Living in Otjiwarongo has many downs, but the ups are that Waterberg is less than a 2 hour drive away, Swakopmund about 4 hours and Etosha’s Anderson Gate is less than 200km from our drive way.
Yesterday, on the 3rd of January we decided to brave the heat of Etosha National Park. We did this crazy thing because we had my grandmother (83yrs) with us and wanted to treat her. As she lives in Cape Town, we only see her once a year when she comes to visit and the truth is, we never know when the last time will be. So on Friday afternoon, just after five, we decided, this is it, we are going. I have to admit though, January is not the best time of the year to visit the park, but since it hasn’t rained in the area, we thought we’d still see some animals.
Now as explained in an earlier post, packing for an infant can be a challenge. And going out for the day is just as bad. One has to take so many things for only a day’s fun. But we managed and hubby and I fell tiredly into bed well after our usual bed-time.
Round about 5 o’ clock, mr G woke me up. As hubby wanted to get up at this ungodly hour, I woke him up… only to be greeted with a grunt and “it’s too early!” We eventually left town at about 7am and headed for Okaukuejo, each geared with a cup of coffee and lively tunes in the CD player.
As Okaukuejo is the closest camp in Etosha from Otjiwarongo, this is the camp I know the best. The history of Okaukuejo is as interesting as some of the animals you’ll find in the park. Okaukuejo is the main administrative hub in the Park and it houses the Ecological Institute from where the research and management of nature conservation is directed. (Though I’m not sure if this is a place that tourists are allowed to visit?)
Okaukuejo was first used as a control post in 1897 when the German authorities threw a cordon across the entire northern half of the country (then German South West Africa) to prevent the spreading of rinderpest. Soon after a fortified military post was established here, but this was destroyed a few years later after which Okaukuejo was turned into a police post. In 1953, BJG de la Bat, was the first game ranger to arrive here and to be stationed at Okaukuejo. The only inhabitants in the area were the Kaikom Bushmen. The name by which the camp was originally known was “Okakwiya”, meaning “The woman who has a child every year”. (I would love to know the story after this name!)
Grandma had a hard time to remember when she last visited Etosha, but if my memory serves me correct, this was when I was still in primary school – a whole lot of years ago! So she was rather excited to go again. We realised early morning that it was to be a hot day and were extremely thankful for the air-con in our borrowed Volkswagen Tiguan. As we drove into Etosha I immediately noticed two things – it was dry, very dry and though we saw all the usual suspects (springbok, zebra and blue wildebeest), there were not a lot of anything in the vicinity. We drove to Okaukuejo, paid our fees and set off to find some animals.
We first drove towards Okondeka where people noted lions the previous day. Now lions are lazy and in this heat I don’t blame them. On our way there, a friendly tourist stopped us (with a massive big grin) and told us there were two lionesses at Okondeka and they just killed a zebra. (I probably also would have stopped every car to brag about a sighting like that!) So we rushed to the waterhole and found the two lions with their kill. We then returned towards Okaukuejo turning towards Gemsbokvlakte. At Newbroni waterhole we spotted a rhino. We were getting lucky! Not a very active rhino, but a rhino we saw! We continued towards Gemsbokvlakte and returned towards Okaukuejo via a different route. And then I spotted him – a lone elephant bull. We waited around a few minutes to see if he would come closer, but our empty stomachs called louder and so we headed back to camp to find a spot for our picnic.
Most of the shaded spots around the pool were already taken and the only one open looked very inviting. Unfortunately we found an overflowing drain nearby and had to make do with a rather patchy shade. Lunch was short lived with temperatures close to a 40’C. Relieved to get back into the air-conditioned VW, we called it a day and headed back home.
Though a short day by our usual standards, it was a hugely successful visit. Grandma was extremely thankful for her day out and we were just too glad that we survived our first visit in the park with 3 month old Mr. G.
Animals we saw:
A few of the birds I noted down: