Friday 1st March. Just before sunrise over the Okavango River from my ‘garden’ at the Kaisosi River Lodge.
A little while later, a fisherman was working from his dugout canoe opposite my room.
And just before we set off after breakfast, an African Pygmy-goose appeared.
We had been at the north of the Caprivi Strip, (that ‘handle’ at the north east of Namibia) and this morning were moving well towards the south of it but not much further east yet.
En route, we (they) couldn’t resist visiting the previous evening’s sewage works again. But before getting there we saw (among other things – it’s always among many, many other things, especially birds) ..
Thursday, 28th February. Before sunrise, all the others went off, after a coffee, for a bird-watching walk around the grounds of the Lodge. Being rather birded out, I allowed myself a few more minutes in bed, though still had had my breakfast pretty early, well before the others got back to have theirs. I filled in time by wandering round the grounds on my own in non-birdwatching mode, and then visiting the ‘Reptile Walk’ of the lodge, which had sadly seen better days.
We covered a lot of ground this day, 430 km/267 miles. It was pretty hot (35 degrees C max) , and thunderstorms threatened, never amounting to much though.
Our lunch was taken at a Roy’s Rest Camp, whose proprietors have a wacky sense of humour!
Once we got going again, there was little time to stop for wildlife photographs, and I snatched such pictures of Namibian rural life as I could through the windows of the vehicle.
Shortly afterwards, we arrived at Kaisosi River Lodge on the Okavango River, with Angola on the other side.
But the dining room was not – yet – for us. After settling in, we went out to visit ….. a sewage works.
As I walked back to my room at Mokuti Lodge for a rest after lunch, I felt uncomfortable, not for the last time, to see lawn-watering going on for the pleasure of tourists, in a country so afflicted by drought.
In due course, we went out for our late afternoon drive.
We moved on – as I recollect to a sewage works.
As we drove back to the lodge, I tried to capture some of the termite mounds which were to be seen almost everywhere.
We spent our second night at Mokuti Lodge, to move on the next day.
Tuesday 26th February. Today we were leaving Halali Camp and moving on to Mokuti Lodge at the eastern end of Etosha National Park in time for lunch, and to stay two nights. While we were waiting for our vehicles to collect us, some of us were amused to see a honey badger arrive at the row of bins opposite us, (all closed at that stage), sniff at each, and, clearly much practised, neatly flip open the lid of the end one – holding it open with its back leg to prevent it falling shut – go inside and take out this packet of meat, then calmly tear it open and eat the contents, slice by slice. It then proceeded to do exactly the same with a packet of cheese slices. Not the way you really want to observe wildlife, but a clear illustration of adaptation to human presence. They were there first!
We set off through the national park, taking our time, stopping at the roadside and waterholes, making for our new lodge.
I was in Jakes’s vehicle this day, and he was particularly excited to see this rhino. It is a White rhino, quite rare (and, as I discovered later, a reintroduction). ‘White’ is a corruption of, I believe, Dutch ‘wijd’, referring to its wide mouth. The White rhino also has a prominent neck hump. It is noticeably larger than the Black rhino. The Black rhino is also called the Browse rhino.
When we were only a few miles from or next lodge, we stopped at Namutoni Camp, a former German colonial fort, now another government-run lodge.
There was a small museum there, and a family of striped mongooses.
But our next lodge was privately run, and a distinct notch or four up on those we had already stayed at. After a leisurely lunch, and a siesta, we were due to go out, though this was put slightly in doubt by rain, the first of only two occasions when we wondered whether our plans might be affected in this way. But the storm was brief, nothing like enough to help do anything about the drought, and we went out at the planned time.
Monday, morning, 25th February. Here is a map of Etosha National Park. “>http://a href=”https://www.etoshanationalpark.org”><img src=”https://www.etoshanationalpark.org/media/Etosha-Map2.jpg” alt=”Etosha National Park Map” title=”Etosha National Park Map”/></a>
It’s huge. Etosha Pan itself is 75 miles/120 kilometres long. This is a dried up lake, the salt from which affects the land to its south. We had entered the NP by Anderson Gate, in the middle of the Park, and Halali Camp is a little over a third of the way along the Pan to the northwest of the Gate. The map shows the many waterholes.
After a very early breakfast, we went out for a ‘game’ drive. It was not quite as light as my camera made out to begin with.
When we got back to Halali Camp, it was still relatively early, and we had a couple of hours off. The Camp had no free wifi, but our vehicles did, and I spent some time in one of them (as it was being driven to get fuel and then parked somewhere in the camp) catching up with vital home political news. (For those interested in such things, I learned that THAT vote, due already for the nth time on 27th February, was being put off again for two weeks.)
Before lunch, the group walked five minutes to the waterhole a few had visited the previous evening. En route we saw in the camp grounds, among other things, …
Once at the waterhole, where we were comfortably seated, we saw plenty of life.
Sunday 24th February, afternoon. This trip was timed to be the end of the ‘green season’, i.e. after the rains. Everything should have been lush, in fact making ground-living creatures more difficult to see, thus the particular interest of birders in this trip. But as were told right at the outset, the region had now suffered from seven years of drought, and areas that should have been marshy, and even flooded, were not. This was not only having an adverse effect on wildlife, but farmers were losing cattle, and entering into penury. For us however, shrinking waterholes were ideal for observing wildlife, not just birds. So after leaving our lunch spot…
… we visited a couple of waterholes, though many of the following pictures were taken from the roadside on the way to our first lodge within Etosha National Park.
After a long and tiring couple of days, we were very pleased to reached the Halali Restcamp, dine, and go to bed. Except that a few of them didn’t immediately, but walked to the nearby waterhole and saw lots of elephants. And apparently missed a leopard drinking there an hour later.
Saturday night and Sunday morning. (23rd/24th February 2019). We’ll gloss over the sheer panic I had felt for two hours on the Friday afternoon when a trespasser on the railway at my local railway station made me miss my long-haul flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, and I saw my two-week safari in three countries melting away before my eyes. I’ll just thank Naturetrek for speedily booking me onto a flight 3 hours later, and for having arranged the timing of the whole journey such that I was still able to take the intended onward flight to Windhoek, Namibia, (formerly South West Africa) at the same time as my prospective 14 companions.
At Windhoek, we were met by Neil, the proprietor of Safariwise, and the other leader/guide, Jakes, both Afrikaans-origin Namibian nationals. They drove us in two vehicles to the Waterberg Plateau, halfway to Etosha, where we would spend the night. From my leaving home to arrival at our lodge there, it had been some 27 hours.
Here is a map to explain our itinerary.
From Waterberg we were to go onward to central Etosha for two nights, eastern Etosha for another two, and onward to the north-east border of Namibia to stay for one night in a lodge in Kavangoland, on the Okavango River, with Angola on the other bank. We would then move for three nights to a lodge at the western point of the Caprivi Strip. From there we would make a day visit into Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland), after which we would move on further east within the Caprivi strip for a night in a lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River, and then spend two nights in Botswana itself in Chobe National Park. Our last two nights would be spent just over the border in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) and we would fly back home, via Johannesburg, from Livingstone, near Victoria Falls.
The following, Sunday, morning, we started as we went on most days – getting up very, very early, with a pre-breakfast walk. This makes sense because it is around dawn and dusk that wildlife is most active. Like us, the creatures do not like to move around in the middle of a hot day. (Daytime maxima during the fortnight varied from 33°C to 38°C, night-time minima from 18° to 22°.) We followed a track near to our accommodation, which was considerably higher than the surrounding plain, but still with the plateau looming over us.
The sun was not yet up.
A word on captions. I only started systematically noting the names of the birds I photographed about halfway through the trip, so certainty about the names is not always guaranteed, depending both on whether I was able to check them out after the event, and also on whether I noted them correctly (the latter going for the second half of the trip also). Anyone with better information than I is very welcome to make corrective notes in the comments!
After breakfast we set off for our next destination, Etosha National Park. This is one of the two vehicles we travelled in. Everyone had a window seat, most also having the chance for a better view if they stood when the roof was up.
As we travelled our guides kept their eyes skinned for anything of wildlife interest and stopped for us to look and take photos as appropriate. The rule seemed to be that the longer we were taking to get anywhere, risking our next meal, the more significant the creature had to be for us to stop! I was just amazed at what Neil and Jakes noticed and immediately identified as they drove along.
We diverted to a sewage works – not for the last time in the fortnight! I was the only traveller not principally and passionately interested in (and knowledgeable about) birds, my interest in wildlife, and the countries visited, being more general. And I was to learn that sewage works are fantastic for birdwatching, as they are made up of a series of ponds which attract waders and other birds.
Neil and Jakes also removed some illegal traps set to catch birds at the sewage works.
We had lunch at a safari lodge en route. We did not starve in the 14 days!