Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Namibia - Kulala Desert Lodge and the famous red dunes

Pied Crow at Sossuvlei
It took a little longer than expected to reach the area around Sesriem from Buellsport on 4th August. Though as we turned in to Kulala Desert Lodge, with the entrance track being upwards of 10km through stony and sandy desert, the birding and mammal watching began. This area was great, and I drove it a couple of times during our couple of days' stay, with the bird highlights being fantastic views of both Ludwig's Bustard and Ruppell's Korhaan as well as some more distant views of Temminck's Courser one morning: -
Ludwig's Bustard at Kulala Desert Lodge
Ruppell's Korhaans at Kulala Desert Lodge
Mammals too showed well on our entry with a small group of fairly cute looking Bat-eared Foxes swaggering across the road, as well as a couple of Black-backed Jackals along with the more common Oryx and Springboks.
Bat-eared Fox at Kulala Desert Lodge
Around the camp, birdlife was relatively sparse with just the odd White-backed Mousebird, Pale-winged Starling and Red-eyed Bulbul; having Ostriches mooch past was fairly novel though!
Ostrich at Kulala Desert Lodge
The first evening drive was pleasant, if not fantastic for wildlife. Though with plenty of Ostriches, Oryx and Springboks in the evening light I was happy enough: -
Springboks at Kulala Desert Lodge
Oryx at Kulala Desert Lodge
The following morning we'd booked a balloon ride over the dunes for first thing. It was really great, and one of those experiences that was worth shelling out for and we even got a champagne breakfast sitting in the dunes afterwards. Truly dudey and touristy, but there was a plan - Dune Lark! This is the only true Namibian endemic, and is restricted to the sandy desert in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. I didn't realise how easy they would be, and was extremely happy to find a handful of birds pecking about on the periphery of our breakfast area. Really nice birds too; skittish when approached quickly but they soon settled down to be nicely papped...

Dune Lark at Sossuvlei
Pied Crows enjoyed the action too, pecking at what they could get in this otherwise extremely arid environment.
Pied Crow at Sossuvlei
After chilling out during the middle of the day, I ventured out again for the evening into the same area I'd been the previous day. The undoubted highlight was this African Wild Cat: -
African Wild Cat at Kulala Desert Lodge
Our final morning here, August 6th, was all about the red dunes. We set off in the dark and into the Sossuvlei National Park where we had a climb of Dune 45 and then onto the somewhat eerie Deadvlei, where dead trees populate the sand. Predictably, the birdlife was limited here although Ruppell's Korhaans, Cape Sparrows, Familiar Chats, Pied Crows and a Pale Chanting Goshawk all showed rather nicely.
Cape Sparrow at Sossuvlei
We got back to Kulala Desert Lodge at around 11am, and after collecting our bags, we were on the road north towards the coast at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. The whole Sesriem and Sossusvlei area was filled to the brim with incredible desert scenery - the best I've seen (and I've seen the Sahara in Mauritania, Morocco and Western Sahara), and would recommend it to anyone.

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