We thought that we had ‘done’ game viewing. But our final animal adventure in Etosha National Park topped the lot and took our breath away.
For the first time, we drove straight into the Park in our very own truck (and home-sweet-home), Kwando. Our guide Jacques hopped in the back with us and drew upon his ranger background to give us an excellent
commentary through the safari. We spotted the rare black rhino, gemsbok and had a marvellous view of zebra drinking from one of the park’s waterholes.
Just as a couple of bull elephants arrived to compete for drinking space, the truck decided to develop a few water problems of its own and refused to start. So our rather anxious guides plus a mechanic from the group ventured outside (amidst ‘do not get out of your vehicle’ signs) and disappeared under the engine to administer some on-the-spot repairs. Thankfully Kwando spluttered into life and we were off again.
Our campsite in Etosha is where the real excitement began. We were astounded to find that there was a large waterhole right next to camp, complete with benches positioned just inside the low perimeter fence to give lazy tourists a unique ring-side seat. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate the night’s waterhole entertainment (see lost glasses diary entry), I stayed behind while the group went on an evening game drive and savoured the iconic African sunset from the waterhole’s benches. I was immensely glad I did. Within a few minutes, I spotted what I thought was an elephant approaching in the distance. Squinting in disbelief, I realised that it wasn’t just one elephant, it was the first of a whole herd – females, bulls, babies, the whole extended family! - ambling in single-file towards the waterhole for an evening dip.
I watched their breathtaking display of bathing and preening for a good half an hour, at which point some other large bulls turned up, prompting much trumpeting and aggressive stand-offs. It would have been very handy to have an elephant expert on hand to explain the various social interactions that were evidently taking place but which I had no idea how to interpret. My good luck continued as some giraffes also took their place at the waterhole, spreading their legs wide and leaning their neck forward to drink in a very ungainly manner!
The next morning, I was woken at 5am by a tremendously powerful, resonating growl that continued menacingly for nearly forty minutes. I had never heard lions roaring before and can only describe it as the most intimidating rumbling sound. They sounded incredibly close, but we were told later that the beasts were as far as ten kilometres away. The elephants’ waterhole antics and lions’ roaring were totally unforgettable and a highlight of the whole trip.