Thursday, 3 November 2016

Mammal watching in Namibia and South Africa

Posted by Stu

A bit of a personal post this, and a link to Jon Hall’s excellent Mammal Watching pages.  This is a short report on 60 mammal species and some birds seen on our (Jo, Amy, Katie and my) August 2016 trip to Namibia and South Africa. 

The fun started quite unexpectedly with an overnight stop on the drive from Johannesburg to Lambert’s Bay at Akkedisbult Cottage, situated on a farm near Hopetown. The owners, Gerald and Nici are progressive farmers, employing ‘guard donkeys’ to protect their sheep, using limited and selective control of predators such as Caracal and Jackel, and having a detailed knowledge of the ecology of their land. They invited us for an impromptu night drive in their 1950s Land Rover. Two hours in the freezing winds brought us excellent views of an Aardvark and two Aardwolf, several Bat-eared Fox, a Zorilla, and numerous Spring Hare. Black-footed Cat, which people see at Marrick near Kimberley, and Mountain Reedbuck also occur.  

Next stop was the lovely Lambert’s Bay, looking for Cape Clapper Lark and Cape Long-billed Lark and to visit the Cape Gannet colony. Mammals included Meerkat, Cape Fur Seal and a breaching Humpback Whale.

Tankwa Karoo National Park – we had seen Aardvark here a few years ago but no luck this time – in fact goodies were few and far between  - some Bat-eared Fox and Cape Mountain Zebra. The Tankwa, however, was as gorgeous as I remembered it and so well worth a visit. We stayed two nights in the beautifully remote Varschfontein cottage and one night at De Zyfer cottage close to the HQ, where there was a half-eaten porcupine in one of the outhouses.

Etosha NP – one night Okaukuejo; two nights Halali; two nights Namutoni (camping)

There were a lot of civilians in Etosha, especially in the campsites, but it is a fantastic place for mammals. A great feature of a stay in the park are the illuminated waterholes at Okaukuejo and Halali, the one at Namatoni being perhaps not so good. Lots of ungulates on the drives, especially around Halali and Namutoni, including Black and White Rhinos, Black-faced Impala (introduced into the park during the Angolan Civil War) and the lovely Damara Dikdik, plenty of Elephants, Giraffe and Burchell’s Zebra, several Lions, one Cheetah with small cub, and a single Leopard. Honey Badgers are a certainty at Halali Rest Camp – in the bins and drinking from the water taps at night.

Evenings/nights at waterholes produced

Okaukuejo (dusk-10 pm) – Black Rhino (2), White Rhino (1), Elephant, and a stunning Brown Hyena (1 – wandered in at 8pm, drank and wandered out). This is a superb waterhole with large numbers of animals during the day and goodies at night.

Halali (around 8 hrs on two evenings) – Spotted hyena (6), lion (4), Cape Porcupine (1), Cape Fox (2), Black Rhino (2), Cape Hare (sev). Much quieter than Okaukuejo but fantastically exciting nonetheless.


I loved this place and think it has great potential. The Conservancy (gated and well policed) is doing well I believe and they have recently introduced White Rhino here. We stayed at the Mara, opposite the expensive Erongo Wilderness Lodge – nice rooms and a campsite. The owner is really into his mammals and has seen Brown Hyena (Spotted is not here apparently), Leopard etc etc on night drives along the road, and Cheetah in the afternoons.
You are free to drive the roads within the conservancy at night. Around five hours of night driving up and down the D2315 and D2316 produced great views of Aardwolf and Bat-eared Fox on the D2316 (rough road), plus Giraffe, Mountain Zebra, Gemsbok, Common Duiker etc on the D2315. I wish we’d stayed longer and done more free night-driving – lots of predators to see. We didn’t see Black Mongoose.

Cape Cross 

Our target here was, of course, Brown Hyena. We camped two nights at the Cape Cross Lodge (cold) which was nice. There are other places along the coast but all looked pretty grim. We spent the first dawn overlooking the seal colony fence from the entrance road (from the main road C34) to the lodge (in fact we could see the main gate to the seal sanctuary from our position). No sign, so we spent the next hour driving around not seeing hyenas but seeing lots of jackals. We found lots of brown hyena footprints in various places – especially around seal carcasses on the beach at the first turn off north. Also no sign between 7-10 pm driving and scanning along various roads in the area. The following morning we positioned ourselves before dawn on a rise on the main road at about 210 74’ 26.03 S 130 99’ 25.06. No luck until 15 mins after dawn when one walked right past us – and we followed it up the track towards the crater for 25 mins until it entered the dry river bed at 210 43’ 04.24 S; 130 59’ 59.16 E. Hyenas apparently come to drink at the small trough at the front of the lodge – but it would be a long wait I guess.


Then we drove through Walvis Bay and into the Namib-Naukluft National Park, staying at Homeb campsite and visiting the nicer Mirabib, nearby. Plenty of Mountain Zebra and Gemsbok, but few other mammals of interest. The gravel plains on the road close to Homeb was the only place I saw Burchell's Courser (group of 12). We were disappointed with Sossusvlei - crowded and touristy. The area has good numbers of mammals and looks especially good for mesopredators. It is a shame you need to be out of the park by nightfall. Within the park, the area where the road crosses the river looked great, Dune Lark was easy at the base of the dune near the lookout, and Brown Hyena tracks were seen around the base of Elim Dune.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

We entered the park from Namibia at the Mata Mata border post and had three nights (Nossob then two nights at Twei Riverein – the whole place was heavily booked in August). The area around Nossob is superb, especially for predators – two Cheetah sightings (Twin Palms road was good), Lions, Bat-eared Fox etc. 

An all-nighter at the Nossob waterhole (illuminated until 10 pm and from 4 am – otherwise scanned with a Maglite) was a bit disappointing but nevertheless exciting - Spotted Hyena (2), Lion (2), Cape Fox (2), Spring Hare (1). Anything can turn up here.

Driving within the park from Twei Riverein was sometimes slow but we managed one Leopard, two Cheetah (all five cheetah we saw were females with cubs), Lion, Spotted Hyena, and the only African Wild Cat of the trip (crossed the road near Rooiputs).

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  1. Great report - really interesting to read about some sites that I hadn't heard of!

  2. Such a amazing wild life report, thanks for sharing.
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