The amazing chameleon

Early one morning we were busy with our daily maintenance tasks in and around the lodge. During a perimeter check we were treated to an amazing sight, front row-seats if you will, of a unique creature boasting an array of varying tones of green, with the odd splash of white and minute individual black dots on its multi-layered coat, aiding in its concealment from potential predators.

Seeing this magnificent creature in this state ‘wearing’ these vibrant colours proudly was truly a spectacle, because when threatened or anxious, this specific reptile can alter the colour of its skin – changing from green to almost completely black. Now I am sure you must have some idea what this small, elusive reptilian creature is – a flap-necked chameleon in all its glory. Thankfully it did not feel threatened and kept its cool throughout our confrontation.

Chameleon skin is truly unbelievable as they have a superficial layer which contains pigments, and under this layer are cells with guanine crystals. Chameleons change colour by changing the space between these guanine crystals, which in turn changes the wavelength of light reflected off the crystals, resulting in their interesting colour variations.

Leaving Tshepo to keep an eye on our chameleon, I ran back to my room to grab my camera and then sprinted back to the location of our new-found friend. Luckily, he had now moved into the middle of the unsettled gravel road and this gave me the perfect opportunity to grab a few photos as I knew I would most probably not be seeing another chameleon anytime soon – well in the road at least – as chameleons are for the most part arboreal. I lay down with my camera on the gravel road (uncomfortable is an understatement!) to try and capture eye-level photos, which in a sense places one in the chameleon’s world and provides the viewer with a completely different perspective on the creature. We then decided to leave him be as we did not want to overstay our welcome and make him feel threatened.

Report and images by ranger Kaden