A mummy covered in chocolate and nuts has been discovered in Egypt. Archaeologists believe it may be Pharaoh Rocher.
Rob and I celebrated our wedding anniversary this year by visiting the Etosha National Park in Namibia. February isn’t the best time of the year to visit the park as it’s right in the middle of the rainy season and the grass is very long. With all the water around the animals don’t come down to the waterholes to drink and you really have to go and hunt for them on game drives. Fortunately not seeing animals didn’t phase us too much as the birdlife was outstanding and we made the most of photographing many summer migrants, like this gorgeous European bee-eater.
With an abundance of water comes the celebration of life. Etosha was no exception and we saw many herds of antelope with babies – the strikingly beautiful Gemsbok are our favourites and are always exciting to spot. Their young ones are easy to identify as they still have their brown baby coats.
This mother and baby Black-faced impala hadn’t quite made up their minds about which way they were headed.
A Black-shoudered kite really stood out quite dramatically with the backdrop of dark rain clouds. Rob will shortly be doing a blog about a fantastic sighting of a B.S. Kite eating a lizard. His photos of this meal are magnificent.
It’s a good idea to check the ground occasionally or you could run over little creatures like this jaunty Namaqua chameleon that was also enjoying the water.
Not all the birds are pretty. In stark contrast to the beautiful European bee-eater above, we also saw a not-so-pretty Maribou stork wading in some water next to the road. Doesn’t he look like he’s wearing a waistcoast?
A visit to Etosha always offers up good sightings of the Northern black korhaan. These little fellows are everywhere and are very vocal, especially when disturbed.
Even though we didn’t see any of the more exciting animals like lions, elephants and leopards this trip, we so enjoyed spending time out in nature, just enjoying the birds and the thrill of seeing new life and lush vegetation. What a magnificent way to spend a weekend!
With most of Namibia awash with rains, and a camping trip long overdue, last week we decided to head off to the dry Skeleton Coast Park for a visit. Our first night was spent at Buck’s Caravan Park at Henties Bay, which enabled us to set off very early the next morning for our day trip through the Park.
We had spent some time researching the area so that we would know what to look out for. There are a number of trip reports on this section of the coast, some of which are not very flattering, labeling the area as “boring”. Fortunately, we also read that one should stop often to examine the countryside, as the desert is alive with lichen and other plant and animal life. This made our journey so much richer and we’re glad we were offered that advice.
The journey to the Skeleton Coast Park is interesting in itself, with the Cape Cross seal colony a major attraction along the way, as well as the lichen fields, the salt works and the spectacular scenery, but we will write about these in separate blogs.
It was an incredible day’s drive and at no point were we bored or tired of the scenery. In fact we’d love to be able to spend a bit longer exploring further up north as we’re sure the Park has a lot more to offer than we could cram into a single day.
Namibian’s think so highly of the gemsbok, or Oryx gazella that their national coat of arms depicts two of these magnificent animals on either side of a shield covered with the national flag – representing courage, elegance and pride. If you see these antelope in their desert surroundings, you will understand why they hold such a prominent place in the hearts of all Namibians.
We come across them often in our travels in Namibia and Botswana and they never fail to give us a thrill when we see them. Their coats vary in colour from light grey to light brown, with patches of white, highlighted by dramatic black lines on their backs, legs and faces. These striking markings are offset by long straight horns that are sported by both males and females – the female’s horns being slightly thinner and longer.
Gemsbok can survive in harsh semi-desert conditions and dry savannah areas as they have adapted to tolerate heat better than other antelopes. Able to withstand temperatures in excess of 45 degrees C they use rapid breathing to cool the blood that passes through their noses. This cooler blood is transported to their brains and their body temperature is brought down a few degrees.
They are able to survive for long periods without water. Like most antelopes, they are mainly grazers, but they also eat tsamma melons, bulbs and tubers, which add moisture and fibre to their diet. During the day gemsbok mostly try and find a shady tree to stand under, as they prefer feeding early in the morning, evening and sometimes during the night, when temperatures are cooler.
Lions, hyenas and dogs are their main predators, apart from humans, who hunt them for trophies or meat. We came across a lion kill in the Central Kalahari last year, where a pride of lions had brought down a gemsbok.
The lions guarded their kill very jealously because a large number of black-backed jackals were keen to get any pickings that they could.
Gemsbok give birth to a single calf, arriving at any time during the year, after a nine month gestation period. The calf is usually hidden for the first few weeks of its life before it joins the rest of the herd. The baby’s horns grow very quickly, giving rise to the myth that gemsbok are born with horns, which obviously isn’t true. As can be seen from the photo below, the baby is brown with very few markings.
Wherever we see them – in the sand dunes of Sossusvlei, the savannah grasslands of Botswana or the arid rocky Etosha game reserve, they remain one of our absolute favourite animals and we always admire their grace and beauty.