Walking with vervet monkeys

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.

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 popular wallowing spot for hippos.

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.

 

 

 

Back Again!

Dear Readers,

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 –

The rugged grandeur of the Ais/Richtersveld-Namib Transfrontier Park near Rosh Pinar.

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.

The Namib gravel plains stretch towards the desert.
Wild Namib horses have adapted and live in the harsh desert conditions.
The orange sands of ancient sand dunes shift and shape through the wind, forming long geometric ridge lines.
Statuesque quiver trees (Aloe dichotoma) grow in a barren land inspiring awe at their sculpted defiance.   Reputedly some are as old as 800 years, but now climate change is a factor in their survival.

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 …..

Walking with Vervets

Graceful long-limbed vervets accompany me on a walk next to the Kongola R, Namushasha Lodge.

Standing Sentry Duty: Who goes there?

Sentry duty, scanning the horizon.

Meet the Enchanting Miss Dik-dik.

Doe-eyed Dik-dik the smallest of the antelope species, roam the campsite.

The Enigmatic Wild Horses, Can they Survive?

For 100 years the desert horses have survived the harsh conditions. But drought and predation by the spotted hyaena are taking a drastic toll on their numbers.

 

An unlikely urban sighting

Finding predators lurking in the garden is not that usual in our neighbourhood, but for a while a female rooikat (Caracal caracal)  comfortably took up residence alongside the urban edge rearing her young over a couple of years.  Sightings of her and the kits were always thrilling, whether hunting or just passing through.

WPC: Unlikely

WPC: Favourite

This scene was an easy choice as my favourite shot of the year!   It lacks in photographic technique and neither is it a good composition, but rather it speaks in an existential sense – a wild untrammelled spirit ; flying along, unfettered, free.  It’s also unusual in that the Cape Mountain zebra are a species associated with mountains, and to have recorded this scene on the beach is (i think) a personal shot of a lifetime.   I posted it after the devastating storm in June and wrote about it here.

 

 

 

Walvis Bay salt pans: jackal and pup

Walvis is situated on a lagoon and is a designated Ramsar wetlands site.  It teems with coastal shorebirds and waders and is regarded as the most important coastal wetland in the Southern African sub-region in terms of bird numbers and is one of the three most important coastal wetlands in Africa.

Mornings are agreeably foggy, due to the cold Benguela current lacing the Atantic Ocean, until the land mass warms up and the fog lifts.  Included in the wetland area are the saltpans where many bird species congregate including greater and lesser flamingoes.  Among the common Paleartic migrants are curlew sandpipers, sanderlings and little stints.  It supports nearly two-thirds of the southern African population of chestnut plovers – the smallest of the true waders and as the name suggests it has a chestnut coloured breast band.

The birds come in to feed at low tide and there is an air of social comradeship as the various species band together to feed.  The flamingoes wade through in an elegant style, the pelicans are solid and squawk in gutteral tones, the small waders dash here and there.  Set to this background we photographers lurk trying hard not to be too intrusive, invisible.

I notice the spoor along the saltpan tidal edge before spotting the jackal.  It surprises me to see it in such an inhospitable environment.  I guess though that it would be an ideal place for hunting birds.

It turns out to be a young female and her behaviour appears furtive.  I notice her anxious looks peering back to an area where there are pipes and a pumping station.  She in beautiful condition.

Panning carefully with the binoculars i spot movement and there near one of the pipes is a small pup in front of an open cut pipe.   “Hey mum, wait for me …. ”   The little pup appears to be signalling.   So well camouflaged it’s difficult to spot the pup – for the reader, look just to the right of the road sign.

Mum is not responding, so pup opts for security and dives back into the pipe ‘den’.

Isn’t it fascinating how animals find an ‘eco-niche’ in transformed environments?   On the edge of the saltpans there is a thriving bird population and an obvious steady source of food – but fresh water is scarce.

Judging from the spoor tracks in the area there are a number of other animals, yet they blend so well into the back ground and on the beach side sandy hummocks stretch towards Pelican Point.

What a wonderful sighting, although we’d come to observe birds, what a bonus to spot a carnivore ‘seeing the gap’ and adapting to this rich area.