Kuiseb Delta Historical Tours
Fanie Du Preez is a historian. He has been guiding tours in the Walvis Bay Kuiseb Delta area for over 15 years. He has guided celebrities, brain surgeons, paleontologists and anthropologists. His discoveries have garnered the attention of some of the world’s preeminent researchers to puzzle out the origin of the human species. Some of these discoveries he shares with his guests. Some he saves for researchers, and some he keeps to himself, for fear vandals or irresponsible tourists seeking keepsakes will ruin the fossils, bones or footprints he has discovered in the Kuiseb River Delta.
The tour starts at the Lagoon Chalets property where Fanie parks his quad bikes and has a small out building where he stores his riding goggles and a satellite map of the enormous dune range in the Namib desert. This is where he begins his tour with a short description of the Namib Desert and the areas where the tour will take you. Then off on the quad bikes, and Fanie takes you through a few basic riding techniques before hitting the dunes.
This is not an adrenaline tour, it is a historical tour. Desert Explorers or Dare Devil Adventures are the places to go if you just want a bit of excitement. Fanie wants to share with you the evidence of the people and animals that live in the desert now and those that lived there in the distant past.
He will take you to a fossilized riverbed with footprints of springbok, giraffe, rhino, eland and humans, just to name a few. It is evidence of a time when all sorts of animals roamed the area. Fanie’s discoveries have sparked the attention of a team of scientists from South Africa, New Zealand and the United States who came and dated the footprints to 2000 years ago. At that time there was a lot more vegetation and fresh water available, and far fewer people.
You might see springbok on the horizon at any point during your trip, one of only a few larger animals still to be found in the region. You can see from the fossilized footprints that hooved animals grow longer hooves than those found inland. Fanie says springbok have a great life in the Kuiseb riverbed with few predators and plenty of food, but they only live for about two years. After that their hooves grow so long in the sand that it makes them clumsy and easier prey for the jackals who otherwise couldn’t catch them. Inland, springbok usually live for about nine stressful years with hooves manicured by the harder ground among the lions leopards and hyenas.
These fossilized riverbeds are constantly being exposed and covered again by the shifting dunes, which migrate about a metre per month toward the sea, pushed by the prevailing winds from the southwest. While exposed, the uncovered areas are also sand blasted and worn away to varying degrees depending on their degree of fossilization. In this way shallow graves are constantly being uncovered.
You will visit dozens of graves on this tour, housing remains that are sometimes disintegrated into unrecognizable white dust and sometimes preserved in eerie complete skeletons curled into a fetal position and still wearing their ceremonial beads.
One well preserved skull is a mystery to Fanie, archeaologists and brain surgeons alike. It is a skull with no seams. In the natural life of homo sapien, we are born with our skull in segments that grow and knit together over the first few years of life. This allow the skull to more easily pass through the birth canal and facillitates brain growth. This unusual skull has no seams. One doctor visiting recognized an anomaly in the skull suggesting a place where the brain was pushing against the skull in growth enough to scar the interior. She says this individual must have lived in constant pain.
The tour may not be an adrenaline rush, but it is full of beautiful scenery and a few startlingly long and steep declines to navigate. By the time you reach these, you will have developed confidence enough to handle them after Fanie’s training and gradual progressions leading up to the big ones.
Toward the end of the tour Fanie will show you how easy it is to find water in the riverbed, a technique that would have been quite useful to the thousands of stranded sailors who died of thirst after crashing their ships along the Skeleton Coast. And if you are lucky, Fanie will show you his secret store of trinkets left on the graves of some of the former inhabitants of the area, including a coin from the Dutch East India Company dating from 1746, hand cut glass from Venice, remains of a plate from Amsterdam and shards of pottery which once held ship’s rum.
Fanie has been invited by some of his Ph.D. guests to join the Doctoral community. He has the knowledge and experience to earn his degree in short order, but he has no desire to do so. Fanie enjoys spending time in the desert, exploring this seemingly barren desert and searching for clues into the natural history of the area and the story of its human inhabitants. Taking the historical Kuiseb Delta Adventures tour is a chance to spend time with an expert guide with a deep and abiding affection for his environment. For a few hours you will be transported into Fanie’s world, and become absorbed in the natural beauty, the scientific inquiry and the historical legacy of the Kuiseb Delta.
by John R Wheeling | Leisure Times Namibia