Dawn crept in across the desert plain catching the gossamer dust clouds in a golden light. The spellbinding scene cast a sense of elation as the wild horses drew closer. We were at the Garub viewing terrace following their trail in anxious anticipation as they neared the borehole water site. We’d heard that they were in reasonable shape after low rainfall had resuscitated the grass and foraging opportunities had improved. Small family groups kept together, and we could make out the figures of two small foals. Lone stallions came from different directions keeping a distance from the small herds.
They are recognised as a separate breed, the “Namibs” after 100 or so years of their blood lines merging through natural selection across the generations. Elegant and long-limbed, they’re handsome creatures. Living free on the plains of the eastern edge of the Namib-Nauklauft desert, has it’s challenges. Their story of survival in this unforgiving environment is one that evokes awe, but are the odds stacked against them as their numbers dwindle and predation by the spotted hyaena is a continued threat?
Here’s the scene: In lush contrast to the desert regions of Namibia, the Zambezi Region (Caprivi) is a tropical wetlands area. Namushasha River Lodge is set on the banks of the Kwando river on the curve of an oxbow lake, where pods of hippos wallow in muddy grandeur. It’s rich riverine ecology extends beyond the dense stands of Jackalberry and Mangosteen trees over extensive reedbeds to the distant game-spattered floodplains.
Waiting for table service
On the banks of the Kwando River
It’s bounded on all side by wild game parks and it’s up there in the rank of ‘coolness’ not just for its shady campsites but for it’s splendid setting and gorgeous lodge facilities, swimming pool and watering hole.
A walk along the path at the edge of the river revealed an unexpected encounter (there are warning signs to watch out for crocodiles and hippos, though fortunately avoided). The sound of leaves rustling gave them away……
Little faces peeked down at me as a gathering of vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus pygerythrus) came to assess this other primate intruder: friend or foe? The alpha male bared his teeth, signalling his status. Averting eye contact, i sat quietly wondering what would happen next.
Their curiosity won out and soon they had descended from their leafy domain to forage in the leaf litter below. Keeping a discreet distance my presence appeared not to bother them and i was able to keenly observe their long limbed grace and agility. Predominantly they’re found in savannah woodland, but here they’ve settled in this paradise alongside the fruit trees and breakfast options at the lodge.
I’ve been away for some months and am now happily back online and looking forward to checking in again on fellow bloggers.
A chance to revisit Namibia at a slow pace, traveling the back routes, camping mainly and stopping at destinations way off the beaten track has been a compelling experience for me. Becoming so immersed in nature – learning the scent of the land, it’s voices, the revelation of the night skies, the heart thumping exhilaration of hearing nocturnal wildlife close by adds up to a “stop-the-world-i-want-to-get off” kind of destination.
Here’s a dip into the first scenes of this immense and timeless place –
Namibia is an extraordinary country, the expanse of it’s panoramic vistas stretch way into the far distance, seductive in pastel colours, so tantalising as the horizons pleat and fold.
As we traveled through different biomes: desert, savannah, tree and shrublands, to the wetlands of the Zambezi area the contrasts in ecosystems and habitats were distinct. Hope you’ll join me as a post further stories; coming up soon …..
“Place of Ceremonies” – Twyfelfontein, Namibia. A pathway leads between two imposing slabs of rock and on entering this shaded corridor there is an immediate sense of a captivating aura. Some inner call whispers an invitation to reach out and touch the cool sandstone. It’s like checking a pulse, finding an ancient rhythm and feeling a deep-earth heartbeat. In the surrounding area, a legacy of San rock art is chiselled in the stone. These petroglyphs are the finest in Southern Africa and date back to the late Stone Age. Fortunately it was proclaimed a World Heritage site in 2007 and is administered under UNESCO’s preservation guidelines.
Panels of engravings cover some 212 stone slabs depicting an extraordinary diversity of wild animals. Stories of animals slipping through rocks, elephant, rhino and the famous ‘five toed lion’ with a kink in it’s tail. Giraffe, ostrich, graceful buck species parade along the slabs. A seal here, and there flamingoes, creatures that exist some distance away from this inland place. A young zebra foal suckling from it’s mother. Our guide leads us through the ‘galleries’ theorising and giving context to the scenes. Hunting scenes – spoor, geometric markings symbolising the rituals and beliefs of the hunter-gatherer people of the San. Imaginings of a different realm, a spiritual trance world where animals were people and there was a connection between man and animal. If only the rocks could talk what legends we would learn!
The rock formation is aptly named – the basaltic lava colums rise like organ pipes some standing 5 m high. The valley is small, though the rocks have a lofty appeal. The harsh light throws an unforgiving cast and the colours reveal shades of ochre and tan. There are four of us negotiating the downward path, stepping carefully as there is loose scree. There is a strange vibe here and the first bars of Edvard Grieg’s grand orchestral piece “In the Hall of the Mountain King” plays through my mind. I imagine Peer Gynt striding through the scene as the sound of falling rock shatters the calm. Into view comes a troop of baboons!
We spot baboons nine separate occasions through the trip, but they immediately clear out, vanishing from view. Not this time – they take up seats in the pews above and we’re being scrutinised. We, the interlopers to this geological attraction take care not to be too intrusive, guessing that they want to descend to find water in the damp sand. It’s hot, searingly hot and i notice that their fur is fine and sparse and that males don’t have the magnificent ‘manes’ that the coastal species have.
There are about 25 – 30 in this troop; not large by wild standards but in this tough environment you’ve got to admire how they adapt to survive in the harsh conditions.
We let them be and head back out on the opposite side; the encounter adds a layer to the timeless mysteries of the area.