In the Etosha National Park 15-17 May 2013
We spent a couple of days at the Etosha National Park on the way north to Ovamboland. We drove north from the Sasa Safari Lodge through Outjo, with many of the tall north-leaning anthills found in this part of Namibia, with lots of mopane trees. In one place the trees had been cleared, and it looked as though someone was farming anthills, as they seemed to be planted in neat rows. There was also a sign of the changing landscape and a changing world – telephone poles stretching into the distance with not a wire left on them, as cell phones take over the world.
On the way our little Toyota Yaris reached the 200000 km mark, and we stopped to take photos of it on the endless flat road.
We entered the Etosha National Park at the Anderson or Andersson Gate (the spelling varies on maps), and I wondered if it had been named after C.J. Anderson, the Swedish naturalist and trader in these parts, who was a friend and partner of Fred Green, Val’s Great great grandfather, the elephant hunter. Most of what we know of Fred Green’s life comes from Andersson’s letters and diaries.
We stayed at the Halali resort, the middle of three on the southern “shore” of the pan, with Okaukuejo about 75 km to the west, and Namutoni about 75 km to the east. One has to book well in advance, and when we booked the only accommodation available was a “family chalet”, at the highest point in the camp, so we had a good view and a choice of two bedrooms.
It had been a dry year, and so the animals tended to congregate in great numbers at waterholes that were fed by boreholes, and the one that seemed to have most of the animals most of the time was Nebrownii, about 10 km east of Okaukuejo. There were always large herds of zebras, springbok, and gemsbok drinking there. drink. It was interesting to see how they all walked sedately and orderly in single file. The first time we went there a young zebra foal was amusing itself by running around and chasing the springbok, looking like a sheepdog herding sheep, though less purposefully.
At the Rietfontien waterhole near Halali we saw a rhino, the only one we saw in our time at Etosha, It was a white rhino. When I lived in Namibia 40 years ago there were no white rhino in the country. They were then an endangered species, with a couple of small hers in Natal. Brack rhino, on the other hand, were plentiful in northern Namibia. A huge effort by the Natal Parks Board saved the white rhinos, and exported them all over the continent, and then black rhino became an endangerted species. Now both are endangered species, as poachers kill them indiscrtiminately because some people in Asia believe (falsely) that rhino horn is an aphrodisac, and are prepared to pay huge prices for powdered rhino horn when they could achieve exactly the same result by chewing their own fingernails. As Val said,m it is sad that the white rhinos have had toi be saved from extinction twice in one’s lifetime.
On Wednesday morning (16 May), we spent the whole day driving around the south-western end of the Etosha Pan, which is about 50 km from north to south, and 100 km from east to west.
As we approached Nebrownii from Halali, there were some vehicles stopped on a culvert on the main road a little way from the waterhole, where there were also several elephants. Some were white from having sprayed sand over themselves. Someone said that there were lions at the culvert, and indeed at one point they ran out, and then went back under the culvert. We went on to the waterhole, and the elephants moved away, some black and some white, from the dust they had sprayed over themselves. The springbok at the waterhole were obviously aware of the lions, and kept glancing nervously in the direction of the culvert, and we wondered if the lions would rush out and try to grab one of them, but they did not.
When the elephants had gone we went back to the culvert where we had seen the lions, but they were well-hidden under the road. Then a bus came, stopped over the culvert and revved its engine, and the lions came bounding out to see what was going on. The bus moved on, and the lions went back under the culvert, but we got a couple of photos of them. It made the advice to stay in one’s car all the more impressive — it would be quite easy to stop and get out there, thinking that there were no animals around, while in fact there could be a whole pride of lions under one’s feet, and they could come bounding out with amazing speed.
We went on to Okondeka, on the western side of the pan north of Oklaukuejo, and there was a pied crow perched on the stone marking the spot, and a couple of giraffes drinking, rather far off, with the pan shimmering in the background. The Namibian giraffes seem to be darker in colour than the South African ones.
At the restaurant at Halali mosr of the tables were on a covered veranda, and a couple of glossy starlings would perch in the rafters watching to see when people left a table. Then they would call, and flocks of starlings would appear from nowhere, steaching for leftover crumbs before the waitress cleared the table. On one occasion a couple of people left half-eaten muffins on the table, and went inside to get coffee, and the starlings came to grab the muffins, but a waitress appeared and shooed them away.
We passed a herd of red hartebeest on the way back to Halali.
On our last day in the Etosha National Park we had breakfast and left Halali at 6:34 am, and went to a viewpoint out on the pan, which was reminiscent of crossing the causeway to Holy Island, at Lindisfarne on the Northumbrian coast. Once out on the pan, however, one became completely disoriented, and the horizion, which must have been 30-40 kilometres away seemed no more than a couple of hundred metres away, up a steep hill, and it looked as if one was at the bottom of a conical depression, because there was nothing to establish perspective or distance, so the horizon looked quite close.
In some of the photos we had taken with the pan as a background it looked like a wall. Looking back to the shore there would be a line of green vegetation, but looking north, towards the opposite shore, was completely disorienting. We drove on towards Namutoni, and as we approached it began to see anthills again. We had not seen any since entering the park at the Anderson Gate, and there were none around Halali or Okaukueyo.
This is part of a series of posts on our journey through Namibia and Botswana in May 2013. You can read the previous post in the series here.
From Etosha we went on to Ovamboland, Namibia 17-20 May 2013, with flashbacks to the 1970s | Khanya