Woke up in luxury today as the realisation that for the next few weeks we are camping and the trip gets very real.
After breakfast, we picked up our vehicles from Avis Safari Rentals. These are new Ford Rangers that have been set up very well. The CEO of Avis was there to take us through the features with a full demo of how everything worked. This included Rooftop Tents, Awning, Fridge, Solar Panels, Charging System, Chairs plus all the other stuff, he assured us we would need on the trip. After the demo, we had to check everything in our vehicles to make sure it was there, so far so good.
Before leaving Australia, I arranged to have Cooper S/T MAXX tyres fitted to my vehicle and to the guide's vehicle. I must admit I was very keen to take these into the deserts and wild countryside of Namibia and compare the conditions to the Aussie Outback.
After checking six cars, it was now time to get our supplies, the supermarket was the next stop.
This was mayhem as we had 14 people throwing all sorts of things into their trolleys, and as all food is covered in the Safari cost, there were about 34 full trolleys being checked out on 1 bill! The docket was about 3m long.
Now it’s back to the Hotel and pack the vehicles properly and make any final arrangements.
Finally, we're driving. Today, we have 535km to our 1st Campsite. Along the way found Baboons, Oryx, Springboks and some really ugly Crickets. The drive was interesting as we moved into the countryside and more and more people appeared, seemingly from nowhere. I wondered how these people survived as their housing consists of a corrugated iron or mud shacks about 3m x 3m with no windows and no shade. We are here in Autumn and it's 35 degrees, how do families live in these conditions?
We continued on and after refuelling and a few more hours driving, we arrived at our 1st Campsite. Now, this was a surprise (I think a lot of Aussie Campsites can learn from this one). We were staying at Onguma Lodge and they were all individual sites that had a patch of grass for my tent, a great raised fire pit to cook on plus a full on suite. They were fantastic and totally unexpected. What a way to start!
This is what we came here for, Etosha National Park. This is a magnificent place that simply must be seen to be appreciated. It’s like going into another country as the park gates record everything about you and your vehicle, including copies of our passports. They do this to control the number of visitors to the park, but the main reason is to try and control poaching. As we all know, the Rhino is in huge danger of becoming extinct so a huge effort is being made to protect them.
Within 15 minutes, we found our 1st animals, these were Springbok, Zebra and Wildebeest, the excitement was building as the realisation of where we were and what we were seeing kicked in.
500ms ahead was a Bull Elephant… WOW… only 50 mtrs from the road. He was rolling around in the dust and then eating huge amounts of grass. We stayed here for 30 minutes in awe of this creature, we then received a call on the radio that there were Flamingos up ahead. These were in flight as we arrived and the Pink colour under their wings was stunning. As they landed we saw another shape in the distance, it was a Rhino about 300m away. We’d been here less than an hour and had seen so much. I’ll tell you, the morning had exceeded all expectations but it was about to get even better. Moving along the track we noticed another car on the side of the road, as we approached we saw the huge backside of an Elephant moving away from the roadside, in a true moment of insight, Vic noticed we were going to a Waterhole in the general direction the Elephant was moving so that’s where we went and waited.
This was an incredible moment, as sure enough as this huge animal emerged from the bush and came down to the Waterhole for a drink and a bath. This 6-ton Bull Elephant was only 20 m away from us, I could see every detail in his face. This was one of those moments, simply humbling. He was there for about 45 minutes then slowly moved away. Unbelievable!
The rest of the day, we made our way down the southern side of the Park and encountered Zebra, Wildebeest, Springbok, Kudu, Oryx, Warthog, Ostridge and at the last Waterhole for the day a group of 14 Giraffes. It’s very difficult to describe the day we had experienced, to say it’s amazing is a huge understatement so let’s just say I felt very privileged.
We finally made it to the Okaukuejo Camp, our home for the next 2 days. This camp is very well set up and offers basic campsites or 5-star cabins that overlook a floodlit waterhole. This means the animals come directly to you. So, after setting up camp and having a feed, we walked to the waterhole and there were Zebra, Springbok and Warthogs.
The campsite is surrounded by 2m high fence and just as well as the sound of big Lions was coming from just over the fence, it kept me awake for some time.
In the morning, we drove into the Park again and within 500ms, we found one of the Lions that kept me awake. It was a big male relaxing in the sun. He was about 50 ms away so we got a good look at him. About 1km away, we found 2 more male Lions, this explains why there was so much noise last night. I didn’t think yesterday could be topped, but I was wrong, this was an amazing start to the day. After morning tea, we headed out again and just around the corner, blocking the road was a huge Bull Elephant, after stopping the car he came within 5 meters of us and stayed there. This is an incredible experience and I feel so privileged to see these animals in their natural environment. Keep in mind, this is only day 5 of the trip. After dinner, I went to the Waterhole and waited for an hour. I was just about to leave when a Rhino appeared and decided it was time for a swim. 2 Tonnes of pure muscle, and just 10m away. What a great day!
Its time to move on, after packing up camp we headed into the Nth West section of the park and before long found huge herds of Springbok, Kudo & Zebra. There were 1000 of them and at times had to wait for them to clear the road. This was not an issue as it allowed us time for more photos. It wasn’t long before we spotted a Honey Badger, Meercats and lots of Giraffes. It’s amazing to see such an assortment of wildlife, and all so close.
We left the park at midday after going through an inspection station where they sprayed the Wheels & Tyres with Insecticide & inspected our Vehicles for any uncooked meat. They do this to prevent the movement of Foot & Mouth Disease, fortunately we were aware of this and everyone had cooked enough Meat to last the next 7 days.
After an amazing few days in Etosha National Park and experiencing thousands of stunning animals, it was time to get to the next town, refuel and head to the next campsite and the next experience in Namibia.
Stay tuned for Day 7 and beyond.