African shoestrings – Namibia Day Sixty one – Etosha NP
Before we left home the idea of picking up some casual work in Southern Africa had appealed. We emailed several lodges in Namibia and Botswana with no luck. However some of these lodges were quite helpful and invited us to drop in when we were in the area, hoping, of course, that we would stay as guests.
One of these lodges was Camp Setenghi, who had an office in Outjo, the last decent sized town before Etosha. Wayne and Ilvia were genuinely friendly and interested in what we were doing and more than happy to offer advice with no strings attached. They still had no work and in fact warned us that it was illegal to work in Namibia without a work visa and that could lead to some unscrupulous employees taking advantage and basically ripping you off.
We had actually already dismissed the idea of working in Africa. One of the pitfalls of middle age ‘backpacking’ is the fact that you are often parents as well. In our case our grown up sons were both working in London and we hadn’t seen either of them for quite a while. Working would have delayed any reunion, so it seemed a better idea to simply work for longer in England, where there appeared to be plenty of work and where we had no work visa issues.
Etosha National Park is 22,000 square kilometres of animals!
It doesn’t have the same international profile as Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Chobe, Kenya’s Maasai Mara or Tanzania’s Serengeti but it does have an abundance of wildlife that rivals any of it’s more famous counterparts.
The name Etosha means ‘great white place’ after its main feature the mostly dry Etosha pan that is roughly 120 kilometres long and 72 kilometres wide and dominates the Park in area. Game viewing revolves mainly around the many natural and manmade waterholes that dot the southern edge of the pan. That’s not to say that game can’t be seen elsewhere, it’s just they’re the most likely spots.
We stayed in a small chalet in Okaukuejo, the first rest camp. Each camp has a waterhole of it’s own and we were disappointed that our chalet with it’s hospital towels and décor wasn’t closer to it. But we soon forgot that and concentrated on the business of wildlife viewing.
One of the beauties of Etosha is that it’s easy to self-game drive even in the little ‘Chico’. The roads are mostly gravel but are pretty firm so a 4WD is not required. As soon as we got settled in, we were off in search of wildlife.
At the Okondelia waterhole there was an abundance. Zebra, Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Springbok, Jackals and the pièce de résistance, Lions, everyone’s favourite. We spotted one going for a kill and suddenly there were another seven, two females, one male and four young males, strolling down from the hill behind us towards the water hole to our front. Amazingly they just ambled around the five or six vehicles, that were all clambering for the perfect possie and photo, as if they weren’t there. One of them, a young male, got within 2 metres of the car and Sue nearly dropped the camera out of the window in her excitement.
What incredible looking beasts they are, finely tuned, aerodynamically designed and perfectly shaped, they are nature at it’s handsomest. You can go to the best zoo’s in the world and see them up close but nothing beats seeing them on their own turf. In a zoo they are just a caged animal, here free to roam they are Lions! They have that spring to their step and sparkle in their eye. This is who they are!
They all met up at the water hole for I suppose a bit of a sundowner. It was a great start marred only by some dickhead in a red Chico moving his car around to get a better shot at one of the other young males close to his car and frightening him in the process. He should have been dragged out of the car and literally thrown to the lions for dinner by the rest of us, who felt honoured enough just to sit still and experience mother nature at it’s best.
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