The Magic of Namibia

Trip Start Jul 10, 2007
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Trip End Mar 11, 2008


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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Namibia
 
In Namibia, the environment is truly the main character in this stunningly beautiful country and decides who or what will survive. Much respect should be given to the flora and fauna of this region; animals and plants have evolved into a finely tuned ecosystem.  Here, for life to happen, it must truly desire it. 
 
To name a few genial survival tricks adopted by the animals and plants, a desert beetle drinks by lifting both hind legs to allow dew drops to trickle down its carcase and reach its mouth.  Also, many trees lack a certain oily substance which helps contain fires to a small area if a tree is to burn. Therefore, the surrounding vegetation will not have to be engulfed in flames when few trees are being destroyed.  A fire can light up so quickly in an arid climate like this one.
 
So may times, I have been amazed by the incredible feats of nature and loss for words (rare, only happens in Africa) at the magnificence of what was facing me.  There are boundless opportunities to discover what is not always obvious to the naked eye.  Here are some astounding animal facts about Namibia given to us by our superb tour leader Mr. Johan.

Spiders; the abundant ones
In the Namibian sand dunes, there is a possibility of encountering eight different types of spiders; one of which is extremely venomous. Five minutes after a bite...well!  The boys' sandals went back on very quickly after I heard that neat little tidbit. No more burnt sweet potato coloured sand warming up your toes little ones!  We saw a less dangerous Baboon Spider nestled under the sand...I'm still trying to figure out why the guide "HAD" to dig it out of its comfy sleeping quarters...(big arachnid).  Many, many, many "flatties" (round, flat, large spiders) settled comfortably pretty much everywhere we slept or showered.  They love cuddling up to Canadians or most areas with heat and humidity.
 
Rhinos; the shy ones
The two kinds are described as black or white because of their habits and not their colour.  The word "white" rhino could have been adapted from the word "wide" rhino because the animal does has a wider snout.  The white rhino eats grass, is larger and guards its young ones by keeping them in front of the pack.  The black rhino has a pointier jaw, is smaller, eats leaves from the trees and protects its young ones by walking ahead of them. 
Rhinos are shy creatures and were very difficult for us to find.  Rhinos can not swim and it is easy for them to drown in rivers.  Their heads are so heavy and can not easily be lifted out of the water.
 
Guinea fowl: the shoppers
Don't have much information on these birds except for the fact that they are cute, round, colourful, twitchy and hilarious.  Their little legs move like the speed of sound; a technique advantageous for very effective shopping. "Head for the hills girls!"
 
Leopards; silence is golden
They are incredible hunters and approach their prey by stalking them in the utmost silence. Hence, when an animal sees a leopard drawing near behind him, it is too late.  Leopards are powerfully built and often carry their "catch du jour" in a tree for later snacking and to prevent other animals from stealing it.
The leopards' dark spots (hollow on the inside) are their finger prints; every leopard has unique markings. Their paws have retractable claws. Forget about training them as soft cuddly pets.  Any coached behaviour is lost after the age of two and the "affectionate" leopard regains its wild instincts to hunt and attack.  It is difficult to spot leopards as they are perfectly camouflaged in and under trees. However, they can spot you with their piercing yellow eyes.
 
Buffaloes; the aggressive ones
Buffaloes are amongst the most dangerous animals to encounter in a safari.  They attack an animal continuously until death. Horns are often used to flip a victim up in the air (including lions). The female buffalo is larger than the male.  He has a bump on his back.  They live in herds.
 
Sociable weaver; the builders
These little birds weave colossal and intricate nests in trees comparable to sophisticated city condos.  The birds cooperate as a great little community.
 
Snakes; as in my fear of any venomous ones!
I did not want any encounters with Puff Adders, Black Mambas, Side Winders or Cobras. Thank you!  Only saw the tail end of a black one. Brrrrr!  One does not survive their aggressive behaviours.
 
Zebras; the DEW line
They seem to be the first ones in line to approach any area, especially the water hole.  If it safe for the zebra to enter, the other animals will proceed to approach a desired target. Zebras are often found in the company of other groups of animals...great to have at parties...they mingle well.
 
The Oryx; colour symphony
No other animal has its colours as perfectly harmonized as this one.
A member of the gazelle family, it defends itself from the lion's attack, (always from behind) by stabbing it with its straight, long and pointy antlers.  It swings its head backward to stab and fight off the lion.  The oryx is very prudent and is rarely the first animal to approach a watering hole.
 
The giraffes; the curious ones
Amazingly enough, giraffes hide very well in the bushes even with their height.  They love to observe and stare at us, popping their heads up and down or side to side. Elegance is a fitting word to describe this mammal especially when it walks and moves its neck. 
Poor giraffes, they suffer from high blood pressure.  The heart has a long way to pump all of that blood.
 
The African elephants; your majesty
They are often seen with buddies but we did encounter a lone male elephant rejected from his group.  "Bachelors", who tend to get a little ornery from being on their own do not learn how to socialize properly.  They will most likely never be accepted back into a herd. 
Elephants do not always like the company of uninvited two legged beasts (tourists) and will retaliate if they are annoyed!  Before an elephant decides to charge, a two legged beast may witness the following behaviours: ears flopping, trunk raising, front part of the body rocking from side to side...maybe even some bellowing.  A mock charge habitually accompanies this "dance" before the real "charge" happens.  An angry elephant can overturn a vehicle; even a bus. Therefore, rule #1 was quickly established during the safari: read pachyderm body language!  My son had a great idea to defend our travel group. He held a green apple in his hands.  If an elephant were to try to threaten the bus, he would throw the apple into the mouth of the elephant who would instantly be distracted, eat the apple and return merely to its herd.
Elephants can also hear with their trunk and their feet by laying them flat on the ground.  They hear the infra sound of other elephants needing immediate assistance or eating green apples.
 
 The frogs:  What? I can't hear you!
 
The cheetah; the Lamborghini; 
A graceful animal built for speed capable of reaching 120 km per hour.  It is the only cat able to catch the springbok (small gazelle) that breaks its own little record of 95km/hour.  The fur is rough to the touch and so is the tongue used to rip off the skin of a catch.  Their purring is soothing, hypnotizing and is very loud.  I must talk to my lazy and spoiled male cat at home about this.  The cheetahs' eyes are orange in colour and one black coloured streak runs from each eye to the end of the snout making it look like tears.  This is my favourite feline and watching it run is a phenomenal thrill.
 
The jackal; the thief
One rude little squirt stole our bus driver's breakfast... in front of us all.  No fear really!  Hunter and thief!  Cute little thing though.  They look like foxes and prey on small animals.  Many live around the Skeleton Coast to feast on baby seals. 
 
The warthogs:  comedy relief.
Nature's own little caricature; someone had a sense of humour during its creation. They are unattractive to a point that makes them almost cute.  In the Okavango Delta, they provided much entertainment when they strutted around the camp and took refuge in the toilets.  Mind you, hearing that they liked to edge up on people in the outdoor showers was somewhat disconcerting. 
 
The lions; the silencer
It has killer instinct and the gentlest touch with its young.  My heart stopped when we spotted a female lion walking regally in the sand.  Every step was measured and choreographed perfectly to the sounds of the surrounding nature.  This animal is poetry in motion merits its title as King or Queen of the jungle.

After learning all of these facts and witnessing amazing animal behaviour, Namibia, our second country in the South of Africa is proving to be one of our favourites.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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