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Etosha National Park and Windhoek, Namibia with Nomad Tours – Day 10, 11 & 12

Kamanjab, Namibia to Etosha National Park – Day 10

Elephant in Etosha National Park

Hi there big fella. Etosha National Park

This morning we drove 170 kilometers from the Himba Village to Etosha National Park and immediately began a game drive.

Etosha National Park covers an area of 22,270 square kilometers (13,837 square miles!).  Within a mile of the entrance to the park we saw a lion!

The day continued on this way, hitting the jackpot with sightings of zebras, giraffes, elephants at the waterhole, springboks, rhinos, wildebeest (gnus), impalas, warthogs, and oryxes.  Wow!

To keep my pack light, I don’t travel with a legitimate camera.  My iphone 4S has been suitable enough.  Until today when it fell terribly short.  I wish I could deliver better quality pictures for your viewing pleasure.  It’s probably time to get a proper camera and ditch the high heels that I’ve been carrying around for a year.

Game drive over, we arrived at the campground – a gated area right outside the park.

Upon arrival, Morrison gave a clear warning:

If you see a honey badger, “Do not think they are cute.  They are not cute”.  They are very, very dangerous, fearless and ferocious.  Even lions are scared of them.  There was some mention of “attacking testicles” at which point I blanked out and wondered what a honey badger might attack if the prey were testicle-less.  I can say with 100% confidence that I’ve never wondered about such things before.

Not knowing what a honey badger looked like, I asked to see a picture which Mxolisi produced.  Hmmm, I thought.  “Small, furry, cute.”

It was  helpful to see this picture so that five minutes later, I could identify the real live honey badgers that walked into camp and were standing ten feet away from my fleshy, delicious body.  Holy crap.  “I don’t have testicles honey badger!” I wanted to shout.

Standing still, I got the attention of Morrison and Mxolisi who were not pleased by the visit.  Mxolisi, who is an animal lover, was quick to throw rocks which sent them off running.  Dinner preparation was about to begin and Mxolisi said he wouldn’t be able to cook with them around – if they smelled the meat, they would attack.  Super duper!

Dinner was eventually served and dessert was a walk to the nearby waterhole which was equipped with elevated seating and lighting to allow nighttime animal viewing.  Again, how lucky I was to see five lions enjoying a drink before two rhinos came along and scared them off.

Etosha National Park – Day 11

Happy at Etosha Pan

Happy at Etosha Pan in Etosha National Park, Namibia

We rose before dawn to be the first at the gates of Etosha National Park which opens at sunrise.  Everyone is super tired.  Less luck today with seeing animals.

The big excitement was Mxolisi spotting a leopard sitting behind a bush five million miles away.  Seriously.  The leopard may as well have been sitting on Saturn.  I couldn’t even see it with binoculars.  How did he see that?!

This spotting led to Mxolisi giving us an education about leopards and cheetahs and their differences, which led to Mxolisi talking about hunting a leopard as part of his initiation as a man at age 18.  “Sure”, I thought.  On my 18th birthday I was sitting in the suburbs eating ice cream with my pimply-faced friends.

We stop at Etosha Pan (salt flats), which covers about 25% of the park (4,800 square km).  The park got it’s name from this place: “Etosha” means “great white place”.  Formed some 100 million years ago, it was once a lake and now it’s an otherworldly barren salt pan.

By midday, I am truly tired of looking at animals.  “Animals shmanimals“, I thought.  How spoiled I am to get tired of seeing wildlife.

We arrived at a new campground near the park.  This one had a store (ice cream!), a restaurant, and a swimming pool.  After lunch many people went on another game drive with Morrison, but I declined.  My introverted self was quite content to stay behind and recharge my batteries.

That night I seat myself at the communal aluminum table and pour myself a glass of Amarula, a cream liqueur from South Africa which I have taken a liking to.  Soon, a young German man from the group sits across from me and asks me to tell him stories about my life.   Suddenly I feel 110 years old.  Am I being appreciated or condescended to?  You want stories?  I’ll give you stories you little punk.

It’s Irish Patrick’s last night and my German seatmates too.  We picked up two new Germans a couple days ago so tomorrow the totals will be: 12 Germans, 2 Austrians, 2 Swiss, 4 Dutch, and one American.

Come on Americans, help me out here!  I can’t do it all alone!  And by “do it”, I mean explain one more time that hamburgers are not all we eat and Sarah Palin is not a good representative of the USA.  We will never live her down.

As usual I am one of the last to go to bed.  While sipping my amarula with friends, I watch jackals roam around the campground looking for a quick bite.  Hopefully the quick bite, is not me.

Windhoek, Namibia – Day 12

We left Etosha early and Morrison drove 430 kilometers so it was mostly a sleep-in-the-truck day for the rest of us.  As we were leaving the park, we saw a lion, a sweet farewell gift.

We stopped for lunch in Kukuri, a cattle-slaughtering town of 8000 people.  There two children with emaciated limbs and the blonde hair that signifies malnutrition waited near the truck for any leftovers.  Mxolisi provided them with bread and meat that would spoil otherwise and the children ran off.  A sobering reminder of just how insulated we are on this tour and how lucky we are.  Our idea of “roughing it” is paradise.

We arrived in Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek, in the afternoon and had about an hour to sightsee.  I passed, and stayed in the truck, frantically writing notes so I could recount this whole experience later.

About five kilometers out of town we stayed in a lodge where I enjoyed a private room with a nice bed and a hot shower.  A dinner together to say goodbye to Patrick and Julia sealed the day.  They will be missed.

Pictures below.

Official Itinerary from Nomad Tours:

Day 10/11 Etosha National Park

Etosha is the venue for some of the most unique game viewing experiences in Africa. The sparse grasslands allow great opportunities to see animals normally hidden in dense vegetation. You may even see some of the amazing animals crossing the road in front of your truck! We will go on various game drives and spend our evenings at the abundant waterholes for some excellent game photography.

Etosha National Park

Etosha, meaning “Great White Place”, is dominated by a massive mineral pan, part of the great Kalahari Basin. The Etosha pan, originally a lake fed by the Kunene River, covers about 5 000 square km, a quarter of the Etosha National Park. The lake dried up thousands of years ago and is now a dusty depression of salty clay which occasionally fills with the rare heavy rains. This temporary water supply stimulates the growth of an algae which attracts wading birds and flamigos by their thousands. Large concentrations of wildlife gather year-round at the perennial springs on the edges of the pan. This amazing abundance of wildlife makes Etosha one of Southern Africa’s finest and most important game reserves. Covering an area of 22 270 square km, it is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish.

Day 12 Windhoek
After an early morning game drive we set off towards Windhoek, the Capital city of Namibia. On the way we stop at a popular craft market where you can barter for handmade gifts to take home. Windhoek is not only the capital; it is also the cultural, social and economic centre of Namibia. On arrival in Windhoek our guide will take us on a short city tour in our truck. Joe’s Beer House is an exciting dining experience for our optional dinner out.

Windhoek

Craft market en-route and short city tour in Nomad Truck

The Nama people originally gave Windhoek the name Ai-Gams, meaning “hot water” due to the hot springs that were once part of the town. The Herero people who lived there called it Otjomuise, “place of steam”. Theories vary on how Ai-Gams/Otjomuise got its modern name of Windhoek, most believe the name Windhoek is derived from the Afrikaans word Wind-Hoek, meaning “corner of wind”. It is also thought that the Afrikaners named Windhoek after the Winterhoek Mountains, at Tulbagh in South Africa, where the early Afrikaner settlers had lived. In those days Windhoek was the point of contact between the warring Namas, led by Jan Jonker Afrikaner, and the Herero people.

Present-day Windhoek was founded on 18 October 1890, when German settler Von François fixed the foundation stone of the Alte Feste fort. During the next fourteen years Windhoek developed slowly, with only the most essential government and private buildings being erected. After 1907, the town grew quickly as people migrated from the countryside to the city and a large influx of European settlers began arriving from Germany and South Africa. Many beautiful buldings and monuments were erected, including Heinitzburg, one of three castles in Windhoek, the fairy-tale Christuskirche and The Rider statue.

Disclaimer: Nomad Tours offered me a discount in exchange for documentation of the experience.  I have complete freedom to share my thoughts.  All opinions are my own.

Photos of Days 10,11, & 12:

2 Comments

  1. Get rid of the high heels!! 10 feet from a honey badger?? Holy crap…I’ve only seen videos on YouTube. Loved your observations on turning 18, too much of a good thing (“Animals Shmanimals”), the guy asking for stories and “roughing it.” Nice…

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