Namibia, day 13 ... Walvis Bay and Namib Desert

23 November – Walvis Bay and Namib-Naukluft National Park
Pre-breakfast birdwatching was along the strand again, alongside early morning keep fit enthusiasts. Chestnut-banded plover was a new bird and there was a Caspian tern that many of us had missed yesterday. In the minibuses we went farther along Walvis Bay after breakfast. The large numbers of lesser flamingos in this area was quite a sight. Waders included thousands of avocets mixed with black-winged stilts, little stints alongside hundreds of curlew sandpipers and many chestnut-banded plovers, as well as those mentioned in yesterday’s account.
Lesser flamingos, Walvis Bay (Tim Hunt).
 We then drove into the Namib-Naukluft National Park: after nearly a fortnight in Namibia, in the Namib desert at last. It was hotter than the relative cool of the coast, but much less so than inland. We stopped to look at a range of flowering plants adapted to the harsh conditions, then tucked into the shade of small copse with a convenient picnic tables for the lunch Geoff had bought first thing.

The group split at this point with six going with Darrin to Swakopmund. On the edge of town, a wheel on the minibus came off. As vehicle issues go, solutions were close: a Toyota garage with a tow-truck was a few hundred metres away and a ride was quickly arranged to take the group into Swakopmund. A close harmony quartet was a highlight there.

The rest explored the desert some more, in particular to see the celebrated Welwitschias. These are odd, near-prostrate conifers that grow in the harshest of conditions with long tap roots and two odd, trailing leaves, almost solid to the touch. Their age is often measured in centuries, though there is some dispute about the oldest, perhaps 1500 years old. Visitors are directed to one area in particular, especially the biggest Welwitschia that’s behind a fence, and many are marked with a circle of stones to prevent trampling in the surface root area. Nearby we logged a range of specialist plants, including Namib hoodia and desert edelweiss; more are noted in this report’s lists.
Welwitschia mirabilis in the Namib-Naukluft National Park
We drove on to desert near Swakopmund with low, compact bushes. It took a while but we found Gray’s larks here, six in one area by the road with a tractrac shrike at the same place. We then met Darrin’s gang and somehow squeezed everyone in one minibus to return to Walvis Bay. The Lagoon Loge contingent joined the others for dinner along the road at Flamingo Villas.
Helicrysum roseo-niveum, 'desert edelweiss'.

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