Better finish off this post since I notice the pictures were uploaded months ago.
After crossing into Namibia, pre-lockdown, and a long drive, I race here for a quick look before a big exploration the next day.
Here’s my destination, dead centre on the track below, south of the town of Katima Mulilo, on the Zambezi river, across from Angola. It’s not a great town
I found this location from an article online. Helpfully the coordinates were included
And here’s a picture of N capreviensis, also found online. There are about 70 Nothobranchius species, from Sudan to DRC but mostly Tanzania. This is a recent find, and the most southerly. I’m pretty excited to find a male and photograph it
It was long after returning to Maun I found this large piece on the fish
Tomorrow I’ll walk from the road to see if the information we have is correct
The Google Earth of the location looks like this, with the coordinates being on that flat pan center right
The next day, walking through the area, I meet this family
And I recruit the kid (embarrassingly, I’ve forgotten his name) to show me any ponds he knows in the area, like this one
Me, soaking wet. It’s raining on and off
Here’s the pond at the coordinates. But there’s a problem: the visibility in the water is nearly zero due to the rains. We spend an hour or so netting randomly but catch nothing
I got attacked by leaches. Here’s my ankle. Because of the anti-coagulant in the bite I bleed for about 10 minutes
We spend the rest of the day exploring other ponds equally unsuccessfully.
So the 3300K drive over a couple of weeks, with this as the main event, hasn’t produced a fish. But any road trip is a good road trip. And I may have a new friend and fish hunting companion (with much greater skills than my own) when the borders reopen.
Next we head off to Divundu to check the water volume headed to the Delta. Divundu is extreme top left in this picture, with the Delta panhandle below the white line (the Botswana border)
Tourism has gone to zero as word of the coronavirus spreads, but we find this great lodge on the river
When I was here, late February, there was no water in Maun and hadn’t been since the previous April. So I asked around and found that the water here in Divundu, headed for the Delta from the Angolan highlands, was the highest it had been in over 10 years. So great news.
I hired a guide to take me to Popa Falls, just upstream
We parked on a small sand island
Coming back, little swifts were flying under the catamaran hull
One parked on the hull
Weaver nests over the water’s edge
The next day, February 21, we crossed back into Botswana at Mohembo.
The coronavirus screening nurse
And this now ubiquitous temperature thingy
At that time, we had no idea what was ahead of us here in Southern Africa. And I certainly didn’t know this would be the last border crossing I’d make in a while.
These are really bad photos, but I was chasing this animal around a large ‘garden’ in Gobabis, eastern Namibia, at night with no flash, just light from the house. And he moved fast.
But it’s the story of having seen it at all. I was very lucky. The people I was staying with, who live here, have never seen one. They live exclusively underground, so no idea what this fellow was doing above.
One of my email circles is a group of 3, and the subject of the mole rat has come up a bunch of times, really. One of us is a zoologist, and I’m keen on anything interesting, and the third is only very mildly interested in flora/fauna, and in particular he hates when the mole rat comes up, because he thinks they’re gross.
Here’s a picture from the web of a Naked Mole Rat, from its zone in Ethiopia/Somalia
As it turns out, my encounter was with a Damaraland mole rat.
Here I first see it, its moving fast!
I chase it
Senses me (it’s blind)
It stops, wheels around, and attacks:
Snapping at me
This teeth are very strange, they grow outside the mouth
For something only about 4″ long, it was fantastically angry
Damaraland mole-rats live in networks of tunnels, which they dig with their front teeth. The tunnels are 65 to 75 mm (2.6 to 3.0 in) in diameter, and may stretch for up to 1 km (0.62 mi) below the ground. They have no connection to the surface, although their presence can be inferred from dome-shaped molehills of excavated earth pushed up to the surface. As a result, the tunnels develop their own microclimate containing warm, moist air, with low oxygen levels.
OK. Some stuff on Namibia other than natural history. All of this could be inaccurate or wrong:
1. Government. Here’s another article from The Namibian newspaper. This is the story. It’s completely beyond belief. The private sector is as bad. When it comes to money, Namibia is the Wild West, but from everything I’ve heard, better than most. The BMW dealership is huge and the first stop for fast money, nearly all black. The current thing is Range Rovers. It is probably no exaggeration to say, if you can get in on it, you do, or are.
It’s meat. Sometimes they don’t even disclose what meat. Boring, but not quite as depressingly boring on the road as meat eating in South America. They’re big BBQ lovers, but without the creativity of the Americans
3. Namibia is the first and only entry on the list of countries I could live in. It’s largely a desert, not unlike the picture above, so you have to like that. There are no people here, I love that. The capital, Windhoek, feels like a big community, you know where everything is. Racially it’s peaceful. The same land redistribution laws are happening, and no white can get new land ownership anymore, Namibian or not, but you get the feeling that it’ll all work out (by comparison, very few think that things will work out in South Africa).
4.I had a friend here who I peppered with questions about the different ethnicities, or tribes. The Himba live in the extreme northwest where access is harder. Not many people venture to see them. I didn’t. Picture from the web
The Herero are incredible. Here’s lady, with the defining hat at a store in Windhoek
And another, on the right. More in the next post
The Ovambo are mighty (almost half the population) and the most westernized. Like South Africa (and I’m sure every country coming up), with the women it’s all about the hair and is fantastic. And they don’t want to talk about it beyond accepting a short complement. The anecdote here is that as young boys, brothers learned the hard way not to comment on their sister’s hair
The Nama are slightly disrespected as not as bright or hard working by the other tribes, yet accepted obviously as brothers and sisters. Being black is the thing, in a country with a colonial legacy
Then there are the “boers”. This is what blacks call whites with all the worst attributes of the least enlightened whites, as they see it, not necessarily these guys. I have seen some whites treat blacks like shit
And regular hard working originals
They learned to live off a difficult land. Here he’s showing me making table salt from raw salt he got from the coast
My apologies for all that being superficial. I’ll try harder.
5. Wifi (free) and cell phone coverage was excellent, considering the size and population
6. Cost. Namibia is expensive. Tourism, because the country is so easy in nearly every respect, is growing fast and everything is priced as if it’s a tight market. Some more competition in all areas would be good.
Safe, laid back. You wouldn’t wander off unwisely in Windhoek into the Katatura district, but that’s no different to any city on earth.
Here are some Gnus blocking our way. It rained at little overnight ahead of the big rains coming
A watering hole and we’re in luck. A giraffe. Later I decide it’s my favourite animal here
Then 2. They’re semi nervous. Almost skittish
Then a third. It was amazing
Some cool video
Later we came across some more wandering through scrub
Haha, happy times. The world record giraffe is 19′
This is the Plain’s Zebra. The ones we saw in Maltahohe were Mountain Zebra, which have a shiner coat and narrower stripes
Excuse the tourist chat in the video
This was a rare daytime sight. The Honey Badger
As with other mustelids of relatively large size, such as wolverines and badgers, honey badgers are notorious for their strength, ferocity and toughness. They have been known to savagely and fearlessly attack almost any kind of animal when escape is impossible, reportedly even repelling much larger predators such as lions. Bee stings, porcupine quills, and animal bites rarely penetrate their skin. If horses, cattle, or Cape Buffalos intrude upon a ratel’s burrow, it will attack them. They are virtually tireless in combat and can wear out much larger animals in physical confrontations.
Then a Cheetah and 2 cubs, untie shade under that tree, about 75′ away. You can’t see them here
We went on safari for 2 half days, then set off back to Windhoek. It’s super hot, about 38C. We’re not at our record yet of 40C from both India and Australia, but we will be soon.
Web didn’t need a Camelback in India because there was bottled water at road side frequently. But we do here because there is nothing roadside ever. It makes lunch harder. But the problem is the Camelback cuts down the jacket ventilation by a lot, so I’m feeling the heat more. I’m about to strap it to the duffle, the only downside being having to get off the bike to drink.
Here’s a Namibian rest stop in the shade. It’s unlikely we’ll see these any further north. Namibia is easy. In many ways it’s the easiest country we’ve ever toured in
Ok, so here’s a biggee:
About 150K south of Namutoni we stopped at this very small lake. It’s one of only 2 year-round bodies of fresh water in Namibia. The other is a few miles away, below in the post. Incredible.
So, the story.Namibia, despite being a dry and hot place without a great deal to support it, is teeming with life. There are tons of the usual stuff, but only one freshwater fish outside of the north and south border rivers. So one endemic fish only in the huge interior.
But it gets weirder. It’s the below, predictably a Cichlid. Tilapia guanasa.
It comes from this shitty little sinkhole, Lake Ginuas. A collapsed karst system. Now introduced to a few other places because it’s obviously critically endangered by the ridiculous solo entirety of its habitat. Toe expand it’s habitat, it was introduced to lake Otjikoto, which we visited
So how did it get here?
That’s the problem. The collapse happened millions of years after any changes to typography by erosion or connections to any river system. Plus there’s a clear 500 miles of almost desert around it. And it has no close relatives, it’s not a subspecies. It’s a one-off.
Here are schools of the big at the surface. Click to enlarge
There’s an old German pumping station above the Lake. It looks like it’s been 50 years since it last operated
Later that night I slept in a huge room in an otherwise beaten up lodge with doves flying over my head. There was a nest at the peak of the interior
I remember when I was very young there was a cartoon on TV or maybe in print that featured a Gnu that was very dim and the brunt of the other animal’s jokes. The Gnu is actually a Wildebeest. The funny thing is how small they are. About the size of a pony, maybe a little bigger. Here’s one, at Etosha
We’re headed here, the entry to one of the world’s great parks, the Namutomi Gate at Etosha Park
Etosha Park in northern Namibia. It surrounds this vast pan, 4760 square kilometres
The edge of the pan looks like this
It’s one of the largest features in southern Africa
Here’s the route from Windhoek, about 600 K’s.
And here’s how we set off, 2 days to the park. Orange, for the first time
Long, mostly straight, hot as hell
Overnight in Otjiwarongo
This looks like an African picture, I thought at the time
And into the Park
Gazelles all over the place at the lodge
The walk to my door
And packs of Mongoose everywhere. They hang out in groups of a dozen or so. They have a really weird walk/trot. The body is frozen horizontally and the little legs do this mechanical scurry underneath
The next day we’re into the park early. Motorcycles not allowed, obviously, as there are lions, leopards and cheetahs to eat you, Canadians first, because we’re the best looking, if you slow down or get off.
That’s why the park is famous. Africa’s wildlife is well represented here, with the exception of hippos and croc’s, because there’s no water outside of the waterholes.
Trivia: one of the world’s largest aquifers was discovered near here. A underground lake, 300 meters below the surface, 45 miles by 25 miles in size, under the driest country in Africa! An article I read said if tapped into, it could last Namibia 400 years. That’s lucky
There have been springbok everywhere we’ve been. They’re the common theme so far
They cool off a bit in the infrequent shade
OK, a few birds first:
This beautiful animal is the Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk
And this completely crazy animal is the secretary bird, the most desirable thing to see for the birder crowd. Famous as a snake hunter. I saw 2 of them. It’s quite large, about 20″ tall. It struts powerfully, with authority, and appears very focused
Secretary bird behaviour, from Wiki
Prey is often flushed out of tall grass by the birds stomping on the surrounding vegetation. It also waits near fires, eating anything it can that is trying to escape. They can either catch prey by chasing it and striking with the bill and swallowing (usually with small prey), or stamping on prey until it is rendered stunned or unconscious enough to swallow. Larger or dangerous prey, such as venomous snakes, are instead stunned or killed by the bird jumping onto their backs, at which point they will try to snap their necks or backs
Here’s a yellow billed hornbill
Really strange looking in flight. It eats insects and finds them by turning over leaves and rocks on the ground
This is the Black Northern Korhaan
Its claim to fame is being really noisy
Here’s a huge white rhino
It would be safer without the horn. Poaching is huge here. Rather than say controversial stuff on my blog, here’s a good, if shocking, analysis of the situation in The Namibian, the paper I’ve linked to before here