Every year, around the month of July, the Kalahari Anib Park and Canyon Park of Gondwana Collection Namibia host two weekends of game counting, whereby those, who are able and willing to help out, join the Park wardens to determine how many animals the two parks hold.
This year, after hearing all the good stories from previous game count weekends, I decided that it was my time to participate in this adventure. With a packed bag full of anticipation, but also not really knowing what to expect, we made our way to Kalahari Anib Lodge, near Mariental. The four hour long drive went by fast and we arrived at the lodge at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. According to my estimations it felt much warmer there than in Windhoek, but I was proven to be very wrong soon enough. We were warmly welcomed by overly excited lodge colleagues and management, who haven’t seen that many guests in a very long time and went full out to make us feel at home.
After a sundowner Malawi Shandy at the bar and a delicious buffet dinner with Glühwein to warm up, we went to bed; full of excitement of what would await us in the red dunes of the Kalahari the next morning.
After waking up at 7 o’clock we had a cup of coffee, in my case two cups, as I slept really well and didn’t want to face the cold, and we met in groups of ten people, allocated to our game drive vehicles. Cold was an understatement, as we were packed in layers of jackets, blankets, beanies, and scarves. Each group having their own guide and driver, we went on different routes, looking out for animals, and I felt extremely grateful to be able to experience nature as it can only be found in Namibia.
No matter if it was a springbok, an ostrich, or a Kory Bustard bird, we were all excited like little children whenever we would spot an animal running across the sand road or hiding in the shrubs. We very quickly came to the conclusion, that the Kalahari experienced a severe drought and the animals and the nature are facing the hard consequences now. With barely any grass in the red landscape, a couple of bushes and shrubs, and the odd tree were the only plants available, following the very scarce rainfall the Gondwana Kalahari Park received this year.
Amongst the animals that we spotted, and then counted with our naked eyes (no binoculars allowed), we were lucky enough to see two Bat Eared Fox, and a handful of giraffes. These counts were recorded on a sheet and were later on evaluated to calculate an average count from all the different vehicles on different routes, counting their unique number of animals.
That Saturday evening we received a presentation on how the game counts usually take place in the Kalahari, as well as the Fish River Canyon area, and what the general rules of counting are. With a stomach full of delicious Kalahari delicacies, we went to bed, just to get up on Sunday morning to do the entire procedure again. The different groups drove on the same routes as the previous mornings for accuracy purposes and to have a correct average number of animals counted in specific areas of the Gondwana Park. The drive included one half-way stop to drink a cup of coffee (and a little Old Brand Sherry for those, who were very cold) and some rusks, as well as the well-known Namibian bush “bathroom break”.
Back at the lodge, we packed our belongings together to prepare for the road back to Windhoek and had one last hearty breakfast, before we received a final presentation on the results of the game count 2020. The results saddened us, as the graphs showed the comparisons between the number of animals in the park and the annual rainfall, giving us insights on how difficult it is for the animals to find grass to eat in the drought.
As the number of animals had dropped, in comparison to previous years’ counts, the results of little rainfall for less animals straightened out the curve a little, providing hope for better rains in the next year, and an increase in animal counts in the future.
Author – Hi! I am Elke, a born and raised German-Namibian. I love to travel around and explore different cultures and places, but my home country always magically draws me back home again. Oh, and if it involves food, count me in on the adventure.