The Uniab River
Perhaps the most accessible river for the passing visitor is the Uniab River valley, between Torra Bay and Terrace Bay. If you only stop in one river for a good look around, stop here in the Uniab. Not only is it quite scenic, but its headwaters come from around the huge Palmwag concession, home to many of the region's larger mammals. So the Uniab offers your best chance of spotting the park's scarce bigger game.
In ancient times, the river formed a wide delta by the sea, but that has been raised up, and cut into by about five different channels of water. When the river floods now, the water comes down the fourth channel reached from the south, though the old channels still support much vegetation.
At one point whilst crossing the delta, there's a sign to a waterfall about 1.5km west of the road. Here a gentle trickle of water (supplemented by an occasional rainy-season torrent) has eroded a narrow canyon into the sandstone and calcrete layers of the riverbed, before trickling to the sea. If you go down as far as the beach, then look out for the wreck of the Atlantic
, which grounded here in 1977.
All throughout this delta you'll find dense thickets of reeds and sedges and small streams flowing over the ground towards the sea. Sometimes these will attract large numbers of birds – plovers, turnstones and various sandpipers are very common. Palaearctic migrants make up the bulk of the species.
As well as the waterfall walk, there's a shorter walk to a small hide overlooking an open stretch of water that attracts birds. Keep quiet whilst you are walking and you should also manage to spot at least some springbok, gemsbok and jackal, which are all common here.
Elephant, lion and cheetah have also been spotted here, but very rarely. Slightly elusive are the brown hyena, whose presence can be confirmed by the existence of their distinctive white droppings (coloured white as they will crunch and eat bones). Their local name, strandwolf
, is an indication that they are often to be seen scavenging on the beaches for carrion (especially near seal colonies). Whilst these animals look fearsome with powerful forequarters and a thick, shaggy coat, they are solitary scavengers posing no danger to walkers unless cornered or deliberately harassed.