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Self driving Namibia...the way to go!


Dave Williams

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xelas

and so to my continuing blog which is longer than I'd ever anticipated !!!

 

 

And we loved it ... the longer the better :) !

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We awoke for our first full day in Namibia to the welcoming sight of the sun beaming through a gap in the curtains. Well, it was welcoming to us anyway. Our host at the guest house explained that they

This was the day I had been looking forward to for a long time. The excitement of getting close to one of these magnificent beasts was something I would treasure forever, well provided we found one!

I have been to lots of holiday locations where there is a possibility of coming across a rather non user friendly critter but in the majority of occasions they are no threat. Here in the African bush

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xelas

The nature is always smiling on those that are smiling on the nature (or is it valid also for receptionists?!)!

Great sighting of a Black Rhino; a bit awkward to see the rhino without a horn, but they do this for good reason!

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Tdgraves

Help!Can anyone tell me why I can no longer post a copy of my blog, complete with the photos ?I can't change the font size either so makes reading a strain.

Maybe this explains why the photos are distorted in your TR and not in the big year, the difference in way you are posting them?

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Dave Williams

 

Help!Can anyone tell me why I can no longer post a copy of my blog, complete with the photos ?I can't change the font size either so makes reading a strain.

Maybe this explains why the photos are distorted in your TR and not in the big year, the difference in way you are posting them?

 

 

@ Tdgraves I'm sure it does.I copy and paste the blog entry on to Safaritalk in it's entirety. I keep the blog as my master copy as I have control of that. I have found in the past that websites have folded and taken my report with them so this is my insurance.

When I post on my Big Year I post the BBCode directly on to my entry, it only appears on Flickr and here. For the blog I need to paste the Embed code to view the pictures but that also explains why on my Big Year you can easily link on to Flickr to see the EXIF detail. On the Blog you can't.

The reason for my asking for help was nothing to do with either of those explanations though. It was a Safaritalk issue as I'd inadvertently clicked the light switch icon to off on the top left of the reply box.

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Dave Williams

We had a rude awakening on our first morning at Dolomite. The noise was deafening ! The light was barely coming through the window which I seem to remember was left with the curtains open so we could enjoy the view when we woke up. Perched up on the hillside total privacy is guaranteed !

I got out of bed to investigate and half expected something fairly large, but no, it was a pair of Hartlaub's Spurfowl

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I grabbed the camera and lay on the balcony floor to get the shot but the light was so poor I had to use the bare 600mm wide open at f4 with a shutter speed of only 1/100. The result was an ISO of 12,800 so it's testament to the camera's ability that it's possible to get a reasonable image.

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They weren't there for long but the light got a little better and with the shutter speed reduced to a ridiculous 1/40th I managed to reduce the auto-iso to 4000.

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That will do, my only sighting and a special one too.

Anyway, by the time we got down to breakfast we realised that most residents had already eaten and were on there way to wherever they were heading. Most people seem to stay as part of a tour group and they use Dolomite as a stop over on the way east. Staying for just one night is missing out on the opportunity to have a good look around the region and see what you can find . That was my plan for the day and I soon realised that there were hardly any people to be seen, the waterholes were all deserted, I had them all to myself. Well, not quite. Claire was coming with me.

While she was doing what women do.... taking ages to get ready!!..... I decided to have a go at the Swifts that were flying low and around the hillside. The 7D and 100-400 makes a lightweight easily handholdable combination but it does lack reach when you are used to a bigger lens. The light was poor too which doesn't help but the camera coped quite well.

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Photographing Swifts, Swallows and Martins in flight is one of the most frustrating pastimes you can engage in. I was pleased when Claire said she was ready to go.

We hadn't gone far when we came across a small herd of Greater Kudu which was an unusual sight, the first we'd seen since Grootberg. What a difference too, these beasts were obviously well fed.

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We sat and watched as one particular specimen decided to have a mad few minutes.

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He was half hidden behind the bush

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and he was really going for it. I haven't a clue what the motive is but eventually the Kudu moved in to the open.

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That's a better view!

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For a change there was some action to be captured, most of the subject matter had been seen either grazing, drinking or simply stood still doing nothing at all.

Moving on I decided to go straight to Klippan Waterhole. Hopefully the Rhino takes a morning drink too! If he had it was too early for us. The waterhole was totally deserted save the Egyptian Goose which now had acquired a friend too.

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Along the roadside there though we had caught sight of another Yellow Mongoose

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and very photogenic they are too.

Back to Rateldraf, another blank, even the Coursers and Zebras had gone AWOL.

Head on south to Renostervlei. My notes said mid morning best, chance of Lion,Rhino, Cheetah.

Fat chance !

The waterhole was occupied though.

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but not for long, I think our arrival had them in flight within a few seconds. Fortunately Claire was driving and I was in the back so thus able to grab a quick shot before they were off.

On to Jakkalswater then ! Here the light was supposedly good from mid morning to afternoon with a chance of Rhino, Lion and Elephants. Oh and Squirrel. The Squirrel duly obliged.

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It looked quite surprised to see a visitor too!

The viewing was poor, the light was poor, it was all disappointing. Claire was still suffering with sinusitis and feeling a bit under the weather so we headed back to Dolomite.

On the way we did get a couple of sights though.

Ostrich

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Steenbok

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but best of all our first Warthog sighting.

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A pair , the male stood looking us over for a few moments before heading off in to the bush.

This wasn't the only first though, we also spotted some Dung Beetles.

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The perfect examples of team players! They must have some strength to handle that ball between just three of them.

Another good sight was a Leopard Tortoise which was crossing the road.

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Once again we waited to make sure he got over safely. Bit daft I know but you just have to don't you?

Birdwise we didn't see too much but a moment of brightness and we had views of this Steppe Buzzard. No confusion about that one for me.

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With little else to photograph I decided to have a go at this Pale Chanting Goshawk, the most common raptor of our trip.

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The weather wasn't ideal for Claire but I have to say, it makes photography easier than in the bright mid day sun.

Back at Dolomite I went for a wander to explore the full length of the camp. I was surprise just how far it is too. The previous night I had heard a group complaining that the vehicle to take them back to their room wasn't to be seen. Now you might think that is pure idleness but in fairness I heard one lady say that they make you sign a disclaimer accepting the fact the camp isn't fenced etc, telling you to retreat and stay in your rooms after dinner from a safety point of view yet you have to walk 100m in the dark. Well, the path is lit dimly. They had a point.

Anyway, it was daylight now and the only creatures on four legs were no threat at all.

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Well not to me anyway.

There were some interesting ones on two legs though, some new species too.

Black-chested Prinia.

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Black-crowned Tchagra

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Familiar Chat

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and I'll stick my neck out on this one. Chinspot Batis.

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No black spots on the white belly?

Anyway, I also got some great views of one or two previously seen birds but these photos are better.

African Red-eyed Bulbul.

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A male Great Sparrow

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A whole flock of Chestnut Weavers

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and Dusky Sunbird too.

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Oh, I almost forgot, another pair of four legged critters.

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It wasn't sunbathing weather but it was still a magnificent viewpoint from the rocks next to our room!

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Not a bad hour or so's work. Like Grootberg before, the rocky outcrops of the small hill attract birds you might not see lower down...perhaps. Maybe they are just easier to see!

I asked Claire if she wanted to have an afternoon run out in the car but she decided to stay behind and read a book.

Off I went on my own. I decided to head straight for the distant waterholes of Jakkalswater and Okawao. One thing you need to be mindful of is your fuel supply but I had figured out I had more than enough to get me back to Okaukuejo , the nearest convenient petrol station. It's easy to knock up 100 kms just popping in and out of the waterholes.

Anyway, not far from Rateldraf I came across a parked car that was obviously looking at something. I stopped to look for myself and the driver pointed out there was an Elephant in the bushes.

I had heard one had been seen the previous day so this was great news. First Ellie of the trip! Typical luck, Claire would miss it again. I thanked the driver and complimented him on the sighting, I'd have missed it no doubt had he not been there. The Elephant was pretty well hidden.

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The other car left me to it but despite reversing backwards then forwards I couldn't get a decent shot so I moved on.

Jakkalswater first then Okawao. I'm struggling to remember which it was but I got great views of a Warthog family. Initially they were very suspicious and looked like they would make a run for it.

But after making a huge circle of the car they returned to enjoy a drink and a quick play in the mud.

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Must admit they are a favourite.

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Otherwise there was nothing except for the Squirrels. At least they were reliable .

I headed back towards Klippan in the hope that the Rhino would make another appearance at the same time as the previous evening but as I was heading in that direction I spotted something interesting.

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My one and only Brown Snake Eagle of the trip! A bit distant but doable with the 2x TC on my lens.

The next sighting would have been hard to miss!

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The Elephant had moved on and was in fairly open ground. The 100-400 lens was needed here and it just happened to be ready mounted on the 7D! That last shot was at 148mm. At 310mm it was pretty close.

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The Ellie was quite contentedly munching his dinner but obviously decided to move on.

Straight towards me!

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Now I have had an interesting experience with a rather testosterone fuelled young male Elephant in the past. Then I was with an experienced driver guide who knew what to do.

I was on my own here! The Elephant looked calm and collected but he had given me the eye! I was on his patch blocking his way across the road and he must have been no more than 20 metres away. I'd just seen him headbutt a small tree to knock it over ! Fat chance me in a tin can if he decided to push me out of his way.

I was torn between reaching for the Olympus point and shoot so as to get the whole picture but decided instead that caution was the better option.

The Elephant had already decided his next move though and luckily I wasn't part of it!

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As I moved off he crossed over behind me and proceeded to carry on with dinner.

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Quite an exciting encounter for this safari novice. My photographer's guide had mentioned that you should always have an exit plan and that is indeed sound advice.Just how near to you allow the Elephant or Rhino to approach before you action the plan though?

My final shot as taken at a safe distance with the 600mm!

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You'll notice the Elephant has a broken tusk, and in fact the other isn't too big either. Etosha Elephants suffer from a poor diet and their mineral deficient tusks are also poor as a result. Hopefully they are not worth poaching then!!

I continued on, spotting another Ellie a short distance afterwards. I wonder which waterhole they frequent, Rateldraf was easily the nearest. No mention in the book about seeing them there though.

Arriving at Klippan it was a different scene altogether. Deserted. The diversion had proved worthwhile though as I got my first ever photo opportunity for African Hoopoe.

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I had seen them earlier in the trip but too distant, this time there were three in a roadside tree.

I gave the Rhino 30 minutes to make an appearance but it was still a no show. Whilst I was sat there though I did spot one solitary bird in the far distance. Ludwig's Bustard.

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A shame it was so far away, even with my 2x TC it was still a mere dot! Another lifer for the trip though so at least I had a record.

My only problem now was going back to tell Claire what she had missed!

T.B.C.

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PeterHG

Thanks for posting these new episodes @@Dave Williams. Wonderful encounters with the rhino and the elephant! I can't wait to hear about Claire's reaction to the ones she missed ;). Your high iso shots of the Hartlaub's Spurfowl are quite amazing!

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Dave Williams

Thanks for posting these new episodes @@Dave Williams. Wonderful encounters with the rhino and the elephant! I can't wait to hear about Claire's reaction to the ones she missed ;). Your high iso shots of the Hartlaub's Spurfowl are quite amazing!

 

@@PeterHG In fairness she took it very well Peter. We had seen a Rhino at Grootberg but she was still a bit envious as this was a far superior encounter. The Elephant she wasn't too bothered about as we have seen lots in the wild in India,Sri Lanka and Kenya.

Top of my list now were the cats although I have seen Leopard several times at very close quarters, we had good views of Cheetah when we went to Kenya too but Lions , that was a different matter. I was keen to get a better view than the one we had in Kenya which was of a Lion lying down about 800m away. I know your average park tourist goes charging around looking for Lions at the expense of everything else and I have a certain amount of scorn for such wildlife watchers. The problem was I was starting to think along those lines of a "must see" species. God forbid !!!

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Dave Williams

Our stay at Dolomite was over in no time and I have to say, of all the places we stayed it was the best location. The views equalled Grootberg but the surrounding viewing opportunities were better, better still in the dry season I suspect.

My overall opinion of the place is positive. The room was excellent, OK, the one standard plug didn't work, the lights were difficult to figure out, maybe they all didn't work , but our enjoyment of the room wasn't in the least bit diminished .

The staff were fine, even if they went missing at times, they were always there when I needed them.

The food was OK, in fact other than Claire's choice of a half roast chicken which was too dry to eat, everything else was very good. The advantage at Dolomite should be that with just 40 guests to cater for food can be cooked to order. My steak was excellent and cooked to perfection.

There are two dining tents and two bars although only one bar was open. They were showing footy on the TV too! Both dining rooms had a big table for the tour groups and one or two small ones for the likes of us.

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Breakfast was self service with the exception of the orders taken for eggs and bacon. Our table was next to the window flap and true, the zip was broken and the draught came in. The previous evening the wind had been strongish but it didn't bother me in a short sleeved polo shirt. Some people on the tour table complained and were even wearing anoraks for dinner. I thought they had severely cold winters in Bavaria ? Maybe not. Anyway they were no older than this old pensioner who toughed it out easily!

Would I recommend a stay? Yes, I would. The west is worth a visit and to be honest there are not many alternatives to staying here unless you have a tent. Meals and drinks are the same at all the NWR camps. 230NR for a 3 course dinner. If the food is good enough to eat it's not expensive. However, when you look at Peak season prices our room is £300 per night including dinner. I'd think twice about that depending on the alternatives. Grootberg had better facilities on site, and better food too. We had paid £172 per night there. Dolomite must have been around £230.

Having now been I might not return, but the same applies to Grootberg too.

So far Etosha Village was winning the overall best accommodation competition by a substantial distance. Right outside the park gates, superb food, great facilities, excellent room, the best so far other than the view. How much is a view worth though? At £91 per night it worked out that Dolomite's view cost £140 and Grootberg's £80 without other considerations.

Now that is food for thought!

Anyway today we were heading to the main camp in the NP at Okaukuejo. The waterhole here is considered the finest viewing in the park. Floodlit at night, you can watch the comings and goings from a reasonably close distance, and if you have a waterhole chalet you can even nip out in the middle of the night to see if there is anything about.

I'd even packed pyjamas just in case!

First though we had to get there.

I decided to not bother with a revisit to the southern waterholes, instead taking the most direct route. I wanted to get to the next camp with plenty of time to view the waterhole in daylight.

Whilst Claire finished packing our gear I stepped outside to have another attempt at capturing the Swifts on camera.

I was amazed at the size of a moth that was on our door frame.

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It was a real stunner and as big as anything I have ever seen in the past.

This time I was going to try the 1D on the 600mm for my flight shots. Should give me better results ...if I can hold the camera outfit for long enough.

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A winning combination for sure, but the body still aches now! Mind you my hit rate was probably no better than with a smaller outfit. I deleted 200 shots to get a handful!

Ready for the off we bade farewell to Dolomite and as we were passing we nipped in to take a last look at the waterhole below the camp. A few Mountain Zebra, probably the last we would see on the trip but wait a minute... A Ludwig's Bustard was wandering off, in fact there were two of them.

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A much better image than the previous night too. That was worth the 2 minute detour.

Arriving back on the road we appeared to flush a Black-backed Jackal.

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It was the first I can recall seeing at the west end of the park but I'm sure there will be plenty.

This one posed beautifully and pretty close by too. Best shots to date!

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Not far along the road we came across another Tortoise only this one wouldn't move whilst we were there, choosing to hide in it's shell instead.

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We couldn't hang around and there was no traffic on the road, besides it was on the very edge so comparative safety.

Next stop was for a Hornbill, my second Yellow-billed one.

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but basically that was about it for quite along way. No vultures at Duineveld this time, nothing in fact as was virtually the case in all the waterholes we looked at until we got to Ozonjuitji m'Bari.

There we found all the Abdim's Storks that were moving slowly eastwards it seemed. There were quite a few Springbok about and my first decent opportunity for Helmeted Guineafowl shots.

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When we passed over the dam it seemed there was quite a bit more water than the previous time we went over the causeway, still not a lot, but the bird numbers had improved. Some new species for me too, well new for the trip anyway.

Black-winged Stilt

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and Pied Avocet

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By now the sun was pretty intense so photography was difficult again. Claire was the loser though, we always seemed to get good weather when we were travelling from A to B.

Looking in the distance though it appeared that the clouds were gathering once again.

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Although the sun hadn't shone in the west it hadn't rained on us. Sitting on the hill in Dolomite Camp we had seen storms and lightening flashes over the middle of the park. Maybe the Gods had been on our side after all.

There was evidence of standing water on the roadside, and this in an area that is very arid too.

Perfect in fact for our next little gems!

Double-banded Courser! That made three new Coursers for the trip.

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Elegant little birds the Coursers are too.

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Nearby we also spotted some more Namaqua Sandgrouse.

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both the female as well as the male of the species and so much closer than our other sighting.

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Even on a relatively uneventful day there seemed to be something new. I was still loving every minute, I was in photographer's heaven in fact.

We got to the camp mid afternoon and checked in at the reception desk. We were given the keys to Waterhole Chalet No 1. Probably the best chalet of the lot although the bigger family ones do have an upstairs and balcony view over the waterhole. We were advised to book a place for dinner as table space was limited due to improvements currently underway in the dining room. We would be eating outside which to me is always a big bonus. I requested 8.00pm I think but was advised to make it 7.30pm as rain was expected later.

Off we went to the room and again we were more than happy with what we found. The chalet rooms are semi-detached with a shared outdoor seating area outside the front door.

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Inside the room was spotlessly clean and as with Dolomite had a fridge too.

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The decor might be basic but that isn't a problem.

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The whole reason for booking is the proximity to the waterhole which was right in front of us.

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All set then I wandered over to the bench and set up camera and tripod and waited for some action.

It was quite a while before these Impala came down to drink,

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There were four in total, the same number of Springbok followed from the group behind then it all went quiet.

Over on the far side I spotted a Roller so I lugged my gear over there.

I had cracking views too

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I thought it was Rufus-crowned but as they don't occur in Namibia it had to be Purple.

Purple? Well in normal daylight it's difficult to see why but as the sun went down and shone on the front of the bird, suddenly you can see why!

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I took loads of shots, the bird was more than co-operative. Shame the sunlight was coming in from the wrong angle but that's why my chalet was my considered favourite, well for evening light down that end anyway.

I spotted four Zebra coming down to drink so I decided I would take some shots of them.

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Yes, everything was in fours! I think I probably had four beers before heading off for dinner too. There might not have been anything to look at but at least it was pleasurable just sat by the waterhole.

Unfortunately the next thing wasn't. Dinner.

Disgusting. We vowed that we wouldn't put up with that again.

The buffet was an indescribable soup, light brown in colour, it was labled Cauliflower but after several guesses Claire gave up trying. It didn't taste anything like it should do. The choice of meat was lamb or something game, kudu perhaps. It was tougher than the proverbial old boot and the accompanying vegetables the opposite. Murdered! Pudding ? Well at least there was ice cream to accompany the dried up Swiss Roll. Remember them!?

My comment about the food at Dolomite was that if it was edible it was good value for 230NR per person. It was priced exactly the same here and was a total rip off. 460NR was £30 wasted. They have a shop selling food, there are BBQ's available to use too. That would make better sense for the following evening!

Back at the waterhole it had now started to rain so we climbed the steps in to the covered viewing area. All I can say is there is no way it would pass UK safety regulations ! Still, despite the precarious entry and exit in the pitch back we still survived and didn't spill a drop of the G&T's I fetched and carried. We were told we hadn't missed a thing during dinner and in fact we didn't see a thing in the next hour or so either. Still we shared good conversation with some German guests to while away the time before eventually giving up and heading for bed.

T.B.C.

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Oh no!!!!! Day 13 tomorrow which means you're almost half way through your trip report :(.

 

When following Trip Reports I usually ask to be notified of updates weekly; not this one though....Immediately it has got to be.

 

Thoroughly enjoying it all; especially your honesty about the accommodations and meals...not to mention the superb images of course.

 

Keep going and the more details the better for me.

 

Ian

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xelas

Some interesting observation both on Dolomite Camp room and Okakuejo Camp food. We will skip both :) , for dinner there will be steaks on braai, cooked to perfection :D !

 

Now tell me about breakfast at Okakuejo; this one I have paid for already.

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Dave Williams

Despite having drawn an almost complete blank at the waterhole the previous evening I was up and out of bed and sat ready and waiting at around 6.45. It was a grey, miserable morning and still very damp after the previous night's rain.

In an hour of watching nothing came to drink and the only mammal that I saw was a grey rat that came and sat on the floor about one metre away from my bench. Pretty little thing, I think probably an Acacia Rat. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera for a confirmation shot until I returned to the room to get one once the light improved.

The damp atmosphere had no doubt brought about an insect fest. The birds were very active at this early hour and there were a couple of new ones too.

Southern White-crowned Shrike

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There seemed to be a family gathering.


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And it wasn't just insects they were interested in either. Anything that caught their attention.

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A very loud calling bird in a nearby tree gave me the run around. Constantly on the move but always well obscured I had both the movement and poor light to contend with but I did get enough to confirm the ID after some searching in my reference book.


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Chestnut-vented Tit-Babbler, another lifer! This one wasn't but at last an opportunity for a clear shot.

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I don't like man made material in my shots but hey, beggars can't be choosers!

There's a huge Sociable Weaver nest on a tree by the waterhole viewing area and they were out gathering material at an early hour.

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The light was getting better and despite it being dull, it's easier to cope with than brilliant sunshine.

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Claire had by now come to see what I'd got, and was armed with her iPad.

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I had packed a camera and lens especially for her but she seemed to prefer the iPad and iPhone. In fairness they take excellent photos and do tricks a DSLR can't!

This was the shot she took.

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By now it was time for breakfast so off we went wondering what would await us after the simply awful meal the night before. In fairness it wasn't bad at all. Self-service as was dinner, they had a decent choice and despite standing at the egg cooking station for several minutes before someone decided to do something about serving me the omelettes they produced were very good indeed but that might be because I was involved in cooking them ! Strangely, the pre-beaten egg was put on the hot plate and then I had to pick the fillings and put it on the egg. Never had that happen before but my omelette was well loaded with cheese as a result. Yum,yum!

The weather didn't look like any improvement was likely so Claire opted to come with me once again taking the wheel to leave me free for photography sitting in the back of the car.

We headed out towards Halali camp to explore some new ground beyond where I'd visited from Etosha Village previously. We did opt in to Nebrownii waterhole as it is right on the edge of the road we were travelling.

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We got some close up views of Pied Crow

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and a quick check showed the Blue Crane were still there but we didn't hang too long around as I had spent lots of time there previously. What we did notice as we drove along was the total lack of mammals, even the Springbok seemed to have disappeared.

I already knew that the waterholes at Sueda,Salvadora and Charitraub would be empty so I wouldn't be disappointed when we got there!

Bird wise though it turned in to a cracking day!

Despite being very common I hadn't taken a shot of a Fork-tailed Drongo yet so I decided I'd make an effort today.

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I also determined to try on improve on Lesser Grey Shrike

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and Common Fiscal but both are extremely uncooperative taking flight immediately you stop the car, if not before even.

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For me of course it was an interesting challenge but for Claire it was a case of responding to my requests of stop! forward a bit, backward a bit, etc,etc. In fairness she put up with it not just all day then but for many days during the trip. I'm very lucky to have such a wonderful partner in life.

The Photographers Guide said the detour road was a definite must, possibility of Cheetah amongst others. No way was our luck in for them but it proved to be an outstanding birding spot on an open grassland area that backs on to the Pan.

We came across a Kestrel sat very close to the road and this I was sure wasn't Greater Kestrel either.

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Looking around there were lots of them all sat at varying distances and some showed quite clearly I was looking at Lesser Kestrel.

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I have only ever had one possible sighting that I can recall in the past so this was special.

Some were very distant. others not quite so much so.

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This one was eating what I think was a dragonfly or similar.

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Today I was very pleased I'd decided to bring my 600mm lens because I was also using the 7D and my 2.0x teleconverter with it too. Because the light was poor you don't get the contrast but you don't get the effect of heat haze either.

Way in the distance, perhaps as far as 200m There was one Kestrel that wasn't !

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I am now convinced it's Red-footed Falcon not as I suspected Red-necked.

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The Red-footed is uncommon in Namibia hence my doubt but I have seen them in Hungary in the past.

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and they looked just like this!

Another good sighting was the only African Harrier-hawk of the trip too. Again, a long way off so my camera combination paid off again.

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We got to the end of the detour road but decided to head back again, this time to check outage Rietfontein waterhole.

Along the route we had picked up African Grey Hornbill

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what I'm sure is juvenile Large-billed lark

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and this Haven't Got a Clue Bird.

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Actually I have an inkling it's a juvenile Robin but I can't see anything vaguely similar in my reference book.

At the waterhole we picked up Red-headed Finch

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Southern Grey-headed Sparrow

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and a Whydah

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We also spotted another pair of Blue Crane somewhere along the route and they had successfully produced two young.

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and what had been really noticeable were the numbers of European Bee-eaters that were along the pan road.

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All in all a very good morning as far as I was concerned. Not so much for Claire of course but the light suited me, especially for contrasting birds like the Blacksmith Plover.

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Anyway, Claire suggested we head back to base for the time being and I was more than happy to go along with her request.

We had a plan to implement!

We had decided that there was no way we were eating at the camp restaurant again. Quite simply a waste of money.

We would self cater!!

Now the Waterhole Chalets, despite being more expensive , don't have a Braai or BBQ as it's know elsewhere. We had spotted communal ones though out near the restaurant the previous evening. We'd spoken to the ladies who were enjoying a nice dinner and had been envious!

First stop on our return to base was the camp supermarket to see what was on offer but that was very disappointing indeed.

Beware! If you intend self catering take your own food from outside the NP. The camp shops are really poorly stocked. It was lunch time but when we looked the options were so limited we decided on sandwiches! We were fortunate to buy the last loaf of bread, the last packet of margarine ( no butter) one of only a couple of packs of sliced spam like meat and a packet of cashew nuts. They had frozen meat and sausages but no vegetables. Tinned offerings were next to nothing but the good news was they had lots of beer and potato crisps! We decided to forget the Braai as it might rain and that involved possibly having to buy wood and lighting materials and it was too complicated just to cook a sausage ring. No, crisp butties it would be then!

Having taken this back to the room we later headed off for an afternoon run out, this time returning westwards to Leeubron Waterhole, as yet unvisited, which was at least occupied when we got there. Quite a few Zebra! However, I was now thinking Lion, must see! Okondeka had been very productive for others in the past. This was my last chance to visit before heading east in the morning. We'd leave it a bit later and chance our luck.

Well we had some luck on the way, that's for sure.

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Best views yet of Double-banded Sandgrouse .

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and the Courser too

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The drier terrain in this area obviously suits some better than others.

Capped Wheatear .

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but alas, there were no Lion to be seen, we made do with another Jackal.

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A cute and inquisitive youngster.

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Dinner was there to be had, several Wildebeest were at the waterhole area.

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But no hungry predators. Well, not today anyway. The signs were there though , lots of sun bleached bones were some unfortunates had met their fate back in the past.

Oh, well, never mind. We were hungry so we headed back to the camp for a picnic by the waterhole.

The sun was shining through now, that at least lifted the spirits and made the Starling by our door look stunning.

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Sitting on our bench nibbling our cashew nuts ( did they really cost £8 for 200 gms or had there been a mistake?!) waiting and watching we really enjoyed our crisp and spam sandwiches washed down with cold beers.

Shame the waterhole was completely deserted all evening!

T.B.C.

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Dave Williams

We woke up to another grey day at Okaukeujo, even the birds were quiet. The only four legged creatures at the waterhole were some Terrapins which had a Wood Sandpiper for company.

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We went to breakfast and, passing the car, I was pleased the overnight rain had given it a bit of a wash!

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Breakfast was again self service and I'd decided to be naughty and pinch some cheese slices to put in the remainder of our bread to have for supper that night. Yes, we thought best to be prepared for more of the same at Halali and if we couldn't buy anything to put in the sandwich there wasn't much alternative than to take a little extra on my breakfast plate.

Only they didn't have any cheese today.

Not only that but the sausages I had enjoyed the previous day were positively vile today as they hadn't been cooked properly. You know straight away when the skin is elastic that it's raw.

That's the problem with mass catering although it shouldn't be. This wasn't even peak season but in fairness there were plenty of guests about.

You wouldn't have guessed that though, as we left our chalet for the final time the waterhole was totally deserted on both sides of the fence.

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We loaded up the car just in time too as it started to rain.

So what do I think about Okaukuejo? To be honest in the wet season not a lot! The cost of a waterhole chalet must have been around £125 per night without dinner. Add the meal and it's £150.

Remember I'd only paid £91 per night including a sumptuous feast for both dinner and breakfast at Etosha Village. The room was superior too as were the facilities and in a more private setting. Ok, during the dry season game viewing at the waterhole might be excellent but you are paying even more then. I'd think twice on that one. I have my reservations about watching in the dark anyway. I'm not interested in taking flash shots either, not when you can see the animals in daylight.... hopefully!

I still hadn't seen my Lion!

Anyway, off we went, Claire driving again, me with my gear all ready to go!

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The weather wasn't too good at all though.

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We passed some wet and bedraggled specimens

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but I'm sure they would be enjoying it.

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When the country has suffered such a drought we were happy that it was raining too. I just hope the animals in Grootberg were getting the benefit too.

As we headed east the rain became even heavier.

We caught up with the Storks again, I'm sure they were the same flock.

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The Etosha Pan actually appeared to have some water on it although it would take a lot to make a big difference I imagine.

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The rain was grounding some birds, it was raining too hard for insects to fly.

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Made for some interesting shots though.

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They wouldn't be flying for a while either.

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There was food about though for those that hunt on or around the ground.

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I got some good views of these Prinias.

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By the time we arrived at Halali Camp it was lunch time and the place was heaving. I got the last parking spot that was close to the covered area around reception and checked in.

We had had our request for a Chalet room turned down and got booked in to a standard room instead. A mere £84 including breakfast. I had my doubts as to what lay in front but again I was pleasantly surprised. We'd been demoted from No1 at the last camp to No2 here though.


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From the outside the room didn't look much but inside it was great.

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Big room, bigger than both the other camps we had stayed in within the park and about half the price of Dolomite too.

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We might not have had the view at Dolomite but we still got a private pool!

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and in fairness the parking was very close by which is always an advantage although you had to pick your way carefully which I found to my disadvantage when I stood in an unseen puddle in my sandals.

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Looked like we'd be picnicing inside tonight. We checked out the camp shop and they had nothing much they could offer for a sandwich filling so it was crisps on their own today!

Anyway, the rain eased off so we might as well go out again and once again we came up trumps.

First we found a Golden-breasted Bunting .

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but there was more good news to follow!

A Red-necked Falcon drying out!

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It was clearly expecting flight time soon and preparing it's feathers ready for the off.

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It was only the second one I have ever seen but I soon added a third.

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We were heading to Goa waterhole, well known for Lions. Oh yeah? Not when it rains!

Poor Claire had found herself lumbered as my chauffeur once more but at least the conditions were a bit more interesting.

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In fact sometimes challenging!

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You just have to hope there isn't a hidden hole in the road. The dread of stalling in the middle was always in the back of our mind but we escaped unscathed, well almost. At some point we lost our front number plate. Must have washed off in the bow wave.

It was whilst we were driving past a shallow pool that Claire made the spot of the day, well spot of the trip in fact.

She saw a slight ripple in the water and stopped to check it out.

Amazing what appeared submarine like!

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It was a Chameleon! Claire said it was the ripple that gave it away, the colours matched the surrounding road you would not have seen it otherwise.

It made fascinating viewing. Moving at a very slow and deliberate pace . It was so close I had a depth of field issue shooting at f8 but at this speed I could increase to f22 and still get a shot, especially as it turned sideways.

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You have to give Claire the applause, not many would see one of those without a knowledgable guide.

I was so impressed I waved a passing car to stop and pointed out what to look for before driving on to the waterhole. No Lion as expected and 5 minutes later no sign of the car or the Chameleon when we got back. I guess either the Chameleon had found a quick turn of speed or the occupants of the car were not as interested as I'd been. Shame they might have been able to point out where it was had they still been there but I looked for a good while before giving up. Mind you it had probably changed colour by then so that would have helped fool me!

Driving on we came across a single Black-faced Impala which had me thinking ID for a moment as I hadn't seen one for ages.

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Turning around though it was obvious.

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Next on the list was a Groundscraper Thrush and so much closer than my sighting at Erongo,

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but what I saw next was so much better.

African Cuckoo, a first ever for me.

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It was having a good groom which makes for a more interesting shot in my book.

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Once again the 600mm, 2x TC and the 7D came in to action as it was a considerable distance away.

Delighted with the shots, and I took lots I would have settled for that for the day but it wasn't over yet.

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And it wasn't the Lesser Grey Shrike that got me excited either.

If it hadn't been for Claire's Chameleon I would have claimed spot of the trip with this Spotted Eagle Owl

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We were heading back to camp believing the day was over and travelling at a fair speed, maybe 40kph when through a narrow gap in the trees I saw something and gave Claire the usual instruction

STOP!

Only this time we had to reverse, move over to the wrong side of the road and it was on a sharpish bend too.

Still we had only seen a handful of cars all afternoon so it should be OK.

Getting a clear shot still wasn't easy though at the gap in the trees was narrow and the overhanging branches kept getting blow across my lens.

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I checked out the bird book.

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It had to be one of two choices.

Spotted or Cape Eagle-Owl. I had seen Spotted in the past when in Kenya so I really wanted it to be the other. The ones I'd seen previously had been grey in colour, this one was brown. The book showed Spotted to be Grey too, the Cape however is Brown. Spotted juveniles are Brown too but it seems but the deciding factor is the colour of the eyes.

On with the 2x TC again and wait for the Owl to open them as from a distance I couldn't decide it they were yellow or orange.

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Yellow. Oh well, Spotted Eagle-Owl is not to be sniffed at and definitely worth a beer to celebrate. In fact we would have a few!

When we got back to camp we were amazed to find hardly a car to be seen. The place was deserted.

We drove through to the parking area for the waterhole just out of curiosity to see the set up.

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It looked to have tremendous potential for photography.

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There was another couple already there but I decided there wasn't any point in hanging around and headed off to the bar. They appeared an hour later so I was able to confirm the decision was the correct one. They hadn't seen a thing.

The beers had gone down well, they were actually slightly cheaper too if I recall, maybe 26NR against 30NR at the last two camps but I might not have got that right. We were offered the menu, again 230NR for three courses but what was much better was you could order each course separately and the cost was appropriately reduced. I was tempted as crisp butties didn't quite seem like a decent dinner ! Instead we stuck with the beer just in case the food was bad. Amazingly by around 8.00pm there were still no more than a dozen or so diners. The food they were being served was cooked to order and everyone we spoke to said it was not bad at all.

We actually thoroughly enjoyed our crisp butties sat on the floor of our room so it wasn't too bad a loss.

If I was to stay within the park again, Halali would be my choice and I thought the room perfectly adequate. What I couldn't understand was why I hadn't been able to book a chalet room as there were probably no more than 40 people staying in the whole camp. Still, I saved a few rand and would happily choose the same room again too.

We were only there for the night, I wished I'd booked longer. Our next destination was outside the park gates again. A place called Emanya@@etosha . I had reduced the number of nights twice from my original plan of 7 , then 4 now 3 and I was a bit dubious about that too. They had had terrible trip advisor reports.

Too late to cancel now though or I'd forfeit the whole amount of the booking which would have been £215, I suppose at £70 per night I should expect the worst. Budget considerations as alway. Mind you the nearest lodge to them was £280 a night and way beyond what I was wanting to pay.

We would soon find out what lay ahead though.

In the meantime, sleep!

T.B.C.

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Towlersonsafari

Lovely Lesser Kestrel photo's and thanks for the info on the camps @@Dave Williams

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Seniortraveller

Really enjoying this very detailed report and the photos are superb.

This may seem a bizarre question, but does anybody know the name of the tree seen at the top of the final photo? I remember being quite taken by the beauty of the leaf pattern.

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xelas

The overall clouded sky is not appealing at all ... but it does help with colours. The rainy days in Etosha ... as much as they are a rarity, I certainly hope I will avoid them. BTW were there any problems with deep mud driving around Okakuejo?

 

The amount of birds you have photographed inside Etosha is very promising. Now my task of ID will be much easier :) .

 

While Kevin is unlucky, Adam is simply clumsy :( .

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Dave Williams

The overall clouded sky is not appealing at all ... but it does help with colours. The rainy days in Etosha ... as much as they are a rarity, I certainly hope I will avoid them. BTW were there any problems with deep mud driving around Okakuejo?

 

The amount of birds you have photographed inside Etosha is very promising. Now my task of ID will be much easier :) .

 

While Kevin is unlucky, Adam is simply clumsy :( .

 

@@xelas We didn't find too much mud anywhere but there again there hadn't been much traffic on the roads either. The worst floods were around Halali and the holes in the road would get deeper the more times they were driven through I imagine.

Grey dull skies certainly represent a problem especially when there is no light reflected in the eye of the subject. My next episode has birds on the Etosha Pan and there the light was very difficult as the white sands and water was still very bright despite the solid grey sky overhead.On the other hand bright light burns out a lot of colour so it's swings and roundabouts.

The rains seemed to bring in more birds though or maybe that was because we were driving further east and the terrain was different. I know for the first few days I was disappointed but towards the end I was still finding several new species everyday. I hope you get bright conditions, the grass is still green and the flowers still in bloom but it might be getting too late for the latter when you get there Alex.

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@@Seniortraveller it is abit hard to tell - maybe a velvet sweetberry or Thorny Elm - only guesses though.

Great bird pics thanks @@Dave Williams. Loving your TR.

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PeterHG

In spite of the dismal conditions, some very good sightings @@Dave Williams, not in the least the Chameleon? Well spotted by Claire! Your 3rd Falcon is most definitely a Red-headed one, so that leaves you with an extra tick for the Lanner, as you pointed out in the Big Year thread. Love the 'private pool' picture! I find myself looking forward to your next episode every time.

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Dave Williams

I seem to be having a problem with the next entry again, perhaps too many pictures in one got so I'll post it in smaller sections.

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Dave Williams

It was another grey start to the day in Etosha NP but it still got off to a good start. Breakfast at Halali Camp was excellent! We didn't rush to leave , in fact we enjoyed a conversation with some other guests before wandering back to pack, hand in our keys, collect the mandatory deposit and once more head off. The big difference today of course was that we'd be leaving the National Park for the first time in nearly a week.

Once again Claire took to the wheel and we headed off in a general easterly direction as eventually we would be exiting via the Von Lindequist gate.

The one thing I had so far discovered ewas that no two days are the same in Etosha. Just when you think you have seen everything there is to be seen something different pops up and if it doesn't , as a photographer I'm always looking to improve what I already have taken.

The Fork-tailed Drongo was one of the species I wasn't t happy with so when an opportunity arose once again the cry went up

Stop!

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Click,click,click!

Claire must have been getting a bit fed up but she didn't show it.

Stop!

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Click,click,click

Stop!

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Yes, I'd seen them all before and she knew it.

The next stop turned out unexpectedly though!

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A cute little Steenbok

Enjoying her breakfast and look here's her partner.

Ooops!

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We weren't expecting that and neither was she I don't think. She was eating.

He was duly rejected.

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Looking somewhat taken aback to find out they were being watched he stared at us defiantly.

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And he wasn't taking no for an answer and his dutiful wife gave in. He got his wicked way after all.

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You don't see that everyday.

We drove on and found a herd of Black-faced Impala and they offered an interesting pose.

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Better cropped perhaps?

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Suddenly they were all very alert.

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Could this be the day we get to see a big cat? Something had them on edge.

No, it was just a small group of Springbok that must have got their attention

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They must have decided not to confront the Impala head on and moved over on to the road in front of us.

To be honest I had almost given up on seeing a big cat never mind witnessing a kill.

Down towards the Pan we spotted another bird of prey. I am easily confused with their ID's but I have this down as a Hobby, Eurasian one too. The are more common than African in this part of Namibia.

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Correct me if I'm wrong.

Onwards we went until we arrived at the edge of the pan and there you can drive out on a causeway for 100m or so, just to get a different view.

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Well that's what the other car did. Perhaps they didn't notice that there were birds alongside them.

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Chestnut-banded Plover was a lifer,

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Little Stint a trip first

The light was incredibly difficult as the white sand and grey sky combined to make a featureless background wherever there was just a little bit of water.

So if you think this shot is a pile of poo who am I to disagree?

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Moving on I was pleased we had made the effort to see the view point, the second car to arrive didn't even bother coming down the causeway.

No doubt they were Lion hunting, but there again so was I now. I have always had a bit of a scornful attitude towards those who don't take the time to look at other wildlife but I was starting to dismiss things I'd seen before. Was I being considerate to Claire or was I becoming a Lion chaser!

One thing did make me cry "Stop!" though. What a brilliant spot too.

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In more ways than one. The bright Yellow was so difficult to get exposed correctly.

This tiny little bird was constantly on the move.

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It is in a class all of it's own, it looks just like a huge Bumblebee as it flies.

First it's back feathers puff up


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Then it takes off ( sorry about the quality, drove me mad trying to better it)

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It's just not suitable for flight and it veers from side to side just like a bee.


Onwards we went as we checked out five waterholes that are between the Etosha lookout and Namutoni Camp. My Photographers Guide highlight several as being excellent chance for Lions.

Instead we found a trio of Springbok at Kalkheuwel doing what Springbok always seem to be doing if they are not eating.

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Fighting! And if you are an odd number, that doesn't mean you can't join in either!

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We also came across a large herd of Giraffe wandering across a plain, there were 21 in total but I could only manage 7 in one shot!

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I must admit watching these elegant creatures is a real pleasure . They are just so beautiful. We watched in awe as they crossed over the road just years away, well some did, some decided to hold the traffic up for a while!

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It was still early afternoon and the with all the waterholes west now checked we turned left just before Namutoni to have a look at the edge of Fishers Pan. I had no intention of driving very far, just wanted a look at the waters edge.

Bingo some more new species!

Ruff

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Marsh Sandpiper

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and a decent view of Wood Sandpiper at last.

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Yes I'd check out the whole of Fishers Pan on one of the remaining two days we had in the vicinity.

TBC

Edited by Dave Williams
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Dave Williams

It was still a little bit early to check in to our hotel/lodge so we had a final look at Chudop waterhole.

There were two cars parked up! Unusual to see two both stopped!

As we pulled round the end of the parking area and drew up alongside one of them the driver indicated over to some trees.

Wow!

WOW!

WOW,WOW,WOW!

I don't believe it moment. There are two Lions there.

We moved in to a good viewing position and after 9 days of hoping here at last I got to see my first ever proper view of a Lion in the wild.

How exciting, well OK, they were asleep.

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Just like the only other Lion I saw in the wild but at least these weren't 800m away. They were actually quite close.

The sun had come out and I knew Claire would have loved to spend some time by the pool after days of rain.

"What should we do?" I asked.

"Too late now, it's 3.15pm, might as well stay and see if they wake up." she replied.

That was very generous but I know she was quite keen to see a better view too.

15 minutes passed by and suddenly movement!


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You can see his head! Best view ever!

He rolled over on his back and fell asleep again.

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At least I'd seen his legs though. Wow, those paws are big.

15 minutes again then more excitement.

He's waking up!

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He's getting up

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Flippin 'eck!

We'd been there for 30 minutes but we were still not fully prepared for the sheer size of this beast. Massive.

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Together they walked off and we were absolutely delighted we had decided to put some time in to see if we'd get a better view.

What a magnificent sight they made.

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We fully expected that they would soon be away and gone but no.

Once again we were taken by surprise.

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They were exhibitionists !

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They had walked out in to the open to full view of what was now three cars, a tour vehicle and a bus!

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I wasn't the only one taking pictures then, it did feel a little bit dodgy as my shutter count had been rattling away, still everyone in the bus seemed as amazed as we were at what we'd witnessed.

Job done then.

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It was actually a really moving scene. Here he was, the Lion King, huge and powerful showing tenderness you couldn't imagine.

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He sat down for a moment

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And when she was ready they got up together

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and walked back to their shady spot under the trees.

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What a view, they were fairly close!

Siesta time again then?

Not a bit off it, if she though she was in for a rest, he had other ideas!

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He took advantage once more!

This time she was definitely tired

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and so was he!

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This Impala must have realised

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but we didn't. This was ridiculous, would we see a kill as well?

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The Impala was showing some nerve, it turned around and came back a minute or so later too!!

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The Lions were in the mood for love not war. Lucky Impala.

Rested the two of them got up and walked out in to the open again

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Almost directly towards us.

Somehow when he dropped behind you now knew what was coming next.

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Yep!

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Got to give the boy credit though.

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Impressive stamina.

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but I was just in awe of those teeth. Once they got a grip of you it was the end, that's for sure.

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So big, so powerful, so tender.

An amazing sight to witness and one certainly worth the wait.

Enough was enough.

The Lions wandered back to their shady spot and this time we left as had everyone else by now.

It was 4.30. Time to check out of the park and head to our new hotel.

 

 

T.B.C.

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xelas

9 days of waiting ... and every minute has been paid for! Fantastic photos, and IMO the overcast sky makes the colours just more rich. The only thing missing, in that green lawn with yellow flowers, was Ferdinand the Bull :) !

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Towlersonsafari

Hurrah Lions! it is very special, getting your first good view of lions in the wild @@Dave Williams congtatulations!!

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Dave Williams

Having left the NP early we headed down towards our new accommodation booking, Emanya@@etosha booked as with most of the others through Booking.com. They'd been a bit sneaky compared to other places and taken a large deposit which they are entitled to do under the terms and conditions but they also have to refund it if you cancel before an agreed date. My original booking had been reduced from 7 to 3 days but I told them to keep the deposit as it was. The £ was falling so it saved me 10% of the price. Compared to other places in the vicinity it was really inexpensive so the thought is there must be a catch, it can't be very nice. All the Trip Advisor reports of late had suggested it was awful. Oh dear!

It's 20 kms down the tar road from the park gates but it's a dead straight road and you can travel at speed to get to the gated entrance. There you have to open and close the unmanned gate and drive a kilometre or so to the lodge itself. There you find another unmanned gate you have to open and close yourself. To me it's no big deal but to others on TA they thought it was dreadful.

We walked from the parking area to the reception office which happened to be unmanned so we carried on through to the restaurant bar area were we found some staff members.

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The lady on reception was most apologetic and wasn't in the least bit miserable as described on TA either.

She was lovely and gave us a guided tour of the facilities.

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Can you see behind the bar at the far end there is a huge photograph of Etosha Pan made up of lots of individual posters

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Some had complained that the place was falling to pieces, and desperate for some upgrading.

Pardon?

A few corners were lifting as a result of the heat. Hardly impacting on your pleasure !

Likewise, a couple of panes of glass in the building had cracks in them. I would imagine it's difficult to source replacements and it certainly wasn't something to be concerned about.

The rooms, 24 of them I think, were in blocks of three, built around an enclosed garden area.

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Inside the were nicely appointed.

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Spotlessly clean with lots of storage area and plenty of electric sockets too.

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The bathroom was huge too, my only comment was the shower floor could get slippy with shampoo.

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Ok, they don't have a fridge in the room but they do have coffee making gear. Bar prices are slightly larger than standard at 36NR I think for a large beer but it was the best we had served during our trip.

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Every one served in a newly frosted glass. Perfect!

Meals too were slightly above the norm at 290NR pp but for a sumptuous 5 course dinner.

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Well worth it and a special dining experience too. The staff were friendly, polite, professional, attentive. Just who writes those TA reports?

While we were having dinner someone turns the bed down in your room, lights a couple of candles and places a bottle of water by your bed. Nice touch.

With dinner included the price for all this was £105 per night for the two of us.

Fantastic!

It was a tough call which was the better, here or Etosha Village. Overall Emanya wins on just about everything ( including an excellent wifi signal!) but it is a longer drive to get in to the park. Whereas at the Anderson gate you have a choice to turn off the main road to Okaukuejo almost immediately, at the east gate it's another 10kms to Namutoni making a 30km drive in total, but that is the same as Etosha Village to Okaukuejo, but faster.

There will always be those who prefer to stay inside the park purely for the camp waterholes and I can understand that preference but otherwise outside is much better in most respects from comfort, facilities, privacy, and of course food. It also can work out a lot cheaper too from what I could see unless you are camping but even then I believe you pay a lot more inside than out.

For us the waterholes in the camps had been a waste of time so my recommendation for the wet season is stay outside.

To me it's a no brainer.

T.B.C

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