Sunday, 14th The road between Halali and Namutoni improves as we move eastward and sometimes it runs along the very edge of the pan. It is apparent how much more rain this eastern section of the Park has had. The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone that is such a summer feature over the southern tropics extends to Etosha. Huge thunder clouds silently drift about and the air is still and humid with the odd distant rumble of thunder. It does make for very attractive photographic scenes.
Approaching Namutoni mid-morning a couple of cars alert us to a cheetah lying some 50m from the camp fence.
We may only book into our chalets at 2.30pm so we spend midday exploring the camp. Of course the central feature is the German fort that was built in the late 1880’s. It is now a disused National Monument.
Etosha National Park was proclaimed in 1907 and at the time extended all the way down to the Skeleton Coast. This covered an area of 80,000 sq.kms making it four times the size of Kruger. This has since been whittled down to its present size of 22,000 sq.km, still bigger than Kruger.
Buffalo became extinct here in the 1950’s which is not surprising when considering how their numbers fall in Kruger during drought years. With no rivers, of course crocodiles and hippos are non-existent. What is surprising is that there are no monkeys or baboons – not that I miss them. There are some warthogs but not many.
This afternoon, we travel out on a small loop road close to camp – Bloubosdraai. Was it not for the white calcrete, I would think myself in Kruger Park. Beautiful trees and green grass make this a most attractive road – especially for birds. But late afternoon is not the best time for birds so we resolve to return early on Tuesday morning.
Monday, 15th On a typical Etosha morning we set off to circumvent Fisher’s Pan. Fisher was the Stevenson-Hamilton of Etosha – its first Game Warden. This pan is an offshoot of the main pan to the west and often contains water.
Beginning the circular road we spy a distant African Wildcat crossing a dry section of the pan.
Near the Aroa waterhole we hear the distinctive call of the Barred Wren-Warbler, a little bird that gave us a real run around in Okaukuejo Camp. After some patient stalking, Steven and I are delighted to photograph this difficult bird.
Approaching camp again, we find two cheetah right next to the road and such is the scarcity of traffic, we enjoy them all to ourselves.
This afternoon we travel over 30km’s northward to the Andoni Waterhole, a short distance from the northern entry/exit gate from the Park. This area really is a genuine grassland on what was once a pan. We are keen to find some special larks but are not too successful. But there is much to keep up the interest.
We also find Vultures on the ground feeding on what is probably a lion kill. There are over 300 lions in the Park but we only had the one sighting.
Arriving at the Andoni waterhole we are surprised to find the water is just pumped out onto the ground making a sizeable wetland that attracts a number of waterbirds – geese, teals etc.. This must be some strong borehole.
With the sun beginning to set, we begin the trip home in lovely evening light.
Later this evening a fierce storm breaks over Namutoni.
Tuesday, 16th Another typical Etosha sunrise.
After breakfast, we set off for Bloubokdraai loop, determined to give the birds a good go. The road may look like Kruger but the birds too are largely typical of Kruger.
We are really kept busy and have a wonderful time with these beautiful birds. I really urge those who are not really into birds to try and give them your time. They open up such a wonderful dimension in the bush.
This afternoon we decide to do Fisher Pan again but this time anti-clockwise. Ominous storm clouds are gathering and across the pan we can see a storm envelop Namutoni Camp. Soon it sweeps across the pan and we are caught in its violence with driving rain and wind buffeting the Quantum. Water is gushing across the road into the pan. As we come back towards camp and evening sun breaks through and a rainbow touches the fort tower.
I thought that I would be returning home with trademark white Etosha dust and mud covering the Quantum. Thanks to the storm the vehicle is now spotlessly clean. This, I am afraid, is our last day but before we leave tomorrow we are going to do the Bloubosdraai Loop once again.
Wednesday, 17th Bidding Namutoni our sad farewell, we are on our way at 7am. Our loop road is absolutely soaked and large pools lie everywhere.
Etosha National Park has been very good to us and Steven and I have had a fabulous time. Yes, there were little niggles but generally speaking the basics were well provided for making our stay comfortable and pleasant. But Etosha is not quite finished with us. Back on the main tarred road heading for the exit gate, Steven spies this magnificent sight at the side of the road. What a finale.
Soon we are speeding our way southward through Tsumeb, Otjiworongo, Okahandja and finally Windhoek where we overnight before Steven catches his flight home to Richards Bay. Why spoil such a lovely story by telling you about the crooked traffic cops we experienced along the way. Overall Namibia was great and we had a marvellous time.
Perhaps I should also pay tribute here to Steven, There must be very few people that one can live with constantly for 13 days without some degree of irritation. His enthusiasm, humour and good nature meant that not once was there any whiff of conflict. Thanks Steven.
The long 2,000Km trip back to Cape Town went smoothly.
I look forward very much to further travel soon. I will keep you posted.