Thursday, 26 May 2016

Namibia 3, Etosha NP!

We headed into Grootfontein where we could stock up on supplies and finally buy Rob a cheap phone as he had lost his in Senegal. It was about time he got one and they had a good one on offer. Grootfontein seemed like a really nice town, but we didn't hang around as we wanted to see the 60 ton Hoba Meteorite that was just west of the town. 

We arrived and bought our tickets to see the meteorite. We wondered up the path and eventually came to this massive block of metal and rock in the middle of stairs surrounding it. At first it seemed like an ordinary rock in the centre of a circular staircase surrounding it, but when looking closely the beauty of it unfolded. The shining colours of metal and rock came alive. It was now not only a rock, but a swirling, molten like metal under my feet as I climbed on top of it. When I started thinking of how impressive this rock was, you could really take in the beauty of it. It is the largest known meteorite (as a single piece) and the most massive naturally occurring piece of iron known on Earths surface.

We then headed straight for a campsite outside Etosha National Park for the night so we could get up early and enter the park with the whole day to explore. It was called Sachsenheim Guest Farm and only 25km outside the park, so it was a good place to stop. It was extremely quiet with us being the only people at the sight, besides a very cute Labrador cross who kept us company all night. It was a old black labby that was so well fed, you could almost use his back as a table, but he was lovely and insisted on cuddles regularly. We decided to whip out the travel monopoly and it all started getting very competitive. It was great fun, but the sun soon went down so we tallied up the scores to start making some dinner. Much to Robs dismay, I won, but only just!!
The next morning we were up early ready to take on an exciting day. After a cold shower for me and hot shower for Rob (lucky bugger!), we headed for Etosha!

I was buzzing as I couldn't wait to enter and see this incredibly world famous national park that would display beautiful views of animals and the Etosha pan. We arrived at the gate and filled in our details before being instructed to go to the Namutoni Camp Site where we could pay our entry permits. It was a really quick process and learned the permits last for 24hours instead of a daily permit like most other parks which was great to hear! It was N$80 per day for Rob as a foreign visitor, N$60 per day for myself having a SA passport and N$10 per day for the vehicle. All in all about £7 a day. We were thrilled to hear it wasn't extautionate like a lot of the other parks and meant we would stay for 3 nights instead of the 2 we were originally planning on. 

Etosha is one of the oldest national parks, opening in 1907, and it was interesting to learn that the 4730km Etosha pan was originally a lake that dried up millions of years ago. The park boasts 114 mammal species, 360 bird species, 110 reptiles, and 16 amphibians. So with those odds, we were hopeful we would see some very interesting animals. 
With our permits paid for and armed with a map, bird book and animal book; we were ready! 

Within moments of entering the park we spotted a couple of steenbokkies hiding in the trees, and it was just the start of what was to come. We drove around the Fischers pan, before making our way to the Halali campsite where we would spend 2nights. Our first day in the park was fantastic and we saw loads of the usual springbok, wilderbeest, warthogs, giraffes, black-faced Impalas, Kudu's, gemsbok, zebras.... The list just continues, and don't even get me started on the birds!

That night we arrived into Halali Campsite, the name of German origin signifying within the parks borders sport hunting and needless killing of animals is over. It turned out to be a very basic setup where everyone is sandwiched in, with pitches being very close together. It was extremely busy and Rob and I discussed how we preferred the smaller parks as they felt more intimate. This large park had perfectly graded, large, gravel roads with a speed limit of 60km. People would bomb up and down those roads, and to be fair we ended up travelling faster than we would normally as the roads almost asked for it. The waterholes were often loaded with vehicles and you had to find a space where you could get a good view. But it was still an amazing experience, but was nice to compare the differences.

After boerewors and mielies on the braai, we walked to the Moringa waterhole which was beautifully lit up with a seating area to watch the game from the campsite. We sat amongst loads of tourists, mostly from Germany, waiting to see what would make our way down. After about half an hour, we heard the distinct chuckle of hyenas, which sounded incredibly close. And then a little while longer we noticed the pack of spotted-hyenas sheepishly running down for a drink. There must have been about 6 of them and they really are beautifully ugly animals! They are expert hunter who have high shoulders, sloping backs and large heads. What a privilege to see them. Unfortunately they didn't hang around for long as we all heard a rustle in the bushes. And all of a sudden a large black rhino wandered slowly, down for a drink. We were thrilled!! 

He slowly spent his time taking a drink and just enjoying chilling by the water. Then out of the corner of our eyes, we noticed another coming down, and then another. Wow, three rhinos blessing us with their presence. But, the original rhino wasn't as chuffed as us to see he had to share his watering hole and soon all hell broke loose and the two males were now having a good go at each other. Smashing their large heads and horns into each other. They were grunting and making quite a large noise, kicking up dust in the sand. This impressive demonstration of brute force carried on for ages. We were incredibly lucky to witness it!

We woke up early the next morning and waited at the gate ready to hit the road as it owned at 6:15am. We wanted to head out early in hope to see what the morning would offer us. We were soon in luck as Rob spotted two huge male lions enjoying the morning sun. They had beautiful bushy manes and wandered around showing us how huge they really were. We sat and enjoyed watching them for a while before they wandered off into the distance. Our next stop was the Rietfontein watering hole where we were once again blessed with lions. A female and a young male who was carrying around a leg and snacking on it when it felt like gave us more reason to sit back an enjoy the view. Even with the lions there we watched zebras, wilderbeest, kudu's, jackals and another rhino come down for a drink.

We spent the rest of the morning driving around seeing more animals. We even got to see a lioness with newly born cubs jumping and playing around her. They were incredibly cute with little spots on their fluffy coats. Unfortunately we were surrounded by cars and tour groups trying to get the best angle. Unfortunately the lioness was a little too far and very weary off all the fus to take a decent pic, so we decided to get out of there before getting totally trapped in by the other cars. 

We decided to head back to Halali camp where we would have lunch and hop into the pool before heading back out for a late afternoon drive. Back at the camp we watched a honey badger strategically open all the bins scavenging for scraps. It was actually a beautiful animal with fluffy paws and came right up to Rob, sniffing his legs. Everyone around us came over saying how dangerous they were and that they had a tendency to munch on men's balls for fun. Well, Rob straight away changed his mind about this animal as he thought it was really cute. Relief seemed to wash over his face as it turned around and left his balls in peace. 

After a lovely, refreshing swim and drying in the sun, we were ready to get back out there and see what else would come say hi to us. We headed back to the Reitfontein waterhole where there had been so much going on in the morning. We got there and watched all sorts of things come down for a drink, even seeing the lions we had seen in the morning. Eventually car after car arrived and we were sharing the waterhole with tour guides and rental cars. 
Eventually we noticed a red car. Now normally this would be no big deal, but in Namibia, everyone drives white cars! So far on our travels through, we have only noticed white cars or the land cruiser olive green... That is it. And now at this watering hole there was a red car, it had to be foreign! With our binoculars out we didn't have them pinned on the watering hole but on this red car. We had turned into stalkers and were now spying on these people. They had an English registration plate, we were now very excited! We gathered that as it was getting late, they had to be staying at Halali, so we would find them there and say hi.
As we drove out of the watering hole we tried to get their attention and give them a wave. They were looking incredibly weirded out at us as we frantically waved at them. 

Back at the camp site, to our amazement they came and found us. We were delighted to hear they had been following us all the way down west Africa and had been reading our blogs for info. They were called 'Can't stop for every Impala'. It turned out to be a very drunken evening as we swapped stories, forgot to cook, but not to drink; and after far too much chatting we had noticed it was 2 in the morning! The camp was quiet and dark, but we had been so busy chatting we hadn't even noticed. They are a lovely couple and we were so lucky to meet them. 

We were planning on getting up early like the day before, but unfortunately we were hanging. So it was a rather slow morning and we were only on the road after 8am. We didn't see to much and arrived into Okaukuejo Camp. Again we headed for the pool area to chill out in the heat of the day. As we were sat chilling out, a man came over and said "are you Rob?".... Weird! But he said he had been following our adventure all the way down and wanted to come wish us well. It always catches us off guard when people seem to know about us. You kind of just assume the family and friends follow us. But he was from Cyprus, and in Namibia for a short holiday. A really nice guy and we should have bought him a drink, but we were a bit shocked and taken a back. People actually are interested in our Africa experience... 

That night we went to the watering hole at the camp again were blessed with seeing beautiful animals. A lion, rhinos, jackals, giraffes and elephants all game down for a drink! It was so peaceful as we watched all the animals enjoy drinking. 
Etosha had treated us well and we absolutely loved it! It's definitely a must if you are heading to Namibia!

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