Back in September 2014 Royle Safaris completed another successful safari trip to Namibia and in particular our Best of Namibia Safari which explores a range of the best wildlife watching locations and safari destinations in one of the best wildlife watching countries in the world. Below is a trip report from this safari.

Overview

Dates:

14th – 29th September 2014

Guides

Martin Royle, Elago Negumbo, Moses, Ruan, Tommy, Andrew, Bianca & Richard

Group

Joe Boyer & Rhoda Boyer-Perkins

Introduction:

Namibia’s landscape is one of the oldest in the world, with deserts dating back over 180 million years and with some of the rocks now isolated in a sea of sand are home to some of Africa’s oldest rock art. The country has been inhabited by people for thousands of years and by wildlife for much much longer than that. Being the driest country in Sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia is mostly desert and semi-desert. With the deserts being as old as they are they are also home to more life and also more endemic life than any other dry deserts in the world. But Namibia is much more than just sandy dry desert. Yes the sand has been sculpted into some of the highest and most spectacular sand dunes in the world, but it is the hidden gems in the desert that are really impressive and this tour aims to showcase the best of them in places such as Epupa Falls, Sesreim Canyon, Twyfelfontein, Moon-landscape and Waterberg Plateau.

It is not just the geological features that dot the backwaters of Namibia that this tour will focus on but also the wildlife hotspots, it is easy to think of Namibia with the hot, dry landscape as being desolate but things couldn’t be further from the truth and this tour will take in locations such as the coastal Namib Desert, Walvis Bay, Cape Cross, Waterberg Plateau National Park and of course the jewel in the Namibian wildlife crown Etosha National Park.

This is a true exploration tour that aimed to cover much of Namibia in 2 weeks whilst also doing justice to the variety of habitats and wildlife that dot the country.

This tour would start and finish in the capital city of Windhoek, like the rest of the Namibia this sparsely populated city is gives the feeling of pioneer settlement more than bustling capital of a large and mineral rich country such as Namibia. Even though the city sprawls over hundreds of square miles the contrast to the thousands and hundreds of thousands of square miles of nothing once you leave the city is incredible. We would start by driving out to the barren desert rocks of Soussvlei, here the red and ochre sands dominate the landscape and the dunes can reach unbelievable heights. From here we would continue west towards the coast and to the German colonial town of Swakopmund, from this base we would explore two very different ecosystems but both unique to Namibia, firstly the coastal sections of the Namib desert, this being the oldest desert in the world many of the animals here have evolved to the unique and harsh demands of living in the ancient Namib Desert. We would also go out into the bay and explore Walvis Bay in search of the marine life that lives sandwiched between the cold and vast Atlantic Ocean and the red hot Namib Desert. After Swakopmund we would drive northwards along the famous Skeleton Coast and travel back in time to visit the ancient and culturally important rock art of Twyfelfontein before continuing even further north to meet the wonderful Himba people on the border of Angola, before heading back south and east into the dry and baking heat of the Etosha Pan. Here Africa’s and one of the world’s largest national parks spreads out towards each horizon and huge populations of most of Africa’s most famous wildlife inhabitants make their lives here. Vast herds of Burchell’s zebra, springbok, black-faced impala, blue wildebeest all seem to march endlessly from one horizon to the other in the bleak bleached landscape of the Etosha Pan. The waterholes offering respite for all wildlife great and small, you will never come across a water hole in Etosha day or night that is not occupied by some wildlife. Whether that is a lone kori bustard or a herd of elephants, the adults packed in now white dried on mud and the youngsters playing joyfully in the muddy water; you will be entertained by the wildlife at the waterholes. In fact it is at one of the most famous waterholes Okaukeujo that we will stay for a couple of nights. Here after dark a procession of endangered black rhinos makes its way from the darkness to drink, wallow and just socialise. We hoped to see this spectacle as well as many more in the huge expanses of Etosha National Park.

After leaving the teeming herds and swayths of predators in Etosha we would continue south towards Windhoek but stopping off at the Waterberg Plateau National Park, here this table top mountain has become to the breeding ground for some of the countries rarest animals. The impenetrable rock faces launching vertically up provide great protection from poachers and lions alike and the here antelopes like tessebe, sable and roan can breed in safety as can tuberculosis free buffalo and of course both black and white rhinos.

All in all we believe that this tour gives the best and broadest view of Namibia’s wildlife in the space of 2 weeks and by visiting so many different habitats and seeing the survival strategies of so many different species you will realise that Namibia is far from just desert, a land of rock and sand it may be, but the sand and rock is alive with wildlife, wildlife that is just waiting to be found by an intrepid wildlife enthusiast.

Joe & Rhoda on the Sossusvlei Sand Dunes

Day By Day Report

Day 1        

Sossuvlei         

This morning Royle Safaris’ tour leader Martin along with our local Namibian guide Elago and our driver and cook Moses meet Joe and Rhoda at Windhoek International Airport. After leaving the airport we left the city and started the 330km drive towards the world famous dunes of Sossuvlei. The first section of the road travelled through typical bushveld and large ranches in the habitat we spotted some antelopes such as eland, hartebeest, springbok as well as a warthog. Being so sparsely populated Namibia is one of the last countries in Southern Africa where large numbers of wild animals can still be seen easily outside of any protected areas. But soon the landscape began to change and the vegetation became sparser and also smaller and less dense, large and impressive granite rock formations sprung up from the ground like ancient titans and dotted the horizon. At a small version of these rock formations we stopped briefly and running around among the granite boulders were many Namibian rock agamas and a couple of Namibian day geckos. Further along the environment changes again and this time the short shrubs and grasses became less and less dense until we were in semi desert with thorny shrubs and the occasionally stunted acacia tree the only vegetation growing the rocky and seemingly inhospitable landscape. We stopped for lunch under a large acacia tree and a flock of goats being tended to by their boy shepherd. The tree was full of chestnut weavers busily going back and forth into their intricately woven nests.

We arrived at the camp located at the border of the vast Namib-Naukluft National Park at around 14:40. We prepared the camp and relaxed for a couple of hours, watching the many sociable weavers that inhabited the large nest in our camp site.

Then with a couple of hours before sunset we headed to Sesriem Canyon, this canyon was formed during a flash flood that run through this area several hundred years ago, there are some very small permanent puddles in the deepest recesses of the canyon and this presence of water was very important to the people who travelled this area first. These people were forced from their tribal lands by the German occupation in the 1800’s and forced to walk to find new settlements, some of them made it all of the way to Angola and some started small communities along the way. The name of Sesriem Canyon means 6 ropes, this is because it needed 6 ropes (the ropes were made from the skin of an oryx) in order to make it down to the bottom of the canyon from the top. The ropes were used to draw water up from the stream at the bottom (after rainfall) to provide drink for the oxen that the people used to transport their goods and food with them through the desert. We walked down into canyon and along the bottom, the canyon is around 30m deep at its deepest and it is easy to see the two distinct layers of rock either side, firstly you can see the large boulder and rock strewn layer of sediment that was brought down with the initial force of the flash flood. The weight of the water at force being able to move heavy rocks and then above this the smaller and finer sediment that the relaxing water was still able to support and carry along.

As for wildlife down in the canyon we found a few of Namibia’s famous tok-toki beetles, the Namib Desert supports around 200 species of these beetles and nearly all have unique ways of collecting water from the dry desert. Apart from the very occasional rainfall and the even rarer event of heavy rainfall that causes flash floods and the ephemeral rivers to flow, the only moisture is what is carried into the desert in the form of blanket mists and fogs that occur when the very cold air of the Benguela current (travelling up the western coast of Southern Africa) meets the dry and hot air being produced from the desert inland. The condensation produces huge fogs that occur on around 200 days of the year and can be transported over 50km inland. So many of the animals (none better than the tok-toki beetles) have come up with ingenious ways of collecting this moisture. Some make crude webs and catch dew, some dig little trenches with the side facing the incoming winds from the ocean being higher and thus catching the dew. But the most famous technique and the one employed by the beetles we found in the canyon is to stand on their front legs and perform a handstand. The hairs on their back legs and the dimples on the otherwise smooth black abdomen collect droplets of water that are all funnelled down small channels to the beetles head where it can drink it. Along with these incredible beetles there were some rock pigeons and a pair of nesting rock kestrels.

We then climbed back up to the top of the canyon and watched the sunset over the Namib Desert, when we returned to the camp after this beautiful sight we had a wonderful steak dinner prepared by the very good Moses. What a great way to finish our first day in Namibia.

Day 2        

Sossusvlei

This morning we left the camp before dawn and headed into sand dune territory, these dunes are truly enormous, some growing well over 100m tall and being several thousand years old. In fact there are many petrified sand dunes here and it is possible to see the sand stone mountains next to their ‘younger’ sandy dunes. We arrived at the very popular dune 45, located at the 45 kilometre marker this is not the reason it is named such. When the dunes were being mapped and the area being surveyed this was the 45th dune to be surveyed and when the highway was built it just so happened that this dune is located at the 45th kilometre marker.

We had beaten many of the other tour buses and vehicles and started to climb the bright orange dune, the sun beginning to slowly rise in the distance. We found a nice view point around 2/3 of the way up the dune and watched the sun rise high of the desert, the morning’s rays warming us and making all of the sand glow a wonderful red. Opposite dune 45 (and the main reason for its popularity) is a beautiful dune that is probably the most photographed dune in the world. The curved face of the dune making a wonderful picture when the sun is rising and half of the dune is blood red and the other half is still black in shadow. As the sun grew higher and higher we could begin to see the tourists that had moved higher than us up the dune begin their journey back down.

To avoid the inevitable procession of people slipping and sliding e left our vantage point and went to have breakfast next to our vehicle. Elago and Moses had been busy preparing the spread, before we got to the vehicle we enjoyed nice views of a curious tractrac chat, a perched rock kestrel and also large flock of pied crows. Obviously the intelligent pied crows know that after sunrise there are many tourists having their breakfast in the car park and where there are feeding people there is always food for bold birds. After our breakfast we travelled further down the highway and into the Namib-Naukluft National Park, stopping regularly as the landscape is just about the most photogenic in the world, the numerous picture perfect dunes, the oranges, reds and brilliant blue sky all making for incredible compositions. Some dunes even came complete with a withered and twisted tree in the foreground that added something different to the picture and every now and again we came across the very desert adapted oryx (Namibia’s national animal) walking in front of the dunes and giving an awesome sense of size, majesty and grandeur. After 15km of driving and stopping for photographs down the dune corridor we arrived at Deadvlei. Before walking to the very appropriately named ‘dead marsh’ we had excellent views of a small herd of 4 oryx close to the road. The oryx does so well in the desert due to various amazing physiological adaptations and none more impressive that its ability to raise its intenral body temperature to 45oC this would literally fry any other species of mammal, but it allows the oryx to survive longer in the hottest parts of the desert. But the most amazing adaptation that the oryx has to surviving in their inhospitable environment is that it can survive for a year by only drinking 4 litres of water if needs be. Its water conservation is incredible and their kidneys are able to tolerate far higher concentrations of uric acid and other toxins that accumulate when they are not diluted with water in urine. Both these adaptations and many others enable the oryx to be by far the most numerous and successful large mammal in the Namibian desert and we saw many today against the desert backdrop.

After we had parked the vehicle in the Deadvlei car park we began the walk out to the once marshy oasis, over some smaller dunes and through harder quartz fields with larger pieces of limestone we arrived at the sandy bowl, surrounded by dark orange dunes the pale sand stands in stark contrast. But it is the twisted, gnarly and ancient looking trees that stand a dark brown / black against the yellow, orange and blue surroundings that make this scene a photographers dream. Deadvlei is not the only sight to behold in this area of the Namib as it stands in the shadow of the largest dune in Namibia and one of the largest dunes in the world the vast Big Daddy that towers to a barely believable 350m above sea level. On the walk to and from Deadvlei Elago pointed out some of the plants that make a living here, the most numerous and also one of the most important for all of the animals here is the Naga melon; this plant uses capillary action to draw up the slightest moisture from the ground or air and transports it to the roots. The largest tree here is the camel-thorn acacia which can have roots up to 45m deep, this is to tap in the water table and many of the underground rivers that run in this waterless landscape. These can often be very deep under the sand. Another abundant plant that Elago showed to us is the ostrich salad, as the name suggests the plant is loved by the ostriches but the special adaptation of this plant is for its dead looking leaves to open completely and absorb moisture when the slightest drop of water hits the plant. We then left the area and headed back to the camp as the sun was getting very high in the sky and the temperature was already around 30oC and we decided it is best to enjoy the shade of the camp during the afternoon. As we left we spotted a pair of distant ostriches as well as a family of single-striped mice and many Cape sparrows feeding with southern grey-headed sparrows. On the way back to the camp we spotted many more oryx as well as having nice ostrich and springbok sightings. We then decided to spend the entire afternoon and evening just resting around the camp and watching the various animals here such as many springboks, South African ground squirrels as well as Cape glossy starlings, pale-winged starlings, Cape & southern grey-headed sparrows, sociable & southern masked weavers to name a few.

Day 3        

Swakopmund

This morning we breakfasted at 6am and then hit the road, heading further west and through the Namib-Naukluft National Park all the way until we hit the coast and the wonderful German colonial town of Swakopmund. Swakop, as it is known locally, is our base for the next 3 nights as we explore the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of this very special section of Namibia’s coastline. In the cool morning light many oryx and springbok could be seen feeding on the grass in and around the campsite. Along the way to Swakop we also saw many of these two species along the road. Also seen was a secretary bird and a Ludwig’s bustard, the latter of which flew parallel with our vehicle for around 30 seconds and allowed for great views of this large and clumsy looking bird.

We stopped for a rest at the tiny settlement of Solitaire here the old wrecks of various American and German cars had been piled up at the entrance to the little petrol station and café, much to the delight of Joe. The little village also has one of Namibia’s most famous German bakeries but the queue was very long and so we decided we could do without an already so good and filling. Further on we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and found a pair of male ostriches in charge of a small crèche, 5 small and stripy chicks ran eagerly alongside their giant protectors. Shortly before stopping at a view point over the often dry Tscheub River we spotted a pair of mountain zebra. In Namibia this species is represented by the near endemic (there are some in southern Angola) Hartmann’s zebra and differ from the smaller plains (or Burchell’s) zebra by having narrower and more clearly marked black and white stripes and their stripes do not go down to the belly but instead leave the belly white.

At the Tscheub River Elago showed us more of the countries array of geological wonders, this time the huge quantities of mica that is deposited all over this river course and canyon. Further on still we had a small clan of meekats run across the road and away into the scrub, we stopped and went out of the car to see a pair of them run to around 50m away and stand erect in the typical meerkat pose and stare back at us. They all then seemed to melt into the scrub, being small and perfectly camouflaged for this habitat they just disappeared into the rocks and shrubs. As we approached the coast and the towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund the landscape opened out and the rocky scrub made way for sandy desert, the sand dunes (smaller than Sossusvlei) here are home to some of the world’s most diverse desert ecosystems. We went through the industrial port town of Walvis Bay (this was a British territory right up to 1990, and was never part of German or later South African rule) to get to Swakopmund that is around 50km further north. Swakopmund is every bit as picturesque as Walvis Bay is industrial and many Namibians have holiday homes, cottages or flats in the town and the area is very popular with holiday makers from Germany too.

We arrived at the hotel around 13:00 and after settling in we walked around the town and familiarised ourselves with the quaint and aesthetic town. Tomorrow we would explore be taken around Walvis Bay and showed the marine life here but for today an oryx steak and relaxing afternoon was the perfect tonic.

Day 4        

Walvis Bay

This morning we were met outside the hotel by a shuttle bus for the dolphin cruise company who would take us out into Walvis Bay for a wildlife watching cruise. At 8:30am we boarded the boat and set off from the rather industrial harbour, surrounded by huge cargo vessels and a very industrial looking harbour it was surprising the amount of bird life around.

We were escorted by a small group of around 7 great-white pelicans as we left and they began to fly after us, knowing that as part of this cruise they will get some free fish as Ruan the skipper of the boat draws them in close to show off their adaptations. As the huge pelicans (dwarfing the also large Cape gulls) flew close to the boat the size of their wings and enormous beaks was on full show. But it wasn’t until the boat slowed and stopped and a couple of the oldest and most habituated pelicans landed on the boat that we saw the real size and strength that the birds have in their wings and beaks. Having the pelicans feed and extend their gular pouch so close was a great experience and a fantastic introduction to a bird that is so prominent along the Namibian coastline.

After we had sped away from the hungry and demanding pelicans we had a visit from a young male Cape fur seal, again a handful of the bay’s large population have habituated themselves to the tour boats and with the lure of 3-4 fish the seal climbed aboard the boat, and pushing past us pesky tourists waddled down to the front of the boat and where Ruan has the bucket of fish. Having this wild seal come up to the boat and allow Ruan to show us its incredible fur and how try it remains even when just coming out of the sea is so unique and wonderful experience. As we carried on around the bay we came to the fisheries area and the new fisheries management, research and patrol vessel.

Many seals live around here and we saw a huge colony including many large adult males here sunbathing in the water, sticking their fins in the air as they floated on their backs. We also watched as a young male seal toyed with a poor Hartlaub’s gull, the gull was being battered from side to side with the trashing of the seal and then released. As the gull tried to make it to the jetty the seal would grab it again and submerge it. This didn’t look like predatory behaviour but instead playing. I don’t think the gull was enjoying the playfulness of the seal but eventually the seal did get bored and the gull made it to the jetty and climbed up to dry itself. We also visited an oyster farm, the bay is very productive for oysters and the Namibian oyster is prized throughout Africa and elsewhere. A little further on we stopped amongst a beach colony of Cape fur seals and had some fresh Namibian oysters and a champagne breakfast. Further around the harbour we came to fishing vessels that are all but rotten, in Namibia the law states that as long as the original vessel that was registered floats that the quotas for fish are still valid to the owner of the boat. So many of the fishing companies keep their old and derelict fishing boats just about afloat so they retain their quotas. These eyesores are a perfect home for thousands of cormorants and gulls and the smell of several tens of thousands of fish eating birds all living on a small location can make the eyes water a bit. But it is a great sight to see so many cormorants in one place. A very sign that the fish numbers here are very healthy. Further along as we headed north along the coast we went through huge flocks of several thousand Cape cormorants and the occasional great cormorants.

We carried on through this enormous flock that blanketed the surface of the sea and arrived at a manmade structure that looks at first glance like a pier that has lost its promenade and only the end remains detached from the shore. On this manmade island (called bird island) was a large number of great white pelicans, cape gulls, great cormorants and greater flamingos. This island was established in the 1930’s by a man who had the idea of collecting guano and using it as fertilisers. At first he didn’t collect much as the island was quite small and the logistics of collecting and maintaining the island were larger than the rewards from selling the guano. But over the years and to this day the island was expanded and the right size (today it is 17,800m2) of the island was developed and now it is very profitable.

We then went around the far side of the bay towards a large beach colony of Cape fur seals and a deeper water channel that is the usual haunt of the beautiful, small and endemic Heaviside’s dolphin. After a little while we did attract 3-4 of these tiny dolphins (the second smallest of all dolphins) to the bow of the boat and they bow rode along with us for around 20 minutes, they do not tend to porpoise extravagantly like some large dolphin species, but they raced along in front of us jumping ahead of our bow wave as we went back and forth along the channel. When the dolphins seemed to move off and stop appearing to play with us, we then left the channel and headed to the beach. Cruising slowly along the beach colony we watched as the large male seals patrolled their sections of beach, the females basked and the young seals played and frolicked in the shallows and came over to our boat to investigate.

The colony here is home to around 22,000 seals and they were mostly young and females with very few adult males. It was here where we had our champagne and oyster breakfast, before heading back to the harbour and then the short shuttle bus journey back to our accommodation in Swakopmund. The rest of the afternoon was free for us to rest and we met up in the evening for our evening meal in a nearby German colonial period hotel. Tomorrow we would explore the dunes inland as opposed to the bay offshore.

Day 5        

Namib Desert

This morning we were picked up by Andrew at our guest house and taken to the starting point near the dry Swakop River (this river was last flowing with water 2 years ago and ran like a river for 2 months, but the amount of vegetation present in the slight depression that marks the river bed is testament to the water running underneath the sand here), this is the main entrance into the Namib Desert and where we met with Tommy who would be the main guide taking us into the desert in search of some of the world’s most highly adapted animals and plants. We were given a briefing before entering the desert, where Tommy explained about dune formations, the leeward side always being cooler and with firmer sand, so most of the vegetation grows here and therefore most of the wildlife is found here. But there are some species that have found ways of moving quickly over the softer looser sand of the windward sides of the dunes, animals such as like sidewinder snake can move quickly over both types of sand.

We where also shown the hand-standing beetles up close as Tommy showed us the special ridges on the abdomen that help to funnel the water down into the mouth of the beetle. We then set off into the dunes and noticed that around the river many marble deposits which have been exposed by regular flooding. In this flatter and more vegetated part of the desert we spent some time looking for an almost microscopic spider that builds the most incredible tunnels. The Namib tube spider digs a burrow down into the sand, they use their sticky webs to create a solid funnel that the spider lives in. The spider also sets out anchor lines in a circle around the tiny hole, these anchor lines are arranged like a cartwheel and are used to detect prey. When a likely prey animal walks by the hole it will trip the silk and alert the spider of the distance and direction of the animal and the spider rushes up from the funnel and grabs the animal.

We were shown one of these funnels and were amazed as the tiny spider creates a funnel some 20-30cm long. Tommy also found a very small tok-tokki beetle with a black body and a white head. The wealth of tiny invertebrate life in this part of the desert is incredible and something that would easily go unnoticed without the expert help and experience of Tommy.

As we carried on and went deeper into the desert we were shown the Tamarister tree which is short and stumpy but can tolerate fresh water from the fog and also salt water from the sea equally well. This allows this tree to dominate the coastal areas of the Namib Desert. Not long into the drive Tommy found us one of the desert’s most iconic and endearing species the Namaqua chameleon. This is one of a brood that he was given to look after 11 months ago and he released one here and so it was not unexpected that he found the chameleon in this area as the area has everything the chameleon needs, so there is no reason for him to leave. In fact Tommy told us that this individual had moved only 3km in 11 months. It is also microchipped as many of the desert reptiles are here now (the same kind of microchip that are used in pets), which is not only helping us understand the movements of the animals but also combating the illegal pet trade as one of the chameleons chip was flagged in Holland and the animal traffickers were found and arrested. We watched the chameleon for a while as it fed on some meal worms and it walked along the sand and climbed a small branch. During the early morning the chameleons are black as they aim to absorb as much sunlight as possible and then as the sun gets very high in the sky and the chameleon has reached its peak temperature their skin colouration changes to a very pale shade and reflects most of the sun back. As we approached the chameleon it changed its colour to display red and yellow spots which is a defensive display. But after a couple of minutes this as replaced by the dark colouration as the chameleon got used to us. As the chameleon climbed into the bush and the meal worms were presented to it, its colour changed to match the bush as a means to remain hidden from its chosen prey animal (in this case the meal worm) before changing back to black after feeding.

Further along we found a black scorpion in the gravel plain, this is the perfect habitat for the very small and beautiful horned adders, we searched for the horned adders but didn’t find any. But it wasn’t long before we found another small snake, in fact one of the smallest snake species in the world, the Peringuey’s adder (otherwise known as a sidewinder). At first we were shown the adder as it hide with only its raised eyes above the sand grains before the sidewinder showed us the reason for its name and off it went quickly on the sand to find safety. After some great views of this small snake we left it to cool down in the shade of a small bush and carried on to a good location for another incredible animal here, the palmato gecko. This strictly nocturnal animal has near transparent skin and is very susceptible to sunlight, so keeping him cool and in the shade we found a palmato gecko, sometimes called the web-footed gecko, this species is most subterranean in the daytime and only coming above the ground at night to stalk and hunt prey such as beetles. This is one of the most beautiful geckos in the world and with the transparent skin and an almost glowing ghostly appearance this little gecko stole the show. We then left him as he used the large web-shaped feet to burrow deeply into the sand.

We then went to an open area of the desert (where they recently and controversially filmed the Mad Max (2015) film, and had a small snack, it was here the Tommy also showed us the magnetic properties of the sand here by taking a powerful magnet and collecting lots of magnetite just on the surface of the sand. As we ate we were joined by 5 tractrac chats, they are very used to Tommy’s schedule and show up to get a little hand out, they have even become accustomed to a couple of calls that Tommy uses so that they come to him so he can hand feed them. The affinity that Tommy has for the desert creatures and the desert in general is wonderful and he is a very interesting man to be around in the desert. As we continued on and looped back towards the coast we found a larger male chameleon and took some time out to watch the chameleon as it walked along the sand and climbed into a  large vegetated bush. He fed on a beetle in front of us and showed off a greater variety of colouration than the younger chameleon did. The bush that the chameleon was on is the very important dollar plant, this succulent is a common house plant around the world now, but it is very important for many species of mammals (including brown hyena and mice), birds (including ostriches) and insects in the desert as the leaves are full of moisture. This plant only lives along the fog belt which is approximately 0-90m inland along this section of the Namibian coastline.

We then drove through some of the larger dunes and the desert landscape changed to pure golden sand dunes some rising very tall. Once we got back to the town we had lunch and then took a trip with Elago to the moon landscape area north of Swakopmund, the ancient rock formations here are very reminiscent of the moon and the grey rocky formations stretching as far as the horizon look completely devoid of life. However there is life here, in fact at one of the view points over the moon landscape we found another Namaqua chameleon, this was the smallest (but feistiest) individual we had seen. We moved him away from the carpark and into the desert so hopefully he would avoid being run over.

We drove a little further into the gravel plains to find Namibia’s national plant and also one of the most unusual plants in the world. On the way we past some small brackish lagoons which were home to many flamingos, black-winged stilts and many other waterfowl. The main habitat for this unusual plant is now the site and surrounding area of a new uranium mine, what long term impact this will have on the plants and the environment as a whole is not known. But management will be needed as the construction of new pipelines was already in progress. We did find many of this weird and ancient plant (the Welwitschia mirabilis) this is tree although he trunk rarely exceeds more than 30cm high and the whole plant only has 2 leaves in the entire lifetime of the plant, and when you consider that the plant can survive for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years (as some of the plants are estimated to be over 2,000 years old). As you can expect their leaves are hard and leathery to protect themselves against predators and the elements for such a long time, they also grow to huge lengths (between 2-4m long) and they sprawl out, often tattered, either side of the round reddish flowering body of the plant that rests on top of the woody trunk.

We found many great examples of this plant in what could be called a Welwitshcia forest springing up from the gravel plains that seem to stretch endlessly into the distance. After we had been to see several small ‘forests’ we headed back toward Swakopmund and as the sun began to sink down into the sky we had great views of ostriches as they crossed the road in front of them.

On arrival back in the town we rested for a while, refreshed and then had dinner at a restaurant in the town.

Day 6        

Damaraland

This morning we had breakfast, then stocked up on supplies at the super market before setting off and leaving Swakopmund and heading north. Our first wildlife stop this morning would be the Cape Cross fur seal colony around 1 hour north of the town. This is the largest colony of seals in Africa and with around 100,000 seals it is of global importance to the Cape fur seal population. However despite this, the Namibian government to controversially cull the seal populations here to help the fisheries. This seals here has several predators, great white sharks and orcas in the ocean, both of these species do not seem to occur here in high numbers and the major predators of the seals here were lions, brown hyenas and black-backed jackals. However people have exterminated all of the lions from around this colony, the brown hyenas have been reduced in number by humans dramatically as well and so the seal population can grow unchecked. However I would prefer people to look to reintroduce the hyena and lion to the area to help keep the population in check as opposed to just cull the seals.

But even before we would get to the colony we went to one of the more recent shipwrecks along the skeleton coast, this is a fishing vessel that was run aground in 2005. Close to the colony Martin spotted a black-backed jackal and hoped for a hyena but this hope was in vain, once we arrived at the colony we were hit by the noise and smell of 100,000 seals all crammed onto a relatively small rock and sand beach. But along with the seals were many ruddy turnstones, Cape gulls and Cape cormorants. We walked along the board walk with the seal colony sprawling either side of us, the noise of the males trying to battle each other for a section of beach and the females it contains as well as the calls of youngsters trying to find their mothers was nearly deafening. We watched as some of the pups suckled from their mothers very close to the boardwalk. We got some very close up views of females basking on rocks close to the boardwalk and some catching some shade underneath our feet. Closer to the surf we watched males fighting with each other, as we are just at the start of the breeding season the fights are not very vicious but more jostling for position, so the males would bark at each other and square up but rarely come to blows.

Watching the whole colony and the various behaviours was fascinating and we could watch for hours as they played, fought, suckled, swam, sunbathed, slept and chased each other up and down the beach. Out in the sea in the shallow coastal waters there were many sunbathing seals in the water, here they float on their backs with their flippers in the air, with their bellies. Out above the sea we watched as hundreds of Cape cormorants flew out to sea to feed and a large flock of endemic Damara terns flew in towards the beach. The Damara tern has its entire global population within the 50m wide stretch of Namib Desert parallel with the skeleton coast of Namibia.

This ground nesting bird is highly sensitive to any disturbance of the desert and large areas (known nesting sites) are closed off to all movement. We left the colony and travelled further north and into Damaraland, we had lunch in the village of Uis, this old mining town is almost a relict of the prosperous mining history of Namibia. Now the mine has closed it is mostly tourists traveling north or south along the Skeleton Coast are the only visitors to this sleepy desert town.

We then headed inland eastwards and past Namibia’s highest mountain the Brandberg mountain (2,606m above sea level). This is the land of the Herero people and we met several women in their traditional dress, the large (almost Victorian) style dresses looked very odd to be wearing in sweltering heat. Their head dress was made into the appearance of cattle horns, as this group of people use cattle as currency (or did do traditionally).

We arrived at our camp in the evening, having spent most of the day travelling through the arid and almost desolate Damaraland countryside. At the camp we had an hour or so before sunset and there were some very nice birds around including bare-cheeked babblers, pale-winged starlings, red-billed francolins and familiar chats. Martin set up his camera traps around the camp site to see what we could get , if anything would visit us in the night.

Day 7        

Twyfelfontein

At breakfast this morning Martin checked his camera traps and we had had a visit from a Cape fox coming and sniffing around the remains of our campfire. As we packed up the camp we had some great sightings of birds including southern yellow-billed hornbills, Monterio’s hornbill, red-fronted lovebirds, grey louries, Ruppell’s parrot and pale-winged starlings. We then left the camp at around 08:30 and headed just the 4km to the wonderfully preserved bushman rock art of Twyfelfontein. This rock art is dated between 5,000-6,000 years ago and is remarkably well preserved and has helped scientists to understand the development of people in Namibia and the colonisation of Southern Africa by early tribes. This morning there were many hornbills, lovebirds and Ruppell’s parrots around all given a vibrancy of colour to the otherwise orange and blue landscape and sky.

When we arrived at Twyfelfontein we waited a short time until the next guided tour was available, in the information centre Martin spotted an endemic dassie rat. This rodent looks just like a rat in appearance but has a fluffy tail and bushy tip, the vegetarian dassie rat are usually seen amongst the rocks feeding on the tough grasses that live in the area. When our guide Bianca was ready we headed out towards the rocky escarpment and along the trail we saw and had great views of a couple of Damara ground squirrels and they foraged for seeds among the dry vegetation.

The first site we went to was an old ruined farm house from 1946, the name Twyfelfontein means doubtful fountain and there was a spring here (there still is although it runs shallower now) and that is the reason for the European farmers settling here in the 40’s. But the area and the water source was known long before the Europeans got here, the San people (who were the first people to colonise and inhabit Southern Africa) in this region are called Bushmen. It was these Bushmen who made the engravings here, by using quartz crystals on the softer sandstone they were able to make very detailed and informative drawings that are still recognisable and important culturally today. The first drawing we were taken to was a map, this was a very important map as it showed all Bushmen living around here and passing through where the water holes were, they had a key which also showed if the water hole was seasonally filled, permanent or now dry, depending on whether the circles were filled in, hollow or had a dot in the middle. Many of these water holes are no longer around, but this early mapping showed great intelligence, awareness of their environment and also long term communication in a cooperative way. These are all things that are not necessarily thought of immediately when thinking of early settlements and tribal people in Africa. But the sophistication of the drawings and people here gets even more impressive further along as the pictures of animals and tracks show an early school. These large slaps of sandstone were used by the elder hunters and tribal leaders to teach young boys the tracks of various animals and how to find them and hunt them. How to avoid lions and other dangerous animals. The level of detail is incredible and the subtle differences between black and white rhinos are also recognisable in the images. The tracks that were shown on this rock included lion, leopard, cheetah, hippo, rhino, elephant, giraffe, oryx, eland, kudu and human (it is unknown if the human foot was used for comparison or as a signature from the artist, As human feet are present on many of the rocks in the same place). Also drawn in good detail were ostriches, lizards and even penguins and seals. This is evidence of the Bushmen travelling long and far to the coast where they collected salt and brought it back, the salt was used to preserve their meat. Whether they traded with coastal people or had a monopoly on the salt we do not know, but these movements would have led to groups of people splitting off and forming villages and colonies throughout the desert and along the coast.

As we walked along and around the rock art we saw the resident troop of chacma baboons climbing up and down the rocks and towards the spring. Then we came to the most famous piece of rock art at this site and that is the strange lion-man picture. The half man half lion, carrying an antelope is believed to represent a shamanistic transformation ritual. Further on we came to a dassie rat feeding very close to the road. Bianca also showed us the Bosia albitrunca tree which is used by the San people (and always has been) for a cure against diarrhea. But the tree has other uses the roots are used to make a coffee, the berries are sweet and used for perfume so the tree was a very useful tree to the San people around here.

Carrying on back towards the visitor centre we had great views of an endemic male Namibian rock agama. This bright coloured lizard was seen basking in the sun on a wall. We then loaded back into the vehicle and headed through the deserts and canyons of Damaraland on our journey north and to the border town of Epupa. Along the way we had great views of a male and 2 female ostriches along the road. But the wildlife highlight for the day was an adult male desert elephant walking from the desert and crossed the road just behind us. To see a wild desert elephant outside of a protected area is fantastic and one of the reasons that Namibia is a conservation hotspot for African wildlife. The country has the highest populations of many species outside of protected areas including the black rhino and African bush elephant (here of course known as the desert elephant and they have longer legs which allows them to walk further and more efficiently as they have to cover more ground in search of food and water. In fact the desert elephants of Namibia are the tallest elephants in the world). We watched as the elephant walked across the road and to a small spring.

We had lunch in the small town of Palmwag and then crossed the old animal disease control line. This countrywide fence was introduced in the 40’s to protect the livestock in the south from the wild animals in the north, in an attempt to stop the spread of bovine TB etc. This is controversial and probably doesn’t work to the extent that the it costs so much to maintain. After crossing the line we started to see lots more wildlife including a huge herd of springbok, lots of mountain zebra and giraffes all within 100m or so of the road. We had a good sighting of two female and 1 male mountain zebra very close to the road. This species of zebra is the largest and also nearly endemic as there are also small populations in South Africa and Angola, but the vast majority of the population occurs in Namibia. We also had views of greater kudu very close to road, they were surrounded by the very toxic (and deadly) euphorbia damarana bushes. This plant is the dominant plant species in the Namibian arid environments. The only two mammals in the world that can eat this plant and not die are greater kudu and black rhinos.

In the late afternoon we arrived at the Khohab Community Campsite, the campsite was located on the ridge overlooking a small section of riparian forest and a seasonal river. When we were there the river was a large stream and we decided to go down and take a walk to see if we could see anything. This stream is one of 6 springs that originate in the hills nearby and give the name Sesfontein to the area (meaning six-fountains). Along the stream we found lots of leopard tracks, some old and some recent. The forest and surrounding hills is perfect habitat for leopards. We saw some birds around such as Ruppell’s parrots, African palm swifts, rock pigeons and three-banded plovers. As the sun began to set we returned to the camp and had our dinner, Martin set up the camera traps and hoped for a visit from the leopard.

Day 8        

Epupa Falls

This morning at breakfast Martin checked the camera traps and as well as a domestic dog we had a visit from a common small-spotted genet during the night.

We then headed north to the Angolan border and the Kunene River which forms the border in the north-west of the country. At our particular destination we would be where the Kunene River funnels through a narrow gorge and creates the Epupa Falls. The fall is 37m in height and spread out over 1.5km, there are many isolated pools and the amount of endemism in the river is huge, in fact the majority of the freshwater fish and amphibian species known from Namibia are found here. The area is also home to the iconic and charismatic indigenous group of people, the Himba. They are internationally known for painting their bodies in an ochre mud mix and creating mud caked dreadlocks. We would spend time with a traditional (not staged) village tomorrow. But we had been seeing Himba women in their traditional clothing throughout the day. Particularly when we stopped in Opuwa for a supermarket visit.

The area we entered and where Epupa is located is now called Kaokoland and in large parts has been given back to the Himba people to live their lives in their traditional ways. Many of the people here have also established community conservation concessions and there are more wild rhinos in this unfenced region of Namibia than outside of any national park in the world. Also around this region are the Herero people, the Himba and Herero were part of the same ancestral tribe, however one group were heavily influenced by western clothing and culture and they eventually developed into the Herero and the Himba stayed more true to their ancestral style. When we stopped for lunch we shared it with some long tailed and very confident Meyer’s starlings.

After we arrived at the campsite (which was right on the river and just over the other side Angola), we spotted some wonderful birds including dozens of African palm swifts and little bee-eaters, blue-bearded bee-eaters, African golden weavers and African red-eyed bulbuls. We also had a very young Nile crocodile basking on some reeds just next to our campsite and after showering we had our dinner and relaxed with the soothing sound of the river and waterfall behind us.

Day 9        

Epupa Falls

This morning was a little later start of 9am as we would have to wait for the Himba people in the villages to wake up and go about their morning rituals and ablutions before we would come and visit them. This morning was a little overcast and we even had some rain as we drove to the village. We also brought with us bags of maize meal, salt, ochre paste and flour. As these are fully working villages they appreciate food and materials that are used in their daily life instead of payment which they would not be able to do much with as they are so remote from shops.

When we arrived at the village we briefly spoke to a man, he turned out to the brother of the chief, the chief was not at the village at the moment and the brother had only recently left his village and arrived here. He pointed us in the direction of a women who was the chiefs newest wife and therefore the most senior people in the village. As we were introduced to her and she began to show us around the village one of the chiefs other brothers arrived. He was younger and spoke very good English, speaking to him he told us that he was in college in Opuwa but left and came back to his village to help his family. Very noble but clearly frustrating to him as he has to forgo his education and presumably the only way he would leave this way of life and enter the ‘modern’ world. As we walked around the village and the various huts, we were shown the boma where the livestock (mostly goats), their raised store rooms which are designed to keep rodents out as well as some of the huts in which the many wives of the chief live. The traditional way of life is for the various wives to cook meals for the chief who then decides who to eat with and spend that night with. We were also shown and told about their traditional crafts, clothing, the cooking of maize, marriages, ochre paste and also their way of washing.

As they live in a part of the world that is so devoid of water they cannot wash with water. They also cover their bodies with a paste that protects them from the sun as well as biting insects, but it also means that they need to keep their skin clean. So they have devised a very clever way, they use scented smoke to wash themselves. By using camphor smoke in a pyramidal frame underneath their loin cloth / skirt, they remove any impurities from the skin and also apply a nice aroma to their skin. This is also how they wash their clothes, after washing themselves they leave their clothes on the frame over the fire and allow the smoke to remove dirt and any insects / parasites. After a few hours we left the village and headed back to the camp.

We had lunch at the cam

p and looking out over to Angola we saw a troop of Malbrouk monkeys coming down to the river to drink. Then after lunch we took a walk around to the waterfalls. As we were in the dry season the waterfall and river were very low and we were able to walk on the rocks that during the wet season are covered with a torrent of water and make the waterfall look like a mini Victoria Falls which a horseshoe shaped cascade. However at this time of year the waterfall is more just funnelled through a narrow gorge. Also around the rocky canyon were some small and stumpy baobab trees. We stood and watched the sun getting lower and lower in the sky at the waterfall. The afternoon was very relaxing today and our last wildlife were the many African palm swifts, two booted eagles, bee-eaters at the river and during the twilight a pair of Dent’s horseshoe bats.

Tomorrow we would head to the wildlife capital of Namibia of Etosha so we had an early night ahead of a long drive tomorrow.

Day 10      

Etosha National Park

This morning we had breakfast 6:30am and then left at 7:00am; as we were leaving we heard the distinctive call of an African fish eagle but the bird itself remained hidden from view. We then drove back south and to the town of Opuwa where once again we stocked up on water and snacks before heading east and into the centre of Namibia and towards one of the largest and iconic national parks in the whole of Africa, Etosha. We would be entering the park on the west gate and heading to Okaukuejo Camp, this camp has a world renowned floodlit waterhole which is an aggregation site for black rhinos (amongst other species) and is probably the most reliable place in the world to see this species. Along the way we spotted several Damara dik-diks and had great views of a female steenbok with her fawn. These two small antelope species are quite numerous in the bushveld that is present in a lot of central north Namibia around the great Etosha Pan.

It is this huge 20,000km2 salt pan that gives Etosha its name. In the local language Etosha means great white place. The day was quite overcast the this reduced the temperature to a more comfortable level as we drove the several hundred kilometres towards the park. We had lunch on the border of the park and then crossed back over the animal disease control line and entered the park at around 13:45. Almost as soon as we entered the park the wildlife started to appear on all sides of the vehicle, mostly giraffes, oryx, springbok and Burchell’s zebra (sometimes called plains zebra), this is the most common species of zebra and is found throughout Southern and Eastern Africa.

We arrived at the first of many water holes (mostly man made as a means of providing year around water as the animals can no longer conduct their huge migrations around the country when the water is all dried up in certain areas). This means of environmental control may not seem very efficient or ‘leaving nature to its own devised’ but with so little free space for wildlife to inhabit in our modern world it is now essential for us to help them where we can. At this water was a very large number of African white-backed vultures but also a bateleur eagle was among them, Burchell’s zebra and hartebeest.

Driving further around we came across greater kudu and blue wildebeest browsing and grazing respectively until we came to another water hole which had a pair of eland, large herd of zebra as well as ostriches, hartebeest a black-backed jackal and a pair of male elephants. The elephants were quite distant and so we decided to try and third waterhole. The elephants in Etosha often look very pale or almost white, this is because of the salt encrusted clay that is found in most of the park and especially around the waterholes is what the elephants use to cover themselves in to stay cool and protect from the UV rays of the sun. When the mud hardens it looks white, giving the appearance of the proverbial white elephant. At the third waterhole we saw (as was to be expected by now) many Buchell’s zebra as well as hartebeest, springbok and 2 oryxs. As we had now seen these species lots already today and we still had a fair way to travel until we reached our camp we decided to move on and hit some more waterholes and try and find a predator or closer elephants or maybe a rhino. The fourth waterhole produced a male lion, resting near the edge of the water. Many zebra and springbok were standing off and waiting for the lion to move away so they could have a drink. Clearly coming down to this waterhole and finding out they cant drink must be quite demoralising. A few male zebra risked the lion and came closer but before they got to the edge of the water (on the opposites side from the lion) they stopped. Their nerves getting the better of them and they left. Also around this waterhole was another black-backed jackal; this species being more confident than the zebra and springbok (probably due to the fact that only a really really desperate lion would take on such a small prey animal) and came to the water to drink; as well as a tawny eagle.

Carrying on through the park we arrived at the camp at around 17:00 and with the sun setting in about 1.5 hours we decided to stay in the camp and head to the waterhole before dinner. As we arrived there we saw a giraffe having a drink from the waterhole, as well as a small pack of jackals. Out of the zebra, giraffe, blue wildebeest, blacksmith lapwings, various dove and sandgrouse species, jackals and oryx around the waterhole. It was the jackals that provided the most entertainment. We watched as one of the jackals came very close to the wall (protecting the humans in the camp from the animals outside) and opportunistically killed a lapwing. We left the waterhole for a couple of hours to freshen up and explore the facilities of the camp and when we came back to the waterhole an hour or so later a male and female lion had arrived. Both lay on the far side of the waterhole and were quite hard to see in the failing light. It wasn’t until the male got up and moved to lie down next to the female that we even noticed there were two of them. In one of the nearby large acacia trees a pair of tawny eagles had a nest and could be seen flying in and out of the tree until it became too dark and the eagles settled down for roost.

Before dinner we watched as a small family group of zebra came down towards the water having not noticed the lions. We watched but the lions ignored them completely and then we saw the moment the zebras must have caught the scent of the lions and they froze. Their whole demeanour changing and they slowly backed off away from the water and stood around 50m away staring in the general direction of the very well hidden lions. Whether they could see them we could not tell, but it was obvious that these lions had mating and not food on their minds as they paid no attention to the zebras at all.

We then left the waterhole and went for our dinner, we came back afterwards and the nightshift at this particular waterhole belongs to black rhinos and elephants. We had one adult female rhino there when we arrived, she was very close to the wall and allowed for excellent photography as well as sightings as he scratched on rocks and lay down to try and sleep. Also around were a family of giraffes, unlike the rhino the giraffes were obviously more nervous after dark and seemed to be on edge more. They took a long time to come down to the river and get into position (the most vulnerable position a giraffe can be in) and drink; as they did drink a second rhino came to the waterhole. This was immediately noticed by the first rhino despite her eyesight being too poor to see the rhino. The scent or ultra sound communication must be going on between the pair. We watched as the rhinos stayed on opposite sides of the waterhole from each other and then a large male elephant arrived and headed straight to the water, he was followed a short while later by a smaller male elephant. Watching the interactions between these two elephants was fascinating as the younger male was clearly learning the ways of a solitary bull elephant and copying (almost perfectly) everything the older male did. They approached the first rhino who quickly moved out of the way whilst snorting angrily. We had such great views of the elephants as they drank.

Over the next hour 6 more black rhinos arrived, whilst many of them stayed on the far side of the waterhole and it was a little dark and distant to see behaviour, it is becoming very apparent that this species (once thought to be completely solitary) does enjoy social interaction and their vocal repertoire is testament to their range of communication. Even though we are yet to understand their meaning the waterholes of Etosha are now regarded as incredibly important places for the transfer of information and also potential mate finding locations for black rhino populations. This may be an artefact of the increased level of permanent waterholes here due to human involvement but with so few large populations of black rhinos remaining we do not know if this normal or not in other circumstances. All we know is that 8 black rhinos, 3 lions, 4 elephants and a whole host of other species our first afternoon and evening in Etosha was a fantastic success and one we hoped would continue all day tomorrow.

Day 11      

Etosha National Park

We left the camp at 6am and watched an incredible sunrise over the flat expanse of the Etosha plains. Quite early on we found two spotted hyena walking parallel with the road, presumably heading back to their den after a hunt last night. Just a little further on from the hyena we found a large male black rhino covered in half dried mud, feeding just at the side of the road. We parked up and watched as the rhino feed on the thorny bushes that fringed the road and then scent marked, spraying his urine over a communal rhino latrine, he then rubbed his forehead and horns vigorously on the ground. Presumably to cover himself in his own smell to entice or excite female rhinos. The rhino then carried on feeding for a while and relaxed and headed deeper into the bushes.

We carried on towards a couple of waterholes, a black-backed jackal ran across the road and shortly after we noticed a few vehicles parked along the road we also stopped and found a male and female lion lying under some short bushes. This could have been the same mating pair as we saw at our waterhole yesterday evening but we didn’t get very good views yesterday in the evening light to identify the individuals. As these two lions were just lying down and seemed to have no intention of moving we moved on and had close up views of a lesser kestrel as well as male and female white-bellied korhaans and then a lone male ostrich. This ostrich was flashing his flushed pink shins, when the shin scales flush with blood and turn pink the male is in full mating mode and looking for a female. As we carried on driving we found a female steenbok feeding and digging in the ground for roots.

We then arrived at a lookout over the vast Etosha pan and were in look as three black dots materialised into a pair of female lions and their male. What induced them to walk into this vast expanse of nothing we will never know but watching them walk out from the flat and desolate pan and into the scrub was fascinating. They were clearly looking for shade and headed straight to the first large enough bush and lay down underneath, unfortunately this meant they were out of sight for us and so we carried on.

Next to the road we had excellent views of a kori bustard, in fact over the next 2-3 days we saw a

huge number of kori bustards. Further on we found a huge mixed herd of zebra, wildebeest and springbok feeding together on a grassy plain. At our next waterhole we found a dead elephant, the carcass was very fresh and had no signs of predation or even scavenging. It must have been from last night, whilst all wildlife including elephants must die, it is unusual to see such a huge animal dead. The carcass had already attracted one African white-backed vulture and 3 black-backed jackals however neither of these animals are able get into the carcass because of the tough skin. They are waiting patiently for lions or spotted hyenas to come along and open up the carcass. Also around the waterhole but independent of the elephant were many kori bustards and blacksmith lapwings.

We carried on towards another waterhole and Elago very skilfully spotted a cheetah resting underneath a bush, it was not a great view in all fairness and the cheetah slunk down for a sleep and went completely out of sight. As the sun was now very high in the sky we didn’t hold any hope for the cheetah moving within the next 3-4 hours so we carried on and went back to the camp for lunch. Just before we arrived back at the camp we found a male and female pied crow in a nest right next to the road.

Our last sightings of the morning game drive were a pair of elephants; bathing in water, mud and dust; springbok, zebra, giraffe and greater kudu.

After lunch we left the camp once again and headed out, the time was 16:00 and the conditions were very good for wildlife. We arrived at the first waterhole and there was a small bachelor group of elephants caking themselves in the white mud of a waterhole. This group of 3 elephants included one very old and massive bull who bullied the other two elephants to get prime position at the waterhole.

Leaving these elephants we went to see if the mating pair of lions from this morning had moved, they hadn’t moved far, so we didn’t stay around for long but we were able to see that this male was quite young, probably around 4 years old. It could well be the first time he had been able to mate before. Which would explain why he didn’t seem to read the females behaviour when she seductively walked over to him. We then carried on further and found another young male lion sleeping under a bush next to a waterhole we didn’t have great views and the lion was fast asleep so we left him and came to a lesser kestrel inside the pied crow nest we had seen earlier. Whether there were eggs and chicks in the nest there is almost certainly none anymore.

The sun was almost at the horizon now and everyone has to be back at the camp for sunset or risk being locked out and fined. Once we arrived back we had a while to relax before we would have a night drive conducted with the national park authorities. As we relaxed Martin and Joe walked to the shops and Joe spotted a Cape serotine bat lying on the path, Martin ran back to the camp and collected Elago’s thick gloves and picked it up. Whilst it looked close to death on the path and was lucky one the resident jackals didn’t pick it up or it wasn’t stood on by the tourists using the path. However as soon as Martin picked up the bat the bat bit hard into the gloves (with bat being big vectors of rabies worldwide the gloves were essential). But as well as biting the bat started to flap and so Martin quickly released it. It had been very windy today and it was most likely the bat had been blown from one of the many roosts under the thatched roofs of the buildings.

On the night drive we saw many of the same animals that we had seen throughout the last day and a half including zebra, springbok, steenbok, blue wildebeest as well as a huge male elephant sharing a waterhole with a male black rhino. Watching the rhino and elephant at the waterhole we saw a female black rhino arrive with a baby rhino. The baby was estimated at around 4 years old and the mother had a standoff with the elephant. They both threatened each other, the elephant with trunk held up, ears straight out and rigid legged stance and the rhino with snorting and head held high posture. Both drink at the waterhole and then the female and baby rhino moved off and to avoid going closer to the elephant they moved a little too close to the male who chased them off with nervous coughing into the bush. The speed that the rhinos moved over the rocky substrate was incredible.

As all of the animals had now moved off so did we and we quickly came to 4 more rhinos including a male with huge horns and a female and her baby (estimated at 3 years old) as we carried on we found a bat-eared fox and many Cape hares before a pride of around 9 female lions started a hunt parallel with our vehicle. We watched as the lions split up with some going off around the back of the herd of zebra (who could tell that something was happening but they could not pin point where the danger was coming from and so they stayed stationary. The lioness who was going to be the lead and start the chase and try and direct the zebra to where the other lionesses had positioned themselves came very close to our vehicle and it became apparent that she using us as cover to sneak closer to the zebras. We watched the beginnings of the hunt until they went too far and our spotlight would not reach them anymore so we headed back towards the camp, with the same mating pair of lions being the last sighting of the night.

Day 12      

Etosha National Pak

Today after breakfast we packed up the camp and headed across Etosha towards our second camp, Namatoni. This used to be a fort that was originally used by the Germans to fight against the local people and establish the presence of farmland on their traditional hunting lands. It was then used by the police to control the animal disease control line. It is now a restaurant at the campsite. But before we would get there we had lots of wildlife watching to do.

Our first waterhole had a different mating pair of lions at it, most lions in Africa do not have strictly defined breeding seasons but here the vast majority of mating goes on in October so that when the cubs are born in January it coincides with the birthing period for springbok, zebra and wildebeest as this is the onset of the first wet season in Central Namibia. Driving further along we had distant views of a black rhino as well as great views of a male ostrich and female steenbok. We visited the waterhole with the dead elephant and there has been significant scavenging last night. But there still didn’t seem to be an easy way into the carcass for the 2 African white-backed vultures and 7 black-backed jackals and they all still stood off the carcass.

We left and went to a new waterhole, this one being vegetated in comparison to other waterholes and home to a large number of springbok, a small group of greater kudu including very impressive adult males, 2 black-faced impala, many species of birds (including cattle egrets, blacksmith lapwings, kori bustards, Cape teals, double-banded sandgrouse, Cape crows, Namaqua sandgrouse, African jacanas, common sandpiper, plain martins and lesser moorhens) and an African fish eagle. The reason for the increased amount of vegetation here is that this is a spring and there is even the 100 year old remains of a farm house that was built here by European colonisers to take advantage of the spring.

Leaving this waterhole we found a pair of secretary birds foraging, they were a little distant and didn’t allow for great sightings. But a little closer and giving us great views were male and female kori bustards. We then went to the Etosha Pan, there is a little area where you can drive a short distance into the pan and get out, the heat was tremendous and the sight of the vast expanse of white stretching to the horizon is very strange.

This is arguable the most inhospitable place on Earth, miles and miles of literally nothing, no water, no plants just rock and crystallised salt as far as the eye can see. Leaving here we carried on in the general direction to Namatoni Camp and had great views of an oryx and two calves feeding very close to the road. There were many blue wildebeest and zebra in this section of the park, they were all moving together in a huge procession. Not quite the huge migrations of East Africa but still several hundred of each species all moving off in the same direction. Their never ending search for food. Before we reached the camp and had lunch we also saw a male and female ostrich with their chicks and our last sighting being a male elephant walking away from us.

After lunch we left the camp and straight away we saw no less than 4 giraffes feeding within the first 100m of road after leaving the camp entrance. At the first waterhole we were very lucky with 3 spotted hyena, many giraffes, a small group of black-faced impala, basking helmeted terrapins, a flock of Egyptian geese, 3 marabou storks, 2 blue cranes and a wonderful view of a lappet-faced vulture. One of the giraffes was a very old gnarly male feeding right next to the road and we stayed with him for a while as he fed. Further along we watched some zebra foals in a mixed zebra and wildebeest herd.

We then found our first Etosha warthog foraging on its knees trying to dig up roots and tubers. Around the warthog was a large flock of guinea fowl moving nosily as they do along the tree line. We then arrived at the next waterhole and found a group of female elephants drinking, the group included various youngsters including 1 2 year old and older calves around 4 years old. Also around this waterhole was a large clan of hyena, there was 11 in total although at first not all of them were viewable. They seems to be bloodied and were probably sleeping off a good feed from the night before, coming to the waterhole to drink before sleeping. As the elephants finished up drinking and started to wash themselves; then from the bush a small herd of zebra arrived and wanted to drink but remained nervous of the hyenas. The zebras soon relaxed as they realised that the hyenas were definitely not in a hunting mode and they moved in to drink. One hyena, the dominant female of the clan and heavily pregnant, got up and came down towards us and went to bathe in a small pool close to our vehicle. 2 more hyenas followed her and they all lay down in the water to cool off.

As we watched this congregation of wildlife at the waterhole a pair of Wahlberg’s eagles flew down and perched on a tree close to the waterhole. We stayed here until the sun started to set and then headed back, and saw a female Damara dik-dik, 2 more hyenas and also 3 more black rhinos.

It was a great end to a long day in the park. Just like in the other camp Namutoni has a floodlit waterhole too, and after dinner Joe and Rhoda went down to the waterhole and whilst it was quite quiet they were not there very long when 15 lions walked past in single file, silhouetted on the far side of the waterhole they came one after the other and disappeared into the night. As they walked out of sight they started to road, in response came the calls of a large hyena clan. The calls back and forth were amazing and definitely made for interesting listening as the night went on.

Day 13      

Etosha National Park

Early this morning we headed out of the camp and straight away came across a honey badger patrolling along the savanna parallel to the road. At the first waterhole we visited we found 4 spotted hyena, 4 kori bustards, a black-backed jackal, it was very interesting to see the interactions between the jackal and hyena, with the jackals keeping to the back ground. As the morning light reached its perfect level we watched a black rhino feeding around 30m away from the road. We watched as he browsed the acacia bushes until he walked too far into the bush, we then left and visited a new waterhole. Here we found 10 spotted hyena on a springbok carcass, there was only a little bit of hide and some of the bones left of the carcass, this was remarkable considering that a springbok is not a great size for 10 hyenas. We sat and watched the hyenas for a long while and began to see then social interactions between the clan members. The matriarch took prime position on the carcass with the other females close to her and the males all on the periphery of the group, around 5-10m away. We visited this waterhole in the early morning as it is particularly good for leopard sightings inside Etosha, however with 10 hyenas around it was highly unlikely that a leopard would come out with this many threats occupying the waterhole. The resting hyenas were so well camouflaged against the dark rocks around the waterhole that a steenbok walked up to the water without the slightest hesitation, until it almost walking into one of the hyena, then one of the hyenas lifted its head, the rest followed and the steenbok bolted. This got all of the hyenas attention, a couple stood up, obviously fighting their natural instinct to chase and the rest all had their ears erect and pointed in the direction of the escaping steenbok. And 11th hyena came to join the group, this was a smaller individual than the ones around the carcass and was most likely a very low ranking male. After this newcomer had settled there seemed to be something in a nearby bush that tweaked the attention of the hyenas and they all stared intently at the bushes but we couldn’t make anything out.

After around 40 minutes some of the hyenas moved off, carrying as much meat as they could find on the small carcass, the newest comer to the group actually took the largest. A sure sign that this individual had been at the den all night whilst  the group hunted, probably guarding the pups and was just now able to catch up with the rest and feed.

We also left at this point and drove through the mosaic of savanna and bushveld, we had distant views of a female black rhino and her 5 year old calf as well as great views of a pair of elephants near a huge herd of springbok. At the next waterhole we found 3 huge adult male elephants, one of the males was very old, scarred, wrinkled (more than most elephants), his ears were tatty around the edges and his tusks were chipped, cracked, broken, stained, gnarly and weathered. They were all covered in dry mud and the oldest individual could be over 60 years old.

Further on we found another large bull elephant walking (seemingly guarded by a huge single file procession of springbok) and we parked up and watched as the springbok led the elephant towards us, next to the vehicle and across the road to the rear. This elephant looked like the bodyguard for this special herd of springbok and we enjoyed watched the antelope walk peacefully on and the elephant behind feeding and walking and kicking up roots to get the most out of every mouthful as he walked through the grasslands.

We then drove to a very large waterhole and found a huge amount of life here, including a bachelor herd of greater kudu, a breeding herd of black-faced impala, large herd of oryx, 2 wildebeest, 1 elephant, 2 hyenas soaking in the water with more resting in the shade of the bushes on the periphery of the waterhole and of course the huge numbers of birds here including kori bustards, blacksmith lapwings, common sandpipers, Cape teals and Namaqua doves. We watched as the different species interacted, the wildebeest duelling with the oryx for access to the water, the kudu being dominant over the impala and the oryx (and presumably all of the antelope in the park with the exception of the eland). The impala seemed to be the only antelope species that was overly wary of the hyenas and avoided going anywhere near them. As we waited and watched a pair of giraffe came down to the join the menagerie as did some springbok. Another hyena left the bushes and came down to bathe, but one of the oryx wasn’t having this and lowered its impressive straight horns in the direction of the new hyena and forced the predator around to the other side of the waterhole.

The sun was now very high in the sky and after this waterhole and the incredible variety of species here we decided to call it and head back for a few hours in the camp, rest, relax and have lunch before our afternoon trip back into the park. Back at the camp we were invaded by a large group of very hungry and not afraid banded mongooses. We had a family close to us who fed them and despite our best efforts and the efforts of the camp staff many people have obviously fed these mongooses as they know exactly what to look for. Also around the camp were many birds including grey louries, Cape glossy starlings, African red-eyed bulbuls and red-billed francolins which were all very common.

This afternoon we went back into the park at 4pm and very quickly spotted a pair of jackals in a den, a male steenbok next to the road and then at our first waterhole of the afternoon we found a sleeping male lion, this male was quite young and probably no older than 2.5 years. He lay around 25m from the waterhole and didn’t even seem to notice the small group of male giraffe walking down and almost into him. The scent hit the lead giraffe like he had just walked into a wall and he turned back and over the next 20-30 minutes kept looking over in the general direction of the lion, but as the lion had not moved and was quite difficult to see (especially from above) th an appearance and unfortunately not so we headed on to another large waterhole. Once again (like this morning) we were treated to a huge mixed aggregation of wildlife. All of the animals we saw this morning were present but with two notable additions, a pair of warthogs and a huge white rhino. When the rhino arrived his appearance cleared the waterhole, clearly the poorly sighted rhino, with its charge first ask questions later policy, no wildlife was willing to stay around whilst the white rhino was drinking. Only the warthogs and kori bustards remained and held their ground against the rhino. There were many kori bustards again and we saw one of the males displaying, inflating himself and puffing out his feathers and straining his neck straight upwards as much as possible as he looked to impress the couple of females around the waterhole. However the females were not very interested and just walked off away from the poor male.

We stayed here and watched the white rhino until the sun started to set, on our way back to the camp we saw so many giraffes feeding on the side of the road or nearby to it as well as 3 more warthogs all ploughing the ground in search of food. Back at the camp as we settled down for dinner, our last in the wonderful park of Etosha we heard the lions and hyenas calling back and forth again. The everlasting war between the two top predators of Africa was to have yet another battle somewhere in the deep and dark African night.

Day 14      

Waterberg Plateau National Park

This morning at around 8am we left the camp and started our journey out of Etosha and south into the central plateau of Namibia. As we drove out of the park we saw lots of Damara dik-diks as well as black-faced impala and Burchell’s zebra. On leaving the park we were on main highways and after a brief stop for supplies and a couple of souvenirs off we went to the towering and imposing looking Waterberg Plateau. This table top mountain rises around 200m above the bushveld and with near vertical cliffs the plateau was seen as a perfect natural park where endangered and rare animals could be kept, bred and then released back into the other parks. This was the original idea in 1972 and since then the plateau has been a huge breeding centre for animals that are either rare and extinct in Namibia such as sable, roan, black & white rhinos and the Cape buffalo.

The buffalo particularly are important as they are TB free. Bovine TB is causing huge problems in Southern Africa with buffalo populations and many private reserves are being subsidised to raise TB free herds. This herd is massive and very important for the future of Namibian and Southern Africa’s buffalo populations. Along with these animals there are many species that were naturally present on the plateau such as baboons, brown hyena, leopards, klipspringer and other species have been introduced such as giraffes, zebra, wildebeest and hartebeest.

Whilst they are protected from poachers, lions and hyenas by the cliffs they are completely wild animals in a huge ecosystem some 405km2. We arrived at the camp at 1pm and as Moses prepared the lunch we explored the camp and amid the huge numbers of butterflies the great variety of birds was also present, such as a pair of nesting Ruppell’s parrots, many Burchell’s starlings, red-fronted lovebirds, African hoopoes, southern masked weavers, laughing & mourning doves, guineafowls and African red-eyed bulbuls. After lunch we joined an organised jeep safari onto the plateau.

The weather had set in a little by now and we had some rain as we drove up the steep road to the entrance gate of the plateau. Whilst on the plateau the view was stunning (although the rain and low cloud cover hindered how far we could see), and after a short briefing on the history of the park by the ranger we started. The first animal we saw was a male greater kudu, the wildlife in this very thick bushy park are more spooked than in Etosha, they see less vehicles and people and the habitat is denser so they feel more threatened and are less habituated to the presence of vehicles and people than in busier parks.

So most of the sightings we had here were not prolonged. But it was great to see a very different habitat and hopefully some new species for the trip. Next came a small group of buffalo, including many youngsters, running across the road in front of us. But a little further up 2 of the most stunning antelopes in the world came and crossed the road. The jet black glossy coat and huge scimitar curved horned of the sable antelope are instantly recognisable. This majestic antelope crossed the road and headed deep into the undergrowth, despite their size and colouration they disappeared without much difficulty. We then visited a waterhole with a hide built, when we got there a large herd of buffalo were there, they could hear and probably smell us and watched the hide intensely. We watched the buffalo for 15-20 minutes as they play fought, some of the younger males attempted mating, drank and scratched themselves on the trees and rocks. It was very interesting watchin

g the buffalo and their interactions together. As the buffalo began to leave, in single file a pair of giraffes came into the waterhole.

But we had to move on, so we climbed back on board the vehicle and headed further into the park. Along the cliffs that lined the eastern side of the park we found a troop of chacma baboons and in the bush below a solitary blue wildebeest, it was a little strange to see this usually very gregarious species on its own. But things were about to heat up a little with a distant roan antelope sighting and then a female and 5 year old calf white rhino. The rhinos were quite visible despite the thick bush and we watched as they walked and ate until they went too deep into the bush. A large herd of red hartebeest crossed the road in front of us and allowed for some great photography. We had not been very close to this antelope in Etosha so it was nice that they stayed so close for so long here.

On our way back out of the park we found a large and very old bull buffalo next to the road. When buffalo males get too old and lose a fight with a younger male they are evicted from the herd and spend the rest of their days either solitary, in small bachelor herds or on the outskirts of their former herd. This one seemed to be very old and tired (but a huge and impressive specimen) and definitely on his own. Our last sighting in the park came when 3 klipspringers crossed the road and stayed about 5m into the bush next to the road. This unusual antelope is a cliff dweller and has legs and hoofs designed for climbing and jumping along rocks and boulders as opposed to running in the flat grasslands. So it was a little unusual to see them so far from any cliffs and on the road.

After the descent out of the plateau and then driving back to the camp we saw a pair of black-backed jackals, many warthogs, black-faced impala, greater kudu all crossing the roads as well as a perched black-winged kite a male steenbok and a grey duiker before arriving at the camp and having our last evening meal prepared by Moses and out in the African bush.

Day 15      

Windhoek

Today is our last full day in Namibia and the morning was stunningly beautiful. The sunrise was golden and enchanting, the birds were out in force and we had the resident troop of baboons raiding various bins in the camp. It was all in all a great morning to cap a fantastic trip. Just before we left we also had a clan of banded mongooses patrolling the perimeter of the camp, waiting for people to leave so they can pick clean the campsite.

The drive back to the capital was not very interesting as we passed more towns and villages than the vast expanses of desert and rocky escarpments we had previously enjoyed. But Elago did take us to a wood carving market which was very interesting and full of some exceptional works of art. We were in Windhoek and checked into our rooms by 12pm and the rest of the day was just spent relaxing, repacking and getting ready for our flights home tomorrow.

Day 16      

Home  

This afternoon we all left the hotel and caught a taxi to the airport in time to catch our flight to Johannesburg, where Rhoda and Joe left Martin as we went our separate ways home.

Namaqua Chameleon – Namib Desert, Namibia

Species List

Mammals (* = heard or signs only)  

Common Name Binominal Name   October
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
1 Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus 1
2 Impala Aepyceros melampus ~95 57 ~85
3 Red hartebeest Alcelaphus buselaphus 1 45 ~25 1
4 Springbok Antidorcas marsupialis 1 6 ~70 55 21 ~340 100’s 100’s 100’s 6
5 Cape fur seal Arctocephalus pusillus 100’s ~100,000
6 Black-backed jackal Canis mesomelas 1 10 18 11 5 2
7 Heaviside’s dolphin Cephalorhynchus heavisidii 4
8 White rhino Ceratotherium simum 1 2
9 Malbrouck monkey Chlorocebus cynosuros 7
10 Blue wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus   ~200 ~210 ~50 87
11 Spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta * 2 18 25 *
12 Black rhino Diceros bicornis 8 9 6 3
13 Burchell’s zebra Equus quagga ~210 ~515 ~505 35 33
14 Mountain zebra Equus zebra 2 64
15 Congo rope squirrel Funisciurus congicus 1
16 Common small-spotted genet Genetta genetta CT
17 Giraffe Giraffa camelopardus 8 25 8 21 16 3
18 Roan Hippotragus equinus 1
19 Sable Hippotragus niger 2
20 Single-striped grass mouse Lemniscomys rosalia 4
21 Scrub hare Lepus saxatiis 5
22 African bush elephant Loxadonta africana 1 * 4 8 13 13
23 Damara dik-dik Madoqua kirkii 6 2 11
24 Honey badger Mellivora capensis 1
25 Banded mongoose Mungos mungo 11 12 5
26 Cape serotine bat Neoromicia capensis 1 1
27 Klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus 3
28 Oryx Oryx gazella 3 14 20 20 143 48 84
29 Bat-eared fox Otocyon megalotis 2
30 Lion Panthera leo 3 20 5 *
31 Leopard Panthera pardus *
32 Chacma baboon Papio ursinus 9 5 36 7
33 Dassie rat Petromus typicus 2
34 Common warthog Phacochoerus africanus 1 1 6 5 14
35 Steenbok Raphicerus campestris 1 3 3 3 7 8 2
36 Dent’s horseshoe bat Rhinolophus denti ~10 ~10
37 Pouched mouse Saccostomus campetsris 1
38 Meerkat Suricata suricatta 5
39 Common duiker Sylvicapra grimmia 1
40 Cape buffalo Synceros caffer ~40
41 Egyptian free-tailed bat Tadarida aegyptiaca ~10
42 Common eland Taurotragus oryx 2
43 Greater kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros 3 7 29 2 34 19
44 Cape fox Vulpes chama CT
45 South African ground squirrel Xerus inauris 1 1 1 2
46 Damara ground squireel Xerus princeps 1
47 Woosnam’s desert mouse Zelotomys woosnami 1

 Birds (* = heard or signs only)

  Common Name Binominal Name   October
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
1 Black sparrowhawk Accipiter melanoleucus 1
2 Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1 5
3 African jacana Actophilornis africana 2 1
4 Whited-quilled korhaan Afrotis afraoides 5 1 6 1
5 Rosy-faced lovebird Agapornis roseicollis 8 ~10 4 1 2
6 Eygptian goose Alopochen aegyptiaca 3 ~52 ~35
7 Cape teal Anas capensis 2
8 Red-billed teal Anas erythrorhyncha 4 4 4
9 Hottentot teal Anas hottentota 3
10 Blue crane Anthropoides paradisea 2 2
11 African pipit Anthus cinnamomeus 1 4 2
12 Little swift Apus affinis 1
13 Common swift Apus apus 2
14 Bradfield’s swift Apus bradfieldi ~50
15 Booted eagle Aquila pennata 2
16 Tawny eagle Aquila rapax 3 1 2
17 Grey heron Ardea cinerea 1 1
18 Kori bustard Ardeotis kori 1 10 19 18
19 Ruddy turnstone Arenaria interpres ~30 ~20
20 Marico flycatcher Bradornis mariquensis 1
21 Cattle egret Bubuclus ibis ~25 11 1
22 Yellow-billed oxpecker Buphagus africanus 4
23 Spotted thickknee Burhinus capensis 2 2
24 Red-capped lark Calandrella cinerea   ~100
25 Sabota lark Calendulauda sabota 1
26 Sanderling Calidris alba 2
27 Little stint Calidris minuta 1 ~10
28 Rufous-cheeked nightjar Caprimulgus rufigena 3
29 Freckled nightjar Caprimulgus tristigma 1
30 Familiar chat Cercomela familiaris 3
31 Karoo chat Cercomela schlegelii ~50 ~50
32 Tractrac chat Cercomela tractrac 1 7 13
33 White-browed scrub-robin Cercotrichas leucophrys 1
34 Klittitz’s plover Charadrius pecuarius 7
35 Three-banded plover Charadrius tricollaris 7 6
36 Marico sunbird Cinnyris mariquensis 1 1
37 White-bellied sunbird Cinnyris talatala 1
38 Greater spotted cuckoo Clamator glandarius 1
39 White-backed mousebird Colius colius 9
40 Feral pigeon Colombia livia ~25 ~25 ~10
41 Speckled pigeon Columba guinea 4 45 ~45 1
42 Lilac-breasted roller Coracias caudatus 2
43 Purple roller Coracias naevius 1 1
44 Pied crow Corvus albus 1 32 8 21 8 13 9 2
45 Cape crow Corvus capensis 1 8 9 1 4
46 Grey lourie Corythaixoides concolor 2 5 2 1 5 16 2
47 African cuckoo Cuculus gularis 1
48 Temminick’s courser Cursorius temminckii 1
49 African palm swift Cypsiurus parvus 12 ~20 29 ~60 25 3
50 Fork-tailed drongo Dicrurus adsimilis 3 1 8 12 10 15 12 2
51 Black-backed puffback Dryoscopus cubla 1
52 Black-winged kite Elanus caeruleus 3
53 Grey-backed sparrowlark Eremopterix verticalis ~150 10 2 2
54 Kalahari scrub-robin Erythropygia paena 1
55 Ruppel’s korhaan Eupodotis rueppellii 1
56 Lesser kestrel Falco naumanni 3 1
57 Greater kestrel Falco rupicoloides 2 1
58 Lesser moorhen Gallinula angulata 1
59 African white-backed vulture Gyps africanus 87 1 2
60 African fish eagle Haliaeetus vocifer * 1
61 Walhberg’s eagle Hieraaetus wahlbergi 2
62 Black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus 3
63 Pearl-breasted swallow Hirundo dimidiata 2
64 Burchell’s starling Lamprotornis australis 3 7 4
65 Meyer’s starling Lamprotornis mevesii 3
66 Cape glossy starling Lamprotornis nitens 3 58 ~100 ~350 ~120 ~100 11
67 Ruppel’s starling Lamprotornis purpuroptera 5
68 Common fiscal Lanius collaris 1 2
69 Red-backed shrike Lanius collurio 3 1
70 Southern grey shrike Lanius meridonalis 1
71 Lesser grey shrike Lanius minor 1
72 Hartlaub’s gull Larus hartlaubii 3 ~350 5
73 Cape gull Larus vetula 4 ~300 13 ~110
74 Marabou stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus 3
75 Black-bellied korhaan Lissotis melanogaster 3
76 Southern pale chanting goshawk Melierax canorus 1 1 1 3 2 1
77 European bee-eater Merops apiaster 3 4
78 Swallow-tailed bee-eater Merops hirundineus 8
79 Blue-cheeked bee-eater Merops persicus 4 6
80 Little bee-eater Merops pusillus 1 1 3
81 Red-tailed lark Mirafra africana 1 1
82 Eastern clapper lark Mirafra fasciolata ~10 29 2 3 ~20
83 African pied wagtail Motacilla aguimp 1
84 Cape wagtail Motacilla capensis 1 2 1
85 Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata 1
86 Ant-eating chat Myrmecocichla formicivora 1
87 Ludwig’s bustard Neotis ludwigii 1
88 Helmeted guineafowl Numida meleagris 8 1 76 ~200 53
89 Namaqua dove Oena capensis 7 6 1 4
90 Mountain wheatear Oenanthe monticola 1 1 1
91 Capped wheatear Oenanthe pileata 1
92 Red-winged starling Onychognathus morio 2
93 Pale-winged starling Onychognathus nabouroup 3 6 ~10 1 27 ~10 19 8
94 Southern grey-headed sparrow Passer diffusus ~35 6 4 ~20 ~150 100’s ~110 100’s 100’s 100’s ~25 ~40
95 Cape sparrow Passer melanurus 1 17 1 ~10
96 Great sparrow Passer motitensis 22 3
97 Great white pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus 2 ~55
98 Cape cormorant Phalacrocorax capensis 44  1000’s ~300
99 Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 13 16
100 Sociable weaver Philetairus socius ~50 ~30 ~150 100’s 100’s 100’s ~75
101 Greater flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus 200+ ~50
102 Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 6
103 African spoonbill Platalea alba ~100
104 Chestnut weaver Ploceus rubiginosus ~10
105 Southern masked weaver Ploceus velatus 2 1 1 12 2 100’s 2 1 6 8
106 African golden weaver Ploceus xanthops 13 11 1
107 Ruppel’s parrot Poicephalus rueppellii 2 2
108 Gymnogene Polyboroides typus 1
109 Black-chested prinia Prinia flavicans 1
110 Red-billed francolin Pternistis adspersus 1 2 10 4 3
111 Hartlaub’s francolin Pternistis hartlaubi 1
112 Swainson’s spurfowl Pternistis swainsonii 4
113 Double-banded sandgrouse Pterocles bicinctus 3 ~105 ~50 7
114 Namaqua sandgrouse Pterocles namaqua 6 ~103 ~50 ~10 8
115 Rock martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula 9 1 1 ~75 ~10 ~10 7
116 Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
117 African red-eyed bulbul Pycnonotus nigricans 17 ~22 7 2 14 21 12 5 1
118 Pied avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 12
119 Double-banded courser Rhinoptilus africanus 2
120 Bronze-winged courser Rhinoptilus chalcopterus 1
121 Plain martin Riparia paludicola ~20 ~20 ~50 ~25 ~10
122 Secretary bird Sagittarius serpentarius 1 1
123 Bare-winged babbler Spelaeornis troglodytoides 7
124 African penguin Spheniscus demersus 1
125 Laughing dove Spilopelia senegalensis 2 2 6 2 2 56 57 ~10 52 100’s ~180 ~300 ~100 ~150
126 Common tern Sterna hirundo ~10
127 Damara tern Sternula balaenarum ~50 ~50
128 Cape turtle dove Streptopelia capicola 10 2 ~10 9 ~25 13 31 1 1
129 African mourning dove Streptopelia decipiens 3 1 ~30 ~35 ~50 ~50 3
130 Common ostrich Struthio camelus 9 10 1 13 3 7 ~130 10 20 10 1
131 Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 1
132 South African shelduck Tadorna cana 2
133 Brown-crowed tchagra Tchagra australis 1 2 3 3
134 Batelur eagle Terathiops ecaudatus 4 1
135 White-backed duck Thalassornis leuconotus 2
136 Bradfield’s hornbill Tockus bradfieldi 1
137 Southern red-billed hornbill Tockus erythrorhynchus 1 1 1 1
138 Southern yellow-billed hornbill Tockus leucomelas 3
139 Monteiro’s hornbill Tockus monteiri 1 1 1
140 African grey hornbill Tockus nasutus 1
141 Lappet-faced vulture Torgos tracheliotos 1 1
142 Acacia pied barbet Tricholaema leucomelas 1
143 Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola 3
144 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia 1
145 African hoopoe Upupa africana 1 4 2
146 Red-faced mousebird Urocolius indicus 1 3
147 Magpie shrike Urolestes melanoleucus 3
148 Blacksmith lapwing Vanellus armatus 16 28 ~75 26
149 Crowned lapwing Vanellus coronatus 2 4

 Reptiles (* = heard or signs only)

  Common Name Binominal Name   October
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
1 Southern tree agama Acanthocercus atricollis 1
2 Namibian rock agama Agama planiceps 1 1 3
3 Periguey’s adder Bitis peringueyi 1
4 Namaqua chameleon Chamaeleo namaquensis 3
5 Nile crocodile Crocodylus niloctus 1 1
6 Ovambo tree-skink Mabuya binotata 1
7 Western three-striped skink Mabuya occidentalis 1 1
8 Palmato gecko Palmatogecko vanzyli 1
9 African helmeted terrapin Pelomedusa subrufa 3
10 Namaqua day gecko Phelsuma ocellata ~10
11 Kalahari tree skink Trachylepis spilogaster 1

 Amphibians (* = heard or signs only) 

14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
1 Okahandja toad Bufo hoeschi 1

 

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