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Namibia: Damaraland, Etosha National Park, NamibRand Nature Reserve, Ongava, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Windhoek
Etosha National Park, Namibia: Unending drama
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Etosha National Park is one of Southern Africa's finest and most important Game Reserves. Etosha Game Park was declared a National Park in 1907 and covers 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. The Etosha Park is one of the first places on any itinerary designed for a holiday in Namibia.
And sure enough. Etosha was our first stop after having landed in Windhoek. After collecting our vehicles and completing the documentation we began our 520 km. drive towards Etosha. We crossed pretty little towns of Okahandja, Otjiwarongo and Tsumeb.
Thanks to the paved road from Windhoek to Etosha the journey was smooth. That the statement ‘journey is as beautiful as the destination’ certainly holds true whilst driving through Namibia. Of course, this was only a beginning.
For the night we were booked at Mushara Outpost. The camp is located about 10 kms. from the Von Lindequist Gate on the eastern outskirts of the Etosha National Park.
Mushara Outpost is all about old-fashioned hospitaity and warmth. Its friendly and personalised service is indeed magical. The lodge house is styled on an old farm house, tall walls and corrugated iron roof with a large wrap around veranda. Each tent is set on a wooden deck, giving the occupants a different perspective of the bush around. The thatched reception area houses a library, dining area and front lawns that's home to many wandering wildlife. An evening campfire adds to the drama.
As soon as we crossed the gates of Mushara Outpost, we were greeted by the typical African sunset and a pair of giraffes – our trip’s first wildlife sighting. There would be more to Etosha.
Etosha, meaning "Great White Place", is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1,000 million years ago. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds.
The park is only open from sunrise to sunset. Outside of these hours, visitors either have to be in one of the camps, or completely outside the park - or sleep in their cars, surrounded by sharp-toothed prowlers and the sounds of bush at night!
Like many game lodges, Mushara Outpost offers game safaris to their guests. At our disposal were two open vehicles that promised unhindered views. Our driver-cum-guide was an expert on wild-life spotting. These guides have trained eyes to spot the slightest of movement no matter how camouflaged the animals were. Without guides and their knowledge tourists on their own are bound to miss some action. Each vehicle has its own set of walkie-talkie. The guides communicate with other guides in the park and exchange sighting information. They maneuver the vehicles accordingly.
We had booked two safaris for the day – morning and evening. We left our rooms at 6 AM, so that we could be at the park gate well in time. Just inside of the gate is an area that has a gas station, restaurants, curio shops and toilets. I suggest, using the latter because once you are on the safari, there’s no way to get a ‘comfort stop’.
The entire morning we were in the park negotiating many kms. The sightings were excellent, especially at one of the waterholes. The highlight of the day was following a family of cheetahs – a mom and her two sons. We were extremely lucky to be able to be with this group for over an hour. We learnt that they were hungry and anxiously looking for a hunt.
In the evening safari we could see the black rhino in its full glory amongst many other animals of the wild. The pictures will tell you more.
That evening we sat around the fire in the company of a few bucks who were happily grazing around. The next morning we drive to Ongava driving right across the Etosha pan and out of the park through the Andersson gate.
Etosha National Park Image Gallery Photo viewer
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