Tag Archives: baboons

Mudumu National Park – a Namibian gem

It’s so exciting staying in a nature or game reserve and even better if you can set up camp in a wild area without any fences.  We decided to rough it on a recent trip to northern Namibia and opted to leave the beautiful (but crowded) Camp Kwando with all its facilities, to stay in a small park nearby called Mudumu.  The beauty of this place is that they only have three campsites and all that makes them campsites is a rough long-drop a few meters away from each clearing and a ring of old coals marking a fireplace.  You have to be totally self-sufficient to stay there, but the rewards are great.  Not only do you get to have the place to yourselves as the campsites are far apart, but you get to stay in amongst the elephants and wild animals.

Mudumu sunset

Our great campsite

All three campsites are on the banks of the Kwando River where the ellies love coming down to drink during the hot days and glorious still evenings, or to cross over into Botswana to feed.  Have you watched a small herd of elephants crossing a river?  It’s the most awesome sight.  They go in a straight line and babies are strategically placed between older ones so that they can be helped out if they get into difficulty.  Often just their trunks stick above the water like little periscopes.  It’s too cute to watch.

Elephants crossing the Kwando River

It was exciting to lie in bed at night and hear the rumbling sounds of the elephants as they walked quietly down to the river.  Their feet didn’t make a sound, but their rumbles sounded like a very loud cat purr and it was enough to give me goose-bumps knowing how close they were.  The park has literally hundreds of elephants and driving around can be quite challenging because the roads consist of deep sand in places.  Trying to make a quick getaway from an approaching herd of elephants is a bit of a challenge when your wheels are churning up sand.  They are very protective when they have young ones in the herd so it’s always wise to keep a safe distance between yourself and the animals.

Heads down.  Bottoms up!

A highlight of our visit was seeing a herd of about two hundred elephants walking through the veld in a straight line.  When we stopped to watch them, a command went out, probably from the matriarch, and every elephant just froze.  Some had feet in the air in mid-step, trunks were raised or lowered, but they didn’t move.  They stayed like this for many minutes and didn’t make a sound.  It was almost eerie watching this beautiful spectacle.  When the command came that they were safe, they all moved on again, very quickly and quietly.  We felt so privileged to watch this beautiful sight.  Apart from elephants there is an abundance of birdlife and other mammals.  We found these baboons quite amusing if only for the attitude they displayed!

Baboon sentinels

Our previous visit to this park was disappointing, although we did see a pack of wild dogs, but this time we were fortunate enough to see lots of roan and sable.  These antelope are not terribly common so it’s always great to get sightings of them.  That’s why it’s better to stay in the park as opposed to taking day trips – you put yourself in a better position to have all the right experiences.

Roan - Mudumu National Park

Mudumu National Park has yet to catch up with the 21st century as far as pricing is concerned.  We paid about N$50.00 per person per day to stay there, which was basically the entrance fee to the park as well.  With Botswana pricing itself out of the average holiday-maker’s range, this place makes financial sense.  We didn’t book ahead.  I don’t think it’s necessary as not many people know about it.  For all you South Africans reading this – this place is worth visiting, as is nearby Mamili, which I will chat about next week.  Not only do you get good value for money but there is a great adventure factor too – you definitely feel like you have left civilization far behind and it’s just you and the wilds.  What a pleasure.  Never mind the abundance of elephants and the solitude of the place – the sunsets alone would be enough to get us back there!


Go ape about Chacma baboons

It’s sad when humans encroach on the habitat of wild animals and it’s not often that they can live side by side without conflict.  Here, on the outskirts of Windhoek, we live beneath a rocky hill that is the home to a troop of Chacma baboons.  At night they keep us awake with their very vocal fighting and courting and during the day they make their presence felt in the suburb by raiding dirt bins or entering houses looking for food.  We have to remind ourselves that they were here long before we were and we are in actual fact the intruders on their turf!  Hard to be fair-minded when there is litter strewn all over the ground though.

Very obviously a male!

Be that as it may, they are interesting animals to observe.  Chacma baboons move around in troops of fifty or more, lead by both an alpha male and female.  The large alpha male, weighing in at about 32 kgs, does most of the mating in the troop and his existence revolves around maintaining his dominance.  Fights break out when young males try to mate with females or usurp the alpha male’s position.  They have a strict behavioural and dominance code, even when it comes to troop movements.

Bobby the baboon

The lifespan of a baboon is between eighteen to thirty years.  They mate throughout the year and females give birth to a single offspring after a gestation period of six months.  Young babies cling to the underside of their mothers initially and as they grow older, they move onto her back where they are supported by her tail.

Mother carrying baby on her back

The weaning period is between six and eight months.  Although there is a very close bond between mother and baby, all babies are protected by the other females in the group.  Females have babies every two years.

Cute baby

Their diet consists of fruit, roots, bulbs, insects and sometimes very young buck.  They can be domesticated, (see our story on Bobby the baboon at Namibgrens, who thinks he is a goat), but it should be remembered that they are wild animals and can be extremely aggressive towards humans, especially if there is food around or mothers feel that their babies are threatened.

Bobby thinks he's a goat

In their troops they are very sociable and spend hours grooming and playing with each other.

Grooming time

The Latin name for the Chacma baboon is Papio cynocephalus ursinus.

Omandumba – touching the silence

Geologists would tell you that the Erongo Mountains are rich with minerals and gemstones like aquamarine, schorl, jeremejevite, quartz, fluorite and garnets (amongst others), but I have news for you, these mesmerizing mountains are full of magnetic rocks.  They must be magnetic because they are so awesome they draw us back to them time and again.  We have visited the Erongo region often during our stay in Namibia and for the sheer beauty and majesty of the dramatic granite boulders, valleys and incredible landscapes it cannot be beaten.

Dramatic rock formations

Our latest weekend getaway was to the farm ‘Omandumba’ in the Erongo Mountain Nature Conservancy.  The Conservancy lies in a flat basin surrounded by the imposing walls of the remnants of an enormous volcano that collapsed millions of years ago.  The name ‘Omandumba’ means ‘place of bitter bushes’ which obviously doesn’t deter the animals, because the farm abounds with wildlife and birds.


The appeal to us, of this particular farm, is its remote bush campsite, where we were the only campers and had the entire area to ourselves.  What price can one put on solitude like that – not another human being around, just us, the wild animals and the soothing presence of the silent looming boulders.   At night the silence enveloped us and we often just sat quietly straining to hear something – anything, even if it was just a cricket, but there was nothing.

Beautiful backdrop to our campsite

Our walks were very productive as we found a waterhole in the rocks where we positioned ourselves for hours to photograph the birds that came to drink.

Colourful violet-eared waxbills

Admittedly there wasn’t a very large variety, it being winter, but the ones that came were very colourful and varied (acacia pied barbets, grey go-way birds, red-headed finches, waxbills – both violet-eared and common, bulbuls, larks, buntings, rosy-faced lovebirds, doves and canaries to name a few).  We even had the pleasure of an enormous black-chested snake eagle.  On a previous visit we saw the resident pair of Verreaux’s eagles and caught a glimpse of their chick in a nest high up on a cliff.

Acacia pied barbet

Animals we saw included kudu, warthogs, Damara dik-diks, baboons and the usual dassies that live on the rocks.

Damara dik-dik

Our special treat was a black mongoose that we saw for a few seconds.  We were saddened to hear that leopards had been preying on the farmer’s cattle and had to be hunted down.  It’s awful to imagine these magnificent animals being shot for being a nuisance.

Baboons kept us company

The mountains were once home to the San Bushmen and there is a good collection of their rock art on one of the walks.  We didn’t linger too long there as the overhanging rocks were covered in hornet’s nests and we didn’t fancy being casualties of their nasty stings!  Folks who would like to learn more about the Bushmen can visit a living museum in the area and meet with a local community of them, who demonstrate their survival skills and way of life.


One has to be totally self-sufficient at this campsite as there is nothing but bush.  There are a couple of long-drop toilets (for the very brave), but no showers or water.  This is part of the charm of the place though and it is a privilege to be in such pristine untouched surroundings.

The road less travelled – cycling in Namibia

If you’ve browsed our website you will know that Rob loves cycling and has covered many kilometers on his bike in Southern Africa, Australia and Nepal.   There are times when his hobby is a bit of a strain for me – like when he cycles for hours on his static trainer in the house or when I have to massage his weary muscles with Arnica Oil after a long ride – but there are many benefits for me as well.

As the sole member of his back up team I get to spend a lot of time waiting at the side of the road for him.  I usually drive about fifteen to twenty kilometers ahead and wait for him to catch up.  After checking that all is well, or perhaps sharing a cool drink or a cup of coffee, I then proceed to the next waiting point.

The road less travelled ...

The road less travelled ...

The back roads of Namibia are an absolute treat for this, especially as I like to photograph the scenery and meditate in the silence of the deserted countryside.  And deserted it is; we may not see another car for hours! But in the silence I never know what nature is going to offer me in the way of birds, animals and beautiful vistas.

In the early morning the baboons own the road

In the early morning the baboons own the road

There’s something about being out there, totally alone in the wild, that lifts the spirits and restores the soul.   I can so understand why cyclists like to take to the quiet of country roads.

Watched by a black-backed jackal

Watched by a black-backed jackal

The Namibian country roads that I’m referring to are not in game reserves, they are ordinary public roads flanked by extensive farms that are home to animals of every description.  Unfortunately one also encounters evidence of the harsher side of life when one comes across animals that have been hit by speeding cars.

A kudu is a roadside victim

Kudu have notoriously bad road sense

The countryside has a harsh beauty all of its own.  It’s here that I take deep breaths and fill my lungs with fresh air.

Nothing ahead but grass and sky

Nothing ahead but grass and sky

The birdlife is quite amazing and whenever I choose a place to stop and wait for Rob, the decision  is usually influenced by a bird I’ve seen perched in a tree or an animal nearby.

An immature hawk keeping a wary eye on me

An immature raptor keeping a wary eye on me

The quiet early mornings on the roads less travelled, moving at the speed of a casual cyclist enjoying the warmth of the sun on his back, gives one the time and opportunity to reflect on subjects profound or subjects superficial. And that in itself is a rare commodity.