Wildlife in Namibia

After the warm welcome to Namibia in the Caprivi strip and at Roy's Rest Camp, it was time for our first real action in this new country. We love the wildlife wherever we go, and Namibia has one of the most famous wildlife parks in Africa, Etosha! But first, it was time to see if we can get our SIM-card registered and to fix something that had broken on the road through hell in Kafue. 

We left Roy's Rest Camp at 7.30am, before breakfast and we drove to a town called Grootfontein. We headed straight to the MTC shop and to our pleasure we saw no line. Inside, there were only a few people waiting, so we had high hopes that we would at least get our SIM card activated today. However, this is Africa, so we did not expect to be done in half an hour, and we were right. 

The process could definitely have been more efficient. There were three counters and people had to go each counter one after the other. While someone was being helped at the first counter, counters two and three had no customers while they waited for counter one to finish. Image, there are ten people sitting in front of you doing nothing, but you can't be bothered at all. For about ten minutes we were all waiting in the line, with two empty counters. Then finally, the person at counter one was done and she could proceed to counter two. This meant we could all move ahead one chair, as the line was a sequence of chairs, ensuring nobody could cut the line. Fortunately, we have become very experienced in waiting as a result of our time in Kenya. After about an hour, it was our turn and before we knew it, we had passed all three counters. Our SIM cards were registered and activated and we were ready to go. We bought a quick breakfast at the supermarket and we were on for our next stop.

When we were driving through Kafue, Jeroen tried to pick up the binoculars a little too enthusiastic and it fell and broke. It should be fixable, but that can only be done in the Netherlands. We were not looking forward too much to spending our time in Etosha without working binoculars and we were not able to find some binos earlier. We tried our luck at a CYMOT, a huge store mostly meant for outdoors and cars. In this store we bought an extra fuel container, just to make sure we don't run out, a tyre pressure gauge and there was one set of binos with good specs (10x50). The binos cost an equivalent of €60, so we did not expect too much of it, but it was the only one we could find and this would be better than nothing. After filling the fuel tank, we were off to the Etosha area. 

Since we read some bad things about the campsites inside the Etosha park, we had decided to spend two nights in a neighboring private conservancy, Onguma game reserve. The campsite was really nice and there was a beautiful swimming pool, restaurant and shop. We set up our camp and headed into the pool. We quickly learned again why you should never go anywhere without your camera. There were many beautiful birds in the trees around the pool and inside the swimming pool, we suddenly saw a tiny terrapin. Although they are good swimmers, this little one was unable to get out of the pool, so we decided to save it and put it in the grass. 

It was a nice place to try out our new set of binoculars and we were amazed by its quality. The sharpness is very good and the depth of field is beautiful. Really happy with the new binos, we decided to get the camera to photograph some of the weavers, building their famous nests. On the way, we saw a beautiful huge tortoise on the road! Just like at Roy's camp, we absolutely loved the wildlife we could see at our camp grounds. 

The next morning we went for a game drive. Not just a game drive, this was a game drive to celebrate Jeroen's birthday! We shared the open vehicle with 2 Dutch couples who were on holiday in Namibia. The game drive was a great way for us to get introduced to many of the birds in Namibia, and towards the end of the game drive we believed that we also made the other Dutch couples enjoy watching birds as well. Other than birds, the game drive was not too spectacular. We saw some lions and many different antelopes. The most special thing for us was the landscape, which is very different from any of the other countries we have seen. The sand is whitish and the flora is mostly short bushes. After the game drive, Emma had to buy the bird book for Southern Africa, to make sure she was not missing any of them.

After this very nice game drive, we went back to the camp to enjoy a typical Namibian breakfast with porridge and go into the swimming pool again. We brought our camera this time and we are very happy we did. We were lying down, relaxing a lot, when we suddenly heard a strange noise below us. From under the sunbed came a small face; banded mongoose! Before we knew it, we were surrounded by banded mongoose. They drank from the pool, hopped around and played. We watched as they made the pool area their own. We tried to make nice photographs, but they came so close that the camera was even unable to focus. One of the little rascals even tried to steal the camera! This was definitely the highlight of the day. 

The next day, we left early to head out of Onguma and into Etosha National Park. It is always nice to explore a new national park with our own car, but we quickly regretted it. The day started out well. We went into the park, paid our park fee at one of the lodges closest to the gate and headed in. We saw some amazing wildlife on a few open plains and before we knew it, we were eye to eye with two big male lions. We quickly turned around, as they were moving. We tried to park ahead of them, to make sure they walked towards us. Unfortunately, that is when we suddenly heard a very loud screeching noise. After some listening, it was clear that it came from one of the front brakes. There was no way to check this, as we were about 50 meters from the lions and we could still see them. No option to get out, lift the car and check the brakes. 

We decided to adjust our game viewing strategies to fit Etosha, also driving from watering hole to watering hole, although we definitely prefer the way we do our game viewing in Kenya, slowly driving around and spotting game everywhere. Unfortunately, the speeding cars result in highly corrugated roads. The state of many of the roads are disgraceful and it is terrible for the cars. Most tourists don't mind, as they drive in rented cars and do not have to mind the maintenance of the cars. For us, it is a whole different story. Driving slowly because of the roads, not seeing many animals due to the limited number of watering holes we could visit, we were quite bummed by the Etosha experience. We expected not to see too many animals because of the rainy season, but the state of the road took away much of the fun. 

We decided to head back to the entrance. The camp we had booked was still 90 kilometers away, so the best option was turn around and try to check the breaks at the camp we had passed earlier. The screeching sometimes got worse and sometimes it disappeared. After all the issues we had had before, we were really bummed by this. As we had almost reached the entrance, we went over a small bump and heard a noise as if something fell. From that moment, there was no more noise. We decided to try our luck and just head to our campsite, expecting that it was just some sort of stone that had gotten stuck. 

One of the things that we noticed in Etosha, is the driving speed. We are used to a maximum of 40 km/h in national parks, but the maximum here was 60 km/h. Quite fast, and definitely not ideal for game viewing. We quickly learned why this was, though. Etosha is a very large and dry area and the animals are mostly concentrated around watering holes, especially in dry season. Because of this, game viewing here is mostly either driving from watering hole to watering hole or picking one watering hole to stay there for a longer period of time. Because of this, cars drive fast and the game usually stays away from the main roads to avoid the speeding cars. 

Fortunately, due to a wrong turn (Jeroen has not gotten better at navigating), we ended up at our dreamed sighting: a watering hole with elephants! At the aptly named 'Olifantsbad', we saw elephants, kudu, springboks, impalas, a lost ostrich and wildebeest drinking. This was what we had been hoping for. Finally having found a good watering hole, we decided to stay here, until the heat became unbearable. We spent some nice time here and headed for our camp site. 

The camp site was something far from what we had experienced before. This was definitely built for mass tourism. There were many camp sites close together and a lot of them had campervans. Apparently there was a giant group of German tourists, all in the same kind of campervans. Looking at this, hearing the German and Dutch languages all around us, it felt like we had arrived at a camp site in France. We had booked a cottage room, to make sure we could leave quite early the next day without having to pack our tent. 

Just before going to bed, we decided to have a quick peek at the watering hole at the camp site. As Etosha is famed for having many watering holes, all the camp sites have their own watering holes as well. It is when we arrived at the watering hole of our camp site when the magic happened. 

At our arrival, there were a few springboks and one beautiful black rhino. We watched as the rhino drank and left. Then, we heard some strange noises coming from the other side, and another black rhino arrived. With some extra noises, we suddenly saw yet another rhino. The two new rhinos took some time to slowly greet each other. Their 'hug' was one of the most beautiful things we had seen on our trip so far. We spent some good time watching as the 3 different rhinos came and left again. This made up for all the bad roads we have crossed in Etosha. Unfortunately, the scene was not ideal for photography, so we mainly enjoyed watching. We did try something new, using the light in the reflection of the water to get some silhouettes. 

The next day we checked out early. We had a long way through the park towards the exit. This way, just like in Kafue, we were able to see a lot of the park. But first, we decided to have a look on the Etosha salt pan. The vastness of this salt pan is extraordinary. We were the first ones to arrive and had the whole lookout point to ourselves. Another car approached and when we heard them proposing to take a picture of us we recognized the accent: Dutch people. Another car arrived and: Dutch people. Funny that the people trying to visit the salt pan early in the morning were all Dutch. After some pictures, we continued our way to the exit. On the way, we planned to stop for lunch at a campsite called Okaukuejo. This was probably the campsite where Jeroen stayed 13.5 years ago on the trip through Namibia, Botswana and Zambia. This was still a long way to go though. On the way there, we did not see too many animals. There was one hyena, and that was about it. 

When we arrived at Okaukuejo, nostalgia kicked in. This was definitely the campsite where Jeroen stayed at 13.5 years ago. We had lunch and went to the watering hole. The watering holes at the camp sites have a roofed theather where you can sit and watch the animals. As it was the middle of the day, it was super hot. We decided to spend some time at the tribune, watching the watering hole. A giraffe came to drink, as well as some springboks, impalas and a whole herd of kudu. These watering holes are some nice treats after having survived the extremely corrugated roads of Etosha. 

When we went back to the car to get our camera and new binos, we found that we had a puncture in one of the tires. Nice, again some car troubles. Fortunately, this should be an easy fix. We have a spare wheel and we are able to change it ourselves. Unfortunately, we did not have anything to secure our car, once it was jacked up. We asked at the reception of the campsite and they called someone to help out. 

Instead of bringing a jack stand to change the tire, the mechanic drilled a screw in the tire. This should get us to our next rest camp, just outside of the park. Somehow we have always been very lucky when it came to car troubles. Every time we were just outside a town with a mechanic and this time our overnight camp was right next to the a tyre station that fiesx all the tires that did not survive Etosha. Apparently, we are not the only ones. Although it was already late on Sunday afternoon, the friendly tire mender still helped us out and about half an hour later, the tire was patched. No new tire needed (yet) and no big new investments. From now on, we would have to keep an eye out on the puncture though, as it might burst if it starts to tear. 

The heat of Etosha and the new car issues (now we don't only have to watch the steering, the temperature gauge, the brakes and the suspensions, but also the tires) have taken their toll. We have become tired and we feel like just calling it quits, although we are so close to reaching the African west coast. 

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