So far we had failed to get into the Selous Game Reserve via the Mikumi
National Park and also the Morogoro/Kisaki route. The debate now was
whether or not we would make it at the third attempt. This attempt was to
take us down the road along which we had originally planned to return from
the Selous, viz. via Kibiti.
Ten years earlier Ruud Wildekamp had travelled along this road and then it
was an excellent tarmac surface, now nothing could be further from the
truth! We had anticipated that it would take about two hours to reach
Kibiti but by the time we got there it was 3pm. Admittedly we had stopped
once on the way at the Mbezi River.
This is the type locality of N. rubripinnis and also N. luekei
and is about 50km. south of Dar es Salaam. We managed to find a few pairs
of N. rubripinnis but had to give up without finding a
single specimen of N. luekei. It was our original intention upon
reaching Kibiti to continue further south along the main road to the Ruhoi
River - the type locality of N. eggersi. As it had taken us so
long to get to Kibiti, we had to abandon the idea and aim for the Rufiji
River Camp at which we had planned to stay for the night.
From Kibiti there was still about 110km. to go in a westerly direction to
get to the camp and this was along dirt tracks. Initially the road surface
was reasonable but it was undulating with floodwater in the depressions.
This did not unduly delay us but it did not last for long! The depressions
soon turned into mud holes which got progressively worse. Eventually, with
about 70km. to go we stopped to confer. Should we turn back to Kibiti? It
was now 5pm and would soon be getting dark.
What happened next was one of those unbelievable occurrences. We were in
the middle of nowhere when another Landrover appeared! In it were two
wildlife conservation workers. We explained our situation to them and
apparently they knew the route. As they were going to a place nearby the
Rufiji River Camp they suggested that we follow them. This we did. We were
soon past the worst of the mud and it was not long before it was dark. All
we had to follow were two red lights varying in intensity according to the
amount of dust blown up by the wheels of the vehicle in front.Eventually
we made it to the camp and were greeted with surprise by the owner. It
transpired that he had been there for three years and in all that time no
"tourist" had arrived by road. The normal route is by light
aircraft to the nearby landing strip. We explained the purpose of our trip
to the owner. He said that he knew of the nearby pools, but there were no
fish in them. However, he would show them to us the following morning.
The night was spent under canvas in a forest. Camping was never like this
at home! We each had a tent to ourselves equipped with two four poster
beds and well-equipped ensuite bathroom with all the mod cons including
hot water and electricity. The following morning we were up and dressed
before daybreak - courtesy of a troupe of extremely noisy monkeys in the
trees around and above my tent. True to his word the camp owner was ready
after breakfast to take us to the pools which were a couple or so
kilometres away. He was astonished to see the contents of our nets once
dipped into the water!
These pools contained three species of killifish. They were N. janpapi,
N. melanospilus and the one species that was the reason why we were so
determined to get to this place, N. eggersi. This population was special.
Many years ago a red phenotype had been collected near the Rufiji River
Camp but, unfortunately, only a male survived. This was crossed with other
populations of the same species and the offspring are the ancestors of the
fish that have been circulating as 'Red' and incorrectly as 'Rufiji River
Camp'. The pure aquarium strain produced from fish we collected from this
locality is identified amongst aquarists as N. eggersi Red Rufiji River
Camp TAN95/7. Let us hope that we will be able to keep the strain pure!
At this locality we noticed a number of fish eating spiders on the water
surface and inadvertantly caught one in a net whilst searching for fish.
This spider, very conveniently, stayed in the net long enough for us to
take some photographs and then made a dash for the ground. Once on the
ground it stopped again so more photo's were taken. It was not until I
returned home and had the slides developed that I noticed that the spider,
when on the ground, had hold of a fish! The head, and particularly the eye
was visible in front of the spider. It's body must be lying from front to
back underneath the spiders body.
Precisely how it picked up the fish we are not sure but it must have
done so as it dashed off the net. We were sure the fish was not under the
spider when we photographed it in the net! The fish incidentally was N.
janpapi, a fish that does tend to inhabit the upper waters , so in the
pool would most likely be the prey of these spiders.
One of the reasons why we have put 'red' into the name of the N.
eggersi from the camp is, that whilst trying to get to another pool,
we came across some vehicle tracks full of water and here we also found
This time, although only 2km. from locality 7, these fish were blue!
There did not appear to be any obvious barrier separating the two
populations, but barrier there must have been as both populations breed
true to their respective colours. This other population is identified as
N. eggersi Blue Rufiji River Camp TAN95/8.
We returned to the camp for lunch and then set off on the return journey
to Kibiti where we planned to spend the night. We had been told that in
the village there was a reasonably good guesthouse. As we left the camp a
potential problem was identified - how to find our way back to Kibiti.
Most of the route to the camp had involved following the vehicle in front
in the dark! In daylight, as far as we could see in all directions (and a
lot further!) it was just featureless dusty scrubland with a number of
intersecting tracks. The only way out was to try to follow the
wheel-tracks we had made the night before in the dust. Thank goodness it
On the way to the Rufiji River Camp, just before it had got dark, we had
noticed an area, which looked as though it could have been a reasonable
biotype for Nothobranchius. We stopped here on the return journey.
Not unexpectedly it produced the usual N. melanospilus and N.
janpapi. Suddenly, just as we were about to pack up and move on, Ruud
Wildekamp called out to us. He had in his net another species that was at
the top of our 'wants' list! It was the largest specimen of Nothobranchius
I had ever seen. We had N. ocellatus - a specimen about 150mm long!
Eventually we had six specimens of about the same size, which, very
conveniently, were three pairs. They were so large we didn't have ideal
sized bags for them but they survived very well. They had an oversized
polystyrene box all to themselves. The only problems we had with them were
a few leeches that appeared from time to time in the bags - where they
came from was not clear. We also had to clear unfertilised eggs from the
bags containing females.
We continued on our way but by the time we reached Kibiti it was well
past dark. The guesthouse recommended to us turned out to be full, so we
had to seek out the other guesthouse in the village. There is little one
can say about the standard of this guesthouse other than at U.S. $1 for a
room for the night it was grossly over priced! Needless to say, the next
morning we were up and about very early!
The reason that we were keen on stopping at Kibiti was that it would
provide us with the opportunity of getting to the type locality of N.
eggersi. This was just under 20km. to the south of Kibiti on the road
to Lindi. The locality is easy to identify as it is on the side of the
road by the bridge over the Ruhoi River. At the locality we of course
found the ubiquitous N. melanospilus but could only find females
of N. eggersi. We left them in the pool and decided to continue
southwards across the bridge in search of another pool. We ended up
another 20 or so kilometres south of the Ruhoi at the Rufiji River where
we turned around to start our journey back north to Dar es Salaam. About 1
km. from the Rufiji River we noticed some water that was not too promising
in appearance but we stopped and collected a few N. melanospilus
and N. janpapi. There were no N. eggersi.
It was back to the Ruhoi River before we encountered any more water. We
stopped on the south side of the river and about 100m to the west we found
a small pool containing both male and female N. eggersi. These we
collected and are identified as N. eggersi Ruhoi River TAN95/11.
From here on the return journey to Dar was uneventful. We stopped again
at locality TAN95/6 and collected a few more N. rubripinnis
however there was still no N. luekei to be found. We continued
north and arrived at our hotel in Dar whilst it was still daylight! This
was the first time that this had been achieved on this expedition!
part 1 part 3