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
In the , 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.