Monday, 18 September 2017

Etosha National Park

I was back in Namibia late August for work and took the opportunity to travel to Etosha with my co-director, Martin, who couldn't believe that I'd never been on safari.  Well I'd sort of seen a few animals in the bush in Zambia many years ago but nothing on this scale.  And there's little scope for big game viewing in the southwest of England.

We drove from Windhoek up to Okaukeujo, just inside Etosha National Park - circa a 5 hour drive.  We stocked up on supplies before arriving as we knew vegetables would be a limited event on the menu (too true - there was as much meat/game as you could eat - but very little fresh veg).

Anyway, before supper we went down to the waterhole to catch the sunset and see who was down there.  We were armed with cameras, binoculars, cool beers and, because it's me, eau de deet.  In fact that was the overwhelming smell at the waterhole due to the number of spectators there!

What an amazing hour we had there.  We arrived to find a herd of elephants drinking and cooling themselves by spraying themselves with dust.
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It was wonderful just to sit and watch. So peaceful.
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As the sun set the zebra arrived, their stripes reflecting magnificently in the water.
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And then the giraffe swung by.
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Can't be easy to drink with a neck like that.
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And that was Thursday evening ... bliss.
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Friday morning we decided to head down at sunrise. This time the jackals were sniffing around.
20170901 Etosha 0977 Jackal
And springbok.
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There are circa 30 000 zebra in Etosha so it was no surprise that we kept seeing them.
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The reflection of their coats/shadow was wonderful in the rising light.
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After breakfast we headed off towards the salt pan stopping at a zebra crossing on the way (boom boom).
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We drove slowly on the dirt track, stopping frequently at sightings in the bush and at the waterholes.
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An ostrich party.
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A giraffe crossing (no joke there then?).
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This was an ideal time to visit Etosha as it is the dry season and the animals naturally congregate around the waterholes.
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At this waterhole we watched an elephant herd chase another herd off. Martin hadn't seen that happen before: this was a large waterhole with plenty of room for everyone. For some reason the bulls really were not keen to have this other group in any near proximity and chased them off a few times with much stomping, charging, snorting and ear flapping.
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Meanwhile the black rhino just stood under a tree. We went back the next day to this same waterhole and he'd turned the other way. Such is the life of a rhino.
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We drove up a short slip onto the salt pans. These apparently look amazing just after the rains have fallen as they turn from dust to carpet greenery. Another visit will be due me thinks.
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We saw wee creatures too. This is a ground squirrel.
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And a young kudu buck.
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Back after our drive we returned to the camp waterhole to watch the sun go down again. This springbok decided to drink whilst sitting in the middle of the water.
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Such amazing colours.
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The sun had set and we were just heading back when a whisper went out - "lion!" And there she was.
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Her presence didn't overly bother the buck and giraffe. As Martin pointed out, you could see blood on her muzzle so was obviously deemed 'safe' (in the safe-lioness-terms of 'safe') and everyone left everyone else alone.

On Saturday we had an issue. We only had enough fuel for ~100 km but the campsite fuel station was empty. They didn't announce this until you drove up and they just shook their heads at you. The next nearest fuel pump was 76 km distant - annoyingly this was where we'd driven to only the day before.  So our mission was to drive as economically as possible to Halali camp and hope that their promise of fuel was actually a reality or else we were going to be stuck in camp and miss our meetings in Windhoek.

So we drove at 50 kph as smoothly as possible.  We realised the surrealness of our situation when we turned a corner to find a herd of zebra scattered across the road.  "Blinking zebra, get everywhere," I muttered.  And then I realised just how amazingly privileged I was to be able to say that.

Anyway, zebra notwithstanding we made it to Halali with 3 litres spare in the tank.  I was most relieved as it was 37 deg C outside and I didn't fancy walking far in that.

To celebrate we decided to get some internet vouchers, a cool drink and do some work on the grass; keeping a sharp eye out for the gardener who was in charge of turning on the sprinklers that were placed across the lawn.
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Now we were two surveyors in a car and we'd noticed that, as we drove cautiously towards Halali for our fuel, the road signs and the distances on our map differed.  So we decided to have real fun on return journey ("yes, yes, it's just another elephant...") and we checked the map against the odometer as we drove.  We sadly enjoyed our 68 km journey (no, not 76 km as the road signs said and not 64 km as my map did) adding the kilometre distances as we went.

However at one stage I spotted something interesting in the bush and we backed up to take a photo of this hyena. And, yes, we added in the additional 200 m that this added to the odometer...
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As we pottered back suddenly a springbok shot across the road with a jackal hot on its heels.  It turned parallel to the road, in the direction we were driving, and ran for its life.  We tracked it for over  3 km.  It was sprinting at circa 40 kph.  What an amazing race.  We never saw the end as they veered off away from the road but when we last saw them the springbok was still flat out and the jackal was still chasing.  These things are fast.

Once back at the the camp we climbed up their tower to take in the view.
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This is looking towards the Etosha salt pan.
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It was another amazing sunset this night. The clouds added another dimension to the reflections as the sun went down. All very awesome.
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Lots of giraffe tonight.
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It was an amazing few days being immersed in the world of wild animals.  It was quiet, still (give or take a springbok/jackal hunt) and a million miles away from the rest of the busy world.

On Sunday we headed back to the real world but, just as we neared the park entrance, we were reminded that we were still in a zone where the wild animals roamed.
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