October 13-17 (Etosha National Park, Namibia) —
We next headed to Etosha, Namibia's largest wildlife preserve.
One of Etosha's highlights is it's many watering holes. Given the arid environment, the animals come to you. One of the most popular watering holes – for both humans and animals – was at our first camp. We sat back and waited
and were not disappointed.
We relaxed and enjoyed the sunset while the giraffes posed for pictures.
After dinner, we returned to the watering hole, which is floodlit at night. We were soon joined by elephants and rhinos.
We didn't have much luck with night photographs so you'll have to take our word that we saw the greatest show on earth. We saw two rhinos fight the first night. The second night there were two lionesses stalking prey at the hole. Thankfully, the giraffes got away and it was amazing to see six rhino circle to protect their young from the lions.* We heard the male lions roar all night, likely complaining about their lack of dinner. In the morning, our friends who had camped closer to the fence said the male lion stalked the fence line all night roaring just outside their tent.
* I understand that kills are a necessary part of nature, but like the meat on my plate or at the supermarket, I need not see every step of the process along the way
Our game drives at Okaukuejo and at the next camp, Halali, brought us plenty of lions – our friend noted they are like vermin at Etosha – as well as more rhinos and elles, along with springbok, ostrich, and red hartebeest.
There were two downsides to our first two camps. First, it was stupid hot – 100 plus degrees every day and the camps had zero shade. Second, there are jackals everywhere inside Okaukuejo's fences looking for garbage, which wouldn't be a big deal except that the jackal population there is in the middle of a rabies outbreak. I kicked myself more than once for skipping the rabies shot yet again because “if something bites me in Africa, rabies will be the least of my worries.”
There wasn't much happening at Halali's watering hole, at least not out at the water. However, a honey badger suddenly appeared right in the middle of all the visitors, causing a fuss as people scurried and climbed up on the outdoor furniture. The sole honey badger sniffed around some people's feet, eliciting a few nervous shrieks from those who know that honey badgers just don't give a _____ and can be very aggressive and violent if you simply look at the wrong. The first honey badger was soon joined by a second and they began to play – or so it appeared – rolling around underneath the benches and chairs. After a while, it became more obvious that the two badgers weren't just playing but instead were mating in front of tens of pairs of eyes, proving once again that honey badgers really don't care.
We moved on from Halali to Namutoni, the third and last camp inside Etosha. We stopped at various watering holes along the drive and nothing was out — it was just way too hot. We checked in at Namutoni and decided that, like the animals, we were going to lie very still throughout the afternoon and sleep until the sun relented. Unlike the animals, however, we had the option of renting a room with air conditioning. We finally felt human as we cranked the a/c in our room and slipped between clean white sheets for a snooze.
The best thing about our room at Namutoni, however, was that it had a refrigerator and, in the little freezer compartment at the top, there were two small ice trays. Having not had ice in over a month, I could hardly contain my excitement as I filled the trays with our filtered water. I think I dreamed of gin & tonics during our nap while the ice formed in the freezer. The dream later became a reality.
The next morning, our last in Etosha, we saw quite a number of hyena at our first two watering holes. As we drove to our third watering hole, we saw a hyena on the road ahead of us trotting along at a good clip. We slowed down to stay about a 100 feet away and suddenly the hyena turned around. We stopped the car to watch. As the hyena approached, David smartly closed the car windows. The hyena bared her teeth, came right up to the car, and appeared to try to bite our front bumper. She walked around us a few times and then headed off into the bush. Nightmare fuel.
With that goodbye, we decided to head to the delta.