Am I on a Waterbed?
By Molly Estabrook (University of Vermont ’15)
We had a very eventful start to this week in Omatendeka conservancy. After having a wonderful time in Etosha National Park we headed off to begin wildlife monitoring in Omatendeka Conservancy. As soon as we arrived at our bush campsite in Omuramba and unpacked our bags and set up our tents the rain began. For a brief period of time the rain let up so we could eat dinner and have a discussion. However, around 8:00 that evening is when the adventure really began. It started to downpour and thunder and lightning and every time we thought that it started to let up it continued, and this happened for seven straight hours. None of us had experienced a storm like this before. It was incredible and yet terrifying at times. The rain was so heavy that it truly felt like our thermo-rests were waterbeds and our tents were floating on the surface. At one point in the middle of the night we heard a very large gust of wind and what we thought was more rain coming down harder. To our surprise it was in fact the river next to our campsite started flowing. According to our leader Vehi he hasn’t seen this river flow in over twenty years.
First thing the next morning we all crawled out of our tents and we took a walk over to see the river. It turned out to be a very brief walk, because the river was a lot closer than what we had imagined. It was amazing to see how much water accumulated in such a short amount of time. After taking lots of photos of how high the water was and how fast it was flowing we spent the rest of the day drying our damp clothes, gear, and hoping the river would dry up enough so we could start doing our game counts the next day. After reassessing the river Bekah and Vehi decided that it would be best if we packed up and headed to Palmwag Concession to complete our game counts there and return in a couple of weeks to do wildlife monitoring in Omatendeka and Ehirovipuka giving the surrounding area time to dry.
We spent the rest of the week “crushing” the northeastern part of Palmwag Concession with game guards, Ricky and Musaso. We had very successful game drives seeing lots of springbok, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, and oryx. We spent the first three nights at Save The Rhino (SRT’S) campsite at Palmwag Lodge where we saw some the most spectacular sunsets that I’ve ever seen. In addition, we had the opportunity to talk to Wilamina a staff member with SRT and had a wonderful discussion with her and the game guards about the participation of women in conservancies and the benefits that they receive. It was really great having a local Namibian woman’s point of view. We spent the next three nights in the Western part of Palmwag close to the border of Palmwag and Sesfontein Conservancy.
The last two nights we spent near the shore of the Hoanib riverbed. Here, we had another encounter with flowing rivers do to another rainstorm. This rainstorm missed our campsite but the Hoanib River flowed elsewhere carrying water down our way. Luckily, we were able to complete one of the last two routes and the other route was cut a little short by the river but not by much. We spent the day under a big shady Ana tree to escape the heat until the sun went down. There, the four of us spent some time entering data, grinnelling, and playing in the mud where some of us proceeded to slip and fall into the mud. Thankfully we were close to the Palmwag Presidents Borehole where we had the chance to take “bush baths” and cool off. It was yet another incredible eventful week here in Namibia where we fought off mosquitos, rain, wind, and had a blast completing another wildlife monitoring region of the Kunene. We all can’t believe how fast our time here is flying by, but we are enjoying every moment of it and taking everything in and are excited to CRUSH our last game counts in Omatendeka and Ehirovipuka Conservancies.