HALALI AREA, ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK, NAMIBIA
FLAP-NECKED CHAMELEON, CHAMAELEO DILEPIS DILEPSIS

A flap-necked chameleon makes its way - step by step - across a gravel path in Namibia's Etosha National Park.

Chameleons are quiet the adorable miniature dragons, sporting an amazing set of unique features and behaviours: parot-like feet, seperately mobile and stereoscopic eyes, a very long highly modified extrutable tongue, a swaying gait, possesion of a prehensile tail, crests or horns on their distinctively shaped head and let us not forget its ability to change colors.

Chameleons have the most distinctive eyes of any reptile. The upper and lower eyelids are joined, with only a pinhole large enough for the pupil to see through. They can rotate and focus separately to observe two different objects simultaneously, this lets their eyes move independently from each other. This gives them a full 360-degree arc of vision around their body. When prey is located, both eyes can be focused in the same direction, giving sharp stereoscopic vision and depth perception.

They walk like a dance, rocking back and forth at each step; this actually is meant to imitate a leaf moving eratically in the wind and apart from adapting its color to the surroundings helps the chameleons to hide from its enemies and also approach its prey within striking distance aka length of their sticky tongue.

Etosha is a very good place to see chameleons as they occasionally cross the gravel paths and are much better visible than in the dense thorny bushveld or dense rainforest vegetation they most often call their habitat. They are fairly slow but can speed up surprisingly when threatend. This fellow was just making his way across the path as I was heading back to the Halali rest camp for the midday siesta. Flap-necked chameleons do not have extensive color changing abilities like some of its tropical cousins, but they tend to get dark green to brown when annoyed. This one was cool, he did not really mind me as I approached slowly. I made a series of low angle shots to try and give the image the chameleons view (which would have been me once again flat on the scorching hot ground swallowing dust) and tell something about its peculiar walk.

While I did take some nice ones from the side seen in other galleries on this site I do like this one the best. Having the chameleon walk towards the camera and it turning away as it was lifting one leg, paired with the intense look and the tail held up for balance, makes it work.

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