My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling

A comfortable bed in Johannesburg was a welcome sight after a 14-hour flight from JFK. But my group was eager to board yet another flight early the next morning for an additional five hour flight to Windhoek—the capital of Namibia and the starting place for our safari. Namibia is a part of Africa I’d always wanted to visit. In the early 1960s, my late friend Arthur Jones had captured 80 Nile crocodiles—none under 11 feet—in the Caprivi strip near the Zambian border, and I wanted to see whether there were still crocs there in large numbers. There are, but more on that later.

From the airport into Windhoek, we began seeing troops of chacma baboons, greater kudu, red hartebeest, and springbok. A good sign. We settled into the Galton Guest House where we met our guides for a briefing of what was to come.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde PeelingThe next morning we loaded luggage into a trailer towed by one of the two Land Cruisers that would transport us about this large country for the next ten days. We headed southwest, our destination the Namib Desert and the Desert Homestead where we spent the next two nights. An African Hawk-eagle observed us from a tree and a Southern pale chanting goshawk soared on the horizon. The bird life in Namibia is exceptional.

Namibia, I should explain, sits directly above South Africa and is bordered on the west by the South Atlantic; on the east by the landlocked nation of Botswana and the eastern tip of Zimbabwe; and to the north by Angola and Zambia. The diversity of landscape is breathtaking. Some of the highest sand dunes in the world (over 1,000 feet) are in the Namib Desert created by winds off the Atlantic coast. A concentration of iron in the sand increasingly oxidizes in the older, more inland dunes giving them a beautiful pink hue.

Our host at the Desert Homestead cautioned us about the dangers of the desert. Two people had nearly lost their lives the year before having gotten lost without water—and only a short distance from camp! Only by luck had they been discovered by a rescue team. Water is precious in the desert. Thankfully, our group stayed well hydrated and experienced no problems.

We left the Desert Homestead and continued west arriving at the coastal town of Walvis Bay for lunch before following the coast north to Swakopmund. Early the next morning we explored sand dunes outside town where our guides uncovered a well camouflaged Peringuey’s viper and a horned adder—both members of the venomous genus Bitis. We located a shovel-snouted lizard, a Namaqua chameleon, and a web-footed gecko—lizard species adapted to the harsh life in and around desert dunes.

Namib desert

Damaraland was next. Our lodge there was almost invisible from a distance. It had been cleverly nestled amongst the giant house-sized boulders of a kopje. The entire region consists of rugged mountains, dunes, and gravel plains. Animals are surprisingly abundant. On a morning game drive, we found ourselves surrounded by desert elephants.

A large bull began making threatening gestures (ears out, trunk up), and the guides became noticeably concerned. An elephant can easily crush or overturn a vehicle and we decided to make a fast retreat to avoid an attack. The timing could not have been worse. One of the Land Cruisers would not start. Dead battery. Nervously the guides kept an eye on the bull, tied a tow rope, and we escaped a potentially bad situation.

Passing through and over some of the worst terrain imaginable (a road it was not) we arrived at a Himba village.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling | Clyde Peeling's Reptiland

The Himba people live as they have for hundreds of years. Their small bomas are circular in shape with cone-shaped reed roofs and walls plastered with mud and cow dung. A remarkably cool solution to the intense desert heat.

These are nomadic people, and it was entirely possible there would be no one home after our long tortuous ride, but we were in luck: women, children, and a few young men welcomed us to their village and into their homes.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling | Clyde Peeling's Reptiland

Himba wealth is measured by cattle, the wealthiest members of the tribe having numerous large herds scattered about the region. Himba women never bathe, even when water is available. Instead, they smear their bodies with animal fat mixed with pulverized red rock. It must be a worthy alternative as we detected no objectionable odor.

We spent the next two nights at Andersson’s Camp just outside Etosha National Park. A water hole off the dining area attracts a variety of wildlife—the most exciting were two young rhinoceroses. After exploring Etosha, we returned to Windhoek to join up with four more friends who would be with us for the remainder of the safari.

From Windhoek we flew to the Caprivi—a strip of land that forms a panhandle in northern Namibia. This is normally a wet area teeming with crocodiles and other wild animals, but the Caprivi had not had significant rain in two years. Our camp, Nkasa Lupala, had been built along a now dry river. In spite of the drought, we saw lots of wildlife. Within the first few minutes after arriving, one of our group discovered a venomous night adder swallowing a toad directly behind one of the parked Land Cruisers.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling | Clyde Peeling's Reptiland

Nkasa Lupala is owned by an Italian family who have made every effort to leave no carbon footprint. The camp consists of tents erected on elevated platforms, and it is completely solar powered. Simone and his brother joined us for evening meals and answered our many questions. One of which was about elephant poaching. Is it a problem?

Indeed it is. But unlike some African nations, Simone told us Namibia does not have a shoot-to-kill policy. When frustrated Namibian rangers encounter elephant poachers, they chase the poachers across the border into Botswana and notify the rangers there. Why? Botswana rangers shoot to kill. This may seem like harsh treatment, but consider this: poachers are currently killing an estimated 96 elephants a day in Africa. If elephants are to avoid extinction, harsh solutions may be the only hope. Learn more about the 96 Elephants conservation movement.

After two nights at Nkasa Lupala, it was only a few hours to Chobe National Park in Botswana. There’s no way to describe Chobe Game Lodge except to say…it’s posh. Luxury accommodations are $910 a night during the high season and $500 during low season. The five-star lodge is located along the Kwando-Linyanti river system, and we explored the river by boat where we saw Nile crocodiles and watched a family of elephants bathing along the shore. We used electric powered Land Rovers for game drives, and Chobe has plenty of game—lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, hartebeest, impala, kudu, warthog, and springbok to name a few.

From Chobe we crossed the border into Zimbabwe. After settling into our hotel, some of our group took a helicopter tour of Victoria Falls, while others walked above the falls in the mist the following morning. Here the mile-wide Zambezi River drops 354 feet. It is the world’s largest sheet of falling water, roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls.

My Visit to Namibia by Clyde Peeling | Clyde Peeling's Reptiland

Truly an impressive sight and a perfect climax to a wonderful safari!

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More photos from Clyde’s Safari

Click to enlarge images

Interested in Adventure Travel?

Learn about Clyde’s next safari to Costa Rica in February 2017!

Last-Minute Shoppers Rejoice (We Got This)

Reptiland is the answer to your last-minute shopping needs!

Open 7 days a week for your convenience, we’ve got plenty of awesome in-store options. We also have gifts that can be purchased over the phone, mailed directly to the recipient, and emailed!

Adopt-an-Animal

Perfect for animal-lovers of all ages, this gift can be mailed directly to the recipient or emailed! Click here for details.

Junior Explorers

Give the gift of wildlife exploration with a Junior Explorers subscription! Ideal for children ages 5-11, these monthly missions include a physical and digital component for hours of educational fun, plus lots of other cool stuff. The best part is, these can be ordered online and mailed directly to the recipient! Learn more.

Bonus: Use code Reptiland at checkout, and Junior Explorers will take $10 off your order and donate $10 back to the zoo!

Gift Cards

The most versatile gift of all time, gift cards are great because they let the recipients choose. Here are just a few ways to spend a Reptiland gift card.

Gift cards can be purchased via phone and mailed directly to the recipient. If you’re really short on time, we’ll even create and email a custom print-out that you can wrap and give to the recipient until the real deal arrives.

The bottom line is, we’re here to help! With a wide range of educational options, one-of-a-kind gift items, and interactive zoo experiences, we’re certain you can find a gift for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list–and quick!

Come to Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland for the personalized service and meaningful gifts you won’t find at big-box stores.

Support Frog Conservation with a Night at the Zoo!

Support Frog Conservation With a Night at the Zoo!

You may have heard ads on the radio or received an email about Wine and Design: Paint for Conservation, but here’s a little more insight into why we’re having this event.

Last year we hosted Cheers to 50 Years, an event celebrating our 50th anniversary. Attendees raised a glass to our milestone with wine and beer samples from 8 local producers. The Genetti generously sponsored the event and provided fantastic food for all 300 guests. The zoo was lit by torches and lanterns, live music filled the air, and zoo keepers strolled around with animals. We even fed our gators and komodo dragons for everyone! It was the first time we threw an event like that, and we received such positive feedback afterwards, we knew we had to do it again (in some capacity).

Without a big anniversary to celebrate, we weren’t sure what to do. Sure, we could throw a big party and invite everyone, but we wanted it to be something more than that; we wanted it to have a purpose. Knowing how popular Wine and Design has become, we wanted to incorporate that with a night at the zoo, but in a way that made sense. Then through a few team brainstorming sessions, we had an “AHA!” moment. We could invite Wine and Design Williamsport to come and teach guests how to paint a tropical scene with exotic frogs, then donate a portion of ticket sales to amphibian conservation! Thus, Wine and Design: Paint for Conservation was born.

Few people realize, but the global amphibian crisis is serious: nearly 1/3 of the world’s amphibian species are known to be threatened or extinct, as many as 159 species may already be extinct, and at least 42% of all amphibian species are declining in population. For these reasons (and other alarming facts not listed), we are donating funds to the Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group (ATAG) to support amphibian conservation. Every little bit helps, and we’re anxious to contribute to this cause, above and beyond our existing conservation efforts.

Support Frog Conservation with a Night at the Zoo!

That’s the backstory. Now for a bit more on the event itself…

As excited as we are to have partnered with Wine and Design, the truth is, you don’t need to paint to enjoy the event (or help frogs). We realize that not everyone is the painting kind, so we’re selling non-painting tickets at a lesser rate for those that just want to enjoy a great night out at the zoo!

The Genetti is providing refreshments and selling wine. Blue River Spell will be playing a little bit of everything (they take requests, too!). We’ll have all the zoo exhibits open*, animal encounters and feedings throughout the evening, and zoo grounds lit up with torches–a perfect summer night!

Another special part of the event comes from one of our very own volunteers, Austin Orelli. Austin helps out at the zoo every Wednesday, and he’s a great worker. Lucky for us, he’s also the talented artist behind The Wildlife of Autism! He will be here selling his animal-inspired artwork and will donate a portion of the proceeds to the ATAG as well. We’re so grateful for his involvement, and we know everyone will enjoy his art!

We invite EVERYONE to come support frog conservation with a night at the zoo! Tickets are on sale now- click here for more information or call 570.538.1869.

Note: Even if you can’t make it to the event, we’d appreciate if you’d share this with your friends and family–the more attendees, the more funds (and awareness) raised for amphibians!

*Our butterfly greenhouse will be open from 7:00-8:00 pm during the event.

Happy Learn About Butterflies Day!

Learn about butterfliesMarch 14th is Learn About Butterflies Day–help us celebrate!

It may seem a bit premature to talk about insects that won’t reappear for another month or two, but our butterfly greenhouse opens in just over a month, so now’s the perfect time to brush up on your butterfly knowledge.

Also, it’s a good excuse to do these fun activities with your kids!

Why You Should Learn About Butterflies

1. They’re fascinating creatures.learn about butterflies

Butterflies are beautiful creatures that come in countless shapes, sizes, and colors. They live on every continent except Antarctica, and they’ve been around for at least 50 million years! They can’t hear (they sense vibrations like snakes), they taste through their feet, and some migrate up to 2,000 miles! Impressive, huh?

2. They help the environment.

Butterflies, like bees and other insects, are great pollinators; they help plants, trees, and shrubs to reproduce. Butterflies play an integral part in the food chain and their individual ecosystems. They also help scientific researchers by serving as indicators for how things affect our environment.

3. The more we know, the more we can help.

Due to factors such as climate change and habitat destruction, over 20 species in the U.S. are endangered or threatened. Though not yet considered a threatened species, Monarch populations have also been declining. The good news is, there are lots of things we can do to help–we just need to know a few things first!

How You Can Learn About Butterflies

1. Good ol’ fashioned BOOKS

We’ve got great resources on butterflies (for all ages) in the Natural Selections Gift Shop!

Learn About Butterflies

2.  Online Resources (Just be careful–not every source is a good one!)

A few good sources:

North American Butterfly Association

Monarchs: Near Threatened

Sponsor a garden at the National Butterfly Center
OR Create your own butterfly garden!

3. Visit Us

Come see these beauties up close from April 25 to November 1, 2015. Learn about different species, their life cycle, and other fun facts. We now offer the chance to feed the butterflies, too! Check out our Butterflies page for more information.

 Learn About Butterflies
Happy Learn About Butterflies Day–hope to see you soon!

Spring Forward: Exhibits, Events, and Warmer Temps!

While it may feel like winter will never end, this weekend we “spring forward” by moving the clocks ahead an hour; if nothing else, at least it’s a step in the right direction!

Aside from the longer days, sunshine, and greenery to look forward to, we’re especially excited for spring because it means the return of our seasonal exhibits, plenty of kids visiting for field trips, and the anticipation of awesome events to come!

Dinosaurs Come to Life and Butterflies | April 25 – November 1

Our hugely popular dinosaur exhibit is back…and bigger than ever. Dinosaurs Come to Life features 6 static models and 7 life-size animatronic dinosaurs, the most we’ve ever had! With a whole T. rex family, the impressive Quetzalcoatlus (NEW!), and Dilophosaurus‘s new paint job, we can’t wait for you to see them all this spring!

Peaceful music, lush landscaping, and hundreds of flitting beauties–our butterfly greenhouse is like a springtime oasis. We also offer the opportunity to feed the butterflies. Since different species can be seen throughout the duration of the exhibit, be sure to stop in a few times to see them all!
Note: Memberships are great for visiting again and again!

New In the Gift Shop

In preparation for the slew of kids who will be coming through our doors soon, we stocked up on new items for the Natural Selections Gift Shop. Come check them out!spring forward

Event Sneak Peek

They’re still in the works, but we’re so anxious to share our events that we decided to give you a sneak peek!*

Ghost of the Bayou | May 22 – September 7

White alligators are extremely rare. From the Louisiana Bayou, these creatures are thought to be mystical, bringing good fortune to those who set eyes on them. We can’t say for sure if that’s true, but we invite you to visit this summer and find out for yourself…

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Dino Days | June 27 & 28

Join us for an entire weekend dedicated to dinosaurs. Paleontologist and dinosaur enthusiast “Dr. Dino” (AKA Chris DeLorey of the Brevard Zoo, FL) will be here to show off his extensive fossil collection and take guests on a special dino hunt! Fun activities, prehistoric artifacts, and animatronic dinosaurs–mark your calendars for this DINO-mite event!

Wine & Design: Paint for Conservation | July 11

On its own, Wine & Design is a great way to spend time with family & friends, paint a beautiful picture, and relax with a glass of wine (or two). This summer, we’re excited to pair the Wine & Design experience with a great cause: frog conservation.

Frogs are disappearing at an alarming rate, and this event will raise awareness and funds for the global amphibian crisis. Guests can paint a picture showcasing these beautiful creatures, then walk through our Exhibit Gallery to admire them in person. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the AZA Amphibian Conservation Grant Fund, which supports amphibian-related conservation as well as scientific and educational initiatives.

Much of this event is still being planned, but we hope you’ll consider attending to help support this worthy cause (and enjoy a beautiful evening at the zoo)! We will post more information as soon as possible, but tickets should be on sale by late May.

*Event details subject to change
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Check back for more details and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for other important zoo updates.

In the mean time, until Spring actually arrives, keep warm!
(Our Winter Warm-Ups are perfect for getting out of the cold…hint, hint)