22nd to 24th March – Mowani Mountain Lodge
We really didn’t quite know what to expect from Mowani. It’s set in amongst the mountains in a remote region of Damaraland. This was another gem. The lodge is very stylish, with attention to the minutest detail. It offers stunning mountain views, great staff and service, Afro chic surroundings and decor. That is matched by an intimate experience and fine dining.
We just used the time at Mowani to relax and take a breather.
24th to 27th March – Etosha National Park – Okakaujo Camp
We had originally planned to camp here. Fortunately we had a change of heart, mainly due to the exceptionally generous rates being offered by NWR. We took a chalet that’s well positioned for the waterhole.
There was rain on the drive to Etosha and the skies are looking very moody and ominous. Big black, billowing clouds, all very dramatic. On the second night the heavens opened up like a monsoon. I don’t know how much rain fell but I would estimate at well over 100mm. The next day there is water everywhere.
We’ve been lucky with a few lion sightings but after the rain we were treated to a very rare hyena sighting. We came across this most unusual and entertaining sighting to date by pure chance. There was a huge temporary lake formed from the rain. It was not a natural waterhole; more like flood water that had created a makeshift lake in amongst the rare “ghost trees”. There must have been at least 20 hyenas all having a bath party! We watch as they played, leaped and splashed around in the water. It was pure joie d’vivre, as the hyenas were so joyful and just having the time of their lives; it must have gone on for at least 20 mins.
This much maligned creature is so misunderstood. They have incredible social bonds, are playful, smart and provide an extremely important function in the cycle of life.
There have been exceptional rains in Etosha this year and it is looking very green and lush; a far cry from the dry, dusty place I’m used to visiting at the end of the dry season. Of course, the game viewing is not the same. The game is dispersed and the major waterholes are not visited by predators and the vast herds, the way they are during the dry season. You really have to work for your sightings.
27 to 28 March – Etosha N.P. – Halali Camp
Originally we’d planned a 3 night stay at Halali. In the dry winter months it has the most incredibly entertaining waterhole with an endless stream of game queuing up to slake their thirst. However, after a lengthy drive in the afternoon, it became clear that Halali in summer is not the best place for game sightings. A vacant waterhole – except for a very shy leopard that Emma was able to spot (from bird call alarms) and a very dense forested area didn’t get me very excited. So……we decided to change our booking to Namutomi and just stayed the one night at Halali. We did manage to find a de-horned rhino at Halali. He was out in the pan and became “trapped” inside of the road markers that go out to the edge of the pan. It took over an hour for him to move, he was pretty stubborn and not prepared to give an inch. The guy behind us just so happened to be the vet that was part of the de-horning team. I left it to him to try and budge the rhino. The vet managed to bypass the rhino eventually and then the rhino ran after him for about 2 kms! He just kept running, long after the vehicle had left.
28 – 30 March – Etosha N.P. – Namutomi Camp
On approaching Namutomi, we noticed a vehicle stopped at Doring Draai, a small circular “island” on the edge of the pan. It turned out to be a young male and female lion, resting in the shade of the tree. They were pre-occupied with herds of zebra and giraffes that were frequenting the waterhole, close to their hideout.
We returned later in the afternoon, only to find the whole pride in attendance. Three lioness had cleverly staked out the waterhole and were in stealth mode, hidden in the scrub, close to the edge of the waterhole. There was also an additional two younger lionesses with the young male and a mating pair of lions, the male sporting a huge mane and in fabulous condition.
The lioness at the waterhole managed to succeed with their hunt, their prey was a zebra. Then all hell let loose as the mating pair tried (unsuccessfully) to pinch the lion’s share of the kill.
After all the commotion had died down, one the lionesses headed off, across the main Road and into the bush on the other side. We decided to follow her. It turned out she had five cubs, probably around a year old.
We went back to the same place the following day but could only find the three young lions. Another hunt took place. One of the lioness belly crawled from a very long way to get close to a lone wildebeest, the other lioness not far behind. Just as she was close enough to pounce, the young male put his head up and started calling, obviously oblivious of what was happening. Game over – the wildebeest was off like a shot. No dinner for you tonight mate!
We took a drive around Fischer’s Pan. It was completely flooded with water and looked stunning. The famous Twee Palms waterhole has now become Een (One) Palm. One of the two palms has died, the irony tickled me. I’m sure one day it will become Nee Palm!
On our last evening we came across two cheetahs. Luckily enough they were still around the next morning, in hunt mode, stalking out there herds around the camp.
30 – 31 March Onkoshi Camp
And so on to Onkoshi Camp for our last night. Onkoshi is built on stilts, overlooking the vast pan and pointing west. It was a cloudy day, so no sunset, just chill time before we head to our next location.