Trip Summary: Tour 11 February - 22 February 2023
This Herping expedition starts in the Capital of Namibia, Windhoek, and covers the south of Namibia to the Orange River, carrying on through the central Namib Desert to the coastal town of Swakopmund and onward to the Erongo mountains and ending back in Windhoek.
The main tour was Herping specific and we managed a list of 65 species of Reptiles and Amphibians. This tour provided us with all the possible Bitis species in the country. Our third successive trip to do achieve this!!
Some of the pre-tour arrivals did a road cruise the previous evening and found one Bug-eyed House Snake (Boaedon mentalis).
Day 1: The tour officially starts today.The group that arrived the day before managed to locate one of the local forms of Horned adder (Bitis caudalis) on the morning of day one. This form will possibly be split as a new species (Bitis reconditus??), making it the seventh Bitis species for the country. We also find a Leopard Tortoise on the tar road near town which we planned on releasing in a safe area away from the highway. In the late afternoon we join Christiaan, the local snake remover, to release several species of snakes on a nearby farm. We had opportunity to photograph 5 Zebra Cobras (Naja nigricincta nigricingcta), a Puff adder (Bitis arietans), a Common Egg-eater (Dasypeltis scabra) and the Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) we rescued off the road earlier.
We did a road cruise after dinner and that produced Stilletto (Atractaspis bibroni) and one live Common Egg-eater (Dasypeltis scabra) and one dead one, also one dead Brown house Snake (Boaedon capense).
Key Species: Zebra Cobra (Naja nigricincta nigricingcta), Puff adder (Bitis arietans), Common Egg-eater (Dasypeltis scabra), Stilleto Snake (Atracaspis bibroni) and Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis), Windoek Gecko (Pachydactylus reconditus), Large-scaled Gecko (Pachydactylus scutatus) Jordan's Girdled Lizard (Karusosaurus jordani).
Day 2: After a morning photographic session with the last nights species, we travel getting as far south as possible, with a few stops on-route where we added some Agama species. We also saw a Rock Monitor crossing the road but didn't manage to find it after stopping. A night cruise near Keetmanshoop produced a juvenile Horned Adder (Bitis caudalis), Fischer's Gecko (Chondrodactylus laevigatus) and Giant Ground gecko (Chondrodactylus angulifer angulifer). A few large Solifugae (Sun Spiders) kept the group entertained.
Key Species: Horned Adder (Bitis caudalis), Knobel's Agama (Agama Knobeli), Southern Rock Agama ( Agama Atra), Giant Ground gecko (Chondrodactylus angulifer angulifer), Fischer's Gecko (Chondrodactylus laevigatus), Plain Sand Lizard (Pedioplanis inornata), Kalahari Tree Skink (Trachylepis spilogaster), Western Rock Skink (Trachylepius sulcata).
Day 3: A really early start in the morning gave our first attempt at Desert Mountain Adder. The first site produced a beautiful young specimen within the hour. Anyone who has searched for these dwarf adders will know how special a findit is. We also managed to find a Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis) on the same site. We continued to Orange River for the night, unfortunately strong winds prevented any afternoon herping. An after-dinner night walk got us good numbers of Namib Web-footed Gecko (Pachydactylus rangei).
Key Species: Desert Mountain Adder (Bitis xeropaga), Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis), Namib Web-footed Gecko (Pachydactylus rangei), Anchieta's Agama (Agama anchietae) and Bibron's Gecko (Chondrodactylus bibroni), Variegated skink (Mabuya variegata).
Day 4: A cold, misty start to the morning didn't produce much until the day warmed up and things started moving. The target Namaqua Dwarf Adder eventually gave itself up and a juvenile Namaqua Chameleon was a nice bonus to the morning. Many Knox's desert Lizards where also found as the activated in the sunlight. We then departed further north on the Atlantic Ocean. We were met by strong winds on arrival but spent some time on the coastal peninsula during the late afternoon.
Key Species: Namaqua Dwarf Adder (Bitis schneideri), Bibron's Gecko (Chondrodactylus bibroni), Knox's Desert Lizard (Meroles knoxii), Namaqua Chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis).
Day 5: We had to get going as early as possible, due to a strong wind prediction, in order to find our main target the Many-horned Adder. We started our search and managed to locate a male specimen within an hour or so. Thankfully, because the wind was getting near gale force. We departed coast toward the interior, where spent the night. A night cruise produced the rare and endemic Namibian Wolf Snake (Lycophidion namibianum) and a Beetz's Tiger Snake (Telescopus beetzi). Unfortunately, we also found a dead Cape coral Cobra (Aspidilaps lubricus lubricus).
Key Species: Many-horned Adder (Bitis cornuta), Namibian Wolf Snake (Lycophidion namibianum), Beetz's Tiger Snake (Telescopus beetzi) Giant Ground Gecko (Chondrodactylus angulifer) and Reticulated Desert Lizard (Meroles reticulatus).
Day 6: Today we spend time in the granite strewn habitat surrounding our accommodation. The morning produced not one, but two, Nama Padloper (Chersobius solus), in the same spot. We also found a very beautifully coloured Spotted Bush Snake (Philothammus semivariegatus), Ground Agama (Agama oculeata) and Karoo Girdled Lizard (Karusosaurus polyzonus).
After lunch we spent the late afternoon back in the granites where we located a male Bushmanland Tent Tortoise (Psammobates tentorius verroxii). That evening we did another night cruise and managed to find a Bug-eyed House Snake (Boaedon mentalis).
Key Species: Nama Padloper (Chersobius solus), Bushmanland Tent Tortoise (Psammobates tentorius verroxii), Spotted Bush Snake (Philothammus semivariegatus), Ground Agama (Agama oculeata) and Karoo Girdled Lizard (Karusosaurus polyzonus).
Day 7: A long day of travel with several stops on the route north toward the massive red dunes of Sossusvlei. Checking many Sociable Weaver nests for Cape and Black Spitting Cobras. No luck was had. Good numbers of large mammals such as Oryx antelope, Springbok and Plains Zebra were seen along the way.
Key Species: Namib Giant Ground Gecko (Chondrodactylus angulifer namibensis).
Day 8: The day was spent in the Namib's sand sea exploring the area and looking for the target Peringuey's Adder. We were lucky to find a track within 15 min and tracked it almost 500m before finding it buried in a shrub. The dunes were covered in the coastal fog and made for a unique photographic experience.
We explored a canyon and found a large fresh Horned Adder track which led under a large boulder and unfortunately could not find it. We did however find a Karoo Sand Snake (Psammophis leightoni notostictus) and a puddle in the canyon produced Cape Clawed Frog, Giant Bullfrog and Tandy's Sand Frog.
A night walk produced several geckos.
Key Species: Peringuey's Adder (Bitis peringueyi), Karoo Sand Snake (Psammophis leightoni notostictus), Namib Giant Ground Gecko (Chondrodactylus angulifer namibensis), Namib Web-footed Gecko (Pachydactylus rangei), Fischer's Gecko (Chondrodactylus laevigatus), Wedge-snouted Lizard (Meroles cuneirostris) and Shovel-snouted Lizard (Meroles anchietae, African Giant Bullfrog (Pyxicephalus adspersus), Cape Clawed Frog (Xenopus leavis)and Tandy's Sand frog (Tomopterna tadyi).
Day 9: On this day we travelled toward the coast through the central Namib desert. The habitat changes dramatically as you near the coast line bringing with it a bunch of new species. Stops on the route provided Wedge snouted Skink, Spotted Desert Lizard and Namaqua Chameleon. We saw the living fossil plants, Welwitschia mirabilis. We spent a few hours in the coastal dunes and found one of the paler coastal forms of Peringuey's Adder (Bitis peringueyi).
Key Species: Peringuey's Adder (Bitis peringueyi), Namaqua Chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis), Hoesh's Skink (Trachylepis hoeshi) and Spotted Desert Lizard (Meroles suborbitalis).
Day 10: A morning was spent in the coastal dunes and gravel plains looking for a few endemics. We found more coastal forms of Peringuey's Adder. Other localized Namib specials included Shovel-snouted Lizard and Reticulated Desert Lizard. That evening we night walked an area, north of Swakopmund, which delivered the highly localized Marais Gecko, Common Namib Day Gecko and Bradfield's Namib Day Gecko. More Fischer's Gecko as well as the endemic Koch's Ground Gecko and Carp's Barking Gecko were observed as well. Black-backed Jackal were also seen while nigh walking. Whilst driving back we road cruised a large Bug-eyed House Snake.
Key Species: Peringuey's Adder (Bitis peringueyi), Bug-eyed House Snake (Boaedon mentalis), Namaqua Chameleon (Chamaeleo namaquensis), Shovel Snouted Lizard (Meroles anchietae), Reticulated Desert Lizard (Meroles reticulatus), Marais's Gecko (Pachydactylus maraisi), Bradfield's Namib Day Gecko (Rhoptropus bradfieldi), Koch's Ground Gecko (Colopus kochii), Carp's Barking Gecko (Ptenopus carpi), Common Namib Day Gecko (Rhoptropus afer).
Day 11: We departed the coast eastwards toward the Erongo mountains. We walked several areas en-route. A few Lizard species were found. An afternoon walk around the Erongo mountains produced Namibian Rock Agama, Marbled Rubber Frog and Marsh Terrapin.
A night walk provided us with two endemic Banded Thick-toed Geckos.
Key Species: Marsh or Helmeted Terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa), Namibian Rock Agama (Agama planiceps), Ovambo Tree Skink (Trachylepis binotata), Western three-striped skink (Trachylepis occidentalis), Husab Sand Lizard (Pedioplanis husabensis), Banded Thick-toed Gecko (Pachydactylus fasciatus), Marbled rubber frog (Phrynomantis annectens).
Day 12: Today was a travel day to Windhoek to catch flights in the afternoon and evening not leaving much time for any herping.
© Text & Photos - Sean Braine
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