car stuck 60 km north of Puros in the Hoarusib riverbed. They had to wait for two nights until local (Himba) people spotted them. Their rescue story can be read on www.boyandgirl.photography who generously allowed “Gondwana news” to republish this photo.

Kirsten Kraft

The midday sun is burning fiercely. The air is vibrating. Nothing but flickering rocks and Fata Morganas are seen on the horizon. Damaraland, an endlessly harsh landscape, huge and untamed. The wheels rumble along a barely visible path. Despite air conditioning in the vehicle, the body feels thirsty ... but the cool box is empty.

This won't happen to me, you say? After all, we live in the 21st century with either a cabin or gas station with snack bar behind every corner!

May 2003: A Dutch tourit dies of thirst in Damaraland barely 25 kilometers from civilization; his wife was saved at the last minute. Six weeks later four German tourists lose their way and find themselves in a similar risky situation. December 15, 2017: An American tourist sets off to explore the Brandberg and disappears.

Finding yourself stranded in a remote and isolated area of Namibia, where there is no cell phone reception, is not as farfetched as it sounds. Below are some survival tips which could save your life if you find yourself stranded.

Rule number one for any safari is to be well informed and prepared. Useful behavioural tips and how to survive in the wild are described in the book The Art of Travel, written by the British adventurer, Francis Galton. The book was however published in 1855 and is now - literally - 163 years old and probably the world's first travel guide.

Probably the world’s first travel guide: “the Art of Travel” by Francis Galton.

A British man familiar with Namibia? Indeed! Galton, among others, was an Africa explorer. He explored and charted Damaraland and Ovamboland. But that is a different story. 

Let's return to The Art of Travel. A good travel guide must have a good basic understanding of a variety of skill competencies required to facilitate a traveler through a range of terrains. Galton's book is no cheesy campfire romance, it's all about survival. He dedicates his first chapter to finding water. After all, water is vital for the human organism. A person can survive much longer without solid food than without the necessary fluid. 

But where to find in a desert-like area? Mountains ensure a more perfect drainage after rain has fallen. Long after the ravines and stream beds have dried up, puddles and 'cupsful' of water can be found here and there along their courses, in holes and chinks and under larger rocks. Little tributaries, at the point where they fall into the main river, should not be ignored. 

An iron rod could be useful, Galton advises. "It is usual, when no damp earth can be seen, but where the place appears likely to yield well-water, to thrust an iron ramrod down into the soil, and if it brings up any grains that are moist, to dig," he writes.

Drawing from Francis Galton’s book “the Art of Travel”

No iron rod at hand? Now it is getting a little more complicated. 

"It is about nightfall that desert birds usually drink, and hence it often happens that the exhausted traveler, abandoning all hope as the shades of evening close in, has his attention arrested by flights of birds that give him new life and tell him where to go," Galton notes. The fresh tracks of animals leading down the slope can be a saving path as well. In addition, dense green vegetation could also indicate the presence of groundwater. 

If you are lucky and find a wet spot in the ground, dig down to search for the source. Allow your hole to fill. Then dip a cloth into it and wring it out in a container or directly in your mouth to quench your tantalizing thirst. 

"When at the watering-place there is nothing but liquid mud, take a good handful of grass, and tie it roughly together in the form of a cone, 6 or 8 inches long; then dipping the broad end into the puddle, and running it up, a streamlet of partly-filtered water will trickle down through the small end," the Africa explorer advises. "Otherwise, drink through your handkerchief - either put it over the mouth of your mug, or else throw it on the liquid mess as it lies in the puddle, and suck through." 

Other sources of water are dew drops, which should be collected very early before the sun rises. Rub a cloth or shirt on the plant to collect the dew.If there is no towel at hand, try a squeezed grass clot. 

Galton accounts that during the hunting season, even, "the stomach of a white rhinoceros especially, and of other kinds of game, is cut open and drunk from without any hesitation - (that of the black rhinoceros is dangerous, for the animal browses on the poisonous cactus)." 

At the very least, putrid water should be boiled before drinking. For that a fire is needed. "But when we want a spark, and do not happen to have our ingenious fire-making contrivances at hand, it is scarcely possible to get one." 

If you have no flint, an agate or even a simple quartz stone can do the trick. "Their sparks are hotter," Galton assures. In addition, he once read somewhere, "of the crystalline lens of a dead animal's eye having been used, in an emergency, with success as a burning glass." (Reading glasses could be handy too.) 

Firewood should be searched under the bushes. Dry manure of cattle and other animals is very useful as tinder. In today's modern times, a fire is definitely still one of the best signaling methods. Adding green material, such as leaves, will create smoke which can be seen for miles on a clear day. 

Now patiently wait until help arrives? 

Galton could not rely on help whilst on his expeditions. He had to help himself. And even today it might take a while until rescuers appear, so it is important to be geared up for a long wait. Strive for a suitable place to sleep and collect enough firewood for the night. If the sun still burns mercilessly from the sky, keep your skin covered in order to reduce sweating. But to pitch ones bed under a big tree would not be a good idea. "The great mistake of a novice lies in selecting a tree for his camping-place, which spreads out nobly above, but affords nothing but a bare stem below." An ideal shade donor, but no protection from nocturnal cold. "It's a roof, but not a wall," Galton writes. "What is really wanted is a dense low screen, perfectly wind tight, as high up as the knee above the ground." Or camp close up to a large rock, because a rock absorbs heat all day and parts with it slowly during the night. 

The man also recommends burning one to two large wooden logs at night, rather than only small branches. "The stump of a tree that is rotten nearly to the ground has often a magnificent root, fit to blaze throughout the night." In an area where there are only small branches to be found here and there, he recommends following the manner of the local Aawambo. "He takes eight or nine stones as large as bricks or larger, and sets them in a circle, and within these he lights up his little fire." The stones prevent the embers from flying about. 

How do you survive a cold desert night without freezing? 

People may object that the bag and mackintosh would be close and stuffy, "but be assured that the difficulty when sleeping on mother earth on a bitter night is to keep the fresh air out, not to let it in," Galton recommends. Those that do not have sleeping bags should consider burying themselves in the sand, keeping only the head above the ground. (One might just have trouble tossing and turning.) 

Additionally noted in his book, "In Napoleon's retreat after his campaign against Russia, many a soldier saved or prolonged his life by creeping within the warm and reeking carcase of a newly-dead horse." 

Drawing from Francis Galton’s book “the Art of Travel”

The thirst is quenched, the fire kindled, now hunger torments. 

"It appears that no flesh, excepting that of some fish, is poisonous to man; but with vegetables it is very different," Galton notes. But it has been observed that much the same things that suit the digestion of a bird also suit that of a man. Another tip from good old days was that if one suspected that any meat or water was poisoned, "Let one of your dog's drink before you do, and wait an hour to watch the effects of it upon him." 

In the meantime Galton offers an alternative. "Most kinds of creeping things are eatable, and used by the Chinese. Locusts and grasshoppers are not at all bad," he writes. "Catch a bee, tie a feather or a straw to his leg (natives thrust it up into his body) throw him into the air, and follow him as he flies slowly into his hive." 

Old hides or skins of any kind, that have not been tanned, are fit to eat. They improve soup, by being mixed with it, or they can be toasted and hammered. Long boiling makes jelly of them. With no other luck whilst searching for something edible, one might consider eating one's shoes. "Many a hungry person has cooked and eaten his sandals or skin clothing." On that note, enjoy your meal. 

These are only a few of Galton's survival skills. His book fills 189 pages packed with many more supporting tips. He points to the right clothing, addresses the disciplined behaviour in the wild and, of course, lists everything necessary for a big trek with oxcart and team.But who would need that today? No one hardly ever has to leave his comfort zone in search for water or to survive some nights in the wild. But it won't hurt either to connect with nature again, or to keep certain behavioural instructions in mind. One thing is for sure: never underestimate a safari through Namibia. Even in today's modern times, with satellite-controlled navigation systems or detailed maps, a trip through Namibia's beautiful landscape should never be seen as a leisure drive.

Drawing from Francis Galton’s book “the Art of Travel”

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