Trip Report: Namibia Herpetological Tour 2019

10 – 17 April 2019

Guide:  Dayne Braine

Day 1:

After arrival at Windhoek International Airport we continued directly to our destination, Hardap Dam. En route we stopped at a few spots and managed to find our first reptiles for the trip, Variegated Skink (Trachylepis variegata), Ground Agama (Agama aculeata) and a hatchling Speckled Gecko (Pachydactylus punctatus ). Mammal sightings for the day included Springbok and Baboons.

After dinner we headed out for a night-walk in the immediate vicinity, which produced the second gecko for the trip, Turner’s Gecko (Chondrodactylus turneri) of which we must have seen about 20 odd throughout the walk. The third species of gecko we found was Western Spotted Gecko (Pachydactylus serval ) which was the most prolific species active on our first walk, 30 odd were seen of all ages. Finally after much searching we got our first snake for the trip in the form of Brown House Snake (Boaedon capensi). To end the evening we scored a Western Thread Snake (Namibiana occidentalis).

Day 2:

After Breakfast we scratched around for Black Spitting Cobra without any luck. One had been seen by the staff a couple of days before under the restaurant area and they even showed us its favourite haunts but, still no luck. On the way out we saw Oryx and Rock Hyrax.

We headed our journey south towards the Quiver tree forest near Keetmanshoop. A few stops en route yielded more Variegated Skink and new to the list, Plain Sand Lizard (Pedioplanis inornata).

We arrived at the Quiver tree forest well past lunchtime. After settling in we went for a short afternoon walk. We got a beautiful Anchitae’s Agama (Agama anchitae) as well as a male and female Western Rock Skink (Trachylepis sulcata). There were also a few Rock Hyrax around.

After dinner we headed out to the Quiver trees for our night-walk. We saw Smith’s Red Rock Rabbit, Cape Hare and handfuls of Western Spotted Geckos and Turner’s Geckos. Matthew spotted a Granulated Thick-tailed Scorpion (Parabuthus granulatus) on the way back, the most dangerous scorpion in Namibia. Unfortunately, no snakes were found today.

Day 3:

After breakfast and checkout, we started our journey towards Lüderitz. Our target: any Adder that wishes to be found!

We stopped again at several spots along the way. Nothing new was added until just before Lüderitz in the late afternoon. We scrounged around at a spot that looked good for several species. We saw Wedge-snouted Desert Lizard (Meroles cuneirostris) and Spotted Desert Lizard (Meroles suborbitalis). To end the afternoon with a cherry on the top we found a beautiful Dwarf Beaked Snake (Dipsina multimaculat).

After dinner at Barrels we embarked on another much-anticipated night-walk. We encountered several new targets: First up was the Namib Web-footed Gecko (Pachydactylus rangei) a stunning reptile by any standards! Shortly thereafter we located a Spotted Barking Gecko   (Ptenopus garrulus maculates) both males and females and we also heard them calling. The highlight for the walk came in the form of two Namib Giant Ground Geckos (Chondrodactylus angulifer namibensis).

Day 4:

We spent the entire morning at Kolmanskop, an old diamond mining town that was deserted in the 1950’s only to let the desert swallow it.

The only new species we managed there was a juvenile Bibron’s Gecko (Chondrodactylus bibroni) the only one for the trip. On our way back to town for lunch, I suggested we have a quick scout to see if we could find any burrowing skink tracks, however, none had moved yet through the morning. After 10 minutes of searching, Matthew and Michael were ushered over to my ‘Wooohooo!’ Finally, a venomous snake! I had located a Many-horned Adder (Bitis cornuta), a dwarf adder, one that is notoriously difficult to locate. We then found a juvenile Karoo Sand/Whip Snake (Psammophis notostictus) also new for the trip. After all the excitement we had burgers and pizza at Ritzis. We headed out for an afternoon drive to the peninsula. We got a Reticulated Desert Lizard (Meroles reticulatus) at Diaz point. Despite the bit of wind near Grossebucht we squeezed in a second Many-horned Adder for good measure, thankfully the first one was is an easier photographic situation. We left the peninsula behind and headed to town for dinner at Diaz Coffee Shop who serves seafood cuisine that is to die for. The night-walk added nothing new, Namib Web-footed Geckos and Spotted Barking geckos showed well again.   

Day 5:

We headed towards Aus shortly after breakfast. Just after Lüderitz we added Knox’s Desert Lizard (Meroles Knoxi) to the list. We tried a spot just outside Aus for Desert Mountain Adder without any luck, but we did see Western Rock Skinks and, new for the list, a Knobel’s Agama (Agama knobeli).

We also found a dead Mole Snake (Pseudaspis cana) on the road.

We had a long journey ahead to see Sossusvlei and reach Solitaire. The find of the journey was shortly after lunch at Helmeringhausen, a Karoo Girdled Lizard (Namazonosaurus polyzonus).

We had a rushed late afternoon Sossusvlei excursion before continuing to Solitaire. We arrived at Solitaire slightly after sunset rather tired. After dinner, we did another night-walk and found two Speckled Geckos as well as a juvenile Western Three-striped Skink (Trachylepis occidentalis) and a juvenile Kalahari Tree Skink (Trachylepis spilogaster) both new for our trip. Matthew found a tiny Namib Giant Ground Gecko. Spotted Barking Geckos engulfed us in their chorus of “kekekekeks”.

Day 6:

Today we headed for the Erongo Mountains for the night. We drove through the Gaub and Kuiseb passes and stopped at a few sights on the way. We found Namaqua Sand Lizard (Pedioplanis namaquensis), Variegated and Western three-striped Skinks. We also saw a dead Karoo Sand/Whip Snake on the road.

We were lucky to see a few handfuls of Springbok, Oryx and 15 Angolan Giraffe on the roadside.

Once we arrived at Hohenstein Lodge we were greeted by a Barnard’s Namib Day Gecko (Rhoptropus barnardi) and then also found a Wedge-snouted Skink (Trachylepis acutilebris), both new for the trip.

We wolfed down our dinner and went on our routine night-walk. We got our second Brown House Snake, a larger and differently colored individual.  Other finds included Velvety Geckos (Pachydactylus bicolour) whose hatchlings are truly stunning, Namibian Rock Agama (Agama planiceps), a juvenile Giant Plated Lizard (Gerrhosaurus validus) and Turner’s Gecko.

Day 7:

Leaving behind the Erongo Mountains with no Cobras in sight, we continued to Swakopmund on the central coastline of the Namib Desert. Our route took us to the abandoned Khan mine where we searched for the odd-looking Spitting Cobras that occur in the vicinity, without success, unfortunately.

We drove along the Khan River where we encountered some Ostrich, the biggest bird in the world which is also flightless. We took in the beautiful landscape along the Swakopmund River valley and reached Swakopmund by lunchtime.

After lunch, we headed straight to the dune fields on the edge of town. If you have ever heard the term ‘end with a bang’, this was better than that: first, we found a large female Namaqua Chameleon (Chameleo namaquensis), then two Horned Adders (Bitis caudalis), three Peringuey’s Adders (Bitis peringueyi) and another two Namaqua Chameleons. All in all, it was a very good haul for an afternoon.

We headed back for town for our last dinner together.

We drove 7km out of town for our night-walk on the gravel plains. Here we continued for about 2 and a half hours and found a Dancing White Lady Spider (Leucocestris arenicola), Namib Web-footed Geckos, Carp’s Barking Geckos (Ptenopus Carpi) and the sometimes difficult to find Koch’s Gecko (Pachydactylus kochi).

Day 8:

We had a bit of time to walk around Swakopmund in the morning and then headed towards Walvis Bay Airport. We found two more Peringuey’s Adders on the way just to make sure Matthew and Michael remember what they look like before their long journey back to America. A great trip overall with good company.