We rolled into the park, armed with binoculars, camera’s and chips to keep the kids quiet! Within 100 metres of entering Etosha Park, there seemed to be a steady flow of elephants, zebra and springbok crossing the road. As with most of us folk who enjoy a bit of photography, the first hour of being in a park is usually frantic; convinced that this shot of the Springbok crossing the road is without a doubt, going to take your photography to a whole new level! 200 metres later, with 16 stops of 16 Springbok crossing the road, the photo frenzy begins to wear off… but ever so slightly!
I rolled down the window, then quickly back up. I have never known a place as dusty as Etosha Park! I soon noticed other vehicles, caked with a thick layer of powdery white dust and breathed a little sigh of relief that we were driving a hired vehicle! Not only have I ever known a place so dusty, but I have never experienced a landscape as stark, dramatic and seemingly dead as Etosha Park but on closer look, a land abundant with life of all shapes and sizes, miraculously thriving in such harsh conditions. There is no other place like this. I felt in awe of Etosha, from beginning to end, witnessing the unfolding of drama after drama, as if I was suspended in the middle of a David Attenborough series.
The original plan was to spend 3 nights in Etosha park, but with our late start from Windhoek, it cut our time down to 2 nights! Don’t do this! It meant we were rushed and had to leave the waterholes to reach the next campsite before 6pm – just as a pride of lion would be stalking their prey. I’d say you need at least 4 to 5 nights, minimum. Time to potter around and explore every road. To stop at a waterhole around 4pm and simply wait. You wont be disappointed. And of course, 4 to 5 nights will give you enough time to make your way across the entire park without having to tare yourself away at the most exciting moment! Just recently, the West side of the park has been opened and offers it’s visitors the opportunity to drive from east to west, or vice versa, and continue on with your journey without having to back track.
As mentioned in my previous post, we had nothing planned! So when we got to Anderson’s Gate and the Gate keeper asked us where we’d booked…to which our answer was no-where! He laughed a bit and wished us luck! There are a few campsites to pick from. We did not have the luxury of ‘picking’ and were told where we could go! Our first night in Etosha would be in Halali on the Eastern side of the salt pan. That afternoon, while slowly making our way to the last remaining camp which closes at 6pm, we were repeatedly distracted! We saw at least 10 rhino, a badger versus jackal fight, bat-eared foxes on the hunt, about 40 elephant marching in a line towards a muddy waterhole and herds upon herds of springbok. We were mesmerised by the desolate white plains and the well-trodden paths that snaked their way towards a distant mirage – a land completely foreign to us.
We also saw lion that day. But the sighting was brief! We had arrived at a water hole at which 2 vehicles were already parked. The passengers in both cars proceeded to talk to each other loudly.
“Seen anything interesting today?” said Vehicle no. 1.
“Nah, not much – just some ellies and stuff.” said Vehicle no. 2.
“Aaaah, bad luck then,” said Vehicle no.1 and wheel-spinned off, leaving us in a cloud of smoky white dust.
Meanwhile just ahead of us, yawned a beast of a lion. He stretched and wandered down to the waters edge! Vehicle no. 2 suddenly spotted this magnificent animal and excitedly began to honk the horn, over and over again in attempt to call back Vehicle no.1.
Unsurprisingly, the sighting was brief! The lion quietly left – disappearing into the bush like it was never there.
That was our queue! Time to get moving and reach the campsite before it closed. We arrived in the nick of time, having driven the last 5km’s in a silky blue haze of dust. We set up camp, lit the fire, cooked us some Namibian lamb chops and enjoyed a great evening at the well-organised Halali camp. The next day we’d leave at sunrise and slowly make our way right across the park to the new Olifantsrus campsite on the Western side of Etosha – a place with a tragic history but bright future.
That night we fell asleep to the deep and guttural roars of lion, comforted by the knowledge that there was a 6 foot fence separating man from beast!
“You know you are truly alive when you are living among lions.” – Karen Blixen, Out of Africa