Fa-la-la-la-la, oh and lions.
|Leo (NB: may not be his real name)|
As well as these…
Not forgetting these…
All of these – and many, many more – can be found in Namibia’s pride and joy: Etosha National Park. 117 different mammals, in fact. Situated in the north of the country, Etosha covers a little over 22,000 sq km of wildly changing landscape. It used to cover 105,000 sq km but boundary changes throughout the twentieth century gradually limited its area.
|This is roughly the current size of the park on a|
map of Namibia
The main non-moving feature of Etosha is its pan. The land surface, a dull and uninviting grey without sunlight, used to house a large lake, which was possibly the largest inland lake in the world at the time. About 12 million years ago, a tectonic shift rerouted the inflowing rivers towards the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in Etosha’s lake evaporating into the air. The salt remained, giving much of the national park a lunar-like look. Apparently it can be seen from space!
The changing weather makes for some spectacular vistas, too…
The fact that the land is so bare makes the abundance of wildlife even more startling. Their survival is due to Etosha having several waterholes dotted around its vast space. The animals, needing to drink to survive, are often found at these sites.
|A dazzle of zebras (Google it if you don't believe me) drinking|
simultaneously from the water hole at Okaukuejo's campsite
The campsites in the national park are situated next to some of the major watering holes, allowing visitors to sit back, relax and watch the different creatures wander in to drink. We actually didn’t see many animals at these sites, though it was pretty special when we did…
This lack of action can possibly be explained by our group using up all of our luck on our drives around the park. Mere minutes after leaving our first campsite, we came across an animal I’ve never seen in the wild before: the black rhino.
|A rhino being 'black' or 'white' is nothing to do with skin colour -|
the main difference is their lips, showing their respective
You may notice that the feature most synonymous with the rhino, its horn, is missing. This, we were told, is for its own protection. Poachers desire the horn for a variety of purposes (our guide said alternative medicine is the main reason) but kill the rhino in order to obtain it. When young, the rhino is thus tranquillised and has its horn removed by park conservationists. If the horn isn’t present, the poachers won’t kill it. One hopes…
Another animal I saw in the wild for the first time was the ostrich, with its bizarre neck often shaped like an S as it strutted around the plains. We got close to them but were even closer to a scorpion which we found scuttling around at breakfast one morning.
Rhinos are big beasts but Etosha is home to even larger animals. We saw seven elephants, including one calf. All of the elephants we saw were eating, which is unsurprising given that an adult has to consume 240 KILOGRAMS of food every day. This is because it only digests up to 60% of that amount.
|I was taking pictures and videos on my phone - the quality|
pictures on this blog are from Sami and Thomas from my tour group!
Our most interesting elephant encounter was with the second one we saw. It seemed…annoyed. Our guide described what we see in the video below as ‘redirected aggression’ – it was angry at us so took out its ire on the poor tree…
I never get tired of seeing these animals as there’s always something different happening. From the giraffe starting to do the splits in order to drink to the mother cheetah swivelling her neck whilst her cubs lay lazily in the shadows, there were an incredible number of incredible moments.
And I haven’t even got to the most heart-stopping encounter yet. On our first game drive, we decided to try one more water hole before sunset. We rocked up to the water hole with nothing visible on its edges. Our guide then spoke. Just one word.
“Lion.” Through the window we peeked. A male lion, lying in the middle of the road, less than ten metres in front of us.
Then he got up. You aren’t allowed to leave your vehicle in Etosha so I’d spent much of my afternoon hanging out of the window getting pictures. As the lion began to stalk around our bus, I opted to keep my arms and legs firmly inside the vehicle. Most of the time…
|I often resorted to hanging out of the bus, holding onto the|
roof with only legs inside. Not with the lions about...
It got better. We soon spotted that there was an animal at the watering hole after all. Another lion. He decided to come and join us.
It then got really interesting. Both lions seemed to be marking their territory, scuffing their feet in the dusty ground and staring intently at each other. Unfortunately we had to leave at this point as the campsite gates closed at sunset. If we’d stayed a little bit longer, we would have seen the next instalment – we also would have spent our whole night with them, which was less desirable.
We saw another lion the following afternoon. It was protecting a kill, what seemed to be a gnu or blue wildebeest. The lioness then started to wander off, only to return when a jackal circled around to try and scavenge some extra lunch.
It is captivating simply watching all of these special animals simply going about their daily routines. With a backdrop so diverse it seems other-worldly, Etosha National Park is a stunning place to see your Christmas wishes come true.
Love you all