October 12, 2006
Ok….. so, I know not all of you are going to want to look at hoardes and hoardes of animal pictures, but you know me……animals, animals, animals!!! This is what I came to Africa for. So……if you would like to look at the massive amounts of pictures feel free to do so, if not, just carry on with your day – this way Jordan and I will have them on our blog as our own memories when we get home and you can skip it : )
Five days in Etosha National Park
We finally brought ourselves to leave Swakopmund after a nice long rest (much needed). We got up early, packed up the car and were ready to hit the road……we stayed one more day after all the preperation and then left – that is so like us. We actually met this really fascinating couple Peter and Manone, from Holland and hung out with them an extra night before leaving. Manone had been an actress back in Holland and Peter a banker. They gave it all up, bought a land rover and left it all behind to spend two years driving through Africa. They had picked up a little puppy on their way named Durban and it so felt like something I would do!
So we are on our way driving to Etosha National Park for our self-drive safari, something I have been looking forward to for a long time. About six hours pass and we finally arrive at the gates. After registering we start heading towards our campsite when I look and the yellow gas light is on and blinking……hmmm…..shouldn’t be. I seriously can’t understand it but I am in the middle of a game reserve with 17 more km to go before the campsite and, hence, the gas station. I feel stress. If I run out of gas, tough luck, I can’t get out of my car – too many big cats and other animals that can eat us. As I start driving with my fingers crossed, I start to hear this really loud hissing sound. No……..more problems with the car all of a sudden. A moment ago I was so peacful and excited about arriving in a game park and now I have nothing but stress because we are going to break down in the sweltering heat amongst all these animals that can kill us.
I just kept driving and hoping and I didn’t tell Jordan our predicament. So I’m driving along on empty with a horrible sound coming out of the car amongst many wild animals with my fingers crossed for 17km until we hit Okukwejo rest camp. I have never been happier to see modernism in my life. The strange thing was that the buzzing sound that the car was making stopped as soon as we got to the gates.
After filling up we got back on the road and headed towards our rest camp at Halali. What a drive. Upon entering the park again we saw a ranger that stopped us in our car to tell us that there is a lion sighting down the road. Not even 10 minutes into the park and we are already watching two lioness. They were so amazing and so close. We just sat there in awe and watched them in their natural habitiat. They were wrestling and cleaning each other and it was really really cute. It was getting later and we had to be within the Halali gates by sundown, which is only 6:45 here. It was terrible to have just arrived into this beautiful park full of so many animals and so so many things to look at and just have to drive on by. As the time got later, we started driving faster. Etosha National Park is a series of winding roads, most of which lead to watering holes. As you drive there are animals absolutely everywhere. To your right will be a hundred or so zebra, a few hundred springbok mixed with some wildebeast amongst the most amazing African desert scenery. On your left will be a heard of elephants or some giraffe – so much to look at and we had to speed right on by to get to our restcamp before it closed.
On our way the sun started setting and it was the most amazing pink color I have ever seen in the sky – I didn’t know the sky could get that color. We were nearing Halali when we came around a corner and there was an elusive rhino right in our path, we almost hit him with our car! In that instant Jordan and I gasped and the rhino took off at lightening speed – it was quite a sight and quite an experience. We watched the sun set as we arrived (very late) to the closed gates of Halali rest camp. After an interrogation and a scolding we were let in long after dark to try to find our campsite without light once again. Once again we decided to just sleep in our car, this is getting to be a regular resting place for us, and went to sleep.
The really neat thing about Etosha safaris is the fact that you can self-drive. This means that in the morning, as soon as you open your eyes, you can turn on your ignition, put the car in gear and head into the park to watch a world full of animals and that is just what we did every morning as soon as we woke up. Usually Jordan was still asleep in the passenger seat (since we slept in the car every night, lol) and I would put my i-pod in one ear and drive as the sun rose through the amazing Namibian desert. Such a free and happy feeling. We would drive about and look at animals until around 11:00am when it became too hot to bare and then head back to our rest camp to swim the afternoon away until going on an evening game drive. The campsites were really neat. Each one had a fire pit to cook your dinner over with a table and ours had this most amazing tree where hundreds of birds lived. We would spend our afternoon with breadcrumbs surrounded by tonnes of birds and chipmunks. There was this one chipmunk that was so tame it would actually climb right up on Jordans’ lap to eat the bread right out of his hand. This went on for about 20 minutes – she was so incredibly cute. It was quite the life. The evening game drives were always so beautiful because we always had the sun setting in the sky on our drive home. At the rest camp there was a watering hole where you could watch the animals come to drink all evening long. The only down side to this was that everyone wanted to watch and it could actually feel quite touristy. I ended up waking up at 4:30 in the morning to go sit at the watering hole completely by myself and watch as the giraffe, fox, rhino and elephant all came to fill up. It was very amazing.
The nice thing about driving Etosha in the day was that the park was so incredibly huge that you could go hours without seeing another car. You would sometimes find watering holes with hundreds of animals and not another sole to be found. We always enjoyed watching the elephants at the watering holes because they had so much fun with the water. They would put a bunch of water in their trunks and splash it everywhere. They really were the brats of the bunch. It was also funny watching giraffe trying to drink with those long legs’ of theirs, it looked like such a tough job just to get some water. The giraffe were really gorgeous and timid. They were always so patient, always waited their turn at the watering hole while others’ barged in front, especially the foxes. But the most amazing thing about Etosha ended up being the amount of lions we saw. We saw so many lions we ended up losing count – close to 30 or 40 I think. This was quite rare as I was talking to a guide and he said he only saw lions about every three outings into the park. Not us – every day was chalked full of lions, especially the last day.
The final morning in Etosha we woke up, turned the car on and headed over to where we knew a pride of lions had been staying. We had been watching them for a couple of days and had been excited to see four of them the day before. It was 7:00 am as we pulled up to the pan and saw……holy smokes…..15 lions!!!! At first we thought there were 6, then 8, then 10, then the 4 cubs, then the male over there – we couldn’t believe our eyes!!!! There were sooooooo many lions, quite a sight let me tell you, something I will always remember. I was speachless. My camera: click, click, click, click, click…………. I just sat there for two hours and watched them. There were 10 females, 4 cubs and 1 male. It was really hot so they would find long grass to lay in and you could intermittently see different lioness’ as they went to sleep and woke up. All of a sudden they heard a sound that spooked the whole pride and every single one of them rose to their feet and took off. What a sight!!! 15 spooked lions running into the pan where they all gathered on alert. After a while they started walking back across to their thorn tree and I have never seen a sight like a line up of 15 lions all walking together. It was the highlight of my time in Etosha and an experience and feeling I will never forget as long as I live.
That sighting was literally the last thing we saw in Etosha. As the lions went into their thorn tree for the hot afternoon, we put the car in gear and drove out of the park. It was time for the drive back to Windhoek, the place I had been stuck at with food poisoning. We had been gone from Windhoek and Chameleon Backpackers for three weeks now while we toured around Namibia, north to south, and it was a strange feeling to be heading back to a place so familiar. I had not had this on the trip so far, to return to a familiar place, and it was a strange feeling arriving there but all the people that made it familiar were gone. It was kind of an empty feeling. As we pulled into Windhoek there was an amazing, intense lightening storm like I have never seen before. Everything in Africa seems so exaggerated. Everything is bigger, everything is harsher, hotter, dryer, more dangerous, more authentic. I think that is what it is about Africa – there is nothing small here – everything matters and everything creates a trickle down effect. For better or worse I think that is true.
For now it is time to return the car (no more cars on this trip) and head on into Zambia by bus. More remote, more authentic, much more African. I can’t wait.