Namibia, day 3 ... Waterberg

13 November – Waterberg National Park
Breakfast was at 7am, with a lift for those who wanted one down the hill, so we could make a 7:30 rendezvous with our game drive for the morning. There was room for all of us in the open-sided truck with driver and guide Nelson. The route on wide dirt tracks through the lowlands below the cliff, pausing go through several gates, included stops to see a steenbok crossing the road, warthogs and hornbills. To our right a couple of hamerkops flew through and on the grass on the left was our first crowned lapwing. Somewhere we passed a farmstead under a flowering jacaranda tree before the route took us up the escarpment to the plateau at the top of the cliffs.

Waterberg National Park, panorama from the top of the plateau.
The sandy track through scrub brought us, in time, to three waterholes, at least waterholes of sorts. By an impressive stone wall to mark the spot, a sandy walkway took us to a large hide overlooking a large area of sand with a stone pond in the centre, close enough to see but far enough so visiting mammals were not disturbed by humans in the hide. At this first hide a large bull eland came from stage right, drank and exited stage left. The baboons around the water then had to make way for a family party of Cape buffalos, some of which went into the water body to drink. These are not native, we learnt, as the ear-tag on the biggest testified: the introduction of TB-free Cape buffalo is to add interest and establish a population that can then be traded to supplement other areas. It’s not nature conservation as we understand it in Europe but part of the model used in southern Africa where game is behind fences and has to be justified economically. The Cape buffalo would struggle to survive without the water provided, taking advantage of Waterberg’s easy to harvest supply.
Bull eland (Cheryl Hunt).

Sable antelope (Cheryl Hunt). 
We passed a couple of giraffes (also non-native, and unlikely to be able to reach the Waterberg plateau) on the way to the second hide. The entrance and hide was much the same and an elegant-looking sable antelope (again, probably non-native here) was drinking as we arrived. It limped away – a hind foot or ankle was damaged – and Nelson located three kudu in the scrub to our left. As at the other waterhole we could pick out African monarch butterflies around the water. Here, as well as these and tiny blues, there was a butterfly that was a two-tailed pasha type, one of the emperor Charaxes group, species unknown. Two golden-breasted buntings on the concrete rim of the waterhole were birds to enjoy, distinctive with strong black and white black head markings and white on the wings as well as the deep yellow breast of their name. Geoff called many of us back as were walking away from the hide as half a dozen elands had appeared. What elegant beasts they are. Those who didn’t come back to look at the elands saw some impalas near the truck.

The third water hole had no hide and was simply another stone pond in an open sandy area, with a rock kestrel but little else to see. Time had moved on so we headed back, pausing for panoramic photos by the cliff-edge. Leaving Nelson by camp reception, we all just about squeezed into Geoff’s bus to drive up the hill to the restaurant for a cold drink and a light lunch.

After a siesta we met up, at 4pm again, for a gentle saunter through the scrub between the chalets and the cliffs. By the road at last there was a good view of rosy-faced lovebirds for everyone; a very short distance into the sandy ground under the scrub we looked at ant-lion larval pits. New birds as we progressed included grey-backed camaroptera, black-faced waxbill and black cuckoo. A wet flush had bright blue Julia skimmer dragonflies. Back on the road, the first few to arrive at the huge fig tree timed it perfectly to see a handover of food from a male grey hornbill to a female whose beak showed through the crack beyond which she was sealed into a nesting hole.

After dinner there were Ferrero Rocher chocolates to share to mark Malcolm’s birthday and we admired the badge with his picture and flashing lights, Helen’s handiwork of course.
Red-veined dropwing, resting on a termite mound near the Waterberg chalets.


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