17th to 19th Oct
ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK
The last night at Ndouvu the wind got up and rain clouds gathered. Although we escaped the storm, it’s a sign of things to come as the rainy season approaches.
We decided to push on and make Etosha in a day ( approx 8 hours driving). Fortunately, I had made a provisional booking at Namutoni Camp for our first night as they were ready to turn us away at the gate due to being full. The first game drive produced a great sighting of Eland and also Gemsbok, Zebra, Springbok coming down to drink at Fischer’s Pan. The name of the game at Etosha is to find a good waterhole and wait – something will come!
Namutoni is a characterful place, centred around on old German white washed fort, the campsite well situated with good facilities.
The following afternoon, we came across a Lion kill (Wildebeest) on a remote road. It was a single Lioness with two young cubs. The cubs were around 3 – 4 months old. She’d done really well managing to take down the Wildebeest on her own and we just hoped that the Hyaenas wouldn’t chase them off the kill.
That night we experienced our first thunderstorm and rain (the first rain we’ve seen since March!). It soon dried up and we were on our way to Halali Camp the following morning. En route, we stopped by the Lion kill to see how they were doing. Fortunately n Hyaenas, just three very full tummies.
19th to 22nd Oct
We move on to the centre of the Park at Halali. Halali is well situated for waterholes and has its own just on the edge of the camp perimeter. Our neighbours here are old hands and know what turns up at what waterhole at what time. We tested their theory and they are eerily accurate so we go along with their advice. At Salvadore waterhole the Zebras turn up in Biblical numbers at 10.00 a.m. each day in the dry season, the largest herds I’ve seen outside of the Serengeti. It’s that Black & White.
The first morning we plan to go to the view point at the edge of the Pan. At the junction to the Pan, we find a Black Rhino. Although Etosha has 700 Black Rhinos they are extremely rare and endangered, it’s the first I’ve seen for thirty years and Emma’s first ever! We’ve spent about 10 mins with the Rhino when Emma say “There’s two Lions running along the (dirt) road behind us.” I swing around and there they are running along at a fair pace. We catch them up and drive the car parallel to the Blond one that is running in the bush close to the road. I’m driving and taking pics whilst Emma handles the steering wheel – seems to work. No idea why they were running, very unusual, possibly a territorial fight. But these are two big Coalition Lions – hard to think of them coming off second best (see pics).
That night we spend at the floodlit waterhole at Halali. What a show!! It was frequented all night by at least five herds of Elephant, ten Black Rhino and five Lioness, not to mention a multitude of other stuff. The dynamics between the big game was very entertaining. There were stand offs between Elephant and Rhino, the Rhinos wouldn’t back down when confronted by teenage Elephants (presumably the elders know better) and chased them off, tails in the air! The Lioness were given a hard time by all and sent scampering away on a number of occasions. By midnight I decided to drag a reluctant Emma away……………”come on Luv, you’ve seen it all now, the Tiger’s won’t be turning up tonight. It was an incredible show and left me with the same feeling as we were leaving after seeing a really good West End show or if you’re a sports fan, seeing your team play the game of their lives.
Next morning at 7 a.m. we are treated to a very special sighting. We turn a corner and there is a Cheetah with four little cubs. We stopped the car immediately and allowed them time to get familiar with us at a safe distance. We had taken an off the beaten track road and had the pleasure of their company, undisturbed all to ourselves for around an hour in perfect light.
The Cubs were probably around 8 weeks old and very playful, climbing a tree and tormenting the life out of Mum. We were bowled over, it’s the one sighting were praying for.
In the afternoon, we had great sighting of Elephant at waterholes along with Zebra, Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest etc.
The following we get to see more Lion, an African Wildcat and a pair of White Rhino. Emma’s been counting and reckons we have seen 32 different Lion in Etosha.
After a fab time at Halali, it’s time to move on to Okaukeujo Camp.
22nd to 25th Oct
Everyone we have met has bigged this place up as the place to be in Etosha. It’s a slick set up with European standards……………..and plenty of Europeans! The Germans and French dominate, the place is very busy and a far cry from some of the remote and isolated places we’ve visited on this trip. But a welcome change all the same. I’m reliably informed that Namibia is the safest place in Africa for tourists (hence the vast numbers of hired self drive vehicles) but also has the highest number of deaths, due to inexperienced driving on gravel roads.
Anyway, Okaukeujo has a the classic waterhole, supposedly the best in the world (apart from the Rose and Crown of course!). It’s true there is an endless procession of animals gathering there 24/7 and it’s quite a spectacle…………provided you don’t mind sharing it with hundreds of others.
The first night we had a an excellent sighting of drinking Lioness at the waterhole. But it was the second night that was most interesting. First off we heard these unearthly noises coming from the waterhole. It turned out to be two big Rhino Bulls having a scrap. It went on for hours and I was getting worried at the ferocity and that someone would get seriously hurt. Then a Rhino Cow arrived on the scene with her young calf. Guess what? She gets embroiled in the fracas, giving no quarter. That seemed to calm things down a bit until another two other Rhinos arrived. Testosterone must have been flowing as there we stands offs and charges all over the pace. Again accompanied by these very eerie sounds, loud enough to wake the dead. Needless to say nobody else turned up at the waterhole that night. It was a fascinating insight into the secret lives of Black Rhino.
Next day we found the White Elephants. Yep, they’re for real! They cover themselves in this white clay at one of the waterholes and look like statues, quite a surreal sight.
Time to leave Etosha and head for the Namib Desert and Sesriem, where we are staying.
We stop off at Windhoek, the capital to stock up. We make it to the edge of the Desert and stay in the mountains at a place called Namibgrens.
26th to 30th Oct
Namib Naukluft National Park
Sesriem and Sossusvlei
We stop for breakfast at Solitaire. It’s a really funky, quirky little place in the desert and we take some pics before heading to Sesriem.
Sesriem in inside the National Park and the gates here open an hour earlier for those staying inside the park. That allows you an hour of people free photography and / or climbing a desert Dune before the rabble arrive.
The scenery is jaw dropping beautiful, it takes your breath away. I’d seen plenty of photos of the mountains of red sand but seeing it in the flesh is something else.
Our camp site is very private, loads of space and faces the mountains. We get stunning sunsets and sun rises.
The first morning we get up a Dune that goes on forever with incredible views. The early morning light changes the mood of the Dunes by the minute and I really just don’t know where to point the camera next.
We booked for two nights but have extended our stay to four nights. Next up is Dead Vlei. It’s a place where the ancient river was cut off by the Dunes and it’s quite ethereal, surrounded by huge dunes on three sides. We visited it in the morning and afternoon. In the afternoon we were the only people there which was quite special, having this amazing place all to yourself. The only drawback was that we forgot the G&T’s for sunset but the beer wasn’t bad!
We will leave here tomorrow and try and reach Mata Mata and the Kgalaghadi in a day.