This important study visit took place from 24 to 29 March 2018 and allowed students to: study the role of the Kuiseb Basin Management Committee; appreciate the value and conservation of the Walvis Bay wetlands; investigate biodiversity in three habitats at Gobabeb on the Kuiseb River; and appreciate the Walvis Bay Ramsar site and the rich birdlife on the coast.
There was, however, also time for some recreational activities, including an exciting birdwatching excursion to the lagoon, as well as kayaking with Cape fur seals near Pelican Point, thanks to the sponsorship of Eco Marine Kayak Tours. Other activities during the tour included a visit to the Swakopmund Municipality and three uranium mines in the Erongo Region.
Water supply and distribution is a challenge in any arid environment. According to the students visiting NamWater at Rooibank, where water is pumped out of the Kuiseb River aquifer, the trip was an eye-opener and they learned a great deal about the challenges of maintaining boreholes and pipes situated in sand dunes and in the river. Paisley Gariseb of NamWater further introduced them to the unique and wholesome taste of the unassuming !Nara plant, the main source of sustenance for the Topnaar people, and shared some vital tips on off-road driving in the desert.
A visit to the GRTC was inevitable and a crucial part of the educational tour and the students learned valuable lessons about how best to share the available water, bearing in mind that this harsh environment needs water to sustain the linear oasis.
“We used pit-fall traps to explore the insect biodiversity in the three different habitats at Gobabeb: the dunes, the riverbed and the gravel plains. Staff and interns at the GRTC told us about bat research in the desert and the interesting projects that students from NUST and UNAM are doing there. All in all, the excursion was the best,” the students all agreed.
The tour was made possible by NamWater, AVENG Water, Dr Gillian Maggs-Kölling and her staff at the GRTC and others. They were accompanied by their lecturers Shirley Bethune and Tendai Nzuma.