I last saw Vernon in 1997, when we finished studying conservation and wildlife management together. Our paths split and it wasn’t until 2 years ago that we made contact. I knew as soon as I started talking to Vernon that he had become a man of the desert- his speech is slow, each word well thought out and to the point. He has had time think about them really- he's been living in the desert for 7 years…
So when my tour for Namibia materialised, I never once hesitated as to whom I would take along with me. Vernon Swanepoel grew up in the NFD district of Kenya. For those of you who don’t know- the NFD (Northern frontier district) is a hard, desert in a place north of nowhere and south of somewhere else. It’s so remote that Kenya has not even bothered to give it a proper name. I mean which province today is still called a frontier?! I suppose it was natural that Vernon ended up in the deserts of Namibia. It’s a veritable metropolis compared to the NFD.
And it showed. Vernon, the frantic naturalist, has become one of Namibia’s top natural history guides. His knowledge of the deserts was astounding. In addition to his untouched fauna and flora knowledge of the desert, he has immersed himself in subjects as diverse as astronomy, archaeology, geology, taxonomy (specifically on desert species) and history specific to his desert areas. You could walk 500m with Vernon over an open plain and it would take you two hours. That is just how much there is to these deserts: and Vernon knows all there is about them.
To say that his addition to the tour was a success would be an understatement- it was inspiring. I’m a great believer in combining resources and knowledge- this was a classic case of both working together to provide an excellent compliment to a wonderful tour.
Hope to see the Frantic Naturalist again in 2010 for another successful tour.