The Little Five - Day 335
Another excursion, this time to see the Little 5. I wonder if we will see them.
Grant picked us promptly. He is a Pastor and started talking about religion. It was too early to have such a discussion and we were pleased that he had arrived to pick the next passenger up. Eventually, there were 6 of us on our tour for today, an elderly man called Tony from England, Veronik from Germany who was working on a farm here in Namibia. It sounded a very tough life and she seemed extremely tired, and two men, Matt and Daniel from Brazil. As we are going there in December we did pick their brains for great places to visit. They said they will email us – I hope so.
We arrived at the Namib Desert. As this surrounds Swakopmund, it didn’t take long to get there. Two other jeeps were waiting and off we went in a convoy. When we stopped and piled out of the vehicles, Grant and another driver, a lady in her early forties, wandered off searching for the little animals whilst Douglas, who was the head honcho, got us in a semi-circle and, using the sand as his blackboard, described the ecosystem in this tough and barren land. It was fascinating.
He described that the wind blew the sand from the sea making the many sand dunes that surrounded us. The sand is accumulated creating a large slope called the windward side, and the short edge, called the slip face, is always at a 35-degree angle. At the bottom of the slip face, a mass of tiny seeds, leaves and grasses collect which he called “muesli”, the beetles’ breakfast. This is very dry, so the beetles need liquid to eat it with, just as I have milk on mine that I am eating whilst typing this! No rivers or ponds around here, so the beetle manages to collect tiny droplets of morning dew on its back, which runs down grooves so that it can suck this up. It can drink 40% of its body weight – impressive eh! Its larvae also manage to collect water by sticking its tail out of the sand and collecting a droplet or two via osmosis.
So now we have these juicy beetles and larvae, of which there are 200 different species plus 9 varieties of silverfish. Along comes lizards, geckos and chameleon to feed on them. Snakes love these reptiles, so they are hiding in the sand, waiting for dinner to come along. Quick as a flash, they will poison and gulp the unsuspecting animal down. And so the food chain carries on, with birds, mammals and then of course man coming along in his 4x4 squashing all these tiny creatures with the big tyres.
As Douglas had finished his explanation, the lady turned up holding something in her hand. It was two slow-worms, which are, in fact, legless reptiles, they’ve obviously been on the bottle. A few people hold them and they wriggled around trying to bury themselves and escape, yet when one of these creatures was placed in my hand, it just stayed still, didn’t move at all. I thought I’d killed it. I placed it into another man’s hand and then it started wriggling again. Perhaps I am Dr Doolittle of the slow-worms!
Grant, our driver, called Douglas over. He had found the track of a gecko. Douglas very carefully dug into the sand and found the gecko’s hole. Trying not to destroy it, he eventually got the gecko out for us to see. This type of gecko, Pachydactylus rangei or known as the Namib sand gecko or web-footed gecko hunts at night. It has big eyes and no eyelids, so cannot see when it is light. What a pretty little thing. We all took turns taking a photo so that it didn’t seem that it was being stalked by the paparazzi, then Douglas carefully put it back in its hole.
As we were driving slowly along the edge of the sand dunes, I noticed that Grant was throwing something out of the window. We came to a halt and all was clear. He was throwing maggots out and along came a lizard. Another pretty little thing. Grant said that we were driving to where a snake was discovered the day before and showed us the zig-zag tracks along the side of a sand dune. We hopped out, well, I slide out of the jeep, walking along the sand dune, and then after a time, Grant had found a small snake which, at first, they thought was a horned viper, but they think it was some kind of hybrid. It was quite small, about 18 inches long, however, Douglas said that the good news is that you wouldn’t die from the venom, but the bad news is that you wouldn’t die. The pain is so excruciating that you’d want to die.
The sand dunes were an incredible sight, quite relaxing. We had noticed the different colours of the sand, cream, rich yellow, red and a haze of black. At one stop, Douglas explained the difference. The white and yellow were mainly quartz, the yellow just a finer grain, the red had iron in it and the black was magnalite, which he proved using a magnet. The pièce de résistance for me was the last creature we saw. The chameleon. Douglas found it in the middle of a bush and coaxed it out using the maggots. It started out black, then quickly turned a pale grey, then various tones in between. It was fabulous to see its long tongue uncurl to quickly grab the maggot. What a weird and wonderful creature. And we had seen all of the Little Five. Hurrah!