WALVIS BAY|FLIGHT OF THE FLAMINGOS

1 I’ve been lucky enough to go on my fair share of family safari holidays. Though the word “safari” makes me think of khaki-clad tourists alighting from their vehicles, despite numerous signs warning you not to, to get a photograph with their new giraffe friends in the veld – no jokes, I’ve seen this happen – it is essentially the easiest way to describe a camping holiday in a game reserve. I tend to steer very far away from khaki, though. Anyway.

Despite these numerous adventures, we’ve never had one of those iconic lion sightings where there’s just, like, nineteen big cats lying there in the dirt road for the whole world to see, but we haven’t been completely short changed either. For example, on last year’s excursion to the Kruger National Park, just as we were about to exit the park’s gates, a pack of wild dogs with a kill appeared on the side of the road, and that’s pretty cool – and rare – to see (although not entirely un-gruesome). But, I’ve never been so excited to see wild animals en masse as I was when we stumbled across a giant flock of flamingos, gathered along Walvis Bay’s promenade (just around the corner from the small coastal town’s waterfront) during a recent two-week stint/famjam in Namibia.

I don’t have an elegant bone in my body (even when dressed up as a flamingo for a sixth-grade performance of Alice in Wonderland, I slipped and fell onto my derriere in front of everyone during the Caucus Race segment, and it really hurt and it was really embarrassing and that’s another story for another day…), so I feel like a flamingo is a fitting choice of spirit animal. In other words, I really like these tall, gangly, impossibly poised feathered-friends. Seeing them in their thousands, literally two metres away from where I stood, was an experience I won’t readily forget.

Situated on Namibia’s coastline, where orange desert dunes blend seamlessly with the ocean, the town of Walvis Bay is famed for its flamingo population. But, I didn’t believe it until I saw it – a constantly moving, almost shimmering, blur of candyfloss pink lining the coast. They were incredibly close to us, too, with just a tiny stretch of beach in between us and them. Plus, if we remained still for long enough, the flamingos came even closer, making it possible to catch their beauty in detail with a 70-300mm lens.

I remember paging through a go! magazine photographic portfolio featuring beautiful images of excessively large flamingo flocks, so I had a good idea of the kind of shots I wanted to take. Regardless, it’s so difficult to capture the MASS of birds in a photograph – you’ll just have to go see it for yourself!

The best part of the whole thing, though, was that it was a complete surprise. Sure, we’d driven the 20 minutes from Swakopmund (the town in which we were staying at the time) to Walvis Bay with the intention of seeing the flamingos, but I didn’t think we’d see them right there, just along one of the town’s main beach roads.

And that’s what I love best about road trips – if you see something interesting, exciting or unexpected on the side of the road, you can just pull over and check it out, and that’s exactly what we had done. Logistically, it was such a small part of the trip, but it still proved to be one major highlight for me (we did see more flamingos in even bigger numbers as we drove along the ocean-moon – well, actually, it was a salt pan, but it felt like an ocean-covered moon – towards Pelican Point, but they weren’t nearly as close/photographable).

I’m not “well-travelled” (in the international sense, at least), but I have been on some serious local road trips, never mind the biannual family treks to Plettenberg Bay. So, I can vouch for the fact that it’s the best way to get to know a new place because you can just stop and check out anything that grabs your fancy, like the flamingo situation. Plus, it’s a sneaky way to force family bonding in a world where socialising is sometimes so overly (and aggravatingly) mediated by technology.

Though overseas trips are surely spectacular, travelling locally is equally as worthwhile and I think we often overlook the possibilities of all the wonderful holiday destinations within our own borders or our neighbouring countries. You don’t have to cross oceans to get a change of scenery, to feel like you’re miles away from everything at home – an 11-hour drive can do that for you by quite a margin, promise.

I’ll hopefully be going on a couple more road trips pretty soon – it’s just something that my family does and that we’ve done for ever – and I mission around in search of excitement and adventure on a regular basis, so follow me on my escapades (sometimes I’m even funny), and let me know if you’ve ever come across something unusual/unexpected/beautiful/exciting while on the road and just had to stop and have a look or take advantage of the photo opportunity…

Thanks for visiting my blog! x

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When photographing wildlife, its important to try and “blend in”… I think we did well

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