Namibia Part VII – Etosha

etosha-1-5

Etosha National Park is a national park in northwestern Namibia. The park was proclaimed a game reserve on March 22, 1907 in Ordinance 88 by the Governor of German South West Africa, Dr. Friedrich von Lindequist.

It was designated as Wildschutzgebiet Nr. 2, which means Game Reserve No. 2, in numerical order after West Caprivi (Game Reserve No. 1) and preceding Namib Game Reserve (No. 3). In 1958, Game Reserve No. 2 became Etosha Game Park, and was elevated to status of National Park in 1967 by an act of parliament of the Republic of South Africa, which administered South-West Africa during that time.

Etosha National Park spans an area of 22,270 square kilometres (8,600 sq mi) and gets its name from the large Etosha pan, which is almost entirely within the park. The Etosha pan (4,760 square kilometres (1,840 sq mi)) covers 23% of the total area of the Etosha National Park. The pan is roughly 130 km (81 mi) long and as wide as 50 km (31 mi) at places. The hypersaline conditions of the pan limit the species that can permanently inhabit the pan itself; occurrences of extremophile micro-organisms are present, which species can tolerate the hypersaline conditions. The salt pan is usually dry, but fills with water briefly in the summer, when it attracts pelicans and flamingos, in particular. 

In the dry season, winds blowing across the salt pan pick up saline dust and carry it across the country and out over the southern Atlantic. This salt enrichment provides minerals to the soil downwind of the pan on which some wildlife depends, though the salinity also creates challenges to farming.

The park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species such as the black rhinoceros.

Etosha is located in the Kunene region and shares boundaries with the regions of Oshana, Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa.

Origins of Name

The name Etosha (spelled Etotha in early literature) comes from an Oshindonga word meaning “Great White Place”, referring to the Etosha pan. The Hai//om called the pan Khubus, which means “totally bare, white place with lots of dust”. The pan is also known as Chums, which refers to the noise made by a person’s feet when walking on the clay of the pan.

Source – Wikipedia

 

I have not abandoned you or the blog; we just went through major emotional upheaval that left me without energy and motivation to write. By the grace of God everything is well now and we are on the road again.

On the day after we arrived in Etosha we received bad news from home – my dad went for an angiogram on Wednesday, 18 March, and the doctors sent him back home without doing anything. He needed an emergency double bypass, which they performed the next morning after reshuffling other patients.

The news was an immense shock to all of us. I have never felt so helpless, being far from airports and at least two days’ drive from Pretoria. There were no way that I could make it in time to see him before his operation, so we decided to stay put and try to (unsuccessfully) support the rest of the family over the long distance. I spent Thursday at the camp praying and crying and worrying; it was the only place with cellular reception and I didn’t dare move. Hugo, being the wonderful husband he is, took care of the children and meals and took them on a game drive. Then good news: the doctors were happy that the operation was a success and stated that he was very lucky that he came for the angiogram (which was recommended by the anaesthetist after a knee procedure) in time.

Although the operation was over, he had to stay in ICU for a few more days. All his vitals and readings and whatnot looked promising, so we could take a deep breath and keep going. From Etosha we went to Khama Rhino Sanctuary for my fortieth, as booked and paid for months earlier, then Moremi and then we went back to South Africa to visit my parents to make sure they were both okay and coping. As we were close to Pretoria, we went to have the Land Cruiser checked (more on that in a later post) and in the end our stay in South Africa lasted a month (of which fourteen days were in the Kruger Park – heaven!).

As I write here (9 May 2015), my dad is better, albeit a skinnier, paler version of him, and he returned to work. There is still a long way to go for him, but I believe that he will be with us for a long time to come.

Etosha. If itʼs not on your bucket list, it should be. It was still March with the 75% discount on Namibian Wildlife Resort accommodation, so we stayed in a spacious bungalow, at the same price as camping, in Okaukuejo, the first rest camp we visited. This camp should be everyone’s first choice, if only for the waterhole. The viewpoint to the waterhole is within the camp boundaries ‒ the hole is just on the other side of the electric fence. They have spotlights on throughout the night, so there is never any reason to drive anywhere. For me, it was a blessing in disguise, as I could still experience Etosha and take photos without leaving the camp.

On our first night, we saw five black rhinoceros at the water – I cannot begin to describe the feeling, sitting there with the night sounds and the most endangered of the rhinos in our company … just there, completely at ease, drinking water, in no hurry whatsoever to leave us. Some of their horns were massive! Sadly, just after we had left, we heard on the news that more than thirty rhinos were poached in Etosha around that time. I do hope the ones we saw in Okaukuejo and in the rest of the park were spared.

People, itʼs just hair! Eat your own bloody hair if your thingy is too small. See how much that will help you.

(I have beautiful photos of the black rhinos we saw in the park, but on Gustav’s request and as common sense demands and many conservationism and wildlife photography groups request, we will not post the pictures, nor disclose the rhinos’ whereabouts, unless in a private or closed group. Please contact me per email if you want to see it. I’ll be glad to send them to people I know and trust. Much later I will publish a photo page with all the rhinos we saw on our trip.)

etosha-1-6

That night, while in bed, as well as on the other two nights, we heard lions roar … I love it. The sound of Africa.

We had a kind of permanent visitor at our bungalow, a begging black-backed jackal. He was very cheeky and we had to chase him away all the time. Once, he tried to get into the house while Sophia was inside and I was outside. I had to calmly call to her that she has to run to the door and make a massive racket to chase the thing away. I was worried he would flee into the house if I moved towards it. She bravely did it, but was shaking like a reed afterwards.

etosha-1

Etosha-1-28

etosha-1-17 etosha-1-11

After three eventful days in Okaukuejo, we left for Halali towards the east. Darling Hugo didn’t think like a boss and left the nosecone unlocked. We lost our showerhead, -hoses and -tap. Nice. Once we’ve checked in and pitched the tent (no space in bungalows this time), he drove back all the way to Okaukuejo to try and find it. I guess someone thought it was their lucky day.

As Hugo was understandably very tired that night, we ate at the restaurant. They had a barbeque buffet with the most delicious impala loins. I still want to get the recipe.

If you ever find yourself in Halali, do yourself a favour and camp on stand 37. It is near the bathrooms, shady and on the way to the waterhole. It is also private in the sense that the other stands are a fair distance away.

On our first night, we were bothered by honey badgers tipping the garbage cans. The next night, Hugo closed the bin with cable ties, which they tried to chew off. On the third night, we securely closed the lid and tied the bin to a tree. We waited with the video camera, and you guessed it … the bloody things almost succeeded in opening it again. Hugo had to stop recording to go chase them away. (I wish I could see that! – Ed.)

Halali’s waterhole also didn’t disappoint. Black rhinos again. This time they were not so relaxed. There were four or five of them on our second night, but they were tense and did not really drink. Some were headbutting and running off to come back again. Then one started screaming like nothing I’ve heard before. I guess a banshee may sound like that; very eerie. Gustav and I watched them for a long time, even took some video clips, and when we got back to the tent, the rhino was still screaming. Hugo couldn’t believe it when I told him it was a young(-ish) rhino.

We heard lions during the night again …

After three days in Halali, we moved on to Namutoni. On the way, we happened upon three cheetahs feeding on an impala. Unfortunately, there were some idiots who arrived a while after us at great speed. They sped to the front, scared the cheetahs into leaving, and then kept driving next to them when they wanted to cross the road, all the time taking photos, keeping the cheetahs from crossing. Now, finding cheetahs, let alone three of them feeding next to the road, is a very special occurrence. These people were selfish, rude and upsetting to everyone there.

So, some rules for game viewing (my own, made-up ones, but I think they are very logical and in my opinion should be common sense, which it obviously isn’t):

  1. Respect for the animals. Do not do anything that will agitate or frighten them. Drive slowly, make as little noise as possible. Some animals can be very dangerous, some are big and have massive tusks – go see on YouTube what elephants can do with a car. Don’t scare animals on purpose to make them move for a better view, you donʼt know how they will react.
  2. Respect for other people. Don’t stay at a sighting for two hours blocking the view for everyone else. Don’t park in front of everyone with your big-ass truck. Don’t speed – ever – especially if you see a lot of vehicles parked. The people are obviously watching something and you will scare off whatever it is. Take turns at the sight. Be patient.

etosha-1-13

etosha-1-10

In Namutoni, we stayed in a small chalet. Near the chalet was a bush bar where Hugo watched the poor Proteas lose in the semi-final of the Cricket World Cup. I don’t think we like this camp…

Eight days in Etosha was not enough, but we will be back.

etosha-1-19

etosha-1-4

etosha-1-15

From Etosha, we headed towards Windhoek and then Botswana for my fortieth birthday celebrations (which my parents were sadly unable to attend). On the way there, we stopped at Otjiwa Safari Lodge – a big game farm with, among others, big herds of rhino, sable antelope, and roan, all of which they rear and sell at auctions to other farmers. Otjiwa is well worth a visit. Their people are professional and friendly and the accommodation is excellent.

Wie onthou nog Leon Schuster se song “Ag man, dis lekker in die Army! Van Tempe tot Grootfontein! Op ’n ratel in Otavi, of hoog in ’n bos-airoplane!”? Daai dorpe se name het as kind vir my so eksoties geklink, so ek vra toe op ’n familie-WhatsApp-groep of dit stupid is om deur Otavi te ry terwyl jy na die song luister. My neef antwoord toe hy ry eerder oor ’n landmyn… Ek neem aan siende hy nog nooit in Otavi of die army was nie, het hy bedoel hy hou nie so baie van ou Leon nie. Dis dan Afrikana, Carel! (I’m with him! Song en army – oe-eh-eh! – Ed.)

One response to “Namibia Part VII – Etosha

  1. An epic journey you guys embarked on – Maybe something each and every one of us should do at least once in our lifetime!

    Enjoy the experience, keep save and keep those cameras rolling…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *