Saturday, June 30, 2012

Namib Naukluft, 26 - 30 June

As our summer holiday this year we decided to head back to southern Africa, and do a tour of Namibia.We went the camping route, as there's really no alternative in Namibia, and my brother organised the itinerary. Namibia has a healthy selection of endemics, as well as a lot of fascinating wildlife, and it has been top of my list of must-visit countries for a long time. After driving to Windhoek via Botswana and the Trans-Kalahari Highway we headed south to the Namib-Naukluft N.P. camping outside Sossusvlei, and on the Kuiseb River at Homeb. We then spent a couple of days at Swakopmund, before travelling inland towards the Namibian escarpment.

There was a fair bit of general plains game outside reserves, mainly Springbok and Gemsbok, along with Rock Hyrax, Ground Squirrels and Black-backed Jackal. A Round-eared Elephant-Shrew near our camp was a lifer mammal. The birding was sparse but interesting, with highlights including endemics such as Dune Lark, Stark's Lark, Ruppell's Korhaan and Rosy-faced Lovebird. Other notable birds included Ostrich and Ludwig's Bustard. Sociable Weaver nests were numerous, as were Pale Chanting Goshawk on every second tree it seemed.

On the way inland we made a detour to Cape Cross to see the Cape Fur Seal colony. Between 80,000 and 100,000 seals are present year round, attracting a variety of predators, those we saw included Black-backed Jackal, Kelp Gull and a Giant Petrel spp. Also offshore were many Cape Gannets and several White-chinned Petrel.

One of the main target species in the Namib-Naukluft area is Dune Lark. It was elusive at first, but once I caught up with one it was very confiding.

This area of Namibia is said to have one of the last populations of genetically pure Ostrich, untainted by mixing with domestic stock.
Ruppell's Korhaan were common. While they can be cryptic, their habit of calling in a particularly raucous fashion every morning ensured we saw them daily in suitable habitat.
Stark's Lark. Surprisingly hard to locate on the gravel plains, particularly when time was a factor.

Female Grey-backed Sparrow-Lark, causing a brief identification challenge.
Sociable Weaver nest near our camp, a big one!
This Gemsbok posed very nicely at dune 45.
Zebra Pan one the way to Homeb. Very little water in this area, so any regular supply attracts game.

What I took to be a fight between two young male Cape Fur Seals. An excellent detour, and not as smelly as we'd been led to believe...

Springbok are ubiquitous throughout Namibia.

 Ground Squirrel, common throughout Namibia

Cape Gecko underneath the sink in the campsite ablution block.

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