This is the third instalment of a four part trip to Namaqualand road trip you can catch the second part here. This narrative starts off as Andries and I leave Springbok and head towards the West Coast.
Springbok to McDougalls Bay Bay via Port Nolloth.
We left the sweltering heat and dry heat of Springbok on the morning of the 18th December (which was actually my birthday!) before stopping st Spar to get the essentials of cool water, snacks and other random bits and pieces we thought we may need. The drive is relatively short and surprisingly scenic and roads were very quiet. Once out of Springbok we couldn’t have passed more than a dozen or so other vehicles on the way.The road for the most part looked a lot like this:
We saw virtually nothing in terms of animals or DOR (dead on road) animals on the drive down. Arriving in the port we welcomed the cool breeze and lack of all encompassing heat that we’d been subject to the last two days in Springbok. We arrived at an old friend Dave Maguire’s place where we’d be spending the next three days down at Mcdougals Bay. Dave is an old salt of the younger ‘herping” game and we’ve spent loads of time in the field across the country so we should be in for an exciting for days.
Having arrived at Dave’s place we chatted briefing and he showed us around and gave a quick breakdown of how the mist rolls in from the sea and what the weather should be doing and what we needed the weather to be to come right with some reptiles.
Looking out across the bay.
Cranes on the wharf.
Heading out to some dunes just inland from the coast and started to scratch around but in the heat of the day now around 2:30pm was not the best idea and we didn’t hold up most hope of seeing anything. We saw a few lizards shoot off between the bushes as we walked but most were just glimpses and not even hanging around long enough to get an ID. We spotted a large Giant Desert Lizard and followed it to a small bush, Andries practically dived in after it but it seemed to have vanished! He scooped up some sand and it was in his hands seemly burrowed into the sand to escape being seen – Andries proceeded-to drop the handful of sand and lizard in awe.
I quickly followed it and was able to scoop up the sand and safely get a hold of this beauty of a lizard. We walked around and didn’t see too much else and decided to head back to Dave’s place but not before we had a short tour of the buzzing streets of Port Nolloth.
Getting back to dave’s place i noticed a small skink zipping along the walk way – not getting a good look at it I asked him what they were? He says “Ya they’re everywhere around here, they’re Kalahari Tree Skinks.” so now I HAD to catch one to photograph it! Simply because we are on herping trip and of course it’s a new species for me, let alone the fact they shouldn’t naturally be here!
We sorted at dinner while waiting for it to get dark enough for a quick scout around for the Western Dwarf Chameleons and the Desert Rain frog. We quickly managed to find a few Western Dwarf Chameleons but after about an hour with no rain frogs calling due to the mist not rolling in we decided to hit the road and see what reptiles where around just outside of town. It was extremely quiet and the only animals we saw were some Common Barking Geckos and a few Bibrons Geckos.
Day 6 coming to and end.
The sun only starts to go down at around 8pm – a long day when you’re waiting for the night to fall.
Today was going to be our first full day out on the West Coast and we had a number of targets we’d like to see the Namaqualand Dune Adder, Austens Dune Gecko, Pink Blind Legless Skinks, numerous other skinks and lizards. We started out walking from Dave’s place and not soon after turned up a few Austens Dune Gecko under some small stones, a few Pink Blind Legless Skinks, Dave and I managed to stalk and slowly capture a Knox’s Desert Lizard. These lizards are fast as lightning and run from bush to bush making them tricky to catch but after my time in Spingbok I showed Dave a trick or two how I managed to catch them and it worked quite well over the next few days.
It’s a common sight even when in remote areas the sheer mount of human debris and rubbish you will find in these coastal dunes and sandy areas, although an eye sore and no good for the environment such areas will always host an array of reptiles and lifting cover makes them relatively easy to find.
We came across a mall burrow and Dave was adamant to show me how he has learnt a particular way of finding a notoriously tricky nocturnal animal. It sounded like a big talk so I was dead keen to see it in action. He started slowly moving the sand away and bit by bit became increasing confident we’d get out prize! He wasn’t wrong with in 5 minutes we had our prize!
Dave begins the digging out process.
Beginning to lose interest as I watch the digging.
Getting passed the hottest part of the day we carried one, we’d found a few more Pink Blind Legless Skinks, Austen’s Dune Geckos and lost a Coastal Dwarf Legless Skink (damn!). Heading towards Steeper more costal dunes Dave and I scoured the small bushes in HOPES to come across a Namaqua Dwarf Adder. We continued for a while and then wondered where the heck Andries had gone – regardless we carried on. Soon after I heard Dave whistle and he pointed towards the small bush along side him – success! A great example of an adult female. We called Andries over before carefully getting out the denser section of the bush for photographs.
On the walk home we headed towards a small pile of building rubble and flipped a few boards and found several more Pink Blind Legless Skinks, Austen’s Dune Geckos and finally two Coastal Dwarf Legless Skinks. Which had i know previously where an absolute nightmare to photograph! But patience pays off and managed a few good photographs.
Once back at Dave’s we photographed a few things whilst there was still a bit of daylight left and hoping tonight the mist would roll in from the sea and we would hear some Desert Rain Frogs calling – really hoping for that! I saw another Western Dwarf Chameleon on the back fence and snapped a few photographs – the chameleons here seemed to be much smaller than I was used to seeing lower down on the West Coast. We milled around waiting for it to get dark, I downloaded some images, started organising some images and contemplating what we’d do for dinner.
We walked the dunes for a good two hours and heard one or two Desert Rain Frogs all but nothing concrete enough to find any. Dave continued to scour the dunes with the binoculars but we still came up empty unfortunately. The moon was now full and it was unusually cool Andries and I set out for another road cruise and drove a good 50km each way but had no luck at all. Disappointed we headed back and I photographed a few more Austen Dune Gecko’s before calling it a night.
Essential West Coasting.
Working hard and hardly working.
Life on the West Coast – slap tjips!
We headed out early and left the white and yellow sands behind as us we ventured along a long bone shaking-ly rutted road to search for a few more less coastal animals. We saw a small Pedioplanis shoot out across the road and come to rest in a small bush, we stopped and tried to find it but it vanished until I noticed a small amount fo sand pouring out a small hole – now we’ve got it I thought. I slowly started to move the sand away and out popped an adult Western Cape Gecko. After a few photos we carried on to a large rocky ridge to search for the infamous dragons of Namaqualand – the Armadillo Lizard. Unfortunately these animals are highly prized in the trade and illegally collected in large amounts by locals and foreign nationals alike. We made our way up the small hill face and within 5 minutes I had spotted the first one in a small narrow rock crevice. Without much effort i managed to coax it out for a few photos.
Searching the hills for reptiles.
Spending a good two hours walking the hills and found a number of Armadillo Lizards, It was great to see there are still good numbers in this particular area which appear had not been hot hard by collectors no signs of crowbarred rocks and over turned rocks everywhere which we saw in some parts in Springbok.
Dave and I tracked and failed to catch a beautiful Pedioplanis inornata – Plain Sandveld lizard but it evaded our capture despite a few attempts – it did however lead us to another smaller bush with a Namaqua Sandveld Lizard which also managed to escape both of use besides a few tricks we had up our sleeves.
We found a few more Armadillo Lizards and found a nice spot to photograph them so I managed to snap a few good photographs of a classic defensive tail-biting pose before we left back on the terrible red rutted road and headed back into town. We did another now afternoon routine of driving through town checking out the sites or maybe it was Dave checking out the girls? Stopped off at the local tjip shop and got a massive packet of hot “tjips” and watched over the bay contemplating what our afternoon plans would be.
Soon after we got back Andries and I had itchy feet we wanted to head out, just outside fo town to scratch around an old dumping site to flip some cover and see if we could not find any reptiles. Dave declined as I’m sure he needed some peace and quiet or a nap?
We spent a good few hours walking in the wind and found little except for the area stables, I dug out another Common Barking Gecko. Well impressed with my newly acquired skill I attempted to show Andries and landed up unearth a large bright yellow scorpion! Much to my distaste and apparently those thick-tailed scorpions pack quiet a bunch so I got off lucky there!
Showing the interesting variation amongst the Common Barking Gecko according to the soil types where they were found in and around Port Nolloth.
After a rather uneventful afternoon we again waited on nightfall for the right time head out and cruise for some reptiles, the moon again was full and the temperatures usually cool. We saw a few Bibrons Geckos before seeing a two large dead Puff Adders on the road, shortly after a massive puff adder appeared in the headlights and i managed to manoeuvre the car over it avoiding connecting with it which would have been a totally downer! We headed back to Dave’s searched the dune for one last time in search for the Desert Rain frogs but sadly we dipped! We had an early night and we were lights out around 12:30!
Adios Port Nolloth
Next stop Oudtshoorn via the West Coast.