Thursday, 19 July 2012

By Alex Sasso, interning with us for July from Eckerd College in Florida, USA - a few words about their trip to Sossusvlei:

The last five days have been very adventurous and exciting for us interns here at the Namibian Dolphin Project. Over the weekend the six of us traveled to Sossusvlei, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Namibia. Basically it is a valley surrounded by extremely large red dunes and when there are heavy rains the valley will fill with water, but rain is unusual so it’s very special when there is actually rain in the valley or “vlei”. It was an absolutely breath taking and amazing sight and I encourage anyone to make the trip.

We rented a car, well a 10 passenger van to be exact (we called it “The Beast”) and made the long 6 hour journey on washboard dirt roads. It was very cool to watch the Namibian landscape change as we left Walvis Bay. The scenery changed from desert to grassland and some mountains, to mountains, to grasslands with lots of mountains. We also saw some awesome African wildlife along the road such as Springboks, Oryx and Ostriches, seriously who needs to pay to go on a safari? About 5 hours into the trip we arrived in Solitaire, which is the only place to get gas and any type of food. There is a bakery next to the gas station owned by a man named “Moose” and he makes delicious pastries and bread! Definitely get the apple pie or blueberry crumble! When we arrived at Sossusvlei we got a campsite at Sesriem. That day we walked through this canyon that has some great rocks and small ledges to climb! That night we made a fire and cooked ourselves dinner and attempted to make s’mores (good marshmallows and graham crackers are not easily found in Africa). Sleeping in the tents was an experience as the wind was extremely strong all night and sand covered us in our sleep. Then in the morning on our way out of our campsite to go into the Sossusvlei park our van got stuck in the sand (hmm renting a 4x4 probably would have been a better idea). After about an hour and a half of waiting to get pulled out of the sand, we were free and on our way to finally see the Sossusvlei and it was definitely worth all the trouble.
When we returned back to Walvis Bay we were welcomed back to warm weather thanks to the east wind! Finally we could break out the shorts and t-shirts instead of the usual layers of sweaters, gloves and hats! 

George Cambanis is interning with our project for the month of July.  He's from Greece and currently studying in Chicago, USA.

1 week in Walvis Bay…

The life we have been experiencing during the past week is an academic but also a social life, its novel even though we are all gradually becoming habituated with our daily lives and most importantly entertaining while everyone is at the same time serious about the project.  Simon and Tess divided us-newcomers into two subgroups, composed of three interns each. Our daily schedule dictates that we execute our scientific research early in the morning and once we have gathered our facts, we then “digitalize” them, that is, upload them into the computers used by the Namibian Dolphin Project in our comfy office in the Flamingo Cottages. Usually, one of the teams will research offshore in its quest for dolphin species and other marine mammals while the other team will examine different coastal areas of Namibia.

Our research is centered on dolphins. We therefore, photograph all of our “encounters” and try to photographically identify them once back in the office. We also examine their habitat and record everything we deem valuable, ranging from an unusually high concentration of jellyfish which can be the outcome of a potentially underlying important cause to the number of tour-boats we come across. Spending time with bottlenoses and Heaviside’s dolphins we come to realize and appreciate the uniqueness of every animal.

To a further extent, every day adds to an emerging familiarity with the environment of Namibia itself. Looking for stranded animals, observing the magnificent kingdom of birds that fills the sky and using our hydrophone to listen to the “signature whistles” of dolphins we are gradually coming to terms with the harmony and magnificence of Namibian’s wildlife.

All in all, what has been offered to us is a fulfilling “life-activity”. Whether it is the observation of an anatomical operation of petrels or the knowledge that the project results in an accumulation of novel scientific data, we fill satiated, engaged and excited. More to come. Best, George Cambanis. 
July 2012

The project is back in Walvis Bay, where we will be running two months of intensive field work to match our previous 4 years of data.  It's going to be busy so blog updates will be unpredictable.  Keep checking!