site zip: AF NA JA004A | neighborhood: Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast, Namib-Naukluft | region: South Africa, Botswana, More>>

Namibia Travel Journal
Ngepi to Etosha - 2nd leg of our Namibia Adventure

Sylvia Ferguson, Sedgefield, South Africa
www.discover-sedgefield-south-africa.com

More journal entries by Sylvia:
Caprivi – 1st leg of our Namibia Adventure | Etosha to Waterberg Plateau – 3rd leg of our Namibia Adventure | Waterberg to Epupa - 4th leg of our Namibia Adventure | A delightful Day on Knysna Lagoon (South Africa's Garden Route)

Editorial Note: Namibia's rich history provides a mixing bowl of cultures, customs and German architecture. The nomadic Himba people live as they have for centuries, dressed in goat skins and jewelry fashioned from leather, metal and shells. Etosha National Park's vast salt pans, savanna and woodland provide host to wildlife's Big Five and the adventure of safari.

 

Ngepi to Etosha Self Drive Camping Adventure

 

Etosha National Park

Nothing could have prepared us for the magnificent day ahead of us. The good rains have filled the pans with water for the first time in decades. Hundreds of flamingos turn them pink with their presence - it's an amazing sight. The bird life is stunning and there’s lots of it. We add over 50 birds to our list -some we’ve seen for the first time, others we haven’t seen for a number of years since we visited the northern part of Kruger National Park in South Africa. The numbers of wildlife are also staggering – rivers of zebra, crowds of wildebeest, forests of giraffe, groups of pale-bottomed red hartebeest, vast gatherings of graceful springbok, noble kudu and lethal headed gemsbok, large family herds of elephant – we sit satiated at the waterholes just watching them glide past us coming to drink. To think this water-starved environment where the grass only thinly veils the Kalahari Desert sand can support these numbers of game, is astonishing. I understand now why visitors rave about Etosha!

Abundant game at Etosha's waterholes

Abundant Game at the Waterholes, Etosha National Park

Eventually we drive slowly towards the gates to be out by sunset. We end our day building a fire and treating ourselves to a delicious steak braai with yummy baked potato, butternut and salad. I sleep dreamlessly. There are animals all around us as this is also a game reserve and it borders on Etosha. There is however a game fence around the Lodge and camp and any intrusions are infrequent. We can hear night sounds, animal - like noises in the bush but somehow its not disturbing or frightening.

Etosha's animals

We decide to stay and relax around our magical camp in the morning, do some washing, and I catch up with my diary, then we do a bit of bundu bashing, exploring the extent of the fenced-in area. Late morning, the desert sun dries the air and bakes the bushveld so we make a beeline for the swimming pool, laze in the sun and do some on-the-spot birding. We keep a close eye on the waterhole but nothing exciting comes to drink.

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Halali Camp and Waterhole - inside Etosha National Park

I have booked us 2 nights at Halali, the camp in the middle of the park. A game park has an extraordinary ambience and it would be senseless to come all this way and not to experience this in Etosha. Where man is little permitted to imprint his ways on the environment, it exudes a wondrous energy that manifests in an abundant biodiversity of plants and creatures in water, earth and sky. A plethora of sounds and aromas emanate from the countryside where wild animals roam freely (as they did before men hunted them relentlessly and without mercy and conservation areas had of necessity to be created to save almost every species from certain extinction)  – these fill the atmosphere with an intangible richness and sweetness we have forgotten existed. We recognise the difference when we leave these protected areas and sense the sterility of our “civilised” world.

Etosha wildlife

We take a slow trip to Halali first going past Namatomi Camp at the entrance, around Fishers’ Pan and then to Chudop waterhole. Once again, it’s not only what you see but the numbers of animals that make the sight so impressive. They just keep coming past us in their droves to drink at the waterhole. After 2 hours we move on to another well reported waterhole, Kalkheuwel. Shortly after we arrive 4 elephants are joined by a huge herd of over 100 with many youngsters among them. One mother with a very young calf gets into the water and gives herself a good shower. She finishes off by liberally powdering her body with dust.

Eventually we tear ourselves away from the ongoing parade of animals and birds enjoying the water and continue slowly to Halali arriving around 3ish. Wow – what a dusty campsite – not a blade of grass to be seen – not much tree cover either and to compound matters the dust is like talcum powder - we cannot stop it from getting into everything. The individual sites are quite small and close together. You cannot avoid getting a dust shower as new cars arrive or move about.

Halai Waterhole

Halali Waterholes, Etosha

We have an early supper of the previous night’s leftovers and walk to the floodlit waterhole where the viewing area can be reached within the camp. It’s possible to sit there the whole night if you want to. Except for the quiet murmurs of other visitors it is very tranquil.  Just after sunset, flocks of double-banded Sandgrouse fly in to drink, settling suddenly on the ground, their gentle calls filling the evening air. Very quickly there are hundreds of them, a solid carpet of trembling feathers. These birds soak their breast feathers in water and in that way, carry liquid back to their young. The whole spectre lasts about 30 minutes, before they fly off fading into the night and silence reigns. Tired, its not too long before we head for bed.

Etosha National Park's birds

Abundance and Variety of Birdlife at Etosha

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Excitement at Salvadora Waterhole

We begin early the next morning and enjoy some great birding. When we reach Salvadora waterhole, it's mysteriously deserted. We are immediately suspicious. Carefully scrutinizing the territory we finally spot a lioness crouching in a patch of grass  - between two sections of water clearly waiting for her prey to make its appearance. Every now and then we glimpse a golden ear! We are not going anywhere!

A herd of zebra appear from behind us. It is plain that they are nervous. They all come to a halt a couple of meters from the waterhole. More zebras appear behind the ones standing immoveable until we count over 200 animals standing looking uncertainly at their drinking hole. For 15 minutes there is an impasse – something tells them all is not well but eventually a few animals trickle forward. Some springbok follow. We are scarcely breathing. The people in the few cars next to us are dead quiet. The tension is palpable. Suddenly the lioness bursts out of the thicket and chaos reigns as zebra react instantly, leaping in every direction. We hear a guy in another car cheering her on (“Go, go, go!” he shouts) The lioness has singled out a zebra but as she lunges she misses by a mere hair’s breadth! We hear groans from the car next to us!

The lioness runs a few meters further and gives up! Panting heavily, she gazes haughtily back at us, her spectators, but unabashed she retreats to a sandy hollow near the water. She lies down and rolls over on her back as if to say ‘So what if I missed, no sweat – that was just for fun!” Once again, the waterhole is deserted – not an animal in sight except the terrorist with paws in the air in front of us. Clearly the thirsty drinkers will be will not be back in a hurry!

That evening, after sunset, we see a black rhino materialise out of the darkness to drink at the Halali watehole and a while afterwards, a rabbit. Like ghosts they noiselessly dissolve into the blackness again.

As we pack up the next morning, everything is covered in a fine film of dust. We try our best to wipe it off or shake it out of everything before we load up the car. The nicest thing about Halili has been the piping hot showers and the under-floor heating in the ablutions.

We’re sleeping outside the park this evening and are heading in a south-westerly direction for Andersson Gate beyond Okaukuego. We cannot resist returning to the Salvadore waterhole and there we are treated to …… the pride – 5 lionesses, 2 male lions and 6 cubs! They have killed during the night for all that remains of the unfortunate zebra is scraps – we see the head being carried off and some ribs. We make out among them the lioness we saw yesterday. She could be one we’ve read about, that belongs to a pride but likes to hunt alone.

Lion pride at a kill - Salvadore Waterhole, Etosha

Salvadora Waterhole - Lion Pride at Kill

The pride have commandeered the waterhole – zebra and springbok are warily keeping their distance. All that is, except a cheeky jackal that comes close enough to find a scrap that he grabs and hastily runs off with. We spend close to an hour enjoying the activities of the lions. The males drink water several times. Some females are still eating pieces of meat. The youngsters play tug-of-war with the ribs.

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Okaukuejo Camp and Waterhole

We eventually move off stopping at other waterholes, Rietfontein, Aus, Olifantsbad, Gemsbokvlakte.  There’s lots of plains animals about and birds everywhere. We get to Okaukuejo around 2pm. I personally like this camp the best of Etosha’s three. The waterhole is stunning and looks like an animal taxi rank it is so crowded with animals. A bonus is we can get really close outside of the car with benches strategically placed around the fence. I could sit there all day. Night-time must be spectacular! There are stylish cottages positioned around the one side of the waterhole so people can sit on their verandahs and watch the goings on from there. You probably wouldn’t see more if you got in your car and took a drive – amazing! The bird life in the trees above us is magical too. In the parks they gravitate to human settlements where there’s water around and they’re not shy to take advantage of scraps of bread and bits of meat left on braais.

Okaukuejo Camp

Okaukuejo Gate, Rondavel and it's Waterhole

 

Etosha Safari Park - outside Andersson Gate

We leave the camp around 4pm as we have planned a two-night stop at Etosha Safari Park 10 kms outside Andersson gate. We arrive late afternoon. The attractive camp is grassed, has good ablutions and electricity. We decide to have a rest day the next day and not to re-enter the park. It would be hard to improve on what we have seen unless we saw wild dog or leopard but there’s slim chance of that. Cleaning the car, doing some washing and enjoying the swimming pool is appealing.

We enjoy a slow start after a cold night and notice the vibrancy of the bird-life around the camp. There are groundscraper thrush, glossy starlings, black-chested prinia, red-eyed bulbuls, cinnamon-breasted, cape and golden-breasted buntings, red-billed quelea and white-browed sparrow-weavers. The little birds cluster around the hosepipe running on the lawn, wings fluttering as they enjoy a bath. Others equally fluff their feathers under a near-by sprinkler. We are well entertained for over an hour as we drink our morning coffee. We then find a guided trail and follow it for 2-3 kms before heading back to camp for a late breakfast of fruit and cereal. Once the chores are done we relax – clothes and car are clean! We are the only people in the campsite apart for some gardeners attending to the grounds. What more can we ask for? It’s a peaceful, beautiful day in this tiny piece of Africa!

Bird activity at Etosha Safari Park campsite

Etosha Safari Park

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Read about our other adventure travels in Namibia:
Caprivi – 1st leg of our Namibia Adventure
Etosha to Waterberg Plateau – 3rd leg of our Namibia Adventure

image of Sedgefield Website link to www.discover-sedgefield-south-africa.com

I live on South Africa's Garden Route and am always delighted to hear from visitors. You're welcome to visit my website if you would like to ask a question or learn more about the region.

___________________

Sylvia Ferguson
Sedgefield, South Africa 

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