Etosha National Park Day 1 – On Safari in Namibia

It was a few hours drive from Windhoek and the start of our 6 day tour with Chameleon Safaris when we arrived at the gates of Etosha National Park.  Just outside the gates, some women from the Himba people were selling some of their handmade goods, but we were advised by our tour guides not to sneak photos as that was impolite and not acceptable.  If we wanted photos of native people, we would need to ask permission.  That was made clear from the beginning.  None of us got off the bus because our tour guide had to check us all in with the guards first.  Once we were checked in, we could drive through the gates where we could then get off the bus for a proper toilet. Once everyone was done with the toilet, we immediately began our safari game drive in Etosha!

We had barely begun driving when a dazzle of Zebra was ahead of us crossing the road heading to a watering hole, so we hung a left, followed, and parked for a while enjoying the beauty of all of these Zebra in their natural habitat.

Why did the Zebra cross the road? To get to the watering hole! Of course!

There were so many of them!!!

We didn’t want to get side tracked by the first animal we saw, so the guides suggested that we head further into the park, and since they are the experts, we followed their lead.  And since they were driving, we didn’t have much choice.  🙂

The park is massive.  You could drive for miles and miles and hours and hours and get lost.  I could never tell if we were backtracking or going in circles, and on a map, it looked like we barely covered any distance at all.  I’m sure from an aerial view, you can probably see loads of animals, but since we have to drive on paved and semi paved roads through the park, we are only seeing animals along those routes.  I would love to know what animals were in the uncharted areas that we couldn’t see!

Throughout the rest of the game drive that afternoon, we saw hundreds of Springbok, hundreds more Zebra, Giraffe, Oryx, Roadrunner, Impala, Wildebeests, Warthogs, White Rhino, Black Rhino, and Lions.

One of the hundreds of Springbok that we saw.
Impala, Zebra, and a Wildebeest in the distance.  Wildebeest actually hang out with Zebra a lot.

There’s a rhino in the dead center of this photo.  It blends in with the grass.  

Therewere a few moments of excitement when we hung out near a large bush where a mother lion was supposedly hanging out with lion cubs.  We stayed a few minutes but neither the mother nor the cubs ever emerged.  Here’s a photo of the bush, though, if you can find the lions!

They were supposedly to the far right edge of this bush.  

There are rules to Etosha, due to poaching, and game drives have to be clear of the parks by sundown, so we had to be back to Halali Camp before dark. There, we were given keys to our lodges, and while the tour guides started cooking our dinner over an open fire, we slathered on mosquito repellant (although malaria is not a threat in this area – this was just a precaution) and headed down to the flood lit watering hole.

What a treat the watering hole was!  As soon as we arrived, there was already activity taking place – 3 large rhino were there.  2 on one side and 1 on the other.

I think it was a male and female on one side and a male on the other.  Eventually, the male that was with the female made his way to the other side and started sparring with the other male – not sure if asserting his dominance or fighting for the female, but I almost had tears in my eyes because here I am in Africa watching these beautiful once near-extinct creatures who are, sadly, hunted for their horns, and they are engaging in one of their natural survival activities.  I may never see this again, and most people in the world may never see this in person.  I am sitting there thinking how lucky I am to be witnessing this and how surreal it all is.  This is “one of those moments” where it is all worth it.  The sound of their horns hitting one another.  The grunts they were making.  The sounds of their hooves on the hard surface around the watering hole.  The snorts from their nostrils.  So much for me to take in.  Nature at its finest. There never really was a “winner” of this match, so maybe they were just playing around.

We had to tear ourselves away and head to dinner where the tour guides had made a scrumptious meal that was very much paleo.

Chicken braai (African BBQ), porkchop, sausage, sweet potato (not yellow/orange like in the US), creamed corn, and fresh salad.

If I was hoping to lose weight on this tour, I could think again.  I ate everything on my plate.  And as a traveler with IBS, I can tell you that I did not have any stomach/GI issues from this meal!  It was SO good!!

After dinner, we headed straight back to the watering hole to see what action lay in store.  The rhinos had left by this time, but we patiently waited for quite a few minutes to see what else might happen.  Glad we waited because it paid off.  Eventually, we saw something coming from the bushes…it was a female lion!  She cautiously approached the watering hole and cautiously took some laps of water.  Once she deemed that it was safe, she drank some more.

Lioness drinking water.

She would lift her head up every few seconds to look around, but she drank for a few minutes.  One of our guides said she was pregnant because she was drinking so much.  He also said that the females are the ones that do the hunting at night so when she was done drinking she would be going back to the bush to lay and wait on prey. She probably drank for about 15 minutes and cautiously walked back to the bush.  We could see her eyes peering out of the bush…or if they were not her eyes, then they were another set of lion eyes peering out waiting on prey.  So we waited.  About 15 minutes later, the same lioness came out of the bush to drink more water, but this time she drank from a different spot.  She drank for about the same amount of time and then went back to the bush.  We waited for a while but nothing seemed to happen. Before she went back, though, we saw the strangest thing that was so hilarious.  A little prickly thing that looked like it was moving sideways was on the other side of the hole drinking water and it starting wandering towards the lion like it wasn’t scared at all.  The lion made no move towards it and ignored it completely.  No clue what this little thing was…it looked like a prickly bush moving about.  The guide didn’t see it, but when we described it, he said it was probably a porcupine.

After no more activity for a few more minutes, we decided to call it a night and head back to the lodge since we had a super early call time for a sunrise game drive the next morning.  This was a great first day in Etosha!

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