Sunday, 11 September 2016

Namibia 3

Our next big adventure was into Etosha, or E-toe-Sha as the Americans like to call it, is one of the biggest and most densely populated parks in the world. A bit of history (as the entrance blurb is next to me). Etosha is made up of a pan which was a lake millions of years ago this has an area 4730km, whilst the park as a whole has an area of 22270km. It has around 114 mammal species, 380 bird species and 110 reptile species. These statistics mean you would hope to see something and luckily we did! We stayed about 30km outside the park the night before in a fantastic campsite called Mondjila Safari camp; cheap and a good location, nice campsites and amazing smells coming from the kitchen - sadly it was a little too pricey for us! Having stayed up most of the previous night lion hunting (unsuccessfully), we were both shattered and in bed early. This was probably a good thing as we were up at 5.30 to get to the gate for opening at sunrise. Since the clocks have changed, forward, sunrise is now at about 6.45. Getting into the park was interesting, a fairly simple process made difficult by lazy gate staff and a bizzare paying systems, however we decided to pay for two day passes which came to £16.. Not bad at all really, cheaper than most places! They get you on the camping in the park so we decided we would camp outside and come back in each morning (so we planned..!).

Etosha is very commercial, the most commercial national park we have been to yet! Lodges and camp grounds were very modern, shops, tourist shops and filling stations were littered around. The roads on the whole good, graded gravel tracks and only some places you really needed a 4x4.. Road users fairly inconsiderate, driving extremely fast with little or no consideration for the animals next to the road which often jumped out of the way! The most common sights around the watering holes are the numerous white Toyotas (now nicknamed the impala of the road), and the overland/tourist busses carting people around from animal to animal.. Here's a lion, here's a zebra.. And so on! However, despite my early ramblings and grumblings it was actually a nice park! On a small side note, day 1 we hit, and went over the 40,000km mark for the trip.. We will be placing bets on the final count!

Despite how dry it is here, there are loads of animals, high populations of predators which have not seemed to make much of a dent in the game population.. Hundreds of zebra, Spring bok and Impala on every road! Very quickly on day 1 we saw a pack of jackles, black faced Impala (quite rare), Spring bok, oryx, kudu, Impala, zebras and elephants! As the sun got higher, and temperatures reached highs of 40 degrees, the herds of Toyotas retreated to the restaurants leaving us 'poor folk' to claim the peace and quiet in the park. It was at this point we saw two spotted hyenas chilling on the plains, very ugly, yet strangely beautiful animals, they look like thay have stolen someone's clothing and not quite matched it all up! Charles was very pleased as he really likes these animals. Arriving at the nearest water hole we were again rewarded with a rare sight, a black rhino which I have yet to see - they are funny looking animals, squat with small eyes.. They look like something out of Dr Who (I can't remember what, but the ones who liked to kill a lot with a potatoe head coming out of a space suit.. Rich you may know their names!). As the afternoon wore on we noticed a pack of Toyotas cirlcing around at the side of the road, another thing in Etosha is that it is very easy to let someone else do the spotting and then go and crash their party (this happened with the hyenas, we spotted them and within 10 minutes there were another 6 cars around us). We were right to do so, and as we puled up saw a female lion, her cub and a kill lying under a tree. An incredible sight and we spent a good hour watching them, the power in her teeth ripping the zebra to pieces was amazing, the cub was giving it a good go also! With the gates soon closing we headed out at the East side of the park and stayed the night at Sachsenheim Guest Farm, a lovely place on a cattle farm - cheap, hot water and big sites, and only 20km outside the park. 

(Obligatory ice cream selfie)

Up early again we headed to the gate where again it was all kinds of a pain to get in.. Whilst we had already paid the previous day it was far too much effort for the gate staff to off of their bottoms to check, meaning each car had to stop and the driver get out before they could get in making it a long and drawn out process! Finally we got in and headed back into the park via a similar route to the previous day. We went more back roads this time, seeing red haartebeast, hyenas with a kill and hundreds of vultures. Driving past the place where the lions were the previous day they had long gone, however this had not filtered through to the tourist game drive drivers who were all circling the place mystified that the lions had gone.. But they were there yesterday, they kept saying to us.. Makes you wonder really.. We headed back to the Anderson gate where we had come in the first morning and were there around lunch time, as we got there and looked at the map and also how many days we had left on our visa, we realised that we weren't really in a great position, also having just spoken to another Landrover owner (we really are few and far between so tend to seek each other out and band together at all opportunities to swap break down stories) who had stayed in the park that night, we decided that we may regret not doing so if we didn't. We like a change of plan, it keeps us on our toes and luckily we spoke to the most competent NWR receptionist we have yet to meet who was able to make us a reservation at Olifants which apparently has one of the best watering holes. She found it funny we had not made a reservation andslightly shocked at the fact our plans were only stretched to the next hour! Luckily she found us a reservation and we drove rather quickly the 133km to get there. We saw less on the second day, more of the same game animals, hundreds of zebra, wilderbeest (or Williams as they are now fondly known). 10km from the campsite we stopped off at a huge watering hole, around it were a herd of elephants including some small babies, zebra (who were doing a pretty good job intimidating the elephants away from the water), Spring bok, Impala, wilderbeest, ostrich and giraffe. It was a pretty magnificent sight to behold! The was also a jackle, who sadly seemed to be on its way out, we didn't think it would survive the night - apparently there has been an outbreak of rabies amongst the jackle population so it could have been that! 

The campsite Olifanturus was less commercial than the others in the park, it was smaller and even though we were in the overflow site it was still great. In fact we thought we had a better deal than the other campers as we will had all the same facilities (electricity, braai etc) but were right next to the picnic tables.. Bonus! Tent was up in record speed and beers opened so we went and sat in the hide next to the watering hole. The hide was amazing, you walked up a 50m walkway over the campsite fence and into a octagonal two story building right on the water, the top level was open and the bottom had huge floor to ceiling windows. As the sun began to go down we watched a huge herd of Zebra cool off, it was funny watching them surge forward, much like the forwards in a rugby scrum, but get irritated at each other and kick out. As it got dark we quickly cooked some dinner, had showers and rushed back to the hide. When you know the opportunity to watch animals is out there you find yourself thinking about what you are missing out on when you aren't there.. During dinner we sat there hoping we didn't miss out on anything! We didn't miss out, as we arrived two black rhinos were standing 5m from the hide drinking water and snorting rather loudly. One was rather territorial of the water and any other animal was inspected and driven away if not liked! This didn't stop other animals from arriving however, a huge herd of eland came, these large, cow like animals had great fun in the e water and as they sloped off two jackles arrived and shortly after 6 elephants. The elephants were fantastic, having a great time splashing around,  the sounds they make were so loud as they were literally 5m again from the hide, many of the so big their eyes almost met ours on the second floor! He hide was much quieter in the morning, as we drank our coffee, we thought people would be up early to watch the animals or set off into the park but most seemed to be asleep still! This was a shame for them as after hearing it calling, a spotted hyena came bounding up to drink! It was a pretty impressive sight! 

(Rhino in the red light)
(Elephant in the red light)

Our third day in the park was spent moving towards the western side to come out of the Gaston Gate. It was full of artificial water holes and lots of giraffes, elephants, kudu, Impala, Spring boks, warthogs, zebra and oryx. Sadly no lions but you can't win them all! A great few days in Etosha! We are now in a camp site just outside called Oppi Koppi which allows Overlanders to stay for free before we make our break for the border! 

#namibia #etosha #southernafrica