This morning Siziba gave us a choice…we could either spend the day driving back slowly the way we came yesterday covering some different side roads and hopefully seeing some lions along the way or we could head north.
The reason we had this choice was because our campsite for the night is the one we visited for lunch yesterday, some 100+ kilometres away. If we head north it means we only get the morning to rush around a new area of the park we haven't seen before and then Siziba will have to drive like crazy to get back to the first campsite in time to set up camp for the evening. This is harder on him and means more driving for us all, however, he told us that many of the larger animals are often found to the north of the park so we may stand more chance of seeing lion, rhino and elephant if we are lucky (bearing in mind that these animals are wild and there are never any guarantees).
I was the first to speak up saying that I wanted to go north and the rest of the group agreed so we all piled into the truck and drove away from camp. It turns out I made the right decision, which amused Siziba greatly because he had jokingly made it my "task" to find lions…we did!!!
We had a fantastic day and many of the group will tell you it has been a highlight of the whole tour. Just before lunch Siziba spotted several male lions in the distance around what appeared to be a fresh kill. At this point we could just see some moving dots that where indecipherable but he could clearly see that we had found what we were looking for.
Our luck was in and there is a side road just further on from where we were that leads within a couple of hundred metres of these amazing animals so we were able to get within a reasonable enough distance to get a good view through binoculars. The fresh kill turned out to be a zebra!
However, it then got even better as Siziba noticed some female lions approaching the truck from the opposite side and heading straight for the males…they literally ambled straight up to us paying absolutely no attention whatsoever to the huge white truck in their path. They merely moved left and right to go either in front or behind us before carrying along their way.
Siziba was also quick to notice that it looked like these females were lactating meaning they probably had young cubs nearby, what a treat!
All of us scrambled around the truck stepping on toes and trying to keep out of each other's photographs for what must have been nearly an hour and during that time the females did head back in the direction they had originally come from, but they didn't return with their cubs.
Unfortunately being the bearer of bad news Siziba told us we had to leave to go and have lunch which none of us wanted to do in case we missed anything but he was certain the lions would still be in the area on the way back. We reluctantly agreed and drove to another campsite where we all quickly ate lunch only to be told that we would have an hour and a half of relaxing time before heading back out. I for one was desperate to get back on the road and frustrated by all the sitting around! I did take the opportunity to write some blog though!
Eventually we piled back into the truck and headed back in the direction we had come from. We stopped to watch the male lions who had moved away from the kill slightly and we're taking a siesta but there was still no sign of the females or cubs. We waited 5-10 minutes but it was clear nothing was happening and the males were still too far away for photographs so we moved on.
Just as we arrived back to the spot where Siziba had first noticed the lions that morning we had another surprise! There were more lions there, just under some bushes on the side of the road, the females and their cubs along with another maile! It was amazing and we were so close! We all snapped away taking probably way too many photo's as the lions lazed in the shade and then ambled around the truck. After a little while they all got up and wondered across the road towards the males and the kill, clearly feeling a bit peckish! They truly are beautiful animals and they move so gracefully, their power is distinctive and impressive!!! The cubs we're fairly large and clearly a few months old. They were no longer interested in the play fighting they would have done when they were younger and are now reaching the age where their mother will teach them how to hunt!
Moving on we were all buzzing when Siziba once again announced that he had seen something, this time it was an Eland! He was extremely excited saying that it has been 4 years since he last saw one in Etosha, he was practically jumping up and down in his seat! However, from where we were we could only just make out what appeared to be a large and relatively uninteresting antelope in the distance. It was too far away to really take any pictures but I'm glad Siziba was to happy with the find. He kept saying we were very lucky!
We drove for several hours and although we kept stopping here and there to take photos we kept seeing pretty much the same things for a while. Zebra, springbok and giraffe. We were just starting to doze off when Siziba once again announced excitedly over the microphone that he has spotted something large! It was a white rhino!!!
We could quite clearly see this impressive animal because of its humungous size but it was quite far away and too far for even my telephoto lens. We sat for a while watching it slowly ambling in our direction but then it moved and started heading away so we gave up and carried on driving.
After another 30 minutes or so Siziba spotted another one! Slightly closer than the last but still not close enough for decent photographs. Once again we waited and watched it ambling in our direction but it appeared to be zigzagging and rarely getting any closer. It much have caught our scent or something though as it too turned around and went back the other way quite quickly!
We drove on to camp but when we got there another overland company had taken our spot! It meant we had to find another one and Vincent was keen to have a kitchen to use. We found somewhere to camp, not ideal but the kitchen and showers were close and, after checking the waterhole and watching the sunset, settled in for the evening.
Later on, just before bedtime I noticed a weird glow just above the horizon behind our tent. It was like the streetlights over a large city only much brighter and more condensed. As I watched a full moon slowly rose about the horizon, much larger than you normally see. The stars were also spectacularly bright and clear without the smog and light pollution found in built up areas. Siziba also noticed it and came to join me with Christina and Simone for a while as we all sat and enjoyed the view. It's clear to see why South Africa has one of the world's largest telescopes. Far away from the towns and cities the skies are brighter and clearer than you can imagine! A fitting end to a fantastic day!