THE FLAT, SHIMMERING WHITE ETOSHA Salt Pan covers a quarter of Etosha National Park’s 20,000 sq km area. After the rains come, flamingos and other birds flock in, as animals disperse around the park. When the waters retreat, the wildlife of Etosha is drawn to it limited water holes.
Prey, predator and scavenger can be seen in nervous stand-offs, respecting the heirarchial pecking order for drinks. Impala, lion. Elephant, rhino. Jackal, kudu. Strength against numbers. Size against speed. Attached to three of these waterholes are A-grade camping and lodge facilities: buffet lunch, swimming pool, shops. Easy viewing on the flat terrain and quality roads make Etosha suitable to self-drive safari-ing, even for beginners.
Etosha National Park, one of the great wildlife parks.
A great, flat land of plains and huge skies.
A number of waterholes are magnets to animals in its 20,000 sq km.
The name means "Great White Place of Dry Water."
Within 30 minutes of entering, we had seen giraffes drinking by zebra, oryx running, gazelle, kudu and more.
The varity of, and chances of seeing wildlife in Etosha are unparalleled.
Guys with long horns and longer necks.
The landscape and geography of Etosha makes for easy wildlife spotting.
Some of the open, flat veld allow you to see for miles around.
In parts almost completely void of trees, leaving nowhere for larger creatures to hide.
Smaller grazers, and browsers like kudu find protection in small trees and shrubs.
After the rains have finished, animals congregate at the remaining water sources. Note the jackal on the left.
Prey, predator, or scavenger, they all need to drink. This oryx is alertly watching lions.
So too are these kudu. Less than 200m separate them from the king of the jungle here.
This couple had other things on their mind.
Etosha's waterholes reward the patient wildlife observer.
Guests can stay at 3 very well equipt camp sites, with lodges, restaurants (buffet!), shops and at some, swimming pool. Very nice!
Another feature of the camps is the water holes around which they are built.
You could sit here all day and night and watch the coming and going of Africa.
Flood llights keep the action visible long after sunset. A sound or smell becomes a shape, becomes a beast.
Slowly driving around seeking animals, finding clues and tracks, is part of the joy of safari.
While moving between spots, expect to see much wildlife, like these ostrich chicks shading under Mum.
Watch for movement in the undergrowth next to the road. We initially only spotted the mother cheetah, who then brought her four cubs out onto the road.
It took us several sweeps of a 1km section of road to find this leopard, who we'd been told was in the trees.
Etosha is over 140km wide, with considerable variety to the terrain, plant life, and animal life.
The vast Etosha Pan strecthes across the park, with nearly all the roads, waterholes and camps to its south. Its emptiness is quite beautiful.
A lone, older elephant walks in search of food and water.
Red Hartebeest, one of many bovidae/antelope species in Etosha, enjoy the remaining grass.
Other use the grass for cover.
A jackal's coat helps him blend in for easier hunting.
The rains begin to arrive in October, puddles creating more water sources for animals.
Puddles can also make for some uniquely African road issues.
Birding improves with rain, but as water becomes more accessible, animals are more dispersed and harder to encounter.
The rains feed the grasses and shrubs which sustain the herbivores.
As water levels drop, smaler prey at drinking holes must be on constant alert.
Predators like cheetah wait close by, ready to attack.
Other beasts can afford to be a little less attentive when taking a dip.
For others, a drink presents unique problems, and dangers.
Spotting wildlife is a learnt skill, but Etosha is a good place to start. Self drive is not difficult, but tour operators also cover the park.
For a more complete, comprehensive and accesible wildlife trip, with surprising levels of comfort, Etosha is amongst the best.