Social Work Study Tour to Namibia

The University of Minnesota School of Social Work is studying in Namibia during May 2010.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Swakopmund Days Two and Threee

We had a full day off in Swakopmund, and our group of 22 (including our driver, Elvis) split up to do various things. A good number of the group just hung around Swakopmund walking on the beach, shopping, having lunch and visiting the great museum. Others went on a day long tour to Sandwich Bay, driving on the dunes and seeing the desert and sea. Another group went kayaking in Walvis Bay. Finally, another group went quad biking on the dunes.

Swakopmund Lighthouse
Swakopmund Craft Stalls

Cappuccino outside one of the best bookstores in Namibia

The Kayakers relaxing after their fun day on the sea

Some of us got to see an African-German Karnival

At night, we all went out to celebrate Megan and Lindsey’s birthday. Many of the group went out dancing afterward.

Megan singing on the bus in the shotgun seat on the way to her 30th birthday party!

The whole group at the Lighthouse Restaurant for the birthday party

Sunday we woke up early and drove to Walvis Bay for the Mola Mola Bay Tour – about 10 each on a boat. We all had a great time. We saw the cape fur seal colonies, penguins, flamingos & pelicans. We also had groups of dolphins driving along side us. The tour finished with a wonderful spread of raw oysters, champagne, sailors' coffee and other Namibian delicacies!

The "Jo Jo" Boat Crew

The "Sandy" Boat Crew

Lindsey enjoying the ride

Justin giving the Seal a mohawk

Feeding the pelicans

Cape Fur Seals

African Flamingos

It's not called the Skeleton Coast for nothing...

We finished our trip on the coast with a visit to Dune 7, one of the largest sand dunes in the world. About half of us climbed all the way to the top, which is harder than it looks, but is worth it.

On the way "home" to Puccini House in Windhoek, we played bus games, including Minnesota Namibia Social Work Study Tour Trivia.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Swakopmund Day One

We arrived in Swakopmund, a sunny, German-African beach town, late on Thursday night. We are staying in the Swakopmund Municipal Rest Camp in six-person A frames.

Municipal A-Frames

We got in late, and went to the nearby Tiger Reef Beach restaurant for dinner. They were just closing, but opened back up for our large group. It was nice to see the ocean and eat some Hake & Chips, even if we were freezing.

Tiger Reef had a table large enough that it could fit two groups our size!

We woke up early the next morning to do our last formal visits of our trip. We met Amanda (former student of Ndii & Liz), our escort from the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and she took us to the DRC Community Project. The DRC Project is in the informal settlement of Swakopmund. They provide a bridging school (like Hope Initiative in Windhoek), to help children who are not attending school to catch up so they are allowed back into school. This project is funded through the Pitt-Jolie Foundation, and is housed in old containers that were used in the production of the movie, Flight of the Phoenix.

Amanda and the volunteer at DRC

Across the street from the DRC

After DRC, we drove 30 kilometers south to Walvis Bay. Between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, the desert sand dunes come right to the ocean.

In Walvis Bay we visited a faith-based organization called Healing Ministries, which works with women who have worked as Adult Service Providers and their children. They run various shelters for women and children, such as Hope House Refuge for Teens.

After our NGO visits in Swakopmund & Walvis Bay, the Ministry of Health and Social Services provided us a light lunch. After lunch, we had a whole day off, where everyone scattered to relax, shop and do laundry. At dinner, we were all reflecting on how the Study Tour has seemed both really long (we can't remember all that we have done), and really short (we can't believe the end is in sight).

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is one of the largest national parks in all of Africa. It is rarely crowded with people, though it is filled with animals. We were lucky to spend a day and a half in this magical park. Etosha is about an hour and a half from Oshakati. We came in the northern entrance to Etosha, and almost couldn’t get into the park at all. The gate staff had lost the keys to the big gate, but our driver, Elvis, found a way to squeeze our bus through with literally less than in inch to spare on either side!

Rachel, Rebekah & Eric at the entrance to Etosha - with warnings NOT to leave your vehicle!

Relief at squeezing through the entrance to Etosha

Once inside Etosha, we saw animals almost constantly. Etosha is a self-drive park, so we were able to drive the bus up to whatever waterholes we wanted and stay for as long as we wanted. We spent the day gradually making our way across the park. At first we stopped the bus for just a few Springbok, but after a few hours we were driving by herds of zebra without batting an eye. Some of the animals we spotted at Etosha include springbok, zebra, ostriches, kudu, oryx, black faced impala, damara dik dik, spring hare, spotted eagle owls, bat eared fox, warthogs, giraffes, black backed jackals, elephants, and black rhino. It is thrilling to see these animals in the wild.



Springbok and Elephant

Giraffe and zebras

Naomi & Sara

Social weaver birds' nest

Etosha Waterhole

Our biggest find was a leopard, which most people never are able to see. We saw theleopard on the side of the road, and we followed him in the bus for about 100 meters, before he then crossed the road right in front of where our bus was parked!

We stayed in the Okaukuejo Park inside of Etosha, which is an upscale resort. The highlight of Etosha (aside from the buffet) is the floodlit natural waterhole which animals stop by. Many of us spent hours sitting by the waterhole waiting for or watching animals. At the waterhole, we saw elephants, rhino, springbok, oryx, and hundreds and hundreds of zebra. At night, many of us also heard a lion roaring, and the next day we saw the vultures circling what must have been her prey.

Some folks went on a night drive with an Etosha guide

Professor Lightfoot lecturing at the waterhole

In the morning, after a few more visits to waterholes, we left for our long drive to Swakopmund. We took somewhat of a scenic route, and were treated to some of the spectacular views of the Namibian countryside.

We also stopped by a cool roadside gem market.