Strathspey Wildlife
Discover Namibia- An African safari with Exodus Travel 2008

Tuesday 16th.
September 2008

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An early start - up at 6 am. A bonfire had been lit, the kettle was on for that all-important first brew of the day, and breakfast, which usually consisted of  plenty of bread, jams and cereal - which always included milk from the truck's chiller. (Nothing worse than warm milk on cereal !!! Urgggh !!) But before our brew and breakfast we had to "qualify" as Max had told us the evening before. This involved emptying our tents, and stowing our bags to be uploaded onto the truck. This enabled  the lads to clear up after breakfast and pack away the luggage with minimum delay. It also ensured that whilst the lads were busy after breakfast, with their well-drilled routine, we had time to take a stroll around the campsite to capture those early-morning photographs  as
well as the opportunity to do a little  exploring. We revisited the waterhole, but again, found only birds. I took a stroll up to a local dried-up lake. These dried-up lakes and rivers were to become a regular feature of our trip, but on this occasion, there was no wildlife to be seen. Our departure this morning was scheduled for 8 am - which, with a two hour window between reveille and departure was quite a relaxed start. We left on time, but didn't have far to go to our next stop. This involved a drive from the Autabib campsite to the farmhouse on the opposite side of the estate. Here we were introduced to two cheetahs. These two cheetahs, now around four years old were the surviving two of four cubs who were orphaned when their mother had to be shot by local farmers. She had been attacking the local sheep, and killing them in such numbers

  that the farmers had to act. Very sad, but necessary during times when local farmers and residents alike are beginning to realise the value of their wildlife. The flipside is that troublesome predators have to be dealt with. Following her death, her swollen teats were indicative that she had very young cubs. A search was launched and her four young cubs were later found in a very poor condition - dehydrated and close to death. The cubs were split into two pairs and put into the care of two local farmers, and perhaps it was very fortunate that the two at Autabib Farm survived, and had now grown into two magnificent specimens. They were housed within a fenced compound which provided a large area where they were able to run free. As we arrived it was obviously feeding time. The cats were pacing

 up and down the fence, impatiently awaiting delivery of two huge chunks of meat that hung tantalisingly close, just a few feet away. I had seen cheetahs close up before, but I was still surprised at how big these slender cats were at close quarters, particularly with regard to their length, which of course is all necessary in making them the planet's fastest land animal. The meat was duly thrown over the fence, and each of the cheetahs made off with their "prey" to find a quiet spot for their breakfast. We were taken through the gate into the compound, and with our host began to track them to where they were feeding. We were taken to within a few feet as they tore and crunched their way through a joint that would have made a lovely Sunday roast for 12 or more!!

Whilst keeping a keen eye to the rear, we retraced our steps out of the compound, to meet two more residents of the farm - this time the beautiful caracal, the largest of Africa's small cats, and one that is normally very elusive. This little cat weighs in at around 13kg in the case of the male, and its prey list of mammals and birds extends to small antelopes at three times its own weight, so its beautiful little face masks quite an efficient little predator within. It is of course always preferable to see wild creatures in their natural environment, but these Autabib residents in care, the cheetahs and the caracals, provided a welcome opportunity to view them at close quarters. With a long journey ahead it was everybody back onto the truck to our next destination at Rehoboth.

At Rehoboth we picked up fuel, water some light refreshment - and a flat tyre!! Punctures are always a problem on African roads, although the Namibian roads, by African standards, were really quite good - with long stretches of uninterrupted tarmac linking the main towns, giving way to dust and gravel roads to access the lesser populated areas, but even these enabled fairly high speed progress. Fortunately, this was the only puncture that we were to have during the trip. Sadly, we didn't have any time to explore Rehoboth, which was established in the 1870's when the original German mission was abandoned six years earlier. No time to linger - with our tyre replaced we were back on the road again.

Then it was onwards as we continued towards Sesriem. On route Maxwell stopped at the roadside to show us a nest of the sociable weaver bird. Endemic to Southern Africa, this bird cooperates with its neighbours in building huge communal nests - in effect an avian block of flats accommodating dozens of weaver families, who also tolerate small birds of prey as tenants, such as kestrels and small falcons. As we were preparing to leave two small local children appeared - from where I don't know, as we were in a fairly remote area. The lads gave them a couple of bananas and I hurried into the truck to fetch a tin of sweets, and offered them. Clearly they were unaccustomed to being offered sweets in such a way - and, much to my amusement their little hands were transformed into

 miniature mechanical grabs as they scooped up as much as they were able. The second child managed to scoop three, unlike his friend who only managed two. I gave him another sweet to restore the balance, and they went happily on their way. On past trips, some undoubtedly well-meaning people had queried the wisdom of giving sweets to children, where dental care was virtually non-existent. But I tried to imagine childhood (or adulthood come to that) without the treat of a sweet, and I daresay such instances are an uncommon occurrence. We stopped later in the shade of a large tree, with an opportunity to stretch legs as the lads prepared a salad lunch of avocado and tuna with fresh bread rolls. This was a quiet spot, with only a local female goat-herder and her young children nearby. After we finished lunch the lads collected together the leftovers into a

 carrier bag and took it to her. Whilst this may practice may seem unthinkable in the Western world, such gestures can make a big difference in the poorer communities of Africa, and was gladly accepted. Our crew would always stress that food on our trip would rarely be wasted. Without exception the food we were provided was never less than plentiful - Maxwell would always urge us to take "seconds" but even so there was always plenty left, so it was good to see the less fortunate local residents gaining some little benefit. Our arrival at Sesriem Camp was followed by the usual activity, all of us keen to take a shower after the hot road journey. But, as ever, no rest for Jonas and Gecko in particular: following the long drive they now had to erect all the tents before beginning

preparation for the evening meal. An afternoon brew was always welcome before our evening meal was served - usually around 7pm. This evening we dined on spaghetti bolognese and butternut squash, as ever - delicious. After dinner we all congregated around the camp fire and continued getting to know each other, before the prospect of an early start to come  (4.45 am!!) - sent many of us off to an early bed. The early start was all to do with one of the trip's highlights -  "Dune 45." None of us were quite sure as to what its ascent entailed, but Max was keen that our footsteps on its flanks would be the first of the day on route to witness the sunrise.

Other Photographs of The Day
 


 

 

 

 


 


 

 

 
Next day - Wednesday 17th.Sep.2008
 

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