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Namibia 2018 - Namib-Naukluft & Etosha


adamt123

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adamt123

Hello everyone. This is my first trip report on this site. In June-July 2018 we took our second safari trip, visiting Sossusvlei, Etosha, Kruger (Timbavati) and Kgalagadi. In February 2016, we made our first trip to Africa, visiting Kruger, Chobe, Victoria Falls and Cape Town. Both safaris were fantastic, though quite different, with this 2018 trip being our first self-drive adventure. This trip report details our visit to Namib-Naukluft and Etosha; overall, we had a wonderful experience and we look forward to returning to Namibia soon!

 

Rough Itinerary:

Day One – Fly from Johannesburg to Walvis Bay. Drive down to Rostock Ritz.

Day Two – Rostock Ritz to Sesriem (Desert Quiver Camp)

Day Three – Full Day at Sesriem/Sossusvlei

Day Four – Drive back up to Walvis Bay airport and fly to Ondangwa. Drive from Ondangwa to Etosha (Mushara)

Day Five – Etosha (Mushara)

Day Six – Etosha (Halali)

Day Seven – Etosha. In the evening drive to Otijwa (Otjiwarongo)

Day Eight – Otjiwa to Windhoek Airport – fly back to Joburg.

 

I think our itinerary was quite different from most; one of the guides at Sossusvlei was quite surprised at how we had flown into Walvis and would next be flying from Walvis to Ondangwa (his home town) with two separate car hires, rather than flying in and out of Windhoek with a single car hire. 

 

Looking back, I would have liked to add another day to Rostock Ritz and also to Etosha. We decided to spend the last night at Otijwa as it would split the driving from Halali to Windhoek. We did this because back in the UK we never do long distance drive (the idea of driving to London – about 2h 30m, is completely alien). In hindsight, I don’t think we needed this night at Otjiwa – driving in Namibia is really quite pleasant. 

 

Day One 

 

We flew to Walvis Bay from Johannesburg with Airlink (the flight was scheduled to be operated by SA Express, but at the time their fleet had been grounded). The queue at immigration was horrendous – we were towards the front but it went all the way on to the tarmac. Some forty-five minutes later we were able to collect our hire car from Bidvest and we headed off towards Rostock Ritz - stopping briefly at the Dunes Mall for a Namibian SIM. 

 

Airlink at Walvis Bay Airport

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Dunes Mall, Wavis Bay

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The journey down to Rostock Ritz was exceptionally pleasant. It was our first time driving in Africa and it was amazing; though the road was gravel, the serenity of the landscape was overwhelming. As we approached the lodge, we stopped for the first sighting of the trip - springbok, and they were shortly followed by a lone male ostrich. As dusk drew near, and we approached the lodge, we were greeted by mountain zebra – I was really pleased we had spotted them and they were more beautiful than I expected, though clearly less habituated than zebra in the major game parks.

 

C14 Road

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Abandoned weaver nest

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Springbok pronking in the distance

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Ostrich

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Hartmann's Mountain Zebra

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We passed through the Rostock Ritz entrance gate and light was really fading by now, but what happened next, I could never have expected. Crossing the road in the distance was a rather nervous, small mammal which looked to me like a greyish jackal. I took a picture, unsure of what I was seeing – when I looked at the image, I realised it was an aardwolf! By the time I gathered myself and picked up my Nikon, it was way in the distance. So although the photo isn’t perfect, I was really very pleased to have seen this elusive creature on the first day of our trip. 

 

Aardwolf

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Day Two 

 

The next morning before breakfast we went on a walk on the Rostock Ritz grounds. The lodge has quite a few different walking trails, but as our stay was a short one, we only went on the 1.5 hour ‘sunrise’ walk. The scenery was magnificent, though birding was limited to sociable weavers, cape sparrows and helmeted guineafowl. We did see some more unusual animals at the lodge that morning; firstly, there were quite a few slightly sinister-looking armoured ground crickets in the surrounding area and when we got back to our room after breakfast, we also saw a pair of dassie rats, leisurely enjoying the morning sun outside our balcony. 

 

Sunrise

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Armoured Ground Cricket

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 Sociable Weaver and Armoured Ground Cricket 

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Helmeted Guineafowl

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Our Room

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View from room

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Dassie Rat

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Overall, we absolutely loved Rostock Ritz, - service, rooms, food – everything was pretty much fantastic. As we were driving back down from the lodge, we encountered some more Hartmann’s mountain zebra, this time in better lighting. By the time we were on the C14 towards Sesriem, it was coming up to midday. Much like our drive to Rostock Ritz, this drive too was a pleasant journey with some interesting sightings, the first of which was a white backed vulture, sitting rather picturesquely on a lone tree and this was shortly followed by three Rueppell’s korhaan crossing the road. 

 

Hartmann's Mountain Zebra with Rostock Ritz Lodge

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White Backed Vulture

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Rueppell's Korhaan

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C14 Road

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We arrived at Desert Quiver Camp by the early afternoon. We liked Desert Quiver Camp; staff were friendly, furnishings were new and food as Sossusvlei Lodge was also superb. At the camp we saw a magnificent wasp drinking water from our tent’s outdoor kitchen – it was a remarkably beautiful specimen. The area around our tent was also frequented by speckled pigeons, sociable weavers and rock martins. 

 

Desert Quiver Camp

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Sociable Weaver

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Rock Martin

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Wasp

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Edited by adamt123
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To see an aardwolf on your first day is something that many people dream of. Looking forward to the reminder of your report.

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Tom Kellie

@adamt123

 

Welcome to Safaritalk!

 

Your first post presents such compelling photography.

 

The wasp, the cricket, the bird species, the zebras — all in exceptionally favorable light.

 

I enjoy your storytelling pace.

 

Thank you for preparing this post. I'm looking forward to whatever else you might share.

 

Tom K.

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michael-ibk

And another welcome from me. A great start to your report, and just wow to the Aardwolf on your first day - I have yet to see one. Looking Forward to more!

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Treepol

@adamt123 welcome to Safaritalk and thank you for posting such an interesting TR. How impressive to have an aardwolf photo in your first post!

 

Really enjoying your photos and am making notes about the accommodation which looks very comfortable with great views.

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Atravelynn

Oh my goodness, you have introduced yourself with an aardwolf!  You are visiting some spots I have been.  Great start.  Were there any meerkats at Rostock Ritz?

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@adamt123 - Welcome to Safaritalk. Amazing views from your room and very unique loking accomodation - Aardwolf as well in your first post, well done.

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Peter Connan

And welcome from me too!

 

An Aardwolf on your first Day! I have lived in Africa all my life, and have never seen one!

Edited by Peter Connan
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adamt123

Thank you everyone for your warm words of support.

 

The aardwolf was indeed an unbelievable sighting - at Kgalagadi we had good sighting of another equally elusive mammal, but you'll need to wait for my SA trip report for that.

 

@Atravelynn at the time we visited, there were no meerkats at the lodge. 

 

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adamt123

Later that evening we went down to Sesriem Canyon. At the canyon, we saw pale winged starlings and speckled pigeon as well as lots more tourists - it was quite a contrast from the quietness at Rostock Ritz.

 

Pale Winged Starling

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Day Three

 

After breakfast at Sossusvlei Lodge, we went for a sunrise dune walk on Elim dune. This was one of many activities offered by the lodge, and on the whole, it was an enjoyable experience. The purpose of the tour was to look for small creatures in the dunes – we saw only Namib dune ants and a golden wheel spider. Our guide said that this activity usually yields better finds when taken from Swakopmund, but the dawn scenery was breath-taking enough to make this a memorable morning outing. 

 

Elim Dune

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Namib Dune Ant

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Golden Wheel Spider

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Towards late afternoon, we went down to Sossusvlei/Deadvlei. On the way, we saw gemsbok and ostrich, both of which are reasonably common in the area. Though it was June, it was still pretty hot and walking through the baking sand was strenuous. At the 4x4 car park we had a close up viewing of cape sparrows and a pair of handsome pied crows. On our way back, we stopped at Dune 45 were we spotted a greater kestrel sitting in a tree just in front of the dune. We parked the car in the Dune 45 car park and got pretty close to the diminutive raptor – though we saw more greater kestrels later on our safari, this was by far the best sighting. 

 

Gemsbok

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On the way to Deadvlei

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Cape Sparrow

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Pied Crow 

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Greater Kestrel

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Kestrel is on the left tree

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Glorious Full Moon

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Edited by adamt123
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adamt123

Day Four

 

Today we left the Namib-Naukluft area and flew from Walvis Bay to Ondangwa where we picked up another hire car and drove down to Etosha. We set off from Sesriem early in the morning; on the journey, we witnessed a stunning moonset and also found some very shy chacma baboons. The angle wasn’t great but these chacma baboons certainly appeared to have darker fur than those I have seen in Kruger or Chobe. We needed to refill the car with petrol so we drove past the airport and into the city which turned out to be a blessing as we were greeted by both lesser and greater flamingo and the dunes made for an impressive backdrop. 

 

Moonset, C14

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Chacma Baboon

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Lesser Flamingo 

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Greater Flamingo

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Overall, I was surprised by our many good wildlife sightings in the Namib-Naukluft area; the highlights for me (other than than aardwolf of course) were mountain zebra, Rueppell's korhaan and greater kestrel. Though our three-night stay in this area area was primarily to see Namibia’s stunning scenery, I think the fantastic wildlife was actually more memorable; when I reminisce in this part of the trip, Deadvlei and Sossuvlei seem secondary to the animals. 

 

The flight from Walvis Bay to Ondangwa was slightly delayed but it did provide some good views over the Etosha pan as we approached Ondangwa. Once we had collected our hire car and were out of the airport, it became clear that this part of Namibia is quite a bit off the beaten track – the city was a complete contrast to Walvis. There were cattle, donkeys, goats and school children lining the ‘pavement’,  though the road was of exceptional quality and lined with hundreds of palm trees. The total drive from Ondangwa airport to Mushara was maybe 2 and half hours – we had originally planned to drive from the airport to Etosha’s northern King Nehale gate and have a game drive that afternoon, but with the delayed flight and the fact that picking up the car from Avis took longer than expected, we decided to by-pass the park and call it an early night.

 

Etosha Pan

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Ondangwa Airport

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B1, Ondangwa

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xelas

Another warm welcome from anothe fan of Namibia! It was indeed a very different travel, but using flights to and from Walvis Bay was the only option for you to visit two iconic but distant locations. Looking forward to see what Etosha has showed you. 

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adamt123

@xelas exactly right - our trip to Namibia to pretty short and this way we were able to visit the two highlights, though next time I would like to stay for longer and visit some of Namibia's other attractions, especially the Caprivi strip. 

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adamt123

Day Five

 

As this was our first trip to Etosha, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, but our three days at the park turned out to be wonderful, with some nice sightings. I might as well say from the start, we didn’t see any of the big cats, but our stay was quite short so I wasn’t necessarily expecting to see them. Despite this, I can happily report we had a fantastic time and were impressed by Etosha’s overall wildlife experience and we were able to tick off some bucket-list animals. 

 

On our first day, we focused around the Namutoni area, taking two game drives. The Mushara grounds had a good amount wildlife, and leaving the camp this morning we saw a rather handsome impala and white backed vultures. As the morning drive was our first entry into Etosha, there was some paperwork to hand in at Namutoni and whilst we were there, we saw some banded mongoose playing around on an elephant skull.

 

Handsome Impala

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White Backed Vulture

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Banded Mongoose

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From here, we went to Klein Namutoni – this was my favourite waterhole, not because of any exceptional sighting but because of its healthy population of grey louries and helmeted guineafowl. Though these are two birds that are very common in Etosha, their presence really added to the overall atmosphere and coming safari to the park wouldn’t be the same without them. From here, we went on the dik-dik drive, where we saw a good selection of birds including the first of many kori bustards. 

 

Helmeted Guineafowl

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Grey Lourie

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Giraffe

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Kori Bustard

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African Grey Hornbill

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Damara Red Billed Hornbill

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As we were exiting the circuit, we saw some impala looking nervously into the bushes, upon closer inspection, there were two dik-diks scurrying about in the thicket, which for some reason had put the impala on edge. Next, we popped down to Chudop, though by now it was getting hot, so after this we headed back to Mushara. 

 

Black Faced Impala

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Damara Dik-Dik

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Greater Kudu

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Blue Wildebeest

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Plains Zebra

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Springbok

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At the lodge that afternoon, a family of warthogs were happily munching on the grass, and we also saw a Smith's bush squirrel with its tail missing run across the path.

 

Warthog

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Tailless Smith's Bush Squirrel 

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Our evening game drive was a pretty quiet one, we saw the usual plains game, pale chanting goshawks, a herd of elephants and our only eland of the trip. The eland was approaching the borehole (Kalkhuewel) just as a large herd of elephants were arriving, so he remained largely obscured in the bushes. This concluded our first day at Etosha; though it wasn't as eventful as the next two days, I think it gave for a nice opportunity to appreciate the birds and plains game. 

 

Giraffe

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Plains Zebra

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Pale Chanting Goshawk

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Fork Tailed Drongo

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Lilac Breasted Roller

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Kori Bustard

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Common Eland 

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African Elephant

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Atravelynn

Much activity at the waterhole.  I like the water trail made by the drinking giraffe.  Nice sepia with the eles!

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adamt123

Thank you @Atravelynn.

 

I am definitely not a photographer - all the pictures are jpegs taken with an APS-C or compact camera lightly edited in Apple's Photos - so nothing advanced at all. 

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adamt123

Day Six

 

This was probably my favourite Etosha day and things got off to a good start when we checked out of Mushara and headed for Halali. As we were leaving the Mushara grounds, I was able to take a good picture of a grey duiker; though they are common antelope, they can be a bit shy and this was the first clear picture I had taken of one. Also very common around the Mushara and Etosha in general were red billed francolin; there was a colony of them quite close to our room and their somewhat haunting call was often the first thing heard in the morning.  

 

Grey Duiker

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Red Billed Francolin

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Todays extended morning drive – from Mushara to Halali – was a satisfying one. At Klein Namutoni we had a very clear view of a pair of dik-diks and at Koinachas there was a rather nervous ostrich drinking water. On our way out of Chudop I spotted a black rhino; the view was clear with very few other cars and the pictures came out nicely. 

 

Damara Dik-Dik

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Greater Kudu & Helmeted Guineafowl

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Cape Glossy Starling

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Pale Chanting Goshawk

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Ostrich 

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Black Rhino 

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This superb sighting was shortly followed by a secretary bird as we were leaving Kalkhuewel – this was the raptor I was most looking forward to seeing, so that was great. Travelling further west, we saw a plethora of game, in larger quantities than in the Namutoni area including gemsbok as well as a good number of birds. 

 

Secretary Bird

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Northern Black Korhaan

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Namaqua Sandgrouse

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Gemsbok

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Plains Zebra

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Ostrich

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Black Backed Jackal

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Cape Crow

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Purple Roller

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Double Banded Courser

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Etosha Pan

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adamt123

I rather liked Halali as a camp; before coming to Etosha I was under the impression that Mushara (a private camp) would be significantly better than any of the NWR run camps, including Halali. This turned out not to be the case, and Halali was really a great option - next time I would like to try out Namutoni and Okaukuejo too, as well as Dolomite in the west. 

 

Halali Chalets

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Marabou Stork

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Later that evening we had a shorter drive in the Halali area and the main event was a family of bat eared foxes about half way between Rietfontein and the camp. This was the first time we had seen them and they were really quite impressive. Because we had seen black rhino before, I think this sighting was my favourite of the day and a perfect way to conclude our game drive. Upon our return to Halali, we went to the camp's waterhole (Moringa), but it was mostly quite.

 

Blue Wildebeest

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Skink

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Marsh Terrapin

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Greater Kestrel

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Bat Eared Fox

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adamt123

Again, the post on the bat eared foxes kept re-submitting. 

 

But here is a picture of the stars at Halali to make up for it - i had never tried this before and my lens was a 30mm and my camera is not full frame, so not completely ideal, but for a first attempt i think it came out okay

 

Stars

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Edited by adamt123
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adamt123

Apologies once more, i'm not totally sure what happened. 

 

I took this photo as a landscape shot at Sueda, but the tree actually has has a greater kestrel in it.

 

Sueda

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Edited by adamt123
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wilddog

Removed your double post @adamt123 seems to be have been a bit of a hitch with ST. All back to normal now.

 

Edited by wilddog
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Super photographs, did manage to spot the greater kestrel.

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adamt123

Thank you @wilddog

 

Awesome @CDL111 - we saw an abundance of greater kestrel and pale chanting goshawk - they really are icons of Etosha 

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adamt123

Day Seven

 

At dawn, we went to Halali’s waterhole but there wasn’t much to see, so we moved on, continuing west. We had nice sightings of jackal and yellow mongoose as well as pale chanting goshawks and a black winged kite. Close to Okondeka there was also a lappet faced vulture soaring and an abundance of kori bustard – between Okondeka and Leebroun, a distance of 11km, we saw no fewer than 15 of them (in the end I couldn't photograph them all - there were simply too many)

 

Black Backed Jackal

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Yellow Mongoose

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Gemsbok

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Pale Chanting Goshawk

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Black Winged Kite

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Lappet Faced Vulture

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Kori Bustard 

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We also stopped at Okaukuejo and the waterhole their was lively, with more action in the middle of the day than we had seen at Halali at either dawn or dusk. 

 

Greater Kudu & Blue Wildebeest

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Gemsbok

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Grey Heron & Springbok

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The best sighting of the day was a second black rhino, halfway between Okaukuejo and Gemsbokvlakte. This one came very close to the car and had some interesting scarring on his cheek. Again, there was just one other car and I think this was probably one of the best the rhino sightings (black or white) I have had. 

 

Black Rhino

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Gemsbokvlakte was possibly the most active waterhole we visited; even though it was the middle of the day, there were plenty of zebra, springbok and gemsbok around. Further along, at Olifantsbad, we found a breeding herd of elephants, including an exceptionally magnificent matriarch. From here, we made our way out the park, stopping briefly for our last impala and red hartebeest.

 

Gemsbokvlakte 

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African Elephant

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Black Faced Impala

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Red Hartebeest

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Edited by adamt123
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adamt123

Overall, we had a great time at Etosha and it certainly makes for a unique safari experience (and the landscapes too were spectacular). I was certainly surprised at how the park wasn't as busy as I expected - at not a single sighting were there more than four or five cars, and the best sightings (rhino and bat eared fox) we pretty much had to ourselves. To finish off with, here are some more birding pictures. 

 

Southern Yellow Billed Hornbill

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Namaqua Dove

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Blacksmith Lapwing

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Black Winged Stilt 

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Red Billed Quelea

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Cape Turtle Dove

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Leaving Etosha, we drove down to Otjiwa Lodge on the outskirts of Otjiwarongo. The lodge was nice with a very calm and quiet atmosphere. The next morning we went on a short walk around the property and took some good bird shots. Later than afternoon, we drove down to Windhoek Airport and flew back to Joburg.

 

B1, Otjiwarongo

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Otjiwa Lodge

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African Red Eyed Bulbul

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Yellow Canary

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White-browed Sparrow-weaver

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Marabou Stork

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Thank you for reading this short trip report. I hope you found it interesting!

 

Edited by adamt123
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