Category: Namibi, 2015

Another Day in Damaraland, Including Springbok, Elephants, a Living Museum, a Village Visit and a Cobra

April 28.  Very early breakfast so that we can leave by 6:30 to look for elephants.  We were very fortunate to have seen one yesterday near the highway.  Today, we search for them along the river.  
Before finding them, we come across a herd of several hundred springboks.  They are quite a sight, strewn across a ridge of a mountain, and a great photography opportunity, including taking panoramas.
It takes us three hours of driving to locate the elephants, but we finally do, and have the opportunity to watch a herd of some fifteen elephants, including two babies.
Desert Adapted Elephant: The desert elephants are different from their more usual relatives in terms of their behavior patterns rather than their genetics. It is true that they often have wider feet and are (incorrectly) reputed to have bigger ears because of the environment they live in, but they are definitely not a different species. In habitats with sufficient vegetation and water an adult elephant consumes as much as 300 kg of roughage and 230 liters of water every day of its life. Consider what a herd of them would eat and drink in a week or a month or a year. Finding an African elephant in a desert?  Well, yes…and not only elephant, but other large mammals as well, such as black rhinoceros and giraffe. Their ranges extend from river catchments in northern Kaokoveld as far south as the northern Namib. Apart from the Kunene River, seven river courses northwards from the Ugab provide them with possible routes across the desert, right to the Skeleton Coast. The biggest are the Hoarusib, the Hoanib, the Huab and the Ugab Rivers. 
Desert adapted elephants in Kaokoland and the Namib walk further for water and fodder than any other elephant in Africa. The distances between waterholes and feeding grounds can be as great as 68 km. The typical home range of a family herd is larger than 2,000 km, or eight times as big as ranges in central Africa where rainfall is much higher. They walk and feed at night and rest during the day. To meet their nutritional and bulk requirements they browse on no fewer than 74 of the 103 plant species that grow in their range. Not a separate species or even a subspecies, they are an ecotype unique to Namibia in Africa south of the equator, behaviorally adapted to hyper-arid conditions. Elephant in Mali on the southwestern fringe of the Sahara Desert are the only others known to survive in similar conditions.
After having our fill of the elephants, We visit the interesting Damara Living Museum to learn about the traditional customs of the early inhabitants of Namibia.  We are shown around to various areas, Williamsburg style, to see black smithing, pharmacy, crafts and singing and dancing.  It was rather well done.
We return to the lodge for an excellent lunch and a short rest.  Carol decides to pass on the afternoon activities, but I go about an hour with the group to see De Riet village. The people living here are mostly Rimvasmaakers who are Damara/Nama speaking people who were resettled into the area from the Northern Cape by the South African Government in the days when people were moved to tribal homelands on a relatively arbitrary basis of being in the same language group. Many of them moved back after Independence, but those who are left offer a interesting insight into a different lifestyle adapted to the harsh environment.  One of the elder ladies gives us a story of being removed from South Africa, then after Mandela, being given the opportunity to go back, which many of them declined.
It’s always interesting to hear the things that people we visit are concerned about and to reflect on how everyone has problems, some of which are the same and some different.  For example, the concerns in the village about elephants and jackets are not our concerns, but on the way back to the lodge, we discussed Namibian governmental problems with two of our guides, Stuart and Usko,, and those did not sound so very different than ours–health care, unemployment and land (by the latter was meant the desire of younger Namibians to own land, which is held very disproportionately by whites, Germans and South Africans).  On the way back to the lodge, Stuart brought the van to a sudden halt.  Crossing the road in our path he’d spotted an 8-foot python.  We got out to photograph it, and Nevada actually touched it.
Short time in the room before drinks and another really excellent dinner at the lodge.  We have eaten very, very well on this trip.


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