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YoYo182

A wildlife photographer's trip through Etosha

 

Background

 

Towards the end of May 2018, Mrs Y and I embarked on our 3rd trip to Namibia, having visited first in June 2013 and again in June 2015.  As keen wildlife photographers, we would, as twice previously, be spending the majority of our time in Etosha National Park.

 

For this trip we had scheduled 2 nights at Na'an Kuse Lodge situated just 40 minutes from Hosea Kutako International airport and 17 nights in Etosha.  We chose Na'an Kuse for its proximity to the airport.  On our previous trip in 2015, we had booked Frans Indongo Lodge for our first overnight stay. The lodge was excellent but a 3 hour drive was at the very limit of my driving stamina straight off the Frankfurt Windhoek flight, so this time we opted for something much closer.

 

For our photography, we took the following equipment…

 

Me: Canon 1DX , Canon 100-400L f4-f5.6 usm mk2 with Hoya Polariser

Mrs Y: Canon 1D mk4, Canon 100-400L f4-f5.6 usm mk2

2 x smartphone cameras

 

Neither of us took a tripod, all shots hand held or rested on bean bag..

 

Although we both know our way round a DSLR camera, neither of us would consider our self to be technically outstanding.  Like most, our busy lives prevent us getting out with our cameras as much as we would like or need but we enjoy both taking shots and although to consider it tracking or field craft would be pushing it somewhat, we relish the searching and the rush one gets when finding the wildlife.

 

Likewise, we both know our wildlife reasonably well but certainly not comprehensively and whilst we endeavour to get anything we are uncertain of identified through reference books and on-line forums, I apologise for any mistakes. 

 

Photos from our trip can be found with those from previous trips in my Flickr Namibia album.  Mrs Y's photos can be found here.

 

The trip was planned as previously approximately 1 year in advance.  This was to help guarantee the lodges in Etosha in the order and for the duration we wanted. As before, we used the excellent Cardboard Box to arrange accommodation and car hire through Avis.  We always contact Allison at Cardboard Box as she has been nothing but outstanding in organising and answering our many questions.

 

I also followed the excellent Trip Advisor Namibia forum for several months leading up to our visit.  So many thanks to all the contributors who took the time to respond to queries which helped in our planning and organisation. 

 

 

Wed 23 May to Thu 24 May - our outbound journey and Na'an Kuse lodge

 

We arrived successfully at Frankfurt airport from the UK.  Unfortunately, the monorail had a fault and could only take us to terminal 1 hence a very long walk to terminal 2 with heavy camera bags.  Every moving travellator was running against our intended direction so we arrived at terminal 2 somewhat flustered and sweatier than one would like to just before a long haul flight.  At least we would only be sitting next to each other!

 

The 10 hour flight from FRA to WDH was straightforward although we were called to desk at FRA just before boarding to confirm that our luggage from UK should be transferred to the WDH flight.

 

WDH immigration took about 35 mins to get thro but no problems.

 

We hired a Nissan xTrail 4x4 car from the Avis desk inside the terminal. We had opted for as comprehensive insurance as you can get but were slightly disconcerted to be warned that said insurance didn't cover us for any undercarriage damage e.g. grounding or hitting potholes hard.  This is the first time I had come across this exclusion and wondered if the late rains in Namibia were playing a part with vehicles being returned damaged through rougher roads.  Anyway, we were thankful for the decent ground clearance that the Nissan offered.

 

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Our Nissan x-Trail rental

 

After a very quick briefing from Avis, we drove very tired to Na'an Kuse Lodge which was about 40 mins away.  The staff were very friendly and helpful.  We were able to get breakfast and our room 2 hours early.  On the evening the food was excellent. My medium rare Oryx was particularly superb.  Being vegetarian Mrs Y often struggles to get decent meals on our trips abroad but she was very happy with vegetarian options offered here.  We did not bother with an activity today as we were too tired but managed to wile away the rest of the day by the pool, taking breaks from the relentless sun by photographing the many lizards and rock hyrax.

 

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Agama Lizard Na'an Kuse lodge.

 

 

Friday 25 May - Na'an Kuse Lodge

 

Today turned out to be one of those days on a trip where, despite it not being the main trip destination, it throws up an entirely unexpected and incredible highlight.  The previous evening we booked an early morning walk with a Caracal.  A large group next to the desk had just booked the cheetah walk so we decided caracal might give us a smaller group and better photo opportunities.

 

Apologies to the guides if I have got your names wrong but we were met by Nian and Jonus who took us to a remote setting where Misty the caracal was waiting.  As it turned out, we were the only two booked on what transpired to effectively be a private tour. 

 

Misty is the offspring of a captive mother who was impregnated by a wild caracal who managed to break into her enclosure.  Unfortunately Misty's mother was electrocuted in a freak accident.  Na'an Kuse are quite strict on etiquette when in close contact with their animals, insisting that they should not be stroked or petted and not be framed with humans in photos (not our intention anyway).  However, Misty has her own rules and greeted us with a cat head butt to our shins before loping off to survey her surroundings.

 

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Misty the caracal, Na'an Kuse lodge

 

 

Great, we were getting superb photo opportunities of a very elusive creature in soft golden morning light in natural surroundings.  Then, after a few minutes, Nian got a little nervous that Misty might stray too far (she had previously run away and went missing for 3 weeks until found strolling down one of the reserve's tracks) so he tried to put a collar on her. 

 

Oh no, we both looked at each other, that would be the end of any more natural looking shots. But to our relief Misty was having none of it so he gave up.  She then continued her exploration, climbing trees, stalking horses and even climbing on to our Jeep.  What a morning!  Thank you Misty.

 

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Misty saying take me home now, I'm hungry for my breakfast.  

 

On the evening we opted for the Sundowner drive.  We were joined by a nice South African couple who were coming towards the end of an epic month-long trip through Namibia.  They were surprised that we had come to Namibia only to spend almost our entire time in Etosha.  I too have contemplated this on many an occasion and from the Trip Advisor forums I know that there is beauty and wildlife to be found throughout Namibia but I think that this is something we'll do when we retire and can spend even longer in this fantastic country.

 

We did not see too much on the drive other than a few giraffes and a lovely sunset.

 

 

Sat 26 May - Etosha, Halali camp

 

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Map of central and east Etosha camps and waterholes.

 

This morning we set out for Etosha, namely Halali camp.  We had read the TA forums for journey times and of course had a reasonable idea from our previous trips but were still slightly concerned at making  Halali before sunset from a starting point much nearer the airport than before.  So, a quick breakfast, settled the bill and an early 7.20am getaway. 

 

We made good time stopped for 35mins shopping at Otjiwarongo. Here we were greeted by one of the security guys to mind our car.  Mindful of our expensive camera equipment in the car I agreed to pay him on return.  On previous trips one of us had always stayed with the car but with the camera bags in the foot-wells behind the front seats, and with privacy glass, I thought the risk was minimal.  No problems encountered other than the smallest notes I had were 20 Rand.  I gave him 40R for his services even though I had read that 5-10R is the norm.

 

We continued on averaging about 100kph and reached the Andersson gate at about 1.45pm, so any nervousness about making Halali in time had been misplaced.  This gave us time to slowly work our way through the park to Halali, taking in Gemsbokvlakte, Sueda, Salvadora and Rietfontein waterholes.  Nothing of note found. 

 

The Champions League cup final was being shown in the bar on the evening so I snook out for a beer and managed to watch the first half at which point I was so tired I decided to return to our lodge. 

 

 

Sun 27 May  - Etosha, Halali Camp

 

Though not pre-planned, we were first out of the gates at sunrise.  However, before we reached the turn towards Rietfontein, we were overtaken and left in a cloud of dust by a Land Cruiser and another 4x4.  They however were travelling too quickly to notice the bat-eared foxes just west of Halali.

 

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Bat-eared fox, just west of Halali.

 

During the rest of the day we encountered a nice but distant martial eagle at Goas waterhole, a yellow mongoose and a mother and calf black rhino at Halali's Moringa waterhole. 

 

 

Mon 28 May  - Etosha, Halali Camp

 

Today started with a little cloud cover and may have contributed to a slow morning.  Goas nothing, Hartebeest Drive nothing.  We stayed at Nuamses for 1.5 hours where we encountered two hyena and a busy sparrowhawk trying to take a pair of blacksmith lapwings who seemed too wily for his strategy. 

 

Nuamses is one of my favourite waterholes.  It is situated at the end of a fairly rough track which probably puts some cars off driving to it and therefore you often get sole access for long periods.  It is picturesque, has wildlife approach from all angles and the high rim blocking the view beyond means you can be surprised by a nice encounter at any moment.

 

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Nuamses waterhole

 

What happened just before lunch was both a high and a great low of our holiday.  We were heading back to camp for lunch but chanced  a quick visit to Rietfontein.  We noticed a couple of large tour buses parked side on just inside the track entrance.  After a bit of manoeuvring we got to a point where we could just make out the top of a leopard's head.

 

Wonderful, our first big cat encounter in Etosha this trip.  We just had to be patient and let our tummies rumble for a while to see if he moves.  Sure enough he got up and walked across the entrance track.  By now there were several vehicles all jostling for position but we managed to get a few shots away albeit from a difficult angle. 

 

Then a 4x4 followed him up the little side track by the entrance, which prompted one of the large coaches to do the same.  Fair enough, the bus occupants were getting point blank shots of a beautiful leopard.  However, the bus positioned itself in a way that blocked the increasing number of cars from seeing anything at all.  10 minutes passed, 20 minutes, 30 minutes and the bus still did not allow any other traffic to get a look in. The leopard then got up and walked away.  The bus finally left with the driver triumphantly punching the air with both hands.  I too raised a hand to him but mine had a middle finger raised.

 

Ok, I understand that this meant a good pay day for the driver but there was a distinct lack of etiquette which we had experienced before in Yala, Sri Lanka, Masai Mara, Kenya but not in Etosha.  Hopefully this was more an exception than an increasing norm.  Anyway we were somewhat compensated by a fly-by from a lovely tawny eagle.

 

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Leopard at Rietfontein.

 

The afternoon offered giraffe and kudu at Rietfontein, a distant rhino sighting and two african harrier hawks at Homob.

 

 

Tue 29 May  - Etosha, Halali Camp

 

An interesting morning with spotted hyena just west of camp.  We also got black rhino and 3 distant rhino on one of the less popular roads (I won't be too specific).  Nuamses provided a nice herd of kudu and as we sat waiting I glanced in the side mirror and there standing not more than 20ft behind us was a large bull elephant.

 

As we returned to camp we had quite a shock when a 4x4 coming out of camp must have mistaken the dirt track for Monza and took the Curva Parabolica so fast he could not hold his side of the road and forced us to swerve nearly of the track to avoid an accident.

 

We also got distant honey badger just west of camp and Giraffe at Goas. 

 

The afternoon gave us a magnificent martial eagle drinking at Goas and more bat-eared foxes just west of camp. 

 

 

Wed 30 May  - Etosha, Halali Camp

 

Even before we got to our first waterhole this morning we came across a martial eagle just before Goas. Not staying long at Goas we pushed on to Springbokfontein where we saw a hyena family on the plains, the mother ushering her two young to a more comfortable distance and shade upon seeing us pull up.

 

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Spotted Hyena mother and cub, Springbokfontein.

 

Further on we saw four elephants at Okerfontein detour and a white rhino (location not to be disclosed).  Later we came across a greater kestrel in a tree at the fork towards Ngobib detour.  We got them here on our last trip and although a little more skittish this time, we managed to get a few shots away.

 

Today must have been rhino day as we got another white rhino in the afternoon. The Salvadora loop, which was so productive in 2015, once again was very quiet.

 

 

Thu 30 May - Halali Camp to Namutoni Camp

 

Today we would leave Halali and move on to Namutoni camp for the next 6 nights.  Although we had passed through Namutoni and visited Fischer's Pan on previous trips, we had never actually stayed at this camp.  We added it to our itinerary this time hoping that getting to the waterholes at an earlier and later time than possible from Halali, might throw up some different opportunities.

 

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Taken from Namutoni tower looking towards Klein Namutoni.

 

Well, we got off to a great start with a spotted hyena with a kill.  There was a huge herd of wildebeest approaching them but strangely, some of them did not follow the main group which diverted round the hyena.  Instead they headed straight for the diners and halted a few yards from them.  I was wondering if the kill was actually a wildebeest.

 

One of the hyenas lost its nerve and walked away from the carcass and put a little distance between itself and the wildebeest.  The other however decided it would not give up its possession so easily.  Then, suddenly one of the wildebeest charged the Hyena at full tilt for several hundred yards.  This is the sort of animal interaction that you come to safari destinations for.  What a treat for us, not so much for the hyena.

 

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Wildebeest charging spotted hyena, Springbokfontein.

 

Onwards to Chudob where there were so many vehicles we had to wait our turn to get a view.  Usually the sign of a big cat or a more elusive creature we were anxious to see what was going on.  Alas, we finally got our turn at the waterhole to find dozens of giraffe, warthog and kudu.  It was simply just busy.

 

Just before lunch at Namutoni we popped in to Klein Namutoni where we discovered spotted hyena on a kill just beyond the waterhole.  They were being mobbed by dozens of vultures. 

 

After lunch we returned to Klein Namutoni.  Here we saw an adult giraffe lying prostrate next to the waterhole.  I thought it had been killed as another giraffe kept walking up to it, looking and then walking away.  However, after several minutes, the giraffe sprung up as if stung by a bee or something.  I had never witnessed this before but perhaps somebody can tell me if this is common behaviour, especially in the heat of the day.

 

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Giraffe resurrection at Klein Namutoni. 

 

We headed on to the Fischer's Pan loop.  Seeing it with water was a first for us.  Coming a few weeks earlier than on previous trips and  the late rains this year afforded us a different perspective of the Pan.  We also spotted tortoises on rocks in the waterhole at Twee Palms.  Chudob was sprawling with guinea fowl and more giraffe. 

 

 

Fri 31 May - Namutoni camp

 

Our first night's sleep in our lodge at Namutoni was interrupted by a faulty toilet flush constantly emptying and re-filling, making a somewhat loud noise on each cycle.  I had reported the fault to reception the previous day when we first moved in.  They sent a maintenance guy round who temporarily fixed it but said they could not get the parts from Italy any more to do a permanent repair.

 

So before leaving for our morning safari I arranged with reception to change rooms when we returned for lunch.  The morning drive was an anti-clockwise journey round Fischer's Pan.  Just as we approached Twee Palms we spotted a Tawny eagle fly into a tree just a few hundred yards in front of us.  Wow, he stayed there as we approached, giving us a nonchalant glance and allowing us to photograph him in lovely golden sunlight.

 

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Tawny Eagle near Twee Palms

 

We continued on to Klein and Groot Okevi where we encountered a large number of vehicles.  After waiting a while we eventually managed to find an opening for our car and managed to just make out the head of a male lion, albeit too far off and too obstructed to get any photos.

 

At lunchtime I went back into reception to get the keys to our new room.  Unfortunately the staff had changed from the morning shift and I was greeted with a surly "eets feexed".  I said that we had been advised that it could not be permanently repaired but again I was met with an even sterner "eets feexed".  Ok, I said, we'll see. 

 

Sure enough, on checking the toilet again it was clear that the flush just wasn't working properly.  Mrs Y took a video on her phone to show the fault and we returned to reception. The surly receptionist was attending to another guest but I noticed her sheepishly look over when I announced that the flush was still broken and I insisted on a change of rooms.  

 

In the afternoon we returned to Groot Okevi to see if the lion(s) had moved but we did not find them.  We repeated the Fischer's Pan loop and got some great black shouldered kite sightings.  Twee Palms offered up giraffe, kudu and elephant. 

 

Onto Klein Namutoni where one of the hyenas on the kill came towards the waterhole carrying a huge bone.  We watched as he lay the bone near to the edge of the water and cooled himself down and drank.  The unguarded bone drew the attention of one of the vultures which prompted the hyena to grab it and wade through the water past a few unimpressed elephants. 

 

On seeing his intended route I quickly drove the car towards Dik Dik Drive to  intercept.  It proved to be a good move as we were able to get some good shots although I hadn't had time to position the car properly for the sun.

 

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Hyena with bone.  

 

 

Sat 1 June - Namutoni camp

 

The Nissan xTrail was proving itself a capable car over some of the rougher stretches of track.  It was coping better than the Hyundai iX35 that we hired in 2013.  It obviously wasn't as adept at ironing out the potholes and washboard gravel as the Ford Ranger in 2015 but that car had one drawback, namely we were told on collection not to use the boot as the seals were not good enough to keep out the dust!

 

However, one thing had niggled us about the Nissan from the offset. There was a loud rattling sound coming from the rear over rough surfaces and we were concerned that this was having the effect of scaring some of the more nervous wildlife as we stopped to photograph them. 

 

Earlier in our trip I had checked the exhaust mountings which I thought was the most likely cause but they seemed pretty solid. Eventually I discovered that the jack which was mounted behind a plastic panel on the left hand side of the boot had worked itself loose and was hitting its metal stand.  I re-positioned it but again it worked loose very shortly afterwards.  So, with no tea-towels in stock at the Halali camp shop, I decided to use underpants to wedge the jack more solidly to its mounting.

 

Anyway, it seemed that my improvisation had worked until this morning's drive proved the opposite.  As a final resort I removed the jack completely and stored it under the front passenger seat.  But I would like to apologise to anyone who subsequently rented our vehicle if they had to use the jack which has had a close relationship with my Calvin Kleins!

 

This morning we headed to Kalkheuwel via a quick check at Koinachas and the Doring Draai loop.  We stayed for over an hour at Kalkheuwel but only got a mass of guinea fowl, a few zebra and a prowling jackal.  So, our gut feeling was that we weren't going to get much here for a while so we made the impromptu decision to carry on the Ngobib. 

 

Wow, what a great decision.  Just half a kilometre along the Ngobib detour road we came across a young lion cub and two lionesses.  The one lioness quickly ushered the cub from the track into the bush but still in sight.  We had 15 minutes of sole access to the three cats before deciding to leave them in peace.

 

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Lion cub on the Ngobib detour road.

 

The remainder of the morning provided us with a martial eagle at Rietfontein on the bare tree to the right just as you come into the car park. 

 

Later in the day we found a huge herd of zebra and two elephants at Tsumcor, a waterhole on the King Nehale Gate road and one we had never previously visited.  We got more elephants at Twee Palms before retiring to camp.  Here we took a walk up to the Namutoni water hole.  What a disappointment.  The viewing platform is too low to see almost anything, a lot of the waterhole is obscured by large reeds and it is positioned so you are looking straight into the sun for much of the day.  It could have been so much better had a little thought gone into it.

 

 

Sun 2 June - Namutoni camp

 

This morning we paid quick visits to Klein Okevi, Groot Okevi and Koinachas but found nothing there.  Pressing on to Chudob, we found two spotted hyena drinking in beautiful golden sunrise.

 

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Spotted Hyena at sunrise.

 

At Ngobib we happened upon lots of tour guide vehicles on detour road about 3km from whole.  We new that they were on to something good but could not quite make out what until we suddenly spotted a cheetah strolling on the south side of the track.  He crossed the road and jumped onto base of a tree presumably to get his bearings or look at today's menu.  We were close for shots but unfortunately straight into the sun.

 

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Cheetah at Ngobib detour.

 

At Kalkheuwel we got a large herd of Zebra.  I always find their uneasy alliance interesting.  They necessarily keep together for safety but jostle, bite, kick and fight as if they have the shortest tempers in the animal kingdom.  This does however throw up some good photo opportunities…..

 

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Zebra fighting at Kalkheuwel

 

We concentrated on Fischer's Pan in the afternoon and got kestrel and a goshawk on a termite mound when we left the pan for a quick visit to Chudob.

 

Mon 3 June - Namutoni camp

 

Ngobib didn't produce anything for once and we only got a distant tawny eagle and a sparrowhawk at Kalkheuwel.

Our last trip of the morning gave us a beautiful lanner falcon on the Pan Drive.

 

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Lanner falcon on the Pan Drive.

 

 

Our afternoon was dominated by a distant sighting of a cheetah lazing under a small tree on the opposite side of the track between the east and west entrances to Chudob.   We waited over 4.5 hours getting the odd glimpse of his head as he re-positioned himself. 

 

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Cheetah gets up after lengthy sleep under tree near Chudob.

 

Cars, tour buses and jeeps all came and went, still he continued to doze.  Then, out of nowhere, four Zebra walked towards him unaware of his presence.  Wow, we thought, this is sure to get his attention and maybe we might even see an attempted kill.  The first zebra walked within a few yards without noticing him but we did not see the cheetah stir. 

 

The second must have caught wind of him and gave a startled jump.  This caused the cheetah to look up but that was it.  The remaining two zebra walked nonchalantly past.  Ok we said, it's baking hot in the car, if the zebra didn't get his attention, he's not ready to move for a long while to come, so we decided to move on.  But just as I started the car, as fate would have it, he got up, stretched and started walking east.  We quickly drove to Doring Draai to intercept and get him with sun behind.  As it was nearing sunset, the light was great and we got a super cheetah sighting.  Well worth our patience in the end.

 

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Cheetah approaching Doring Draai loop.

 

 

Tue 4 June - Namutoni camp

 

Our morning strategy was to try Koinachas and Fischer's Pan to see if the cheetah from yesterday evening had continued eastwards.  Alas, no luck!  We did get jackals sleeping in good light, two distant secretary birds on the top of a tree and a yellow mongoose on a termite mound.  Again, lots of black-shouldered kites on the trees around the pan.

 

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Black shouldered kite Fischer's Pan.

 

At the western entrance to Chudob we found a family of banded mongoose emerging from the white concrete signpost.  Perhaps this was their den.

 

We decided to lunch at Klein Okevi where a gabr goshawk tried to do the same first with a dove and then a flock of small birds.  We were more successful!

 

In the afternoon we did a circuit of Fischer's Pan without seeing anything of note but we got a rock kestrel near camp.

 

 

Wed 5 June - Namutoni Camp to Okaukuejo Camp

 

Today it was time to transfer to our final camp at Okaukuejo.  Namutoni had served us well with sightings and we were even more reluctant to leave having learned at dinner the previous evening that a group of South Africans had tracked a cheetah mother and 3 cubs across Fischer's Pan yesterday.  Also they had heard someone say they saw a fleeting leopard on the pan.  We were a little gutted as we had spent much of that day around the pan but that's the way it goes  - you can miss something by minutes or even seconds.

 

Anyway, we would be compensated as it happens as we got a good viewing of a white rhino and calf between the two camps.

 

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White rhino and calf.

 

We were in no rush to get to Okaukuejo so we popped in to Goas near Halali camp en-route.  Great decision, at the far waterhole were three lions…. Close.  A kind lady from one of the cars already there signalled to us that there were 4 others over the back of the waterhole.

 

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Lions at Goas

 

 

If our day hadn't already been made by the lion sighting, when we arrived at Okaukuejo, we were in for a further delight.  As we looked for our premier waterhole chalet we discovered that ours was one of the two plum in front of the waterhole itself, with little obstruction.  Five years previous we had not been so lucky.  Despite being tired, I stopped up on the balcony past 10pm and counted 2 white and 5 black rhino.  A further black rhino early morning.

 

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The view from the balcony of W35 Premier Waterhole Chalet, Okaukuejo.

 

 

Thu 6 June - Okaukuejo Camp

 

For our first outing from Okaukuejo we headed straight for Gemsbokvlakte as the sightings book in reception had recorded lion sightings there over the last 2 days.  We stayed a while but with nothing but plains animals to-ing and fro-ing we headed for Nebrowni.

 

Good move, as just outside the Nebrowni waterhole we saw several cars parked.  On approach we could see an adult male lion and a lioness lying prostrate in direct sunlight.  It didn't take long for us to discover that they were in fact a honeymoon couple. 

 

Also, on the other side of the waterhole you could just make out the ears of at least another 2 lions which were the only things visible in the long savannah grass.

 

It was approaching lunchtime so we decided to get back to camp, order a takeaway snack from the kiosk and return to Nebrowni to eat the food so we could keep an eye on the lions.  As we neared the lions, all the cars except one had disappeared.  Then, to our utter amazement, a guy got out of the remaining car and walked about 5 yards towards the lions to take a pee.  He then opened the rear door and unbelievably lifted his young daughter out and let her do the same at the side of the car.  He was obviously oblivious to the danger he had put himself and his daughter in. 

 

The mating lions continued to do their business about every 20 minutes and then lye down in the blazing sun, a little too far for great shots so we headed north to Wolfnes.  Here we got ground squirrel and yellow mongoose.  A quick return to Nebrowni before sunset confirmed that the lions were still there.  Great stamina! 

 

On the evening we saw 2 bat-eared foxes at the camp waterhole.

 

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Ground Squirrel, Wolfnes

 

 

Fri 7 June - Okaukuejo Camp

 

This morning we took a leisurely drive past Gemsbokvlakte onto Olifantsbad.  Just as we rolled into the car park at the latter, a pride of 5 lions ambled out of the bush at the rear of the waterhole down for a drink. We were pretty sure they were the same lions as at Nebrowni the day before, including the honeymooners.

 

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Lions at Olifantsbad.

 

Unfortunately the sun is not so good for photography at Olifantsbad in the mornings so we stayed about an hour before moving on to Wolfnes and Okondeka, where once again we got yellow mongoose.

 

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Yellow mongoose near Wolfnes.  

 

After lunch at camp, we returned to Olifantsbad to see if the lions were still around and to maybe catch them in more favourable light but unfortunately they had left or returned to the bush.

 

In the evening at the floodlit camp waterhole we got 6 black rhino and 1 elephant.  There was great interaction between them all with a large rhino fronting off the elephant from 1 metre away.  The elephant just stood and raised trunk over rhino who eventually thought better of it. 

 

Oh and we had a barn owl flyby.

 

 

Sat 8 June - Okaukuejo Camp

 

Given the poor morning light at Gemsbokvlakte and Olifantsbad, we decided to head north this morning to Okondeka.  With nothing showing here we continued on to Adamax and Natco where we encountered a scrub hare crossing the track.  A first for us.

 

Back to Nebrowni where we got 2 rock kestrels on one of the trees at the entrance.  We lunched at the camp waterhole watching plains animals come to and fro from the luxury of our balcony.

 

This afternoon was definitely one of the highlights of the entire trip.  We returned to Nebrowni where we found 2 lionesses and an adult male lion all near the gully just on from the entrance.

 

Then one by one the 2 lionesses moved onto the waterhole where, as soon as the masses of plains animals had scattered, we got great opportunities for photos.

 

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Lioness at Nebrowni.

 

The lionesses then walked away from the waterhole towards the track on the camp side.  I quickly drove onto the track to intercept them but unfortunately they stopped in the thick savannah grass and lay down.  Oh well, we had got some good shots already.  Then, almost as quickly, they got up again and walked on a direct line to our waiting car...closer, closer until so close that Mrs Y's lens focus locked out as they were within 3 meters.  WOW WOW WOW, breath-taking as we got direct eye contact from a position where we felt we could almost touch them.

 

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Lioness close up!

 

At the camp waterhole in the evening, a black rhino appeared whilst it was still daylight.  A  martial eagle on a distant tree is harassed by the resident tawny eagle but refuses to budge until he ready.  We also got barn owl again and spotted hyena. 

 

 

Sun 9 June - Okaukuejo Camp

 

This morning we tried Ombika near to the Andersson Gate as the sightings book had records of recent cheetah sightings.  This turned out to be a good decision as before we got there and on the main gate road we saw an african wildcat.  Unfortunately the light was still quite dim and I didn't get chance to change my shutter speed so my shots were quite dark and grainy but, hey another first for us in Etosha. You'll see below that Mrs Y was much more successful taking the wildcat.

 

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African wildcat taken by Mrs Y.

 

I'm not sure if today was a special day in Namibia but the Andersson Gate was swamped with traffic. We returned to Okaukuejo and even the camp was teeming with guided jeeps and tour buses.  We were therefore mindful that most of the Okaukuejo waterholes might be busy with other visitors so we decided to head towards Halali in a final ditch effort to get leopard again.  Checking the sightings book at Halali over lunch it seemed that leopard had been seen on Rhino Drive on more than one occasion so we headed there with no luck.

 

So we headed back to camp again and came across a lovely juvenile goshawk scurrying around in the scrub.

 

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Juvenile goshawk near Nebrowni.

 

In the evening the martial eagle re-appeared at the same tree as before only earlier perhaps so it wouldn't be detected by the tawny.  Anyway, today it was the pied crows who would prove to be its enemy as it was seen of when trying to do some reconnaissance of the waterhole.

 

The last few evenings had been a tad breezy and cool but tonight it was dead still and somewhat warmer so I stayed out on the balcony a little later.  It was worthwhile as I saw a baby calf black rhino charge an impala and then scurry back to mom.  Blacksmith lapwings were warning off a curious jackal with high pitched peep peeps and phantom attacks.

 

 

Mon 10 June - Okaukuejo Camp

 

This was sadly our last full day here, or for those of you who have managed to stay with this blog until here it might be a blessing. 

 

However, as with our previous two trips here our last day would provide us with something exceptional.  In 2013, we got 3 cheetah juveniles on a jackal kill just outside Okaukuejo camp and in 2015 we got point blank leopard walking on the Halali-Okaukuejo track.  This morning we set out towards Dolomite camp as we had not covered this route on this trip so far.  We got as far as the Grunewald turn without seeing a bean so turned back.  A fellow visitor flagged us down to see if we had seen anything and looked disappointed when we shook our heads.  If only he had met us a few minutes later….

 

About 1km from the Okondeka rest camp, I spotted something about 50 yards or more on my right.  My brain couldn't immediately register the shape...is it caracal, no, bat-eared foxes I shouted then one quick look through the lens and I screamed Aardwolf in great excitement.  This is something I thought we would never get but never say never.

 

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Aardwolf near Okondeka.

 

In fact there were 3 of them, and they seemed to be having an argument over a scrap of something I couldn't identify, but as they ran and chased they moved further away and out of range.

 

The rest of the day we did not get much else other than a large group of elephant at Olifantsbad, so we returned slightly earlier to camp to clean the car and pack for our return journey.

 

On the evening we soaked in our final hours on the balcony overlooking the waterhole.  I had to admire the elephants.  On sensing the waterhole they all seem to break into almost a gallop and raise their trunks in their excitement but once they have had a few trunk-fuls of water, they settle into an almost trance like state of utter satisfaction.

 

A purple roller took its place on the weavers' tree in front of the waterhole.  I think they must be the birds' equivalent of the Hubble telescope as he was seeing and catching insects 20 meters away in deep grass.  The sun was working against me from the balcony so I decided to try and get a silhouette shot and managed to capture him tossing a large bug between his beak.

 

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Purple Roller with insect at Okaukuejo Waterhole.

 

Later we returned from the restaurant to a heavy stench - there were 4 black rhinos and an elephant all at the waterhole.  A lovely way to sign off a great tour.

 

So thank you for bearing with me if you read through.  I hope it gives a taste of Etosha from a keen photographer's point of view.  The link to more of my photos is given at the start of the report, so thank you if you decide to visit my or Mrs Y's Flickr site. 

 

Good luck and good sightings to all who are embarking on an Etosha visit.

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Galana

Thanks for the link to this on TA. You had some enviable sightings indeed. The Aardwolf has to be singled out but I always love to find my first Yellow Mongoose in Etosha.

Great pity about the darn bus at Rietfontein. You were extremely polite with such bad manners.

Finally back to that recumbent Giraffe. I don't know the posture for 'prostrate' but they do lie down to sleep with their necks stretched out in front of them on the ground. Perhaps he was just having a power nap?

Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

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garito01

It was a great pleasure to read throught your report. I enjoyed that a lot. Excellent moments documented in pictures. And the leopard view at Rietfontein is something special for me.

 

Greg

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YoYo182

Thanks both for your kind words.

 

Galana, if you're in Etosha we've been pretty successful with Yellow Mongoose several times at the junction as you turn off to Wolfnes waterhole.  You could be right with the giraffe power nap.  I was just surprised that he would do this in direct sunlight in the heat of the day.

 

Thanks again

 

Tony

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ForWildlife

Very cool report. Another confirmation for me however to not go to Na'an Kuse, just not my thing.

Giraffe do sometimes lie down to rest, but when they do they keep their heads and necks up. To be able to pump blood to their heads they actually have valves in the arteries in their neck. If they lower their head the blood quickly builds up pressure in their brains and they can't sustain that for long. When they drink, they always shake their heads when they raise their heads again, because they lowered their heads. This is one of the reasons it is hard to immobilize giraffes. Basically, once their down you need to lift their head. The easiest to do this is to reverse the drugs which caused the immobilization, while at the same time position the legs in such a way that you can keep the giraffe immobilized, so you can handle it, but it can hold it's head up. Maybe this one had fallen, maybe it was knocked over by the other, but a normal healthy giraffe won't put it's head down when lying.

 

Btw, I think your lanner falcon is in fact a red-necked falcon.

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xelas

@YoYo182, your golden light photos will entice many of us to return to Etosha ASAP, and to stay in it ALAP! And a warm welcome to the best travel site that exist on the whole internet  :wub:!

 

One day you might show us also a trip report from Sri Lanka?!

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YoYo182

Thanks both.  Interesting info on giraffes and theories as to why it was flat out.  Thanks for the id update on the falcon, I'll look into this.

 

Cheers Xelas.  Time permitting I would give a Sri Lanka report a go but for the Etosha trip I made notes and with my poor memory I would struggle to remember much detail from Sri Lanka.  That said, there are murmurs in the household of a return trip so I'll take pen and paper with me next time.

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Peter Connan

Welcome and thanks for a great report @YoYo182.

 

Excellent photography throughout and some magnificent sightings!

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YoYo182

Many thanks Peter.

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Ritsgaai

Excellent @YoYo182 and many thanks. I am enjoying your TR very much.

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YoYo182

That's great, thank you Ritsgaai.

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blindbumpy

@YoYo182 Thanks for a great trip report, and taking us back to our visits to Etosha.  A similar encounter with a bus has been the only negative that we can take away from our two visits to this great park.  Wonderful sightings you had,  and experiences for sure !

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DanielBme

Excellent report and photos!  You definitely had much better sightings than the 3 days we spent in Etosha.  Next time I'll make sure to spend more time.

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Thank you for posting, wonderful photos.

 

We are doing our first visit to Namibia next year - can't wait!

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buddy4344

Headed there in less than a week and would be very happy to have your results. Great report.

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Brilliant report overall, great naritve and the photo's are top.

Etosh is a gem but you do need patience for good sights , looks like you guys mastered it,!!

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YoYo182

Many thanks all for taking the time to read the report and for your kind comments.  For those of you who are going to Etosha soon, have a great trip, I'm sure you will.

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Welcome @YoYo182.Thanks for a well written TR with great pics.

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Many thanks Hads.

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Jaycees2012

Great TR - brings backs memories of our trips to Etosha - perhaps it's time to go back again   :)

 

Loved the photo of the Yellow Mongoose - sometimes the little guys get ignored. As for the Aardwolf in day light - WOW!!  I can understand your initial confusion - like you I would not have expected to see one of these during the day and despite the great excitement you captured a great photo.

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Thanks Jaycees much appreciated ......definitely go back :).

 

Yeh, love the small stuff too and ur so right about the Aardwolf.

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  • 1 month later...
Dave Williams

Only just found your report, and an excellent one it is too! I will return for a second visit, I just can't decide which is the best month to go!

I have to disagree on one point though, my experience of Yala is far from being one of harmonious sharing when it comes to Leopard and Bear sightings. Etosha in January usually meant there were no more than 2 or 3 vehicles at the crowded waterholes.You often had them to yourself.... mind you that could also mean without wildlife too!

 

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Thanks Dave much appreciated.  From the reports I've read I don't think you can go far wrong whatever time you visit Namibia.

 

Think we actually agree about Yala....should have read "distinct lack of etiquette which we had ALSO experienced in Yala....."

 

Cheers Tony

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xelas

About Yala, it can be as good or as bad as one makes it! If you are willing to leave the Leopard Avenue behind, there is a whole lot of the park that one can have for itself.

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