Deluge in the desert
Issue 2 (May 2008) The rains arrived late and spectacularly in Namibia this year – the heaviest that some areas have seen for half a century.

 

At Sesriem 85mm of water fell in just 45 minutes, causing the Tsauchab River to flow for the first time in nearly a decade: it seeped into Sesriem canyon and the desert was deluged.


Water sat between the dunes at Sossusvlei and within days bright yellow devilthorn flowers carpeted the sands – possibly one of the most extraordinary sights Namibia has to offer.


Wilderness Safari’s Natasha Frost visited Sossusvlei a few days after the biggest downpour and found a strange creature at the edge of one of the pans. “We saw some movement in the water. We were in the middle of one of the driest, oldest deserts on earth and certainly didn’t expect this.” Natasha had spotted a large copepod, a one-eyed prehistoric creature. Copepods are usually seen in the sea but occasionally, and inexplicably, they appear inland. “It really is a mystery as to how they appear in ephemeral pans,” said Natasha.


Further north in Little Ongava another of Wilderness Safari’s staff, Martin Benadie, reported “exceptional” rains. “The landscape was transformed into lush greenery and many flowers were in evidence – it was quite a sight to see fields of purple lilies,” he said.


The rains also caused thousands of Mopane caterpillars, and then moths, to emerge at Little Ongava. The caterpillars are an important food source for local people, who prepare them by squeezing out the gut contents before frying them in the Mopane’s own body fat or boiling them in a little water.


In Etosha, 270mm of rain fell in a little over a week. Many of the grazing animals, like zebras, found themselves knee-deep in water. Mushara Lodge’s Marc Pampe said: “This is a fantastic time of year for photographers in Etosha, as the pans slowly turn into flawless mirrors reflecting the wildlife and blue skies.”


But perhaps the heaviest rain of all was in the Caprivi Strip where, around Susuwe Island Lodge, the water reached its highest levels since 1958. Many of the older local people, including Chief Mayuni, say they were children last time the water was as high.

 

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