27 Sep 2013

Etosha National Park & Celebrating Josi’s Birthday

Namibia: Etosha National Park.

Approaching the Etosha National Park we were already beginning to see some of the wildlife hanging out around the borders – we wondered whether they were wishing they could cross the border but the vast 22,000 square kilometres of park means all the animals have plenty of space to spread out!

We got our pass for the park and drove the long and very surprisingly tarred road to our first campsite.  We decided to stay at the main *Okaukuejo Camp* as we had heard about their floodlit waterhole just a few metres from a viewing platform – we were very excited.

Having gone through the long process of paying for the accommodation and the pass entrance fee we headed to our camp spot.  Camp 4 was to be a minor disappointment – what could have been made a special camp spot for the many tourists who book here felt more like a car park with a few ablution blocks.  Underwhelmed, we thought we would take a quick peak at the waterhole before heading to the human waterhole – the pool.

Walking towards the waterhole, towel in hand, I’m not sure what I was expecting but as we approached the fanned & poised crowd we were quite suddenly in the presence of a herd of 30 elephant, a rhino and some zebra just going about their business about 50m away.  

 


It was extra-ordinary – and we agreed it felt so surreal it was a bit like watching a documentary.  Although being in awe, John remarked that this felt “too easy” as we reminisced about our first sighting of the desert elephant on the hilltop in Kaokoveld. 

After a quick refreshing swim and shower, we made our way back to the waterhole to find it was now the giraffe’s and black-backed jackal’s turn to drink.  We watched for a while – there was still a crowd of people with poised long lens cameras – it looked like a giant photo-shoot.




We had decided to eat dinner at the restaurant as we wanted to be away early in the morning.  It was a buffet with Impala and a lot of sides, salads, soups and dessert.  Unfortunately the whole experience was the closest we have come to the packaged-holiday-resort feel during our eight months away so we decided to shy away to the waterhole for a little longer.  Having only sat down for a few moments, we saw what everyone wants to see when they come to Okaukuejo – black rhino.  We saw two black rhino females and their young come to the waterhole separately – then meet & have a short standoff with each other, before we suddenly spotted a lioness and her two cubs had sneaked in – this was a surprise catch with the binoculars and we were so pleased to see it.  We were amazed how stealthy they had been to approach the water undetected.


The next morning it was Josi’s birthday – so to make the most of it we were up and away by 6.40am.  We arrived at the gates just as they opened – we were surprised to see not a single car waiting to go through…perfect.  We had anticipated being in a long line of cars driving through the park but we were surprised and pleased that we only saw 3 cars in as many hours that morning.  We drove around the park for most of the day and rather than explain in words, here are some photos of what we saw…


         


 

 




 

There were some animals we were only lucky enough to see fleetingly or through the binoculars, I have tried to catch those at the end of the blog. 

After 8 hours of wildlife watching we decided to find a place to stay for Josi’s birthday treat.  We found a wonderful place called *Etosha Aoba Lodge* and as we pulled up to the gate we were welcomed and given a cold drink. It was set on a private game reserve which had nearly all the same animals as Etosha so there was potential for sightings and we were given a safety briefing…just in case!  There was a small waterhole, a pool, a bar and a restaurant…it was perfect.  We were shown our room which was a lovely ensuite thatched hut with balcony but we decided to head straight to the pool and have a quick dip and a lie down in the hammock with a G&T.  Bliss. 


Elephant skull

John had booked us in for dinner – there was to be no camping or cooking on birthdays!  What followed was a well executed 3 course meal, fit for a London restaurant with a great South African Pinot Noir.  At the end of the meal, all the staff, including the chef came out to our table and sang Happy Birthday in the local language – they sang with excitement and in perfect harmony.  It was a great birthday.  We slept very well in our (non-roof tent) bed.


Days in Africa: 19
Km driven: 344km
Km total: 2,714km


Animal sightings: Black Rhino & calf, Lioness & cubs (and pride of lions), Blue Wildebeest, Elephant, African Scops Owl, Honey Badger, Southern Yello-billed Hornbill, White-backed Vulture, Burchell’s Zebra, Namaqua Dove, Bronze-winged Courser, Black-faced Impala, Damara Dik-Dik, Banded Mongoose, Black-backed Jackal, Springbok, Oryx/Gemsbok , Ostrich, Giraffe.


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