19 May 2012

Fish River Canyon

As we arrived in Ais-Ais for the night, my friends and I quickly came to realize just how awesome Namibia truly was. Staying at the fantastic hot springs resort at the bottom of the canyon, we watched the stars come out above the Fish River and went for a swim in the fantastic pool. We then grabbed dinner together, enjoying the cool desert air, and I enjoyed some Windhoek Lagers and a Kudu Steak (Kudu is amazing, for anyone who hasn't tried it). However, it was soon time to retire, and as the girls went off to their fantastic rooms, I shuffled through the dark to set up my tent in the camping area in front of the lodge. I had just gotten it set up, when I heard a bird that I had heard previously in the evening - a low "kow-kow, kow-kow" coming from not far away. My birding instincts kicked in instantly, as I whispered to myself "Freckled Nightjar!" I quickly climbed out of my tent with my head land, and wandered towards the sound. The bird sounded close, and I had a hunch I knew where it was. I clicked the light onto the roof of the bathrooms and, lo and behold, the nightjar was sitting in the middle of my beam of light. Thoroughly satisfied, I quickly dozed off.

The next morning (5 April) was another great day. I woke up long before the others, and started wandering around the resort in search of birds. I got a pretty good list for the day considering our location, and was quite satisfied with what I found. I snapped a lot of birds pics that morning, just for the sake of having some documented birds during my trip, and tried really hard not to laugh as one of the locals chased a screaming baboon running away with a loaf of bread.

The distinctive Orange River White-eye is widely considered a separate species (Zosterops pallidus) here in Africa, but some authorities still treat it as a subspecies of the Cape White-Eye (Zosterops capensis).
A Swallow-tailed Bee-Eater (Merops hirundeneus) foraging near my tent.
A Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis) that wandered around us as we packed in the morning.

Soon, the girls were up as well, and we enjoyed a nice breakfast together before loading up the car and heading northward again. We drove parallel to the Fish River Canyon, and soon found ourselves at a beautiful turn in the bend before the actual canyon overlook. Now, the actual overlook is pretty spectacular, but my camera died shortly after taking this picture and I haven't retrieved my other pics from Maria's camera, so this will have to do for now!

The rest of our day was a travel day. We continued northwards, stopping for the occasional stretch and for our own "mini-Etosha" in the middle of the desert. Stephanie, with her now-legendary Eagle Eyes, spotted some Gemsbok (same thing as Oryx, for you Americans) in the distance. As we approached closer, we realized there was actually a water hole nearby, where Hartmann's Mountain Zebras watched their young chase and play with the nearby Gemsbok coming to drink. It was a pleasant surprise bird-wise too, as I spotted my lifer Martial Eagle flying towards the water hole. We soon continued our driving, however, listening to music, talking about life, and just enjoying each others company. It wasn't long until we were in the town of Marienthal and ready to go to sleep after a long days drive.

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