Whilst in Namibia and staying in Swakopmund I wanted to see and do as much as possible this included seeing the little animals of the desert!
So I went on a gifted Eco Dunes Tour with The Naturalist Collection.
The tour picks you up from your accommodation at approximately 8.30 am, when everyone is in the vehicle you head off into the Dunes. The Dunes have been a national park since 2010, it’s called Dorob National Park. It was established to protect the breeding grounds of the Damara Tern Bird. These birds lay their eggs on the ground. Their numbers decreased partly due to people off-road driving and quad bikes and due to Jackals eating their eggs. The area was registered as a national park to protect these animals.
The first stop on the tour is the Horse Graveyard, in 1915 the Horses in the area caught a disease, unfortunately it was prior to the invention of antibiotics. Unfortunately the state vet was in a shipwreck so did not make it to the horses in a timely manner, the only option was to cull the horses. They were taken out to the desert and shot, they were buried in mass graves with all their saddles etc. You can still see bones and parts of leather from the horses. It must have been a really hard decision to cull all the horses but the spread of the disease needed to be stopped.
The next stop is for an explanation on how the Namib desert is growing, this was super interesting I’ve never really thought about where desserts come from or why the exist I just thought they were there! The Namib desert exists because of mountains in South Africa, wind direction and rivers! I’m being vague because firstly I’m not sure I fully understand but secondly you need to go on the tour and find out for yourself! What I did understand was that the dessert is still growing and the dunes are constantly growing and that they will slowly take over more and more land and that the government need to not ignore nature as they risk everything suddenly being covered in sand! The mining of sand is not helping as it prevents the river from reaching the ocean, which in turn disrupts the natural flow of the sand.
After we dealt with the science we were able to go and climb a dune and enjoy the beautiful views of the desert, mostly enjoy the views as it was still a little misty at this point. Swakopmund has it’s own bizarre micro climate! Most mornings I woke up to fog and if I’m lucky it will clear if not it will be foggy / misty all day. But if you go into the dunes it is often sunnier much earlier, unfortunately on my tour day it took a bit longer for the mist to burn off.
Now for the animals, first up was to learn about snakes, our guide showed us a track he had been following to find a snake. Not going to lie I couldn’t see a thing just sand! Later on in the day he showed us some tracks on the dune and they were the only marks on the dune it was much easier to see. The first snake he showed us was a Peringueys Adder, in my head snakes are big and if I stumble across one I will know about it. How wrong I was, this snake was tiny and only grows to be 30cm. If you were to get bitten you wouldn’t die but it would be very painful, there’s a small comfort! What I found really interesting was that if a Jackal gets bitten it will become poorly but not die, the next time it gets bitten it will be less poorly and so on until it becomes immune to that species of snake, they then pass on their immunity to their young. The guide said he’s pretty sure the same doesn’t happen in humans!
The next snake we found was a Horned Adder, they grow up to 45cm so bigger but still small and sneaky! These are cool because they have horns, and each snake will have a different colouring, we saw 2 of these species and they both had different colouring.
I quite like snakes, don’t get me wrong I don’t love them but they don’t really bother me, I can happily look at one and have been known to hold small pet snakes. I do have great respect for snakes! And will not ever want to piss one off! On a previous desert animal tour I was told that if you encounter a snake stay very still, as they aren’t actually interested in humans and will just slither off, if you move they feel threatened and that’s why they attack. I’m hoping I never have to use that advice!
Next up was a Namaqua Chameleon, he was cool, I love how his colour changed from light to dark. I was able to get some amazing shots of the little guy, I think the shots of him eating his meal-worms are cool. They have super long tongues which are a bit transparent which is weird. They are quite slow when they move which is funny as he looked like he was warming up for a run but then didn’t really move. We then found a Namib Web Footed Gheko and a sand diving Lizard. Sand diving Lizards are super cool!
Unfortunately they were unable to find any scorpions which was a shame as I would have liked to see a scorpion, I will have to save that for when I visit the snake park in Swakopmund!
We ended the tour with more dune climbing and a snack of home made biscuits. I enjoyed my morning out in the dunes especially when the sun came out! I really liked being able to see the animals that I would not normally have been able to see if I was alone, however, after the tour I was talking to a friend and I did question the ethics of tour. Is it okay to pull animals from their hiding place to show tourists? Is the Chameleon becoming dependant on being fed mealworms? I think all of these are important questions to explore, but on the other hand, the tours are providing people with jobs, the tour guides keep an eye on the dunes and report any activity that is harmful to the environment. People are learning about the wonder and beauty of these small animals that are often overlooked. As I write this I don’t have an answer to my own questions, but did I enjoy my tour, yes I did, am I happy I saw the animals I did, yes I am. Am I super happy with my Chameleon feeding picture, hell yes! – Check him out on my Instagram!