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Feature Image by: Connie Cao, Photographer

Discovering One of Africa’s Best-kept Secrets

Africa is a continent full of mysteries to me, and Namibia was a country I had heard of but didn’t know much about. 

It’s true what they say; Namibia is one of Africa’s best-kept secrets. 

It’s especially true for those people who like to go on an adventure; cruising down gravel roads to uncover some of the most other-worldly landscapes and picture-perfect scenes of native wildlife in action.

Lead by our local guides — landscape photographer Houggard Malan and wildlife photographer Andre Cloete — and Canon Photographers— Jay Collier and Emma Desira — we drove more than 4,000 kilometres over three weeks to visit and photograph the most iconic and surreal scenes across in the country.

Fish river canyon by Connie Cao

Our first stop was Fish River Canyon. It’s here that we woke up daily before sunrise to catch the glistening light shine across the land. We stayed at Fish River Lodge, where the balconies opened up to the canyon below. At night I saw the Milky Way for the first time. My view of the Milky Way became a regular occurrence throughout Namibia. The lack of city lights gave way to pitch-black skies.

Kolmanskop by Connie Cao

Walking through the abandoned diamond-mining town of Kolmanskop was an eerie experience. Although now deserted and slowly being swallowed by sand dunes, it’s not hard to imagine how busy this place once was when the mining was booming and diamonds so easy to find. These days, one must often get down on their knees and crawl through door after door to explore some of the secret rooms in these run-down buildings.

Sossusvlei 1 by Connie Cao

Sossusvlei 2 by Connie Cao

One of the most breathtaking sights in Namibia is the never-ending expanse of red dunes in Sossusvlei. The dunes in Sossusvlei are some of the highest in the world and trekking across them in the early hours of the morning really makes you realise just how majestic this landscape is. There are no cars, power lines or people around and the only sound that can be heard is the sound of your own breath. 

Silence here is like nothing else.

Deadvlei 1 by Connie Cao

Close to Sossusvlei is Deadvlei, a clay pan characterized by camel thorn trees, which still remain standing some 900 years after their death. It’s a photographer’s dream here, with a landscape of such contrasting colours that only gets better as the sun rises and sets throughout the day, casting shadows and light on every surface of the pan and its surrounds.

Deadvlei 2 by Connie Cao

Etosha Giraffe by Connie Cao

It was my first time photographing wildlife while in Namibia and I was so grateful to be able to practise my skills at none other than Etosha National Park. Seeing African wildlife for the first time is like watching a movie scene play out in front of you. They pay no attention to the safari vehicles camping quietly nearby, and go about their day-to-day life as if the vehicles were invisible. 

It’s a crazy feeling to see a lion walk right past you.

Etosha wilderbeast by Connie Cao

Etosha is home to many unique species, many of which I hadn’t heard of until I set foot in the country. This early morning shot of wildebeest is one of my favourites. There were so many of them wandering around looking for a feed and the dusty saltpan created some nice layers in my frame. If you’re lucky at Etosha, you might even see a black rhino or two.

Etosha Elephants by Connie Cao

You never know what you might find when at Etosha. One evening whilst waiting by a water hole, we saw a herd of elephants parading their way down for a bathe and drink. With little ones in tow, they scrambled faster as they got nearer. 

It’s sometimes hard to choose between taking a snap or simply watching in awe.

Etosha zebras by Connie Cao

One of my favourite things about being on this trip was travelling with photographers who were experts in landscape and wildlife photography. I originally picked up photography by teaching myself and experimenting, so it was so great to get real time advice from the Canon Photographers whilst we were shooting on the field and to chat during our breaks.

It was my first time shooting wildlife, and I learnt so much about the special techniques used to capture such fast-moving subjects.

I also learnt more about landscape photography from these expert; utilising different lenses for different results and paying close attention to detail to capture that perfect shot. The early morning treks chasing the sun, and the thrill of capturing a leopard mid-chase, are memories I will never forget.

My travels in Namibia were an unforgettable experience. The country is so unlike any other I’ve been to, and its unique mix of landscapes, wildlife and culture left me humbled.

This world is really quite a special place, with every corner as different as the other. I really do hope to be back soon to uncover more. Travelling with experienced photographers was the icing on the cake—it was so great to be able to pick up tips and tricks whilst on the go. There is really no better way to strengthen your photography skills than amongst like-minded people.