We have a total of three nights around Etosha National Park, of which we just had the first. That means that we only have today as a full day to explore the park and to get back out of the same gate as we came through before it closes. A full day of Safari at Etosha is what we are in for!
Etosha has proven to be vast, and mostly empty, as the drought of the past year has driven most animal activity to the water holes dotted around the park. But at over 22.000 square kilometers, it is huge. Big on a scale us Dutchies are finding hard to understand, so here goes. Historically, only the east half of the park is available to the general public, and that half has a road going in and out through three camps. That road leads from Anderson’s Gate to the first camp Okaukuejo (17km) to the middle camp Halali (75km) to the third camp Namutoni (75km) to the Von Lindquist Gate (15km) totalling just under 190km. And that is just the eastern half.
As most activity is around the well marked water holes, animal viewing is generally good to excellent, and the animals are plentiful. There are a lot of Zebra, Springbok, Oryx, Black Faced Impala, Giraffe, And even a good amount of Elephant in the park. It also supports healthy populations of Lion, Leopard and Cheetah, but they are much harder to find as stealth is their ‘thing’. 😉
As the day approached its end, we decided it was time to take a last look at a water hole called Olifantsbad, where we have been lucky to find Elephant before. And this time it did not disappoint either, as both roads leading towards it were blocked by Elephants. There was a massive herd of about 60 animals just taking over the water hole, and we had to wait our turn to be able to use a road again. When we saw the chance, we drove towards the hole, only to find that the animals were still drinking and having a bath, while small groups started leaving the scene to go somewhere else. Wow!
As we needed to be outside of the NP gate at sundown, and we still had some distance to cover, we had to leave this scene of animals drinking in zen like fashion, so we slowly made our way back to the main road. Unfortunately, some of the leaving groups decided that the road was far easier to walk on, we we were trapped behind them. Moving forward at a leasurely pace, this went on for about 10 minutes, after which the animals stopped and started to feed. That out us in quite a predicament, as other groups of elephant had taken the same road, and now had us cornered; in a squeeze between several of the largest land animals alive today. And with that, I had accomplished what I always want to avoid: I acted like a tourist, getting ourselves stuck in between elephant. Ouch. Luckily, this didn’t last long, as the elephants behind us did not seem to be in a hurry and laid back a bit, while the animals in front slowly moved away from the road. I could pass them, and the crisis was averted!
Going back to the gate, we stumbled upon a small cluster of cars, pointing at things behind bushes. We decided that we couldn’t look behind them, and I turned the car around to go back. At that moment, I saw something moving towards the road, and was about to pass right in front of our car. Yes! Lions! A male and a female who had been mating behind the bushes before and who decided that that road needed to be passed by them. That was an awesome sighting!
As a desert, we found out that we have gotten ourselves a second flat tire! This time a tire in the back, but it is flat nonetheless. We quickly changed it over with the help of the local policemen, and now have an extra trip to Outjo and Jan to get that fixed. After that we have to drive the entirety of the park to the other gate, and try to see the animals somewhere in between. Now, that’s a long day again!