The master architects – Termite Mounds

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When one drives in Namibia, especially areas from the north and central parts of the country, you will encounter towering hard compacted soil structures sprouting across the landscape mostly pointing north. These usually attract our guests’ attention consequently with a question, “What is that?” They are termite mounds, better known as anthills!

Biology of the termites have been thoroughly studied and well documented, of particular interest is the significance of the termite mounds and the social organisation of termites that can be related to real human lifetime events!

Termite mounds are huge thermostats. Temperature and humidity is regulated by opening and closing of openings, which is done by the worker termites during night time, which is why every morning one sees wet patches of repairs done. Climatic change is a global concern, hence some studies in the Otjozondjupa Region reveal that structure of the mounds could contribute to knowledge on building energy efficient houses. This is one of the strategies that could help minimise and protect against the increasing impacts of climate change.   The human equivalent of termite mounds would be buildings that meet all energy, waste management and other needs on site. No other organism on the earth is known to engineer the environment to this level, definitely not humans!

For years, the term “true democracy” has remained arbitrarious or non-existent in the human race. Amazingly it’s real in a termite colony! The king, queen, workers and soldiers are at the same level, there is no superiority, but it is just division of labour, where each has different roles to play. The queen and king have their royal palace underground, mating and managing 2000 eggs per day. The army consists of soldier termites that are strongly built and armed (strong mouth parts), implying a  good ground force to fight other insects. However, termites have a poorly managed air force department for attacking bigger giants e.g. Aardvark, Aardwolf, Bat-eared Fox, insectivorous birds, and hence these prey heavily on them.

Once either workers or soldiers die during the course of carrying their duties, they send a stress chemical signal to the queen, who in turn produces more eggs to meet the daily labour and army requirements. Differentiation into either worker or termite is determined by the population in each group. The workers assignments include being undertakers (remove dead bodies to avoid disease spread) or architects (designing and construction of the colony structure). More importantly they are also mycologist (develop fungi) to feed everyone in the colony. Fungus spores grow into mushrooms which are a local Namibian delicacy known by their Herero name: Omajova. Omajova grow after good rains, offering a convenient food delicacy plus ensuring an income to local sellers who usually stand on the sides of the main roads between cities.

Termite mounds can actually be compared to Windhoek! Streets are in the form of channels underground. The population size is half a million to a million individuals. How do they counter the problems of overpopulation and spread the genes to other areas? Workers and soldiers change into flying forms which appear during the rainy season and attempt to establish their own colonies. 99 % of these do not make it as they suffer predation by a range of animals, more important eaten by humans as well.

The combination of the mineral-rich soils and saliva, and the organic wastes from the fungus colony make termite mounds a very fertile place in an often otherwise infertile environment. Thus termites are actually farmers too, as trees often grow on termite mounds, even inactive ones. In wetlands like the Okavango Delta termites are also very important long-term landscapers. Over the years, termite mounds rearrange the flows of streams and form fertile islands.

They really are incredible insects and as you can see, can be described as anything from builders, engineers, architects, soldiers, farmers and more. To come and see a termite mound and its inhabitants close up, join us on a Namibian safari!

Have a look at the options on www.naturetravelnamibia.com or enquire directly as info@naturetravelnamibia.com

 

 

The language of waves: REST, RELAX and REFLECT!

“You need to lose yourself and disappear in the depths of the repetitions? Find a coast and watch the repetitive waves! Soon your mind vanishes away and when your mind disappears you disappear!” (Mehmet Murat ildan).

But waves are not only what the Namibian coastline can offer. On some of our Nature Travel Namibia safaris, we visit the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, stop over in Henties Bay, see shipwrecks, stay over in Swakopmund and watch birds in Walvis Bay.

The Cape Cross is the largest Seal Colony in world and there are 24 colonies on the Namibian and South African coastline. When one gets here, some visitors find the smell not so pleasant hence wear mouth covers whereas some like myself have become immune to it! Very interesting is the remoteness of the area and thousands of Seals. Their vocals range from goat-like bleating, high pitched cackles to half human and braying laughs. Males have these deep voices sort of a bass developed from years of a combination of smoking, drinking whisky and yelling! However, it creates quite an awesome experience as one gets pretty close to them. A couple of times I have seen guests laughing at the vocals and its best to take a video for memories!

Swakopmund gives one the real beach Three Rs (Rest, Relax and Reflect) feeling. It’s best to spend 2 nights here and get time to go for a morning jogging along the beach and explore the area on foot in the afternoon. The Strand Hotel and Swakopmund Sands Hotel are normally our preferred accommodations, which gives one the town feeling after some time in the real African wilderness offered by Namibia’s remote areas.

Walvis Bay has a lagoon that is a must for enthusiastic birders. Here one could see thousands of Flamingoes showing off their beautiful and contrasting pink, black and white feathers in flight or doing their dance while feeding in shallow waters. Great White Pelicans can be seen resembling an amphibious aircraft taking off and landing both on conventional runways and water. Various other species of water birds can be observed as well depending on the season.

At Walvis Bay, the Catamaran tour is definitely worth it. On one of my safaris with Nature Travel Namibia, we were taken out by a local guide, Peter, who is well versed in the history of Walvis Bay and marine life. We had uninvited guests on the catamaran as well: Seals and Great White Pelicans.  We made a turn to the Oil Rig before enjoying our lunch on the boat, which comprised mainly of sea food. What an experience!

Join Nature Travel Namibia on safari to experience the beautiful coastline and so much more! Written by: Previous Tsvigu (Nature Travel Namibia Guide)

Solitaire – iconic Namibian desert town

NVM_0155_tonemapped.jpgYou know those movie scenes in which a guy stumbles around in the baking desert sun, heat hazes obscuring his legs, his walk becoming more and more laboured… And then he sees it! A mirage of palm trees, cool shade, blue water, rescue! This is the exact feeling I had when I first laid my eyes on the town of Solitaire in Namibia!

I was on a guided trip with Nature Travel Namibia, enjoying some of the top sightseeing spots that amazing country has to offer, driving through the hot rugged desert landscape that dominates most of the interior of this vast place. Suddenly my guide cheerily announced that we were close to the town of Solitaire. And there it was – a colourful oasis of shade, food, fuel and friendship in the middle of this harsh landscape.

Solitaire is a small settlement in the Khomas Region of central Namibia at the junction of the main C14 and C19 roads, both major tourist routes through the nearby Namib-Naukluft National Park. As the nearest big towns are Walvis Bay (233 kilometres/145 miles away) and Windhoek (251 kilometres/156 miles away), it has been a common stopover and meeting place for tourists from all over the globe for more than 60 years. Solitaire sits just below the Tropic of Capricorn in the middle of the 45,000 acre Solitaire Land Trust, dedicated to preserving the grassland ecosystem and the wild animals that reside here. The surrounding areas include Kuiseb Canyon, the spectacular Spreetshoogte Pass and Namibia’s iconic Sossusvlei dunes.

Solitaire is not only famous for being the only stop between Sossusvlei and Swakopmund, but also for McGregor’s Bakery, where I enjoyed the world-renowned fresh apple pie, espresso, take-away sandwiches and cold drinks.

I also walked around the little settlement and took some fantastic photographs. We also filled up on fuel and made sure our vehicle’s tyres were OK (the Namib desert is hard on tyres!) and then we set off again. I will never forget Solitaire, that movie-quality oasis in the middle of nowhere!