Etosha National Park, Namibia
We take our time leaving Opuwo as we only have a short drive to Etosha, we weren't really sure what to expect after having a fantastic time in Kruger and wondered what would better than that experience. We pass through another Vet fence and they confiscate some pork sausages, we were kindly given the option to cook them up roadside and then take them into the park but we declined and continued on our way, it is very difficult to get a straight answer from anyone on what the rules are at the vet fences some people say you can bring in anything apart from red meat, others say absolutely nothing unless it has been precooked so you just rock up and see what mood of the authorities is. Reaching the park, we did our formalities at the entrance gate and started along the corrugated road. Within 30 mins we spot zebra, giraffe, warthog and ostrich, things were looking good.
Etosha is dominated by a large mineral pan. It is dry and short on water and wildlife congregates around water holes, both natural and man-made. At the first two waterholes we spot giraffe, zebra, springbok, ostrich, warthog and oryx, all mixing together beside the waterhole.
At the third waterhole there was a large herd of elephant, zebra and giraffe as well as warthogs, ostrich and springbok, all congregated around the one water hole. We park up, switched off our engine and just watched one of Africa's best wildlife spectacles.
We were spending the night in Olifantsrus. In the 80's Olifantsrus had been an elephant abattoir. Scientists were convinced that elephant numbers were growing at an unsustainable rate and slaughtered 500 elephants. The meat was tinned and sold alongside the tinned corn beef in the supermarkets. The crane and apparatus can still be seen in camp and give a chilling reminder of the slaughter. Arabella and Luca found a use for the large wires dangling from the pully, swinging and trying to climb like monkeys, but Edwina got a little concerned about the safety of the pully system over 20m above, it didn't look too stable even though designed to hold an elephant it was rusty and wires frail, so the fun didn't last long.
The scientists were wrong, of course. A few years later they discovered that elephants only have an impact on the vegetation in a radius of 200 metres around a waterhole. Now Olifantsrus is all about conserving animals. It has a hide, which is lit up at night. After dinner Arabella, Maddalena and I head to it and watch a white rhino drinking from the waterhole, only five meters away.
The next day we head out of camp excited with the sightings of yesterday, we see plenty on the road zebras, elephants, springbox and oryx. We stop at a picnic spot for a late breakfast and although the site is fenced Edwina needs to get out to open the fence, reluctantly Edwina gets out, both me and Luca start to make Lion noises, Edwina was not amused and tells us both to stop being jerks. After breakfast we reached Okondeka waterhole there must have been over 500 animals with the salt pan in the distance not the diversity of yesterday but the sheer numbers made up for it.
We then headed to Okaukuejo our camp for the night, last night was around 5C merinos, socks coats on and we were all cold so we were glad that we had booked chalets for the next 4 nights, 2 nights at Okaukuejo and Onkoshi. The rooms are a stones throw away from the waterhole and we watch giraffe, zebra, springbok all take their turns at the waterhole, Maddalena and Arabella wanted to do something nice for mum and dad, they got into their dresses, wrote a drinks menu and served drinks before dinner, a really nice touch. The highlight of the waterhole came at sunset where we had a herd of elephants, black rhino, giraffe and wildebeest as our view for dinner on the patio.
The next day we woke up and discovered that the Tooth Fairy had been. Luca had lost another tooth, he was so pleased to get the letter knowing that his tooth fairy lived on the Etosha pan and the toothfariy would use his tooth to polish the elephant's tusks. We went out into the park and spent the morning driving around we saw lots of game again but we were all slightly disappointed we had not seen any big cats. Edwina and the kids spent the afternoon at the pool and we then all watched the elephants come in at sunset for a drink at the waterhole in front of the chalet. Later in the night after the kids went to bed 5 rhinos made their way around the waterhole a very special moment considering they are solitary animals, Edwina and I observed them and later we went to sleep listening to the grunt of 2 rhinos as they faced off to each other.
The next day the kids were desperate to see lions, so I Googled 'Best waterholes for lions in Etosha' and planned a route using Google's suggestions. The first waterhole they suggested had nothing, but at the second we spotted two lionesses, relaxing in the sun. We switch off the engine and simply watch. We are surprised by the number of zebra and wildebeest drinking at the waterhole while the lionesses were so close. I explained to the kids that sometimes their need for water is greater than the risk of being eaten.
We moved on to Onkoshi camp, our base for the next two nights. The setting is stunning, with the chalets perched on stilts directly next to the saltpan, so we decide to rest here, using it as an opportunity for the kids to catch up with their schoolwork. We also watch Mandela the movie, the kids were keen to watch it after visiting Robben Island in Cape Town. We didn't plan on seeing wildlife but we did see an elephant on the pan and spotted hyenas at night.
There are a number of things we wanted to do on the car and we also feeling we need to base ourselves somewhere for a week, the best place with the amenities seemed Maun in Botswana, we decided to head there as quickly as possible which means 2 long days driving. For the first night we decided to head to the Zambezi region, we pass another vet fence and suddenly the feeling to Namibia changes, there is livestock on the road and the villages are a collection of mud houses, it starts to feel like the Africa that everyone seems to think the whole continent is like. We get to camp late but in time for sundowners with a view of Popa Falls and crocs in the river below. Another early start to the day we take a detour to Mahango National Park, we don't see much game and press on to the Botswana border.