Spitzkoppe was my favourite site in Namibia. There's a primeval energy to the place. I can recommend Campsite #8, where you can pitch your tent under a huge overhanging boulder. I could have spent a week here just enjoying the changing colours of the rocks as the light changed.28-29 November. Spitskoppe.
Another predawn departure from the coast, timed to arrive at the Spitzkoppe at sunrise. Rising from the desert plains, a geological masterpiece of towering rock pinnacles and rounded boulders, Spitskoppe is an amazing sight in itself, but for the birder it is also renowned as one of the most reliable sites for the difficult Herero Chat.
A thousand acacia spikes and thorny grass seeds through my sandals, four hours from dawn I searched for Herero Chat, the temperature already climbing above 25 C. Banana-nosed Monteiro's Hornbills, a couple of Grey Go-away Birds, plenty of Dusky Sunbirds, Mountain Wheatears, Pritit Batis and Yellow-bellied Eremomela, a pair of Long-billed Crombec, several Sabota Larks, not bad birding at all, but as for Herero Chat, not a sign.
As temperature climbed and bird activity declined, chances of finding the usually reclusive chat dwindled, but quite a number of hyper active butterflies began to appear. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, I spent the hot hours pursuing the butterflies, also not too easy with them very rarely settling for more than a millisecond here and there. Nethertheless, reflecting the appearance of acacia stands rather than pure desert, eight species on the wing, my highest day count so far - at the one end of the size spectrum, tiny Grass Jewels, along with slightly larger Velvet-spotted Blues, while at the other end, several Natal Acaria and one Citrus Swallowtail. Sitting in the middle, and the most abundant butterflies of the day, four species of whites - one Zebra White, 30 or 40 Common Orange-Tips, one Lilac Tip and several Brown-veined Whites.
As the heat eventually began to wain from its peak of 35 C, gave the Herero Chat another attempt ...and again zilch on that front! Still, did see Acacia Pied Barbet, a couple of Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters and, as evening approached, a number of mammals - numerous Rock Dassies, three Cape Hares, one Black Mongoose (a rare Namibian endemic), a brief Western Rock Elephant-Shrew and two nimble-footed Klipspringers picking their way up a rockface.
At an exquisite site surrounded by high rocks, I camped out, total silence in the desert, a full moon illuminating the desert floor. Bat-eared Fox and Small Spotted Genet during the night.
Dawn, resuming the search for Herero Chat. Fortunately this day was rather more successful - after a half hour of birding, marked by Ashy Tits, Dusky Sunbirds et al, I heard a pleasant little song to my left ...and there atop a small acacia between boulders, one very nice Herero Chat! And moments later, a second joined it ... success, one pair of Herero Chats. After serenading a while atop its bush, off they both flitted, over a rock outcrop and gone.
Wandered a while longer, first butterflies rising as the temperature soared - Grass Jewels and Common Orange Tips - then decided for a complete change. Departed and drove across the stone deserts back to the coast, a fortuitous stop en route adding three Gray's Larks. And then there was Cape Cross, an assault on the senses on every angle ...a pong from a half kilometre away, a loud braying of incredible proportion from all sides, a seething mass of lumbering bodies occupying almost every conceivable patch of beach for hundreds of metres each way ...this was the Cape Cross Seal Colony, home to some 230,000 Cape Fur Seals, now right at the peak of their pupping season. Newborns all over the place, attendant Kelp Gulls looking for weaklings and afterbirth, numerous small youngsters desperately trying to avoid getting squashed by squabbling adults. No such thing as social distancing here, truly a remarkable sight. Off young, a dozen or so Black-backed Jackals snoozed in nearby desert, plenty of lunch available a little later.
Ponged out, eventually time to leave, headed to Swakopmund. Pick up truck reversed into my car, didn't bother stopping ...have some explaining to do with the rental company.