Bushmanland and the Namib Desert - February & March 2015
We spent much of February and early March 2015 in Bushmanland, the Orange River Broken Veld, Kgalagadi and the Namib-Naukluft Park. In part it was a photographic journey but also partly an induction of Kyle into the ways of Stuart On Nature.
We started on the farm of Izaak Nel, Jaagersplaas, in Bushmanland, then headed to Augrabies to seek out Klipspringer and the Dassie Rat (Noki), we were lucky with the former but the latter eluded us. A disturbing aspect in this park was how idiotic tourists have smashed up all but two of the geological features, known as “pop ups”, on Moon Rock. These “pop ups” are only known from this locality in South Africa and are therefore unique.
On the complaint note - visitors are also feeding the Broadley’s Flat Lizards (Platysaurus broadleyi) at the viewing platforms near the falls. These are omnivorous lizards, taking both animal and plant food, but they do not need supplements from human hands. An aspect that should be kept in hand by park staff? Vineyards are expanding eastwards on the park boundary drawing ever more water out of the Orange (Gariep) River. Then of course there is the threat of a hydro-electric plant just above the Augrabies Falls.
Then it was to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, mainly for the smaller species that occupy Mata Mata camp. We had hoped for Nossob as well but fully booked. Even booking for camping is required during what was once considered the low season. Roads are being upgraded throughout the park which until recently were acknowledged as some of the worst in South African national parks. We were lucky with Suricates, Yellow Mongoose and Southern African Ground Squirrels at Mata Mata.
After the smart office and immigration officer at Twee Rivieren, those crossing from South Africa to Namibia at Mata Mata were dirty and off-hand, respectively. Drought has spread its hand over much of Namibia but the occasional patch was green from isolated rain showers.
The Namib-Naukluft Park is well known to us as Chris lived for 3 years there in the 1970’s and we have visited it several times since. Our favourite camps, Groot Tinkas and Blutkoppie, in the east now hum to the sound of heavy machinery on new uranium mines within the park. The Swakop River campsite, once relatively pristine is now difficult to access as pipelines are being installed to serve the mines, one of which cuts through the plain famous for its concentration of Welwitschia plants. Thankfully, the camp at Mirabib (Anachanchirab), within Barn Owl flight distance of the Kuiseb River, was still undisturbed.
In the distance the red dune sea, highlighted at sunrise and sunset. In the park we were rewarded with incredible close encounters with Jameson’s Red Rock Rabbits.
There was also an obvious increase in the numbers of Hartmann’s Zebra- never before have we seen such numbers of this striped horse.
For the final leg we headed to the farm of Joe Gaugler, Neu-Dabis, close to the diminutive settlement of Helmeringhausen. Despite severe drought there was much action for the cameras, including rock-dwelling Black-tailed Tree Rats.
This rodent is closely tied to Camel Thorn trees and other acacias (Vachellia & Senegalia) but here they live in rock crevices, shared with Namaqua Rock Mice. Why they have taken on the role of cliff-dwellers is not known.