Swarovski Optik Blog 6/9: Campsite life

In 2015 I organized an expedition to Ethiopia. I collected a team of 5 researchers to search for Caprimulgus solala in Nechisar National Park. For the purpose of this expedition, I wrote 9 blogs for Swarovski Optik.

Original blog message here (21 May 2015)



Our camp is called “The Hotspring Guard post” and is situated on more than 5 hours’ drive from Arba Minch. At this site the guards from the eastern side of Nechisar National Park, Ethiopia usually stay when there are visitors in the area. “Hotspring” refers to the small swamp next to the camp. The water in the swamp is heated up to over 50°C by volcanic activities.

Our guards stay in little concrete buildings, and we have put up our sleeping- and research tent next to it. Our kitchen is nothing more than a small concrete pit with a metal mesh over it. Here we filter and boil the hot spring water, and cook our daily spaghetti. And finally, our bathroom? Nothing more than a washing-line between two trees. Because we take a bath near the hot springs.

If you want to sum up our expedition in three words, it might be: back to basics. Here in Ethiopia the first human was discovered, Lucy. But, we also go back to the core business of living. In the centre of Nechisar National Park we do not have electricity, cell phone coverage, running water or WiFi. In Campsite “hotsprings” we have adapted to the rhythm of nature. At 6am the alarm sounds as Yellow-necked spurfowl and Crested francolins start screeching and African Grey hornbills start clucking.

Every day, before 11 am we monitor biodiversity near River Sermale. We put up mist-nets to catch birds, take pictures of butterflies and dragon flies and other insects are collected near ancient fig trees. During all this work, we keep an eye open for all birds and mammals present near the river. This results in some really interesting observations of: Pygmy kingfisher, Brown throated wattle eye, Hadada Ibis, Klaar’ Cuckoo, Nerina Trogon, and White-cheecked Turaco.

Well before 11am temperature increases up to 25°C, so time to get back to camp. We stay there until 5.30pm when it is still 35°C, but cooler moments are close ahead. During daytime we try to find some shading at the campsite, to analyse our data and make some hot food. Spaghetti with tomatoes and onion… every day… . We collect firewood, sterilize hot-spring water and make some coffee using clean bird-bags.  So, for me no more spaghetti Bolognese for some time :). Fortunately we can enjoy some really nice species near our campsite like: leopard tortoise, red-cheecked cordon-bleu, fan tailed raven, Orange breasted bush-shrike, fire finches, African Harrier hawk, Double toothed barbets, Orioles and our personal striped ground squirrels.

At 6pm darkness kicks in really fast. Within ten minutes the sun disappears. Time to prepare ourselves for the real purpose of this expedition: track and catch nightjars. Eventually, our days end around 3am. When we go to sleep we are usually accompanied by the sound of a roaring lion, laughing hyenas and screaming baboons.

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