We were once more up early after the failed attempt to go to the Etosha National Park the previous morning. Again we were awake at 5 p.m. and excited about going to see some animals. We were also nervous, would our guide really be feeling well enough today to go? Time went by and we were anxiously waiting for life signs from inside the main building. Eventually, around 10 minutes before our decided time of departure there were finally lights in the rooms. We were picked up by Neville just minutes later and we all three went to his car.
An Interesting Drive
Driving before sunrise in Namibia is quite interesting. Unless you sleep, like Susann. There really is a lot more wildlife along the roads and you see small antelopes almost everywhere. Well, they are hard to really spot, which is a problem. There are just the eyes glowing along the road. I haven’t seen so many animals along the roads before, not even here in Sweden.
Seeing the sun rise during our two hour drive was a nice experience, even though it was a bit cloudy and a few droplets of rain fell. It didn’t take long from being completely dark until we were able to see the road stretching out into the distance.
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is located in the Kunene region in Namibia. Its name comes from the Etosha pan that lays almost entirely within the park. The Etosha pan is a large salt pan that covers more than 20% of the 22.270 square kilometers that is the park. The Etosha pan is the part of the park that looks like a lake on most maps. One thing is for sure, it almost looks like a lake also in real life.
The Etosha National Park is home to several mammals, here is a short list of a few of them:
- Gemsbok / Oryx
Read more about Etosha National Park on their homepage >>
Arriving at Okaukuejo
We entered the Etosha National Park at the entrance in Ombika. From here it is just a short drive to one of the main camps, Okaukuejo. But even on that short drive we had our first encounters with the wild life. First we spotted a few springboks next to the road, they were followed by a giraffe in the distance. Then there were two representatives of our first animal of the Big Five. Two lions were relaxing just next to the road in the shades of the bushes. One male and one female who could not ignore us more than they did. The action this couple provided was limited to the female deciding to walk a few meters in one direction before lying down once more.
Not long after the lions there was the second animal of the Big Five. A rhino strolled far in the distance and seconds later its behind disappeared in the bushes.
The camp in Okaukuejo was a welcome sight because we longed to stretch our legs after the long drive from Otjiwarongo. Here we could walk to a viewing point that offered a nice view out over the landscape and one of the waterholes. There was not much activity going on at the waterhole; a zebra in the distance and a few antelopes taking the opportunity to drink some water in the early morning. So before continuing out into the park, we had a small bite of the breakfast that we got from the guest house.
The First Waterholes
We were told before the tour that the reason to be there really early is to be able to see both hyenas and rhinos. Later on in the day this would not be as common. So, once we had seen the behind of the first rhino we really thought that that was it. Luckily we were wrong and we were greeted with the sight of a rhino directly at the first of all the waterholes. There it calmly stood and made sure to have the waterhole for itself. Not until it continued away from the waterhole did any other animal dare to get close to the water.
We saw zebras, ostriches, onyx, springbok, wildebeest and several other kinds of antelopes in large numbers both along the road as well as at the waterholes. It is an amazing sight to see all these animals interact around the few sources of water that they could find.
But how about the elephants? It sure did not take a long time for us to see the first small horde of elephants. Thus it was number three of the Big Five for us at the Etosha National Park. This first encounter was amazing at first. But as we found out later, this small group drinking water was rather dull in comparison with the other hordes we’d see.
Lunch in Halali and the Entry of the Elephants
After a few waterholes and a lot of animal sightings, we had probably spotted most of the species that we could possibly see before lunch. We drove to a camp named Halali for our lunch stop. However, before lunch we took a short walk to the viewing point in Halali. From here it was possible to see yet one more waterhole and here the show was just starting.
We had decided with our guide Neville that we would meet him again at around noon. So we were up watching out over the waterhole for about 30 minutes. It all started just minutes after our arrival with an horde of zebras and smaller antelopes arriving at the waterhole. They all wanted to drink as the temperature was still rising in the sun. The zebras were pushing each other to get to the water and the smaller antelopes were standing on the side waiting for their turn. Five to ten minutes later they all started to march out in what looked like a perfect line. And suddenly it was almost empty again around the waterhole. But the animals standing close by did not show any sign in wanting to get closer.
Then it all happened. A whole herd of elephants came marching in. The small waterhole was soon filled with elephants as the herd of more than ten animals all wanted to cool down and play in the water. We just stood there watching them for the next ten minutes before we had to get going. With favorable winds, this was not our last and not the most spectacular encounter with the elephants that day.
Lunch was calm in comparison. It was a nice buffet with a few different options. Nothing really fancy, but nice on a day like this. A squirrel decided to contribute with some entertainment to us and a bunch of French tourists.
Seeing the Etosha Pan
It was not only the animals that made our day special. The landscape in Etosha National Park is something completely different to what we have ever seen before. Everything is white from the dust and the landscape looks like something from a different planet.
And it is especially the Etosha pan itself that looks amazing. As it’s very rarely filled with water, it looks dry while at the same time giving an illusion of actually being a lake. It is just hard to describe the sight.
Last Waterhole and Even More Elephants
We did make a second stop at the waterhole where we saw the elephants the first time. This time it was a lot more spectacular. More than 20 elephants were drinking water and playing around. They really gave us a last great show before we had to head back to the guest house.
Once more we left without seeing the fourth of the Big Five. The leopards did not want to be a part of the show this day. The last of the Big Five, the buffalo, is not a resident of the Etosha National Park.
This post belongs to a series about our trip to South Africa and Namibia. Read the previous parts by clicking on the links below: