Jill's African Adventure
* The Namib Desert
* Etosha, The Great White Place
* Transparent Geckos and Other Cool Critters
* Island Hopping
* Tofo, Mozambique
* The Golden Lion Film Festival
* St. Lucia
* Coffee Bay
* Hiking in Nature's Valley and Hogsback
* Adventures in Oudtshoorn
* Cape Town
* The Problems of Zimbabwe
* Visiting Isabel
* A Day by the River
* Practical Stuff (But please read!)
* The Elephants Don't Want Me to Eat
* Its a Small World (Blantyre and Beyond)
December 13, 2005
Etosha, The Great White Place
Having seen the wildlife of the sand dunes, gone sandboarding down them (on one you can reach speeds of us to 80km/h), and quad biking up the sides of them, it was time to see something a little different for a few days. I joined a tour and we headed up to Etosha, Namibia's premier game park.
I wasn't sure how good of a trip it was going to be because it is apparently the wrong time of the year to see wildlife. The rainy season just started which means that the animals no longer need to congregate at the watering holes since water is (relatively) abundant throughout the park. Given that, I was amazed by all the wildlife that I saw. I think I saw higher concentrations and a greater variety of animals in Etosha than in any of the other parks to which I have been.
The drive into camp the evening of our arrival provided us with sightings of zebra, giraffe, springbok, dik-dik, and black-faced impala (a type of impala found only in Namibia). The following day was, alas, our only full day within the park, but what a day it was. We saw way to much for me to tell all, but here are my highlights:
Seeing a bird called a kori bustard ridiculously puffed out (especially its neck) in a courtship display; getting a good viewing of a bizarre-looking bird called a secretary bird.
Seeing the beautiful desolate white Eosha salt pan, the blue sky merging with the distant waters. (A salt pan is basically a flood plain. Right now it is a dry cracked-mud plain, but at some times of the year it is flooded from waters brought south by rivers in Angola.) Seeing the waterhole by the pan, amid the white rockiness where on the left there were wildebeast and zebra and on the right were zebra (including many young ones), springbok, a red hartebeast, and an oryx (also called a gemsbok) or two. The oryx (which I have only seen in Namibia) are magestic with their black, white, and gray bodies and their long, straight horns. The springbok, which are everywhere in Etosha, have beautiful white faces. Which is not to say that the kudu and impala are not beautiful, especially when they run and leap...
And then, of course, there were the predators. Six lions, lying under trees, trying to escape the brutal mid-day sun. The views weren't the greatest (all the branches and leaves in the way), but two felt the need to get up and cross to the other side of the road to find better shade, giving us some really nice views. Later on we saw two cape foxes, the first foxes I have ever seen in the wild. The first one was an adult that dashed down a slope and the second was a young one that darted in and out of their burrow before running off down the slope after the adult. We also saw a slender mongoose running, its black-tipped tail in the air and a hyena running, probably leaving a kill site.
Before the lions and foxes and mongoose, however, was the best sighting of the day. Our guide saw it first. Under the tree, he said. The rest of us saw nothing. Well, there was that little black spot. Not quite right to be a shadow, but...it couldn't be...could it? Eventually our vehicle stopped moving and I got to use my binoculars. And there, lying under a tree, was a cheetah. The first one I have seen in the wild and a very rare sighting pretty much anywhere you go. It was only the second cheetah our guide had over seen in Etosha. The cheetah way just lying in the shade, occasionally lifting its head, swishing its tail, stretching a couple of times. It then stood up and lankily walked off, disappearing behind trees and then reappearing again before finally disappearing for good.
As sadly happens on all game drives, this one too, eventually ended. But, happily, the day was not over yet. There was a water hole near our campsite, complete with benches and a floodlight for night viewing. (And, in case you are wondering, there was also a fence to keep the humans in.) When I first arrived at the watering hole there were zebra just leaving. But not to worry. There were still plenty of critters about: birds and springbok and two giraffe off in the distance headed toward the water hole. And if that wasn't enough, we could also watch the incoming thuderstorm off in the distance, next to the golden-pink sunset. Then - a treat for me - a jackal came to the watering hole to drink. Again, another first sighting for me. He stayed for a while before running off. Not too long later, other jackals started coming in and I think I probably saw about four of them before dinner. We also got to see a black rhino strolled over, quite gracefuly, for a drink. He hung out by the watering hole for a while and, at that point, it was the best sighting of a rhino I had ever had. After he left, the giraffes (one adult, one juvenile) finally came over to the water hole for a drink. It is fun to watch them splaying their legs and bracing their knees to get their long necks down low enough to be able to drink. And then, right before I had to leave for dinner, an elephant showed up.
I returned to the watering hole after dinner and though there weren't quite as many animals as there had been at sunset, there were still some good sightings. I got to see a big owl flying and landing. Tons and tons of jackals. Running, playing with each other, eating the remains of the dead giraffe. And, amazingly, at one point there were six black rhinos all around the water hole at one time, including two juveniles. (One of whom kept laying down next to its mother for a minute here or there before getting upagain. Two of the rhinos were apparently not pleased wiht eatch other and although things didn't quite come to blows, there was a little bit of head-butting. As I left the watering hole to go to bed, some of the rhinos were still there, one of whom was taking a bath.
Posted by Jillian on December 13, 2005 09:00 AM
Category: Southern Africa
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