A visit to a Namibian Mesosaurus fossil site

We normally camp in central or northern Namibia, mainly because the birdlife is more prolific and there’s more to see, but this Easter we decided to focus on the south, with a visit to Brukkaros and then the farm Spitzkoppe, about 39 kms from Keetmanshoop, where our main draw card was the mesosaurus fossil site.

The drive to the fossil site is very pretty as one passes the Quiver Tree Forest (declared a National Monument in 1955) and Giants Playground, two unique and interesting features of this area.  The terrain around Keetmanshoop is particularly rocky, a condition that suits quiver trees and gives rise to unusual dolorite rock formations.

Beautiful rocks & quiver trees

We were taken on a short tour by Giel Steenkamp, the owner of the farm – a funny and colourful character who struck it lucky when his young son, Hendrik, noticed an upturned rock containing a fossil during a road making operation on the farm.  This life-changing discovery of the mesosaurus fossil was the first of a number of fossils found on the farm and the family have opened this interesting site up to the public ever since.

Mirror image of the fossil

About 280 million years ago a huge inland lake, known as Lake Gai-As, lay in the middle of the great continent of Gondwana and it was on the shores of this lake that mesosaurus lived.  When fossils of this crocodile-like reptile were found deep inland in both southern Africa and South America, it supported the theory that the two continents were once joined together.

Crocodile-like jaw

In southern Africa mesosaurus is known as Mesosaurus tenuidens, whilst in Brazil the same fossil is known as Mesosaurus brasiliensis.

Coprolite - fossilized dung in the bowel

These water-going reptiles lived in a time called the Permian age and are thought to be the first reptiles to have returned to the water to live.  They ranged in size from 40 cm to 1.5 meters.

Mesosaurus tenuidens

Oom Giel jokingly referred to himself as a young fossil and it is evident that he thoroughly enjoys showing visitors the sights on his farm.  Apart from the numerous fossils on display, one can also see a quiver tree forest of about 5000 trees, a dolorite park similar to Giants Playgrond and the war grave of a young German soldier killed in the native uprising at the beginning of the 20th century.  As if that’s not enough, you will also get treated to a “rock concert” when Giel plays a basic rendition of the South African national anthem (Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika) using a small rock to pound a stacked rock formation.

Oom Giel gives a rock concert

After the tour he leaves visitors alone to wander around and take photographs.  It’s a special place, well worth a visit.  Accommodation in the form of chalets or campsites is available for guests who’d like to spend the night on the farm.

 

 

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