After a 4 day lay-over in the UK I was off to Namibia for a 5 week position with the British Exploration Society.
We were based a few kilometers from the Brandberg Mountain range which is just east of the Namib Desert.
Before arriving at the Brandberg we spent one night at a town called Okahanja before traveling the 6 hours to the Brandberg the next day. I took the opportunity here to sleep under the stars, rather than using a tent. A decision I didn't regret!
It was an eventful first night after arriving at base camp, with a hooded cobra passing straight through base camp at night.
Our first week in Namibia was focused on training and acclimatization to the desert environment (42 degrees Celsius in the shade). With the 1st week out of the way, I was then set loose into my role as science leader for the expedition. I started by taking one of the 1st groups of students out to a camp a few kilometers away from base camp. I nicknamed this camp,"Watchman" because of the huge stone pillar which resembled a huge man staring over the valley. The planned activities for each of the science weeks with each group consisted of: A few nights at watchman camp, learning about ecological assessment techniques (Transects, Quadrats and Visual Encounter Surveys), a debate about current conservation issues (Panda's - Yay or Ney). A few days near the local village of De Rust to learn about human - animal conflict and a discussion about game park management and the ivory trade. General African Ecology and Reptile Ecology were also general themes I taught throughout the entire trip.
After a couple of weeks teaching science in base camp, and finding numerous day geckos and horned adders it was time for the 75km trek across the Namib Desert to the Skeleton coast on the west. The trek started off with a bang as we managed to see a lone bull elephant right on the road on the way to the drop off point and a few minutes later a White Rhino was spotted off in the distance! Two good omens for the trip. The trek was over 6 days most of the walking was done during the early hours to avoid the blistering heat of the day time. The highlight of the trip, for me, was finding a few Namaqua Chameleons in the middle of the desert. This species is a desert specialist and the first wild chameleon I have ever seen! After reaching the skeleton coast, so called because of the high number of ship wrecks, we had a much needed paddle in the sea! Which was freezing but after 6 days in the red hot and wind blown desert no one complained!
The final week and a half was spent back at the Brandberg mountain, tracking a family of elephants (which we managed to see from a very picturesque lookout point), finding more and more geckos, walking down dried up river beds, watching a huge procession of goats, a moon lit scout for elephants and African sunrises!