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Nile Monitor

Lizards | Namibia

Introduction: The Nile or water monitor (Varanus niloticus) is an excellent swimmer, and uses the paddle-like tail to manoeuvre, hence the ability to survive and reproduce in a wide variety of locations as described in the distribution section. It is the 2nd largest African lizard and has a stout body supported by strong limbs and powerful claws. Small, bead-like scales cover a tough skin and the head has an elongated snout, with a dark tongue. The tail is much longer than the body.

Nile monitors live in rivers, pans and major lakes and will dive into the water when in danger and if cornered will bite and swipe out with their tails, as with the rock monitor. Main predators include pythons and crocodiles. The flesh of monitors is edible and fat is used in the tribal medicine business.

Distribution: The Nile monitor is common in the river valleys of the Orange River extending to the Fish River Canyon. Also in Epupa Falls extending westerly along the Kunene River to the Atlantic Ocean. The river valleys of the Naukluft Mountains and also from Kavango River to Rundu and easterly to the Caprivi Strip and Victoria Falls heading southwards into the Okavango Delta.

Diet: Forages for food in regions of marginal vegetation with fresh-water pools for crabs, mussels, frogs, fish, birds and their eggs. Will dig for terrapin and turtle eggs and eggs from 'motherless crocodile' nests.

Colouring: Adults have a greyish-brown to dirty olive-brown head and upper back with light yellow spots and scattered darker blotches adorning the back. The belly and throat are a paler colour than the back, but with black bars.

Breeding: Females dig holes and occupy active termite nests and lay from between 20 to 60 eggs, a ritual that may take 2 or 3 days to perform. Like good hosts, the resident termites then repair their own nests and the incubation of the monitor eggs begins. Incubation period can be up to 12 months and the young dig themselves out and emerge together, digging themselves out the softer soil in the summer rains.

Size: SVL 600 to 800mm. Max SVL 980mm.

Ai-Ais Resort

Fairly basic accommodation at the famous hot-springs near the southern end of the Fish River Canyon

Canyon Lodge

Probably the most popular lodge in the area. Friendly staff, interesting rooms and an emphasis on growing all local produce make for a wonderful stay

Canyon Roadhouse

The smaller sibling to the Canon Lodge & Village, this fun establishment boasts loads of character

Canyon Village

Supposedly laid out like an African village - this tends to be second choice to the Lodge but still offers good value

Fish River Lodge

On the opposite edge of the canyon to all the other lodges, Fish River Lodge offers a unique perspective, excellent service and stunning views


Campsite close to the main viewpoint over the Fish River Canyon

Luderitz Accommodation