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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Truly an impressive sight and a perfect climax to a wonderful safari!
More photos from Clyde’s Safari
Click to enlarge images
Interested in Adventure Travel?
The Winner of our Paint the Dino Coloring Contest is…
Haley Bower, 10, of Wellsboro!
We chose Haley’s design because of its creative details and originality, and we think it will look GREAT painted on Muttaburrasaurus!
Because the subtle shading and colors don’t fully come through in the scanned version above (as they do on her actual coloring page), we wanted to share a more accurate depiction of what the painted dinosaur will look like based on Haley’s design:
Congratulations, Haley! We can’t wait to for everyone to see your design brought to life when Dinosaurs Come to Life opens on April 23, 2016!
With over 320 fantastic entries, it was nearly impossible to choose one winner. That said, we want to showcase five other entries that deserve recognition!
We would like to congratulate the following entrants on receiving honorable mention (in no particular order):
- Lila McEwen
- Makendra Mowad
- Lilyana Sponhouse
- Madilyn Shingle
- Drayven Hinkal
Check out their entries!
Another successful coloring contest in the books. To all the kids that entered: THANK YOU…and keep an eye out for something special from Clyde Peeling!
As a small, privately-owned institution, we have always touted our AZA-accredited status—especially since becoming accredited is no small feat! That said, we were recently honored by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums with the Quarter Century Award, recognizing the zoo’s 25+ years* of accreditation, an achievement we are extremely proud of!
From animal husbandry to guest services, AZA accreditation requires that the highest of standards be maintained in all areas of the zoo. Every five years, AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums must undergo the entire accreditation process; a thorough review that includes a detailed accreditation application as well as a multiple-day, on-site inspection by a team of experts from around the country (as you can see, accreditation is no joke).
In a letter to Clyde regarding this award, the Accreditation Commission writes:
AZA is honored to present your institution with the AZA Quarter Century Award recognizing Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards in animal care, welfare, management, veterinary care, conservation, education, staffing, facilities, safety, guest services, and more. Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland’s dedication to best modern zoological practices and philosophies is a hallmark of AZA accreditation, and we applaud your continuous commitment to uphold AZA standards and policies.
It hasn’t always been easy, but meeting AZA’s accreditation standards not only proves to industry experts that we’re on top of our game, but it also ensures that everything we do is in the best interest of our animals, staff, and guests. Basically, it shows that we’re doing everything possible to be the best zoo we can be!
Our hope is that when you visit, you see exactly why we are an AZA accredited zoo…and have been for the last 29 years!
*Reptiland was first accredited in 1987. Although the zoo has been accredited for 29 years, as a NEW award to AZA, the inaugural Quarter Century Award honored institutions with at least 25 years of accreditation. Click here for the full list of recipients.
This post was updated 12/21/18.
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!
Promote the animal lover in your life to Zoo Parent! When you purchase an adoption package, you are contributing to the daily care of our animals as well as our conservation efforts. And with 10 different animals and 5 packages to choose from, you can customize this gift to your needs!
Natural Selections Gift Shop
The Natural Selections Gift Shop boasts a one-of-a-kind selection of merchandise. In addition to educational toys, books, and other fun gifts for kids, we also carry unique, fair-trade gifts from around the world. These handmade items include jewelry, baskets, ornaments, purses, trinkets, and much more. And of course, we’ve also got plenty of novelty and souvenir items for the zoo lover in your life!
We’re open 10am to 5pm every day through and including Christmas Eve, so stop in and see us. Our staff is happy to help you choose the perfect gift for anyone left on your list!
BONUS: Save 20% on all gift shop purchases of $25+ through December 31, 2018!
The most versatile gift of all time, gift cards are great because they let the recipients choose. Here are a few ways to spend a Reptiland gift card.
- Purchase a Zoo Membership – the gift that keeps on giving . . . the whole year
- Attend our Special Events – throughout the year we host several events including Reading with Reptiles, Birds of Prey Day, Dino Days, and Flashlight Safari
- Experience a Behind-the-Scenes tour – discover the inner-workings of an AZA accredited zoo
- Book a Birthday party – bring your party animals for a WILD birthday celebration
- Feed a tortoise – Meet and feed our two lovable Aldabra tortoises, Al & Henry
- Become a zoo parent and adopt an animal (described above)
- Get some Gift shop goodies – from silly souvenirs to African artifacts and everything in between
- or just come to the zoo for fun day filled with fascinating animals and live shows!
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.
Winter weather can easily put a damper on your family fun…but it doesn’t have to!
The zoo might not be your first thought when thinking of things to do, but here are 4 reasons why winter is a great time to visit Reptiland.
Escape the cold in our indoor Exhibit Gallery, where you can see nearly 40 species of reptiles and amphibians under one roof! You might feel like you’re in the great outdoors with our naturalistic habitats, but you’ll be enjoying it all at a cozy room temperature.
If you do feel a chill walking to the Island Giants building, don’t worry—you’ll warm up as soon as you get inside. Komodo dragons require extreme heat, and inside their exhibit space it’s over 90° F! You can also catch a Winter Warm-up in this building, a 30-minute show sure to keep your tootsies toasty!
Things tend to slow down here during the off-season, but that just means we’re able to spend more time with you and your family one-on-one!
Winter Warm-ups are great for staying warm, but they also offer a chance to learn about reptiles in a very intimate, casual setting. After these shows, you can join our keeper in the gallery to watch one of the animals get fed. Our Animal Encounters take place at 11:30, 1:00, and 2:30 and let you see animals up-close and ask questions. These feedings and encounters are not done any other time of the year, and they make each visit unique and special.
Because our seasonal exhibits are closed from November-April, we take $2 off our regular admission prices. With the lowered rates and more personal attention, you’re actually getting more of an experience for less money.
If you’ve ever been here on a weekend in July, you know that it can get pretty busy… While we are always thankful to have a full house (the more the merrier), we understand that it can be frustrating for our visitors—especially the kiddos.
The good news is, during winter there’s no need to hurry so the people behind you can see; there’s no waiting in line at the restrooms; no hold-ups at the admissions desk; and most importantly, no waiting to see your favorite animal in the gallery! You’re able to take your time enjoying each part of the zoo…and we hope that you do.
As a small business, we appreciate having guests any day of the year, but we encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities that the off-season brings by visiting this winter!
It’s the last weekend in October, and we’re going out with a bang. Join us! Celebrate Halloween here at the zoo for a spooktacular weekend.
Treat Bags all Around
Nothing says Halloween like free candy. Visit now through November 1st and get a FREE treat bag! There are fun surprises hidden inside each one, so come claim yours today. Besides, plain old trick-or-treating has nothing on us–we’ve got awesome animals, prehistoric creatures, AND yummy chocolate!
Treat bags available while supplies last.
Last Weekend for Dinos and Butterflies
Take advantage of these exhibits before they close for the season. Sure, they’ll be returning next spring, but who wants to wait that long?
Travel back in time with this prehistoric outdoor adventure! Bigger and better than ever, this year’s exhibit boasts 7 animatronic dinos–the most we’ve ever had!
Experience hundreds of butterflies in flight! Did you know butterflies are found everywhere but Antarctica and they taste with their feet? Learn all this and more with a stroll through our butterfly greenhouse.
Don’t Forget about Fair Trade Month
Our gift shop is full of fair trade treasures, and while we hate to use the “C word” this soon (it rhymes with isthmus), it’s never too early to start your holiday shopping!
So visit this weekend for a win-win-win situation: FREE treat bags for the kiddos (adults, too!), zoo fun for all, and fabulous fair trade gifts that support artisans all over the globe. We can’t think of a better way to spend your Halloween.