The Daily Dozen: Gemsbok, Gemsbok, and More Gemsbok

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

Today we zigged and zagged through the desert, taking recommended C and D roads, as opposed to “better” A and B roads. By “better” I mean paved. C and D roads are sand and gravel; C roads are smooth and good, while D roads are more bumpy. The 4WD tracks we’ve been on are something else entirely.

We’ve traveled mostly C and D roads in Namibia, and they’ve been great. Generally better than gravel roads in Alaska, I’d say, maybe because they’re more sand than gravel. We’ve had just one flat tire so far, which surprises the heck out of me. We deemed the tires the weak link on our rental truck, as they seemed quite worn. But Africa makes sturdy tires. Way to go, Africa! The two spare tires in the back are better than the four on the truck.

Gemsbok, oryx gazella, Namib Desert, Namibia

A gemsbok under every tree. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

In addition to springbok, ostriches, and four giraffes, we saw gemsbok, gemsbok, and more gemsbok. In fact, there’s pretty much a gemsbok under every tree.

Nope, I’m still not tired of seeing gemsbok. They’re beautiful.

Baby gemsbok, Namib Desert, Namibia

Young gemsbok.

Best of all, we saw a young one. Given the size of the horns, this one isn’t all that young, but it’s the smallest one we’ve seen, and one of only two relatively young ones.

Youngish Gemsbok, Namib Desert, Namibia


Normally, the youngest we see are this size. All three of these have fairly short horns.

Based on our observations, one might conclude that gemsbok are born as adults, but we know this isn’t true. As I mentioned before, one of our books says that gemsbok keep their young hidden from the herd for the first month. It seems they keep them well hidden and perhaps for longer than a month.

Mom and baby gemsbok, Namibia

Mom and baby gemsbok. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

What a treat to spy this young one! I wonder how old it is.

Gemsbok with a broken leg, Namiba

This gemsbok’s left front leg is broken.

We also saw this lame one. Nature is not kind to lame animals, and it breaks my heart to see one. I want to stuff it in the backseat and either take it home and fix it or give it a safe place to live out its life comfortably. I think it’s amazing that it was walking as well as it was, but it’s still an easy target for a predator.

Gemsbok with a curled horn, Namibia

Curly-horn gemsbok.

What about an affliction like this, I wonder. What are the consequences when a horn that is supposed to be straight comes out curled? Does this impact the animal’s ability to defend itself or its territory? Do the other animals notice? Do they care?

Gemsbok with a broken horn, Namibia

Broken-horn gemsbok on the desert plain. Clickable pic.

Not all deformed horns are birth defects; sometimes horns break. Whoops. There’s a mistake that stays with you the rest of your life.

One of the reasons I’m so enamored with gemsbok is because they are so hardy. They are the antelope braving the harsh, dry conditions way out yonder in the desert Bush, away from the comforts of waterholes and the safety of great herds. They are antelope after my own heart.

Our guidebook says they are not dependent on surface water. Apparently, they can get all the moisture they need from . . . melons.


What melons?

No Melons in this Desert, Namibia

No melons here. Clickable pic.

Do you see any melons here? “Honey, where’d you put the melons? I’m thirsty.”

We’ve seen precisely zero melons in all of our Namibian travels. These mythical melons have become a joke with us.

Need something we don’t have? Oh, we’ll just grab a melon and use it instead.

Feeling parched? Grab a melon.

What’s that gemsbook doing just standing there? Enjoying a melon, of course.

And then, as we’re cruising blissfully along our desolate C road, a spot of green outrageously out of place screams for my attention.

“Mike! Stop! Melons!”

Melons, for real, Namibia

Melons! Get out! Clickable pic.

Wonder of wonders, they’re real. There really are melons in this endless desert. Could they look more out of place? I don’t think so!

But not a gemsbok in sight, and we can see for miles and miles.

Tsama melons, Namibia

Check ’em out!

They look a bit like honeydews.

Tsama melon, cut open, Namib Desert, Namibia

Tsama melon guts.

Inside, they look like white watermelons, but the flesh is firmer, even firmer than honeydew. Is it fully ripe? Beats me.

Do you suppose they’re safe for humans to eat? Would you really eat something so rare and precious to gemsbok? I mean, this is it for miles around. These are all the melons for the dozens or hundreds of gemsbok we’ve seen. Are you really going to take one from them?

Well, I did already cut one open.

But, then, no way was I going to actually try one without knowing they’re safe to eat. I mean, we’re in the middle of nowhere in the desert in Namibia. We’re not taking any chances. That would be foolish. I’ve even been treating water we’ve been told is safe to drink.

Taking no chances.

“Forget it,” Mike said. “They’re really bitter.”


I can’t believe melons really grow out here in the desert with no water and rocks for soil. They’re not a myth after all. In fact, they’re tsama melons. Or Tsamma melons. As with so many words here, I see two different spellings. They are commonly thought to be the ancestor of watermelon, and there are several varieties, including a sweet one and a bitter one. All are safe to eat, if not exactly yummy. Apparently, these grow in the US, too, and are called “citron melons.” Are you familiar with them?

Castle, Namibia Desert

It’s a lodge and spa. Click for a larger view. Use your back button to return here.

And then there’s this. Why on earth is there a castle out here, and what does it have to do with anything? It makes no sense.

Precisely my point.

Categories: Africa, Africa, Travel