26 December 2012- Etosha National Park, Namibia
It’s a hot afternoon and we have a cold beer open and are starting to fuss about and get our landy Chrissie meal ready. We have had a brilliant few days here in Etosha. Definitely a Christmas we will not forget! We arrived Christmas Eve afternoon and settled into our camp site, just outside the east gate of Etosha. The lodge has an elegant and fantastic bar and restaurant overlooking a waterhole that has animals playing in the evenings and a nice shaded pool area- and has a camping area as well as chalets so its right in the budget! 🙂 Perfect for a bit of Christmas luxury.
Quick catch up first- we left Swakopmund and drove up the salt roads to Cape Cross, which is a seal reserve a few hours from Swakopmund where, given that its a seal reserve we thought we would obviously see a few, what we did come across was something else all together. We got out of landy and immediately were met with a full assault on the senses- 100,000 seals are very loud and very very smelly! Yes, 100,000! Apparently there are between 80,000 and 100,000 seals there year round due to the very good food source due to Atlantic cold water currents. Turns out when we were there the pups had all been born so the colony was at its peak in numbers. This is no cute animal experience, it is nature in the beautiful and raw, 25% of the pups die from being separated from their mother or just trampled under the sheer mass of bodies. There were dead pups all over, on the rocks, on the beach and in the water. Of course many more live ones bleating for mum (who leaves them to go out to sea to feed, but then has to come back and locate her baby which seemed to us like an insurmountable task!) We walked around watching all the action of life- fighting, mating, playing, swimming- the full spectrum. We left after several hours and when Olly said he just couldn’t get used to the smell – it took us hours to stop smelling it (Olly’s shirt still smells of it!). We decided to go via the main road (which is still unpaved), rather than a no doubt more interesting 4 x 4 drive, to Etosha as we didn’t want to spend all of Christmas Eve driving, you can’t see everything!
Arriving at Etosha we settled into camp with a cold beer overlooking the waterhole and were in bed early for an early start. Both yesterday and today we have been out by 6 (the gates open at sunrise and you are not allowed out and about in the park before then). Etosha is amazing- a huge huge space dominated by a massive pan- with no vegetation whatsoever on it. There are areas that have bushes and trees, particularly in the east (which is the main areas we have explored so far) and south of the pan. In the dry season you can see many animals at the waterholes as there is no water to be found elsewhere. Now is the start of the wet so sitting at waterholes is not the best spot to be, keeping a look out along the roads at this time of year is the way to go and we have been seeing heaps of animals – zebra, giraffe, ostriches, wildebeest, impala, gemsbok and sringbok. On Christmas Day about an hour or so after we started our drive (our safari days as we call them) something caught Olly’s eye in a distant tree, he thought he saw a tail and stopped to look through the binoculars, he could see something at the bottom of the tree and thought he must have seen a baboon. We made out way over there and as we approached we saw two large spotted hyena (much larger than I imagined hyena to be- we have seen a few but not this well as they are largely nocturnal so we were most likely seeing them only because it was early in the morning) the hyena were sniffing the ground and air and circling the tree a bit. We then saw the tail Olly had seen from a distance, it was a leopard, our Christmas pressie! We are not sure but it seemed the leopard may have had a small kill that morning because the hyenas seemed to be hassling it and were licking the ground and munching on the remnants of something. We were close to the tree but of course had an obstructed view of her, given she was in the thick branches but could still see her well, shifting about dozing and trying to get comfortable. The hyena skulked about for a while, walking right behind us and then sat down under the tree, presumable to wait it out.
We were out almost all day, prob too long as we were hot and hungry by the time we got back to camp and enjoyed a cold shower and a drink overlooking the waterhole followed by a lovely Christmas meal in the restaurant. What a treat. I got two pressies for Christmas- a necklace I choose in Cape Town and a package of pistachios somehow Olly has picked up along the way- both wrapped in the Lesotho Times we have not yet finished reading so have been carrying it around. Olly got something he had also chosen in Cape Town, wrapped in a tea towel- perfect Christmas Day finished by falling into bed sound asleep within 5 minutes of getting back to landy. Luckily there was only one other couple in the large peaceful camp site so it was a quite night.
Today was spent in much the same way- up and out early and seeing large herds of zebra munching, giraffe staring at us (they always seem so curious), wildebeest minding their territory, heaps of birds and a few muddy warthogs trotting around. We watched a pair of lions (again they mated every 15 minutes seemingly on the dot!) they are truly magnificent animals to watch (even though they dont do much!) Their sheer size and obvious power with a regal air. We watched them for over an hour and made our way back to camp much earlier than yesterday, it was nice to have a few hours by the pool to cool down.
Looking forward to our landy Chrissie meal, a barbie, salad and bottle of wine. We are both tired and will likely have another early one!