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Etosha and Caprivi - September 2010


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ok, apologies if this doesnt read too well - not had much time to put this together but wanted to get it done before too much time passes.

 

 

The first night of the stay was in Windhoek as I dont like travelling far after a long flight, and arriving late afternoon doesnt give much time to get far before dark. The Safari Court hotel is located by Eros airport and is a pretty dull place typical of a hotel anywhere in the world. It doesnt have much to recommend it other than the convenient location - right near the start of the western bypass making for an easy journey north the next morning.

The first part of the trip was 3 nights in Etosha, so in the morning we drove up to Etosha, leaving early so we got as much time in Etosha as possible.

The first two nights were at Okaukeuejo, and on the game drives we saw plenty of elephants, zebra, giraffe, springbok etc as well as a few lions and on the 1st morning a Spotted Hyena which crossed the road in front of us.

 

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On the next mornings drive we headed to Halali stopping off at all the various waterholes on the way. We were lucky enough to notice near one dry waterhole that there was a smooth hole beneath the rocks which looked like a den of some sort. As we looked, three spotted hyenas came into view on the rocks just above the den, which was a great sighting.

Around Halali we saw a lot of elephant and some more lions.

THe enxt day was a long long drive - from Halali to near Kongola in the Caprivi where we were going to be staying with Lise Hanssen. That wasnt a fun drive - took over 10 hours in the end. Lise met us at Kongola and we followed her to her new camp as the sun set. The last bit of the drive was down a dirt track which was challenging in a saloon car, and we eventually came to a halt 50 metres before her camp at a river channel. We loaded all our gear into Lise's bakkie and drove across in that, leaving our hire car on the other side of the river.

Lise is currently living at the IRDNC camp at Sijwa, which is a lovely secluded camp with good facilities (certainly a lot better than the tent where Lise had lived for the previous year). The camp has proper bedrooms, a kitchen/eating area, flush toilets and a viewing deck, so it was a lovely place for a few nights stay.

While staying with Lise, we were going to be helping with the project. To that end we'd brought a new laptop for her to replace hers which had recently died and was no longer usable. Because Lise was still waiting for her GPS collars to be remotely updated, she couldnt go out darting to fit them onto Hyenas as they needed to have the new settings in place before being fitted. Instead we spent the days checking remote camera traps. The first was near a new waterhole only a few Km from Lise's camp, and the second was nearby at the baiting tree where Lise was planning to dart the hyenas once the collars were ready. These cameras were fairly easy to check as the track wasnt too bad, but it was fairly poor visibility due to the smoke as locals burnt the vegetation to stimulate new growth for their livestock.

The last camera trap was an 80Km round trip with two thirds of that being on soft sand, which made it a slow, hot journey. The camera traps are checked and the memory cards taken out, plugged into the laptop and the photos downloaded. At this last camera we were very pleased to see it had caught a photo of a painted dog running past the camera. The cameras are all in conservancy areas - i.e. not in protected national parks. The community game guards were very excited to see the photo of the painted dog and the other wildlife that visited in the past week or so. The cameras belong to WWF and IRDNC but Lise monitors them as she is far closer than any of their staff, and the results are shared with these organisations amongst others. Part of the reason for their presence is to monitor the success of game reintroductions and also to see if wildlife is using new waterholes that have been created.

On our second night we had an unexpected and unwelcome visitor. Mum had gone to the toilet and then noticed a snake in the bathtub. Luckily it was a smallish one (maybe 40-50cm), and it was unable to get out of the bath - it had presumably fallen from the thatched roof into the bath. Without knowing what sort it was we had to be careful, but eventually managed to get it into a bucket which we then carried outside and released away from the buildings. When we checked, it turned out to be a tiger snake - described by the book as very agressive (we'd noticed that bit ourselves) and fairly harmless (a relief).

 

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After our stay with Lise, we headed back to Etosha, but this time stopped at Shamvura camp, east of Rundu, for one night as this meant the long drive was reduced to nearer 7 or 8 hours. Shamvura is a lovely tented camp on a ridge looking down on the river that forms the border with Angola. The viewing deck gives a great view out over the Angolan floodplains. The camp is run by Mark and Charlie Paxton and is home to various animals including a friendly goat named Bokkie who has a nasty habit of testing his strength on people and occasionally butting them. Mark is an ex ranger from Etosha and is highly knowledgable about wildlife and birds in particular, and enjoys pointing out the rare birds found on trips along the river or walking near the camp.

The next days drive back to Etosha was certainly less arduous than the drive up had been.

We now had 1 night in Halali followed by two more in Okaukuejo. Our first day back in the park was great - as we approached a waterhole we saw a leopard coming down to drink. It wasnt the closest view I've had but its always lovely to watch a predator like that move so gracefully.

 

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The next morning was one of my best ever in Etosha (and I've been going most years since 2000). We set off towards Okaukuejo and stopped at Rietfontein. Normally we've seen lions there so I was hopeful, but as we approached I was stunned - 2 cheetah in the parking area by the waterhole. This was my first ever cheetah sighting in Etosha, so I was stunned to see them. We sat and watched for ages with only one other car presnt, and the cheetah chased each other and played, coming close to us. they were totally relaxed around us. By this stage 4 or other vehicles had arrived and as we'd been there for half an hour or more we decided to move off. Just as we were thinking of doing this, the cheetah had the same idea and chased each other away towards the road to Halali, so we left them and the other vehicles to it and headed off to Okaukeujo with big smiles on our faces.

 

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The last full day was good too - plenty of wildlife to watch, particularly spotted hyenas out in the open. One of them walked towards the road and went into a culvert just under the car, giving us great views.

 

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We also had lots of black rhino at the waterhole that evening.

 

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We also headed to near the exit gate as there had been reports of lions on a carcass, and found 7 sleeping lions near an elephant carcass (presumably died from anthrax or other natural casuses as there were no wounds to suggest the lions killed it).

 

The next morning we returned to the carcass and saw the worlds fastest and most nerve-wracking wheel change. Some poor guy had got a flat tire just 20 metres from the lions, so other motorists parked close around him and one large vehicle went off the road to block the lions view while he changed the wheel very quickly and nervously.

After that we had a drive back down to Windhoek for a nights stay at a guest farm near the international airport (the turning for the guest farm is maybe 10 metres past the airport turning as you come from Windhoek). This was because we had 7.30am flighst the next morning, so a very early check in and hire car return, so this avoided getting up even earlier and having far to drive.

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Some great sightings there, especially the hyenas.

 

A shame about the plastic bottle in the leopard shot.

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Interesting reading. I love the rhino with jaundice! B)

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very nice photos - sounds like a great trip. Maybe Matt could use your Rhino shot for one of his banners?

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