Tuesday 19th July
This afternoon we arrived in Swakopmund and we have had the first shower in 2 weeks that lasted more than 5 minutes, water didn’t have to be heated by a fire and we had a full size towel to dry off with. The amount of sand and dirt that came out of our bodies let alone our clothes was staggering. We have been on the road for 2 weeks since leaving Victoria Falls and have 5 days left but what a time we have had. The last week has seen us enter Etosha National Park. This is probably the most famous national park in Namibia which has as it’s core feature a huge pan that millions of years ago was a lake that has since dried. The pan measures 110km long by 60km wide. We drove around a large part of it and it was like a never-ending sea with a heat haze steaming off it. Thoughts of biking across it were only for a moment. The other feature of the park is that it is home to free ranging animals over 22 thousand square kilometres. You can find most of the big name animals and more along with a number of waterholes meaning you can watch and view them from up close. Apart from inside the camps and specifically designated fenced toilet areas you are not able to alight from your car.
We entered the park from the Namutoni gate and spent the first night camped there. It is home to an old fort and has a waterhole for viewing close to the camp site. We arrived early afternoon so after lunch we took the truck out for a game drive to look for animals. The camps gates close at specific times and if your late back you are fined. The nature of our truck and it’s height gave a great viewing platform for us as we spent around 2 hours causing around finding Elephants, Zebras, Springboks, DikDik,Giraffes, Impala Rhinos and other assorted birds and wildlife. Jackels had also replaced monkeys as campsite pests.
The next morning we were up early, broke camp and were on the road by 7am. We had a 70km drive to the next camp located at Okaukuejo. This is the best time to see the wildlife before the heat of the day sends them seeking shelter in the bush. As it is winter and the dry season it also means water is scarce so there is an accumulation of animals at the waterholes. We watched Jackels, Hyenas and Zebras interact at one then we found a lion resting off to the side at another. He was obviously well fed as he showed no sign of needing to catch dinner from the animals drinking nearby. It was slow going and took us 2 hours to cover 16km (we had to cover a total of 47km to reach the halfway point and lunch stop)
Lunch was at another camp located mid park called Halali. We reached this point around 11.30am and after another fantastic lunch we had around 2 hours free time before we setoff on the next 47km to reach Okaukuejo. The later departure time from Halali would allow us to miss the hottest part of the day and ensure animals would be out from seeking shade and shelter. To pass this time we walked to the camps waterhole which is on a raised rocky platform with a shade roof where we watched herds of Zebra and Elephants drink at the hole. Although there was around 40 people present the silence was deafening as we viewed the habits of these creatures and interactions between each other.
The roads are gravelled that although reasonably smooth are also quite corrugated in places. There is plenty of traffic travelling both ways but it all tends to be slow as animal spotting is the primary activity. Our afternoon travels took us to the edge of the pan where you got a sense of not only the volume of water it would have taken to fill this lake but also the dryness of it now and how it is devoid of life. Not many animals would attempt to cross this expanse given the lack of water.
Our animal spotting was again rewarded with many groups of animals found with Ostrich’s being added. (no more cats though but I would bet we passed many….we just couldn’t spot them)
Our campsite for the night was around 200m from the camps floodlit waterhole. After dinner and the daily jobs were completed some called it a night, some sat around the fire having a couple of cold Windhoek’s whilst we and a few others headed down to the waterhole to see what was visiting. It is generally dark here around 6pm but the floodlight certainly serves it’s purpose. A group of Rhinos were drinking followed by a largish group of elephants. After around an hour we retired for the night as well. We were given a later start the next day so at 6am Noelle & I went down to the waterhole to see what turned up for breakfast, we were hoping to see some cats. That didn’t happen but we did see Springbocks and some Oynx.
Departing the camp we had around 20km to cover to exit the park. T.K our driver took a detour which led us to a waterhole where there was a staggering amount of wildlife mingling together and in the middle of it we found 2 male lions sleeping like contented pussycats paying no attention to anything else. Obviously they were well fed and sleeping off a busy night of hunting.
Trying to exit the park the officials would not let us do so as we did not have the correct receipt which should have been given by the camps reception the night before. This meant a 20 minute journey back to the camp to rectify this. Our leader had voiced his displeasure at such a clerical oversight to which they took offence and threatened to kick us out of the park………which is what we were trying to do anyway – exit the park. T.I.A is an often used phrase that sums it up…….This Is Africa!
So after 3 days and 2 nights our verdict is it’s not long enough. Personally we would have loved to have stayed an extra day at Okaukuejo and take advantage of perhaps a night safari or a more personalised game drive and definitely spend more time at the waterhole. The park with it’s abundance of wildlife, birdlife and scenery from savannah to scrub and desert is certainly a must do when in Namibia. It’s not known as Namibia’s greatest wildlife sanctuary for nothing.
check out http://www.etoshanationalpark.org for more info.