Brenda and Brent - Namibia, Botswana, South Africa

Etosha - Namibia

Etosha is a large national park in northwestern Namibia. If you want to see big game animals, this is the place.

Most visitors come during the dry season - they (the visitors) can congregate around water holes and they (the big game animals) show up at regular times. We are here during the wet season and there is water everywhere so we will have to spend most of the day driving around looking for them (the animals).

The light blue area of the map looks like a lake but it is a salt pan. Rivers surrounding the pan all flow into Etosha where they stay until they evaporate. Like the Great Salt Lake in Utah, there is no exit to the sea. (The same is true of the Okavango delta.)

We have left nKwasi and are heading along the Caprivi Strip toward Etosha National Park. This bit of the road is paved, pretty straight, almost empty.

During this part of the trip we had afternoon thunderstorms most days. This actually was a good thing. During the storm, which usually lasted less than half an hour, it cooled right down. We had no really hot days during this part of the trip.

While Will was checking us into Etosha National Park, at the Namutoni Campground this Banded Mongoose ran across the parking lot.
Namutoni was a military base during the Angola Civil War. South Africa got involved on the Angola government side. Will's father was part of that military effort.
A slightly different variety of Zebra - and a mother with a calf. Zebra are fairly common in the park.
As are Blue Wildebeest.
As are Oryx. This was our first good sighting. We continued to see them, inside and outside game parks, for the rest of our time in Namibia.
Yep, Oryx again - females with a calf.
This is a Springbok. Again, our first good sighting of the trip. This is the main antelope for the rest of the trip. We saw them everywhere.
A Black-backed Jackal. Our first good sighting. This is by far the most common carnivore we saw on the trip.
This beauty is a Blue Crane. We saw a number of these, usually in pairs, during the trip. A really beautiful bird. Unfortunately for this birds vanity it is raining and all his feathers are wet and drooping.
Are we only looking for birds? Of course not! This is a Kori Bustard. One of the biggest birds that can still fly. If you are interested in big birds, this is the one for you.

Will is mainly an animal guide. He could easily understand our interest in big birds - cranes, bustards, eagles. He could not understand our interest in small birds - little brown jobbies.

We got some good close looks at Giraffe. Never large herds, but some good looks. (Hi Gerome.)
This is early on in our Cheetah encounter.

We spotted (!!) this mother Cheetah walking slowly across the field and pulled over. The mother continued to walk slowly toward us - checking us out now and then, as in this picture. Sort of mildly curious.

She walked across the road about 10 metres behind our vehicle.
Then, after that strenuous walk, decide to lie down and ...
... wait for junior to catch up. Then they both walked off and on their way. Both occasionally interested enough to look at us - popped out the top hatch of our vehicle and taking pictures like crazy. I expect they have a distorted view of humans.
This little fella is a Steinbuck - under 1 metre tall (to the tips of those little pointy horns).

They are a little more concerned about having people around - even in cars. Most of our sightings were of rear ends as they walked off into the bush.

This is a Khama Hartebeest - we did not see a lot of these.
This was what it looked like in Etosha for most of our stay - threatening skies, a short thunderstorm in the afternoon. Etosha is a salt pan - rivers flow in, none flow out. Large areas in the middle are very salty. We drive around the edge of the salt pan (mostly the south edge), where there are a few trees and small scrubby bushes.
We were out on the salt pan - a small view point of nothing but salt pan - when Dan noticed this very small, very bleached out bird. Can you see it? It is called a Chestnut-banded Plover. This is the female bird. It spends the off-season along the coast but breeds on the salt pans of Etosha.

Pretty good camouflage.

Did you also notice the Chick on the right side of the picture? A puff on top of two tiny legs! Amazing something that small can walk as fast as it did.

Here is the male Chestnut-banded Plover.
We were heading back to the campground, not much to show for hours out in the salt pans when we encountered this Black Rhinoceros. Will immediately recognized this as a young female. Will is very good on big mammals.

She walked across the road in front of us - yes, we were stopped. Then along the brush beside us and back onto the road behind us. We have seen Black Rhino before - our best looks up until now were in Ngorogoro Crater where we saw a female and a calf at about 100 metres. This rhino walked past us within 10 metres then came back to the road to drink the water from a puddle just behind us. Amazing looks - really close up to one of the rarest of the big African mammals.

Here she is a few minutes later filling up at the puddle. She spent over 5 minutes drinking from the puddle.
We backed up a bit closer. This is the original shot of just the face of the Rhino, we were so close. As usual, they seem to have no fear of people in vehicles. We were all hanging out the top - oooohing and aaahing and she continued to drink.

A few minutes later we headed back to camp and almost immediately encountered a male Black Rhinoceros! One suspects a little hanky-panky in the bush.

This is Halali campsite in Etosha - the middle campsite. You can see one of our tents behind Brenda, a cookhouse/eating area behind that for when it rains. The ablution block - showers, sinks, toilets - it behind me - pretty good facilities.

January is the off-season. The campsite had about 10 small groups - mostly in vehicles like ours or smaller, with 2 or 4 per group. The campsite is quite large - it could easily have had 50 times as many people. During the high season here - the dry season which I think is in July and August - it is much harder to get a camp site. It would also be a lot hotter. However, since it is the dry season the big animals have to come to the few remaining waterholes, so are a lot easier to find. They actually have bleachers around the waterholes, so you can sip champagne while doing your big five search.

That is Dan and Merrilee's tent - I think you can just see the rear end of one of them poking out of the tent.

Will is cooking breakfast, Brenda is doing the dishes, I am busy charging my laptop.

This is typical vegetation away from the salt pans - small bushes, some grass. Not at all what I think of when I think of jungles and Africa.

These bush lands have lots of food for small antelope. Which means they have predators as well, along with lots of birds.

This is Martial Eagle - one of the more spectacular and not uncommon eagles in this part of Africa. We saw these pretty regularly in this area.

The spotting on the leg feathers is a field mark.

Zebra are fairly common and not afraid of vehicles at all.
We are now at the third camp ground - Okaukuejo, the western most campground in the main circuit. We saw this Congo Rope Squirrel inside the camp ground.

The camps are fenced - to keep the tourists in. We never saw a squirrel outside the impoundments in Etosha. They could be there, but are a lot more wary.

We drove around all day looking for Lion and were out on a road well away from the camp around 5:30 PM when we found this female. A couple of other vehicles beat us to this spot.

This pride of lions - 4 males, 5 females - had a kill about 300 metres off the road in small bushes. We could not see them feeding, but we could see the vultures waiting for the scraps. Since vultures are about 1 metre tall when standing around, waiting for dinner, the bushes were fairly short.

When we got there, 5 lions were resting by the road - getting ready for a short nap.

There were 3 Land Cruiser type vehicles on the road and these 5 lions resting a few metres off the road.

The plants look pretty pale to me. We are just at the end of the rainy season and it has rained pretty hard for half an hour most afternoons, so there is no lack of water. Perhaps the grass and plants have a tough time surviving even with adequate moisture in this salty land.

Yep, exactly what you think.

While we were busy taking pictures of the first 5 lions by the road, 3 more lions wandered over from the direction of the kill.

Wandered may be a bit of an exaggeration - their progress was quite slow. In spite of there being 3 or 4 vehicles on the road, the lions walked patiently all the way from the kill to the road where we were, then flopped down on the grass within 5 metres of our vehicle.

They are clearly settling in for the night.

Sort of strange. They can clearly see and smell us, but come right over to where we are for their siesta. What is this all about?

Are they safer from other predators when safari vehicles are around?

This is a closeup of the third male, who is looking right at me. We were eyeball to eyeball for a few minutes. He does not look curious, exactly. Perhaps puzzled. Here he sees food in tins within a few metres, but knows he is not going to get any of it. This is clearly beyond the understanding of your average carnivore.

You can see with his mane blowing that there is a bit of wind from the right.

Same guy, a little more magnification.

This male has quite a few facial scars. When we got to this spot there were two males and three females already here - having finished their dinner. This guy walked over after we arrived with two females. This means he had to wait while the two alpha males and their lionesses ate. Once the alpha males were full and had left, this guy and his lioness had their chance to eat. Perhaps the scars on his face indicate a few lost battles. However, he is still tolerated within the pride.

Here you can see how far away these lions really are - and how they just laze around after a big meal, even with safari vehicles along the road.

We did not drive up to these lions. They walked over to where we were and lay down. Very strange behaviour for WILD animals.

This is Omega male. We had been here for 15 minutes when this fellow walked away from the kill toward the road and our vehicle.

According to Will, the black on the mane indicates this is a much older lion. Will said that he probably had once been the Alpha male, but had lost that role to one of the younger males.

While we were watching, he approached two of the female lions and made a couple of moves that might have worked for him at one time. Today it just got him a snarl. So it goes.

This is the current boss, the current Alpha male, with his three ladies.

Neither of the older lions made any passes at these lionesses.

After leaving the lions - about an hour after our first sighting - we continued on through Etosha park.

This is typical habitat near the salt pans - low plants, almost no trees, very few plants over a foot tall.

This is the Acacia tree that makes it into all the tourist pictures. Isolated in the plain.

Usually though it it framed against a sunset. For us, during our time in Etosha, afternoon thunderstorms were the standard.

Still, a great day.

Ah, you might think I got you a sunset after all! No, a sunrise. You can just see the fence around the people - our cage - in the picture.

This was our last day in Etosha - a wondrous time.

This is the campground in Okaukuejo. The tenting area is very nice, very flat and good for sleeping. The building is the cook house - we shared it with one other couple who had travelled on their own all over Namibia.

Even camping in the off season, Etosha is pretty expensive. Tenting is also expensive, but much less so. You can easily drive up here from South Africa in a rented vehicle and tent quite comfortably for a lot less than we paid.

You could probably drive a decent vehicle from here to Kruger and tent there as well. Even tent along the way.

Perhaps for our next trip?

The lodge at Okaukeujo is really nice and is the best place for birding in the area - since you can actually walk around in the camp area rather than be stuck in a vehicle.

Checking prices, chalets in this campground go for as little as $100 for single, $150 for two people sharing.

Rent a car in Cape Town and head for Etosha. Do it today!

This is a shot of the southern entrance to Etosha - the Anderson Gate. South of here there are a lot of private camp grounds, which you can use if the camp grounds in the park are full.

Porcupine Lodge, Himba Village - Namibia

We spent one night at a private game reserve south of Etosha called Porcupine Lodge.
This is their reception area - missing one wall!
The area has several of these piles of boulders called Kopjes. We saw these in the Serengeti as well.

The lodge has wild animals inside its fence, including the African Porcupine, which we did not get to see. We wandered around and did some birding. The boulders are pretty big for climbing on - we stayed on the flats.

During our short walk we encountered two giraffe. I called Will: "What do we do when we meet giraffe?" He replied: "Walk slowly toward them." It worked. The Giraffe walked away.

We appear to have frightened the poop out of them.

It is a little hard to see in this picture, but the scat is already covered with Dung Beetles all trying to build up a ball they can roll away to their den.

There are several different sizes of beetle here, perhaps different species.

This Southern White-faced Owl was being harassed by smaller birds. One of the few good sightings of owls on this trip.
We stayed in this area so we could spend a couple of hours at a Himba Village. This village is loosely associated with Gelbingen Lodge.

The Himba are indigenous herdsmen who preserve some of their cultural practices.

You can see that they have several different building styles. The cone shaped houses are actually their homes. Very small inside - you have to crawl in.

The women of this tribe have a real hair fetish.

It starts when the girls are quite young with these strange braids brought forward over the face. They are braided to have this appearance.

Once they get a little older they are allowed to let their hair fall down. They treat the hair with a mixture of clay, goat fat and some other things. The result is these long braids, individually coated with the mud mixture.

This woman has augmented her hair with puffy ends - probably a hair extension.

The village was full of kids - I think each of the dozen or so women has a child every year. Kids stay at home till they are 4 or 5, so most of the kids in the camp are quite young.

All the kids were dressed sort of like this - mostly naked. It was cool and the ground was wet, with mud puddles in places. The temperature was probably around 18 or 19. Cool for us but the little kids did not seem to mind.

I am not sure what these little kids are planning, but it can't be good.

Twyfelfontein - Namibia

Into the desert.
We have left Porcupine Lodge and are heading into the western part of Namibia - the real desert areas. This picture shows typical landscape along the first part of the trip - dry, with a few shrubs, with low, eroded hills in the distance.
This is what the native homes look like in this part of the country. Much different than back east. They mud the corral walls here, where they don't in the north east. The buildings are rectangular - showing the South African influence (Europe through South Africa).
Another kopje. The rest of the area is very flat. These small hills rise up - made up of different material than the surrounding area. The rocks appear to be metamorphic, not sandstones. They are so different form the rest of the landscape that they drag your attention to them.
This is the ranger station at Twyfelfontein - a long abandoned farming settlement in the middle of the desert. There are other still operating farming houses in the area - a few building around a well where they farm sheep or other animals that can handle the very harsh conditions.

This particular settlement was founded around 1900, but did not thrive given that the name means "doubtful stream".

There are about 1000 pieces of rock art in the area, all much more recent than those at Tsodilo.

This beautiful lizard was basking on the rocks near the ranger station - a Red-headed Rock Agama.
The rock painting here is done in a way similar to that used back home in British Columbia by native rock painters - they tap the rock with a much harder rock and break the smooth surface. The pattern left is the animal.

This giraffe and lion pictograph is one of the most famous.

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