A short drive this morning of just 5 hours (with a break in a small town for delicious pastries at a local bakery whilst Vincent once again picked up fresh supplies) and we arrive in Etosha National Park. This place is well documented on various TV channels just like the Serengeti and Chobe so is pretty famous as a tourist attraction.
It is also one of the only parks where the overland companies can drive their own trucks and carry out their own guided tours without having to put everyone in Landcruisers and pay for local guides. So that mean's Siziba is to be our guide and it quickly became apparent that this is one part of his job that he absolutely loves! That said Siziba clearly loves all aspects of his job and is very good at it, it's just that he has so obviously spent a very long time learning all about the various birds and animals within the park and was able to talk about them like David Attenborough. It also helps that he has excellent vision, something that is common in many black African's and he frequently spotted animals long before we did, and he could identify them when all we could see was a small dot on the horizon. All this whilst driving! Not bad!
Once again I'm going to quote from our itinerary to give you some background on the Park:-
"Etosha, meaning "Great White Place", is dominated by a massive mineral pan, part of the great Kalahari Basin. The Etosha pan, originally a lake fed by the Kunene River, covers about 5 000 square km, a quarter of the Etosha National Park. The lake dried up thousands of years ago and is now a dusty depression of salty clay which occasionally fills with the rare heavy rains. This temporary water supply stimulates the growth of an algae which attracts wading birds and flamigos by their thousands. Large concentrations of wildlife gather year-round at the perennial springs on the edges of the pan. This amazing abundance of wildlife makes Etosha one of Southern Africa's finest and most important game reserves. Covering an area of 22 270 square km, it is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish."
So really it's a pretty large place! However the public only gets to see about a quarter of it with the rest being closed to all but the animals and a few scientists. That said the area open to the public is about 180km from east to west.
We entered the Park to the east and Siziba drove slowly to the first campsite which took about an hour or so. It immediately became apparent that the wet season was seriously going to impair our visibility though with the grasses and bushes being very green and very high!
Along the way we saw various species of buck including Springbok, numerous birds including some bright yellow weaver birds, zebra and a lot of flood water! Once in the campsite we wandered over to the waterhole where there was unfortunately very little to see. There is no point in the animals travelling to a waterhole to drink when water is abundant everywhere at this time of year! We had a nice lunch once again lovingly prepared by Vincent and spent about an hour and a half doing our own thing. Vincent taught Adam and a few others a new card game, some went to sleep and some wandered back to the waterhole. I chose to organise my photos!
In the afternoon we all piled back into the truck for another game drive and to head to a second campsite much further across the park where we were to spend the night. We were lucky enough to see quite a few giraffe! Along with the usual zebra, eagles, ostrich and plentiful buck (or antelope). We were all keen to spot lions but they were to elude us for the afternoon and to be honest I wasn't holding out much hope for the next day or so given the dense undergrowth and the animals ability to remain hidden just a few meters away!
Each of the campsites within the park is situation next to a waterhole so after setting up our tents, and whilst waiting for dinner, we headed to the local waterhole, some 5 minute's walk away within fenced areas to see what we could find…nothing! Some people hung around until dinner and others, us included headed back to take a shower.
After dinner it was dark and we all took our head torches and headed back to the waterhole. A guy who had been there when we first arrived was just packing up his camera and tripod to go to bed and he told us that whilst we were eating dinner a rhino had wandered through and spent a while very close to where we were sitting. He had some very impressive pictures! We missed it!
We stayed a while longer but the mosquitoes were pretty unbearable and seemingly impervious to repellent so we headed back to our tents.