Salt Pan Safari – Namibia’s Etosha National Park

“I never knew of a morning in Africa
when I woke up and was not happy.”
– Ernest Hemingway

After a two day bus odyssey from Livingston, Zambia and through the Caprivi Strip, we arrive in Tsumeb. We organize ourselves with a rental car, tent and cooking utensils, and set off to explore the various waterholes of Etosha National Park.

A Gemsbok (Oryx) joins a herd of Elephants in Namibia's Etosha National Park

A Gemsbok (Oryx) joins a herd of Elephants

In the vast salt pan in northern Namibia, there are no hippos, crocodiles or monkeys. But, it is home to pretty much everything else. And lots of it! Thousands of zebra, springbok and wildebeest tramp through the wilderness with other hoofed creatures, including hundreds of elephants, giraffe and oryx (gemsbok) and a kaleidoscope of birds.

Jackal in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Jackal

Hyena in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Hyena

Greater Kudu in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Greater Kudu

Etosha is also one of the few places in the world to see the endangered black rhino. Our sightings of these animals are limited to the hours between sunset and sunrise at the waterholes adjacent to the three camps inside the park.

Kori Bustard in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Kori Bustard

Lilac Breasted Roller in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Lilac Breasted Roller

Social Weaver Nest in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Social Weaver Nest

In fact, our last night in the park at Okaukuejo provides an opportunity to witness a sample of Etosha’s menagerie at one go. Rhino, zebra, giraffe, elephant, wildebeest, oryx, warthog and jackal have all gathered together at the floodlit pond. Unfortunately, it is too dark and the animals are too distant for any decent photos.

Wildebeest in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Wildebeest

Warthog in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Warthog

Giraffe with an Oryx horn in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Giraffe with Oryx horn

Elephants Never Forget

Besides the rhinos, of all the displays of animal behavior we observe in Etosha, three others stand out the most. At one waterhole, some elephants have gathered: a bull and his cows. As another bull approached, the first one goes to “greet” him. Tempers flare and tusks clash!

Two Elephants fight each other in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Two Elephants fight over territory and females

The newcomer retreats onto the road pursued by the other, who stops directly in front of our little grey Toyota Tazz. Thankfully, his attention is diverted away from us by the reappearance of the second elephant who is quickly chased off.

Giraffe Drinking in Namibia's Etosha National Park

A Giraffe bends down low to drink from a waterhole

Our second encounter with an elephant is a little more interactive. As we approach one particular waterhole, the road is blocked by one of these animals. He seems to take exception to our presence and begins drawing a line in the sandy road, then approaches us.

What does Alex do when a large bull elephant with a broken tusk and a bad attitude starts flapping his ears and walking towards the car? He waits for it to fill his camera’s viewfinder and clicks the shutter.

What does Alex do when a large bull elephant with a broken tusk and a bad attitude starts flapping his ears and running towards the car? He puts it in reverse, and drives backwards as fast as he can!

An angry Elephant in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Elephant with an Attitude

Being charged by such a creature definitely makes for some white-knuckled driving. We learn later that an elephant can easily outrun a vehicle in reverse. Of course it can.

Ostriches in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Ostriches peck at the salty scrub

Etosha Lions

During our third day in Etosha, we have the pleasure of watching lion cubs playing around (and on) their mother. And, at the last waterhole of our self-drive safari, we are treated to a lion hunt. This time two lionesses are taking turns stalking and chasing wildebeest. The closest we see them come to success is when one of them manages to get onto its prey’s back, only to be shaken off at the last moment.

Zebras in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Zebras drink from a waterhole while one stands guard

Our safari in Namibia’s Etosha National Park is breathtaking, exhilarating and unforgettable. And, our choice to rent a vehicle rather than join a tour is a good one. We take our time, staying at each waterhole until we have drunk our fill of the spectacular scenery and wondrous wildlife.

Animals in Namibia's Etosha National Park

Animals in the Rear View Mirrors

Window Seat World

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