Etosha August 2014

I was looking forward to getting back to Etosha. It is a long drive for us, two days from home and we decided to travel through Botswana and then Windhoek, finally arriving at Namutomi Camp where we camped for the first three nights. We arrived at Namutomi at 2pm and pitched camp. It was a hot day and we were done by 3:30pm, so a quick game drive was in order! We went to the water hole and saw some Zebra, Giraffes and a few Hyenas chasing each other. On the way back to camp we saw a Black Rhino, which was incredibly exciting! I tried to get a few photos with the last few rays of sun shining on him.

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The next two days were just as fulfilling as we got to see more Black Rhino, Male Lion at Klein Namutomi water hole and then the most adorable buck, the Damara Dik-Dik. On our last night we decided to drive the road to Fischer’s Pan and at Two Palm waterhole. We saw a Male Lion who later came to drink some water. He walked all around the dam but did not seemed to like the water in this dam and was disgusted with his feet full of mud. After meandering for a while, we took a slow drive back. Back at Two Palms Dam we stopped to see if we see the lion again and he was lying next to the dam, so we decided to wait a bit and suddenly saw another movement in the grass…there were another two lions, male and female. They were not there earlier on or we did not see them. Time to pack up and move onto Halali Camp site. Before we left we decided to drive into Klein Namutomi dam where we saw a few lions who just left the dam and on their way to the bush. Driving back on the main road we saw a Leopard, it was busy stalking an Impala. We got very excited but then the Impala saw him and he abandoned the hunt and went deep into the bush.

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At Halali Camp we were very lucky to get a good camp site close to the path that leads to the watering hole. Pitched our camp and took off to Goas watering hole. We waited while more cars came and went but we decided to wait. Looking around the edges of the two dams we suddenly saw two legs popping up under a tree near us, and yes, they were lions! We waited and hoped they would get up to come and drink water. Time was running out and at last they started to move. One female finally moved towards the water, perfect for the shots I wanted to get. After that, we rushed back to camp to get there by 5:40pm and see if there was anything at the waterhole at camp. Walking to the hole with my Nikon D4 and 600mm lens (over 6kg) was no joke, long way to walk with the heavy equipment. There must have been at least 100 people at the hole so we were too late to get a good spot. The black Rhino was drinking and I managed to get a few good photos of him and then before I could move to a better position I heard the people saying, “there is the cat” and as I looked he had just caught a sand grouse, I struggled to get my settings ready and get a photo of this. I managed to get a few but they were not great. I promised myself the next few days I will be there early to get a prime spot. During the next 3 days we went to Salvadore and got a few nice photos of the famous tree and the pan behind it. Rietfontein Dam great dam with herds of hundreds of Zebra and Wildebeest, which was just amazing to see. We were told the last lion seen at the waterhole at camp was in 2009 when a single female was seen.

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During the second last night we heard a male lion roaring at the dam…my kids said “but mom you said we will not see lions close to camp” – clearly a wrong statement! The next morning we got up and went to the waterhole where we saw him lying. He roared again before he got up to come and drink water, the sun was perfect. He was not in a good shape though. He was limping and his hips had clearly been hurt. Looking at him, I got tears in my eyes and remembered what my grandfather use to say to me “animals go close to water when they die”. His roars were sad and not like that of a mighty king.

The highlight for me at Halali was the Honey Badgers. I had read in a few magazines that they visit the camp from time to time. We had them in our tent one night causing mayhem and also scratching their backs against the tent another evening. One morning I went to hang up a towel at our site when the next moment the badger was right next to me. Knowing how dangerous and aggressive they can be, I was not quite sure how to react. I called my hubby softly and said he needs to bring the camera quickly (Proof reader ? called for the camera and not for help, mind you!). It was a male and he immediately showed us that he was very relaxed and just sniffing around. I went down on my knees to take a few photos and he came right up to me to smell me and then moved on. I was concerned when the honey Badger moved towards my 8 year old son who was sitting a few meters from me, but he knew to just sit still when the badger came to him. It almost looked him in the eye and touched his camera with his nose! What an incredible experience. The day did not end here… we had great sightings through-out the day. That evening at the Halali waterhole I saw it at last – the Leopard! I had been taking photos for ages while the other people there were still trying to spot it! It was just magical and I was so hoping to see this guy!

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On our way to Okaukuejo we saw three incredible lion sightings. First three females and a male and then the females had a fight but nothing too serious. We saw a pride of lions lying at the pan’s edge. Then a little further on we saw the famous female lioness of Salvador who is known for successfully hunting on her own. The waterhole at Okaukuejo is probably one of the best in Africa. We saw herds of elephants, black rhinos, giraffes and much more coming to drink water. There is always something happening. We other really special moments around this area especially seeing a brief sighting of a leopard and finding a stunning waterhole were hundreds of wildebeest and zebra would come to drink and play. Arriving at this waterhole one morning we did not see any big groups of zebra and we knew the lions must be here – and yes there they were – two male lions lying in the open! They were in such good condition and it was special to see two males together. They stayed in the open till the sun was high and then moved into the thicker bush. Only then did the zebras move towards the water. At Okaukuejo one night we saw a mom black rhino with a young calf. This was so special, as I have never seen a baby rhino. She protected him all the time and when the male came to close she would put herself between them. She later decided to move into the thick bush where they are more protected.

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From Etosha, we did a quick drive to Swakopmund, SossusVlei and Luderits. It was really crazy driving, we did 12 hours of driving a day but wanted to show our kids this part “while we there”. Close to Luderits we were lucky enough to see the Namib Wild Horses. We had to go to Kolmanskoppe, the ghost town of course!

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We all had a great time in Namibia and would definitely go back. Not so sure if I will go back to Etosha to camp though, as the ablution facilities were really not in good condition. The camp sites were over-booked with all the over lander trucks, most ablution blocks were flooded due to the drains not being able to cope with the volume people. The noise level in camp was also a concern as we are used to being quiet when you in the bush, no music but in Etosha this was not the case sadly. The shops at camps had only the bare necessities. The shops are mostly very compact and with only 1 till per shop, it often resulted in a 5-10min queue to pay for a cold drink or water. The game sightings and scenery was magical. I would suggest you rather stay in the chalets and take as much of your own food as possible.

Posted in Corlette's Blog.