Etosha Park

Etosha – meaning Great White Place – is a HUGE national park in Namibia and about 22% of the park is made up of the Etosha Pan which is a large flatland area that is dry most of the time but can get a little water in it when and if they get rains in the area. It's very salty/mineral-y when it does get water so the animals don't really like drinking it. There are several watering holes scattered throughout the park though and that's where the animals congregate to quench their thirst after wandering around eating all day. We are here in the wet season (summer) but it's still pretty arid and desolate. The eastern side of the park was somewhat greener but the central/western side still seems pretty uninviting for grazers. Despite that, we saw several huge herds of elephants, zebra, black faced impala, blue wildebeest, oryx (gemsbok) and springbok. It's also an added bonus that this is the time of year that most species are having their babies. The cuteness is sometimes too much to handle. We saw baby springbok, impala, wildebeest and zebra. We were really hoping to see somebody dropping their babies but that may have been too much to ask. We did see a zebra that was still wet from just being born though. And at our first lodge at Etosha there was a herd of impala that one day had one baby in the herd and the next day had over 15! Their little bodies on spindles for legs was just adorable… And they would spring and hop and frolic all over the place. This is called 'pronking' and was both funny and seriously cute!

Being in Etosha in low season (summer/wet) has some advantages like the above mentioned babies as well as not having a ton of people all crowded around trying to see the same animals at the watering holes. The downsides: Supposedly the animals are harder to find because there is more water available, it's hot. But really, if you're used to Texas summers like we are, this isn't bad at all. It's actually raining right now … A little thunderstorm is passing through and it feels pretty grand.

Tonight is the last night in Etosha area and we are headed into a region called Damaraland tomorrow. That will be our first spot of camping (rooftop tent on the 4×4 style) so that's both exciting and brings me a little bit of anxiety. Pretty sure it'll be amazing but the unknown always puts those good little butterflies in my stomach. While we are there we may go try to find the desert elephants… Pretty unique I'm told. Hope we find them. ūüôā

Here are a few snaps of some Etosha wildlife… Including an X-rated lion shot.

 

Update in pictures

Last sunset at Tuli: 

 
The road hazards in Botswana:
 

 
A small portion of the edge of the Magkadigkadi Salt Pans:
 

 
The animals on the sand track ‘road’ in the Central Kalahari:

 

 

A few of the lions from the pride that we met up close and personal at Dinaka:

 

 

This is the bird that cameron made me back up for on the way to Dinaka – it’s called a Black Korhaan and when it takes off and with every wing flap it makes this funny squawking noise:

 

 

 

Dave at his son Kyle making an awesome breakfast for us at one of the hides at Dinaka:

 

 

We must have been there during a butterfly migration – the sky was filled with these little guys- so much so that at times it looked like it was snowing!  They are called brown veined white butterflies and they predominantly fly northeast which is helpful to know if you’re lost in the middle of nowhere.

Central Kalahari to the Okavango Delta!

After getting to know the family that runs Dinaka, it was tough to say goodbye. ¬†But of course we had to so we packed the truck up and headed out for Maun. ¬† It was about a 2 and a half hour drive over deep sand tracks and rough ‘road’ but was pretty uneventful…other than Cameron freaking out after having claimed to see a black mamba along the side of the road. ¬†I didn’t see it but he says I nearly hit it and he had the heebie jeebies for like 30 minutes – irrationally thinking it may have slithered its way into the truck and attacked him. ¬†His description sounded pretty much just like the black mamba I saw last time so it probably was since we know they live in this area – along with puff adders, boomslang and a few other very poisonous snakes.

We arrived in Maun, dropped off the truck at the rental car company and headed to the bustling Maun International airport. ¬†One ticket counter and maybe 2 gates. ¬†As we walked across the tarmac towards the waiting planes, we tried to guess which one it would be. I had envisaged a tiny 4 seater tin can and wasn’t too terribly far off. ¬†There were 9 passengers and 2 pilots though one only flew – the other guy just sat in the back and watched. Seemed a little odd? I counted only 2 spare seats … And when sitting down, the roof was just a few inches from your head. ¬†I’ll have to admit – I had butterflies in my stomach. ¬†It was a very smooth flight though and getting to see the Okavango delta from about¬†500-1000¬†ft up was pretty spectacular. We saw elephants, wildebeest and endless lakes and channels interconnecting through the maze of palms, sycamore figs, baobabs and other tall trees. ¬†We landed at the Chitabe airstrip and were greeted by our &Beyond game vehicles and drivers – we would be with Steve the tracker and Gift, the driver. ¬†About 40 minutes later we pulled up to the Sandibe lodge and were met with cool towels, ginger lemonades and many heartfelt smiles and waves. ¬†We got the tour of the main lodge area and then were shown to our rooms to freshen up for lunch before the afternoon/evening game drive. ¬†Wow, is this place nice! ¬†It’s very remote, only has 8 guest houses and is just perfect. ¬†Our chalet is the last one on the end with a thatched roof, screens posing as doors and walls, an outdoor shower and our own private viewing deck that sits on a channel where hippo and elephants tend to wander past. ¬†Ahhhh, I could stay here a while!

The game drive didn’t disappoint either… Many new birds, antelope, wildebeest, elephants, giraffe, ¬†lion and a big Botswana thunderstorm! The lions posed for us while we took pictures with the sunset and a rainbow in the background. ¬† It couldn’t be much more idyllic.

At 5:30 the next morning, the wake up call of african drums came down the path and we got up to start a new day in the Delta.  During the night I heard a pack of hyena calling pretty nearby.  Kind of an eerie sound but in my opinion, not nearly as eerie as coyote. 

Sure enough, we start the game drive and not 10 minutes from camp, we found 5 hyena laying around and in a water hole after having just gorged themselves on something they were still protecting partly under the muddy water. ¬†They rolled around like lazy dogs with big ol’ bellies. ¬†Not far from there we found a gorgeous leopard in a tree – posing exactly as leopards are usually portrayed – splayed out across a large tree limb.

Condensing now … More lion, more ellies, more antelope, several more leopard including mama with cubs at a kill, many hippo, lots of new birds and a really cool nighttime thunderstorm with tons of vertical and horizontal lightning on the way back to camp for a gourmet candle lit dinner.

Sorry everyone … But I don’t want to come home.


Lion pride – up close and personal!

After hearing that we had just missed the lion pride by an hour on the day of our arrival, we were a tad disappointed and wished we had been here sooner. Oh well… Africa waits for no one. ¬†We got to know the lodge owners and their family over dinner and drinks and settled in quite nicely. ¬†When our eyelids got heavy, Dave walked us (rifle included) to our tent. ¬†This lodge is a luxury tented camp meaning that we are sleeping in a tent but it’s the fanciest tent I’ve ever seen. It’s on a raised platform with a thatched roof above and wooden doors on the front and back. The sink, toilet and shower are outside the back door but under the thatched roof. ¬†It’s really pretty cool! We dropped our stuff, i hopped in the shower (outside with a roof but open to the bush with just a half wall) and while I was washing my hair, I heard a low rumbling “Ahwooh”. I thought cameron was messing with me but just then he popped his head around the corner with big eyes saying ‘did you hear that?’. ¬†Yep, it was lions calling to one another less than a km away. ¬†How cool is that?! So we tucked into bed and fell asleep listening to the lions. The next morning we got up at 5:30 and headed to the lodge. ¬†No sooner than we were approaching the verandah, they motion us to come in quickly and point over across the open area to the lion pride emerging from the tall Kalahari grasses. ¬†We were in awe. They came into the clearing and stopped at the watering hole about 100ft from the verandah we were sitting on. One large male, three females and four cubs. They drank for what seemed liked forever until the cubs started playing, affectionately nestling with the male and bouncing here and there. The lionesses decided to get a better look at us and moved in closer – each staggering their positions. The cubs tried to perfect their stalking skills on their mom, crouching low in the grass behind her and then pouncing on her back and eventually her head. So cute!

The lionesses grew bored and more curious and came even closer. At this point they were probably 40 ft away. Everyone slowly moved back off the verandah into the lodge itself. While still open, it had a half wall and offered a little more protection. The lionesses and cubs strolled even closer and we retreated into the office in the lodge where we could still see everything but it had doors so that we could be enclosed if the need arose. ¬†The lions strolled around the lodge, checking us out, and then plopped down in the sand behind the Landcruisers. ¬†We weren’t going anywhere! The big male had been still at the water hole but he then got up and headed over to the tents where we had slept and where the owners’ 83 yr old mother was still sleeping. ¬†We didnt want her to come out of her tent unaware that there were lions enjoying the shade under her. ¬†George hopped in one of the other landcruisers and headed over to warn her to stay in. ¬†Meanwhile back at the lodge, Dave was trying to scare the lionesses from getting too comfortable in the camp. He tried several things including yelling, arm waving and then warned us that he was going to try the air horn to frighten her away. We plugged our ears while watching this lioness and HOOOOOOOOONK … Nothing, not even a muscle twitch or an eye flinch. Nada. She just casually laid there like that was a normal everyday sound in the bush. ¬†George returned in the smaller Landy and had chased the lions off for now – maybe they chased each other actually from the sounds of it. ¬†The lioness laying behind the Cruiser finally got up and meandered off to find the rest of the pride and we were able to continue our morning. ¬†Quite the excitement to get the blood flowing in the morning though!

We took a drive through the bush, saw quite a few antelope varieties, birds, etc and then we wound up at one of the hides where Melanie greeted us with breakfast supplies. They made breakfast there while we all watched the waterhole Рseeing mostly birds.  The Kalahari has just exploded into green since the rains came a few weeks ago so the animals have grass and leaves to eat and come to the water holes much less often. Breakfast was amazing and then we headed back to the lodge to rest for the days relaxation before the evening drive.

Everyone here at Dinaka is wonderful – including Dave’s two kids, Michaela (9) and Kyle (7). We have had a ton of fun with them – watching them play in the lodge and run around in the sand and the pool and having the best time I think kids could have. It doesn’t get much more fun than living at a safari lodge – barefoot about 90% of the time!

Time to go – more soon…