Monthly Archives: July 2013

Goodbye Namibia

Love fest at the Cheetah Conservation Fund

Love fest at the Cheetah Conservation Fund

Savoring our last moments in Namibia, we get on a plane in a few hours and head toward California. As we reflect on the past 6+ months, we have a lot to be grateful for. We have been forever touched by Namibian landscapes, wildlife, and people.

Livingstone, one of the most adorable faces at CCF

Livingstone, one of the most adorable faces at CCF

It was phenomenal to work and live at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, becoming familiar with the wonderful ways of cheetahs and connecting with so many people passionate about wildlife conservation.

CCF director Laurie, Jenna, and staff gardener Petrus with a recent harvest from the Chewbaaka Memorial Garden

CCF director Laurie, Jenna, and staff gardener Petrus with a recent harvest from the Chewbaaka Memorial Garden

Our home and neighbors at CCF

Our home and neighbors at CCF

The last several weeks of traveling around this marvelous country helped put our time at CCF into context and deepened our relationship with the ecosystems, plants, and animals in this part of the world.

The big man at Na'an Ku Se wildlife sanctuary near Windhoek

The big man at Na’an Ku Se wildlife sanctuary near Windhoek

An African wild dog at Na'an Ku Se wildlife sanctuary

An African wild dog, the most endangered predator in Africa, at Na’an Ku Se wildlife sanctuary

We thank this country, Namibia, and we thank you, our readers, for coming on this journey with us. It has truly enriched our experience to be able to share it with you.

Deadvlei near Sossusvlei

Deadvlei near Sossusvlei, a classic view of the Namib desert. These dead trees are thought to be 500 years old.

As we prepare to depart, we hold hope in our hearts for Namibia’s future, for the preservation of its wild places, wildlife, and rich cultural traditions.

Sunset at Elim Dune in the Sossusvlei area

Sunset at Elim Dune in the Sossusvlei area

Jenna makes friends with a caracal at Na'an Ku Se

Jenna makes friends with a caracal at Na’an Ku Se

With love and gratitude,

Chris and Jenna

Advertisements

On the Road, Part 2

Sign at our camp site on the Ugab River

Sign at our camp site on the Ugab River

Hello and welcome to Part 2 of our road-trip adventures, where Chris and Jenna go camping all over Namibia and some other places for 3 weeks. This is where the “Condor” part of our blog really kicks in. In this case, the Condor (first name Toyota) is our wheels, our bed, and sometimes our bird-viewing deck.

Chris and our mokoro guide, Twist, on the Okavango Delta

Chris and our mokoro guide, Twist, on the Okavango Delta

After a joyous time with Chris’s family, we promptly headed to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, right next door to Namibia. We drove through a desert without fences, passed many ostriches and some meerkats on the way, and arrived at a town called Maun. From outside of Maun, we took a 1-hour motor boat ride through the Okavango Delta to meet our guide, Twist, at his village. Twist took us out in his mokoro, which is like a dugout canoe, on the delta for 3 days. We sloooooowed down, enjoyed the water, watched birds, took walks on islands, and slept under the stars. The wateriness of the delta was refreshing after so many dry desert months.

A common scene on the road side in northern Namibia - women carrying recently harvested grass for making roofs and fences

A common scene on the road side in northern Namibia – women carrying recently harvested grass for making roofs and fences

Waho the leopard at the AfriCat Foundation, with Crimson-Breasted Shrike

Waho the leopard at the AfriCat Foundation, with Crimson-Breasted Shrike

We then returned to the diverse desert landscapes of Namibia and visited another big cat conservation organization called the AfriCat Foundation, where they focus on not only cheetahs, but leopards, lions, caracals, and African wild dogs as well. We found their work to be complementary to Cheetah Conservation Fund’s, and we were glad to meet another great organization in the area.

Wild cheetah near Grootberg Pass

Wild cheetah near Grootberg Pass

In search of desert-adapted elephants, we headed northwest and found some unexpected surprises. After a long day of driving through infinitely flat desert, we began approaching dry, rocky mountains. We came over a 1,645 meter pass to see a stunning view of mountains upon mountains upon mountains. In front of all those mountains, just on the side of the road, was a truly wild cheetah (!!!), roaming freely in its natural habitat. We quickly jumped out of the car, the cheetah leapt to the downhill side of the road toward a herd of impala, and we spent about 30 minutes watching this magnificent cat with the pink-red sun setting behind all those layers of mountains. It was sooooo special…

These elephants stopped at this farm for a brief drink before continuing their journey

These elephants stopped at this farm for a brief drink before continuing their journey

One day old baby desert-adapted elephant

One day old baby desert-adapted elephant

Well, we did find those desert elephants – 17 of them. They were of all ages, including a 1-day old baby. We were lucky enough to arrive at their water source just when they did – it was truly a celebration.

Chris admires a desert plant in bloom despite the drought

Chris admires a desert plant in bloom despite the drought

Twyfelfontein rock art

Twyfelfontein rock art

Still in the northwestern desert, we visited Twyfelfontein, one of the most extensive rock art groupings in southern Africa.  These engravings were made by the Bushmen centuries ago. The Twyfelfontein area has over 2,000 rock art sites.

Himba children near Sesfontein

Himba children near Sesfontein

At the northernmost point of our drive on the western side of Namibia, we went to visit a traditional Himba village. We met Himba women and children, visited their earthen buildings made from wood and cow dung plaster, and admired their beautiful crafts.

Chris and the Welwitschia

Chris and the Welwitschia

After all these years of hearing about it, we finally found the-middle-of-nowhere! It sure is desolate, but they do have these amazing plants out there… Welwitschia! Some of these plants grow to be over 1,000 years old. They only grow 2 very shredded leaves in their whole lifetime. Believe it or not, they are conifers and are related to our redwood trees in California!

Flamingos at the Walvis Bay lagoon

Flamingos at the Walvis Bay lagoon

Making our way further west, we had a sweet reunion with the ocean after 6 long months. How amazing is the ocean! Here in Namibia we see the Atlantic, and her crashing waves reminded us of northern California’s big waves in the Pacific. Where freshwater meets the sea there is a bird wonderland. Flamingos galore!

Greater Blue-Eared Starlings, Mahango Core Area (on the second time around)

Greater Blue-Eared Starlings, Mahango Core Area (on the second time around)

Enjoying the sunset at Bloedkoppie camp site, Namib-Naukluft National Park

Enjoying the sunset at Bloedkoppie camp site, Namib-Naukluft National Park

With only a few days left, we are enjoying gazing upon the Southern Cross and counting our lucky stars…

– Jenna and Chris

On the Road, Part 1

The Friedels, on an island in the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe

The Friedels, on an island in the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe

After an amazing and fulfilling 5 months at the Cheetah Conservation Fund, we have a few weeks to travel through this region and see some of the places we’ve been hearing about for months. For the first part of our trip, we were joined by Chris’s family, who met us at Victoria Falls near Livingtone, Zambia. We spent a few days here on the Zambezi River before beginning a driving adventure through the long and narrow northwest corner of Namibia, called the Caprivi Strip, and then back down into the center of the country. It was amazing to see how the landscape changed along the way – from lush river edges teaming with birds, elephants, hippos, and crocodiles to the familiar dry and thorny beauty of central Namibia. In this post, we’ll share some of the things we saw along the way.

Chris’s parents, Katy and Len, meeting the locals on the Zambezi River

Chris’s parents, Katy and Len, meeting the locals on the Zambezi River

Katy, Chris’s sister Megan, and Jenna at Victoria Falls

Katy, Chris’s sister Megan, and Jenna at Victoria Falls

Visiting a local Zambian village (see straw chicken houses at right)

Visiting a local Zambian village (see straw chicken houses at right)

Len makes some new friends at the village

Len makes some new friends at the village

Getting up close and personal with a white rhino – we were only 15 ft. away!

Getting up close and personal with a white rhino – we were only 15 ft. away!

A herd of red lechwe crossing the Kwando River on the east side of the Caprivi Strip

A herd of red lechwe crossing the Kwando River on the east side of the Caprivi Strip

A hippo showing us who’s boss, on the Kwando River

A hippo showing us who’s boss, on the Kwando River

Vervet monkey, Mahango Core Area in the Bwabwata National Park on the western side of the Caprivi (bright blue man parts have been censored from this photo)

Vervet monkey, Mahango Core Area in the Bwabwata National Park on the western side of the Caprivi (bright blue man parts have been censored from this photo)

Sable antelope and zebra, in the Mahango Core Area

Sable antelope and zebra, in the Mahango Core Area

The whole family enjoys the sunset in the Erongo Mountains of central Namibia

The whole family enjoys the sunset in the Erongo Mountains of central Namibia

– Chris and Jenna

Fighting fires with the community

Training participants meet the Ambassador cheetahs

Training participants meet the Ambassador cheetahs

A few weeks ago, I helped organize two multi-day fire management trainings at CCF for members of nearby communal conservancies. Communal conservancies in Namibia are community-based natural resource management organizations located on communal lands, which are government-owned lands that are locally managed by the country’s traditional communities. CCF is part of the Greater Waterberg Landscape, which brings together private landowners, communal conservancies, and existing protected areas (in this case, the Waterberg Plateau Park) with the goal of managing wildlife and other natural resources across property boundaries. I worked with the NAM-PLACE (Namibia Protected Landscape Conservation Areas) program, a joint effort between the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Fund, to organize and fund this training.

Training participants in CCF's classroom

Training participants in CCF’s classroom

For two and half days, participants came and stayed at CCF to learn the basics of how to prevent and manage wild fires in their communities. It was a great chance for me to meet some interesting people and learn a little bit about life in the communal areas. Most of the participants were from the Herero tribe, one of the larger tribes in Namibia.

Branches and dried grass were lit in the soccer field to practice fighting fire

Branches and dried grass were lit in the soccer field to practice fighting fire

Part of the training was a practical lesson in how to use “fire beaters” to put out grass fires. A fire beater is essentially a large rubber broom that is used to smother fire. They work best when people work together in a line to extinguish the flames.

Practicing the use of "fire beaters" to put out fire

Practicing the use of “fire beaters” to put out fire

As part of the NAM-PLACE program, CCF is helping to bring many different types of trainings and revenue-generating activities to the four communal conservancies in Herero land. It is hoped that the development of wildlife tourism in these areas will create much-needed jobs and help restore habitat for cheetah and other threatened species.

Okamatapati Conservancy chairperson Ebenhard Karita receives his certificate from Chief Forester Helena Lutombi

Okamatapati Conservancy chairperson Ebenhard Karita receives his certificate from Chief Forester Helena Lutombi

Our time at CCF is now over, so stay tuned for news of our travels around Botswana and Namibia before we return home at the end of the month.

– Chris

Thanks Bee to YOU!

Aspiring new beekeepers about to do their first swarm capture.

Aspiring new beekeepers about to do their first swarm capture.

CCF’s apiary has officially begun! Many of you will remember that you helped to see us off on this grand adventure so sweetly by attending our going away party/fundraiser. Contributions from our friends and family added up to more than $1700 for CCF. We’ve now spent the majority of your funds on getting the apiary started. THANK YOU SO MUCH! This post is about what YOUR SUPPORT has enabled at CCF.

Beekeeping protective gear and tools.

Beekeeping protective gear and tools.

The photo above shows the gear and tools bought by funds from our community – protective suits, veils, gloves, boots, bee brushes, hive tools, and a smoker. With matching funds from the Namibian Directorate of Forestry, we were able to double this amount of protective gear and now have total of four full suits.

Three full hive set-ups.

Three full hive set-ups.

The photo above shows enough equipment to set up three large colonies of bees, including boxes with frames, bottom boards, inner covers, and outer covers. All of this equipment was funded by you, our community. I can’t help but love that the bee boxes are stored with the cheetah boxes (behind, in the photo).

CCF’s feral beehive living in a tire.

CCF’s feral beehive living in a tire.

You may remember from the last post that we received a feral hive in a tire from the Directorate of Forestry. The bees chose to stay living in this tire and are working on cleaning up the mess that came out of their move (see above).

The new and improved feral hive.

The new and improved feral hive.

Paul Visser (above right), CCF’s farm manager, built a nice bottom board, entrance, inner cover, and outer cover to improve the tire as a home. The bees should be comfortable in this retrofitted home, and our hope is that this colony will spit out swarms that we can catch to grow the apiary.

Bee swarm at CCF.

Bee swarm at CCF.

Speaking of swarms, one landed on this low branch at CCF just a few days ago. “If you build it, they will come…..”

Capturing the swarm.

Capturing the swarm.

Preparing to install the swarm at the apiary.

Preparing to install the swarm at the apiary.

Unfortunately, this docile swarm flew away as soon as we installed them into the new hive boxes. But it is likely that more swarms are on their way. We took a field trip to the neighboring town of Otavi the next day to meet fellow beekeeper Nicolene and her family. (See photo below.) We did several hive inspections for CCF’s aspiring beekeepers to learn more about what to look for in a healthy beehive. In the process, we learned that Namibian swarms of bees have a habit of leaving their hive boxes. Nicolene taught us a great trick for getting them to stay. We’ll try this next time 😉

Beekeeping field trip to visit Nicolene’s apiary in Otavi. She has 10 hives in her yard.

Beekeeping field trip to visit Nicolene’s apiary in Otavi. She has 10 hives in her yard.

CCF intends to build up the apiary to teach more aspects of sustainability to visitors and local farmers, and to produce honey for food and added income. Once again, huge thanks to our friends and family for funding this project, from both of us and everyone at CCF.

– Jenna