Etosha National Park – Okaukuejo to Numatoni Camps

Our first night camping in Etosha National Park in Namibia was bliss. Barely leaving our campsite we were treated to a wildlife show that unfolded slowly in front of our eyes. From the sunset atop the castle-esque tower complete with gangly giraffes as drifting silhouettes on the horizon to a show of rhinoceroses, elephants, springbok and a slew of obnoxious jackals.

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Camp set up at Okaukuejo and Jules tending to the braii

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Those damn jackals had there way with our food that night. Scurrying to set up camp prior to sunset, we fired up the braii (barbecue pit) with a menu set by Jules which included grilled chicken with a honey and chili sauce, grilled potatoes, carrots and a salad of lettuce cucumbers and tomatoes. While tending to the braii several salivating jackals paraded by our campsite. One devilish and brave jackal, who looked more like a small dog with massive ears came within a couple feet of me and lunged for the garbage bag taking it in its mouth and running away. A bit peeved and getting braver by the moonlight, the next time those jackals got close to our “kitchen” I raised my unopened wine bottle and shook at at them as if it was a big stick. They scurried, but quickly came back for another round. We played this game of cat and mouse while Jules served up our dinner. Unfortunately the coals never reached the ideal temperature to cook our potatoes thoroughly. So we figured we’d just let the potatoes cook on the grill while taking a hike to the water hole. We put the leftover chicken in a covered pot so we’d have a nice picnic lunch for the next day.

After watching the rhino and elephant show we came back to an empty braii. The pot and its cover was buried in the dust around our tent. The chicken and potatoes? Not a trace. Damn jackals. That put an end to tomorrow’s picnic plans.

Etosha National Park has three “camps” strategically situated about 70km from each other. A network of gravel and dirt roads wind through open savannah, to water holes, around dried salt pans and along the massive Etosha Pan. We arranged to camp at each of the three sites which made for more than two days of wildlife tracking and viewing. As for the camping, besides my run in with the jackals our site at Okaukuejo was situated close to the ablution block (bathrooms) and as such a huge bright light washed our campsite and any night stars I was hoping to gaze through the open screen on the room of my tent.

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Horny big mothers.

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The colors and lines of Africa at Etosha National Park in Namibia.

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Damn Jackal ripped off our picnic!

At Halali, the second and mid-point camp was not as nicely set up as Okaukuejo offering no grass area and rundown picnic table and seats. But the sunset viewing over a large lit water-hole brought hundreds of Burchell’s zebra, more than fifty elephants and a gathering of springbok, and of course the ubiquitous jackals. Though we were assigned campsite number 24 we opted to change to number 17 because it appeared to have more shade. It wasn’t until we had already pitched tents and lit the braii did we discover that the camp light and power point provided to each site was not working. At five-hundred Namibian dollars (approximately US$75) for the camp site, camping in Etosha is not cheap. And while I prefer that natural light of moon, stars and candles if not too windy, Grant was absolutely furious about the lack of light and took it as a personal mission to have this injustice righted. So for an hour while we made the best of our canned chicken curry, potatoes (again) and grilled vegetables we were paid a visit by the new maintenance supervisor and the manager of the camp. There was no fixing the light so instead they brought about 100 yards of extension cord and a 80 watt light bulb atop a bamboo pole with a wobbly round base. Alas, we had light.

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The Halali water hole at sunset.

Unlike some parks where you’re confined and restricted to set safari drives, by wandering the roads of Etosha it’s impossible not to spot wildlife. But there are rules. Everyone must remain in the car unless at one of only a few designated areas which are typically fenced in and require opening a gate and riving in to safety. There are lions and leopards and the aggressive Rhinos at Etosha. Though I still haven’t spotted a leopard, they’re nocturnal for the most part, a highlight was the slow silky movement of a large lioness. Resting under a small bridge she spent a few moments lying in the sun before slinking back to her shady bridge spot. I’m sure there were other lions under the bridge, but I couldn’t convince Grant to jump out of the car to take a look. Ironically, just about 200 meters before spotting the lioness both Grant and I broke part rules in an effort to securely close the cargo door of our Toyota Condor. The endless hours of dusty roads had seized the mechanism so as we rode it rattled while the warning light glared on the dash. We reasoned that the lion either didn’t see us among the dozens of springbok, oryx and zebra wandering nearby, or was simply full from an early morning kill.

By mid day we must have seen more than a thousand zebra, hundreds of springbok, wildebeest, dozens of giraffes, impala, kudu and even ground squirrels, one of which who was in a secure area took quite a liking to a gummy fruit chew I dropped on the ground. As if those squirrels aren’t hyper and kinetic enough, with the amount of sugar in that treat, we hoped it wouldn’t have a heart attack.

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As we headed to our third and final Etosha camp we were treated to a journey of giraffes, many of which were hunkering down over a water-hole doing their best to drop their long necks toward the water pool. They look so awkward when drinking. But perhaps the best part of the day was spotting six lions napping, resting and lounging under a tree, just a few hundred meters from an old elephant who seemed to be playing with himself and another journey of giraffes.

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Oryx (Gemsbok) playing in the water.

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Springbok holding steady and in form.

Namutoni, the third camp was perhaps the nicest campsite. No jackals to bother us, but dozens of honey badgers let their curiosity get them close to camp. Worried that he’d be kept up by the noise of a half-dozen warthogs ripping grass out by the roots with their vise-grip like jaws, Jules warned Grant it might be a noisy night’s sleep. But by nightfall the badgers and warthogs were gone and the dimly lit campsite provided sky full of stars.

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