November 3rd – Day Forty
The plan was to leave early and drive to the furthest of the other two rest camps, Okaukuejo. Along the way we would be passing through the national park so the whole day was a game drive, the length of the drive dictated by what we would be seeing rather than distance. Driving out the gate shortly after 6am we were all looking out for animals and at the first waterhole we struck gold. Stopping to view a giraffe Charles spotted a leopard padding away from the waterhole. The next hour was spent following this beautiful animal as it walked along parallel to the road. Twice the leopard disappeared and after a while with 19 pairs of eyes unable to spot her we would decide to continue. Both times we would drive a short way up the road we would and she would be spotted again so the cameras would be out again. At one point she stopped to rest on a fallen branch not ten metres from the road and completely relaxed she sat their staring lazily at the truck. I ran down from our seats at the back and shot a number of photos from a point directly opposite her stare near the front of the truck, calling others to come and share the view. She didn’t stay long in that position but I was happy. Later she posed staring across the road and then wandered in front of the truck before lying down to clean herself. That was the last clear view we had, soon after she was off again slowly walking away from the road but we were all happy, grinning and chatting about our encounter. The euphoria dying down a few people realised they now need a toilet so we actually turned around and headed back to Namutoni where ablutions were completed. All done we were back on the road, eyes peeled for our next encounter.
Our leopard in all her glory
The rest of our drive was nice with lots of wildlife sighted but nothing to compare with the leopard. We saw giraffe, oryx, kudu and black faced impala drinking at another waterhole. At one point we stopped to watch a large herd of springbok cross the road behind us. There were zebra, dik dik, wildebeest, hartebeest, lots of giraffe and a variety of birds large and small. As we drive people were getting hungry so it was decided to end the game drive and proceed straight to Okaukuejo, there was nothing else in our journey which made us want to stop so we were at Okaukuejo in time for lunch. We had fun and games with the reception staff, again a number of us wanted to upgrade and while we were trying to book the two required rooms another of the reception staff took another booking, leaving us only one bungalow and four beds available for the eight who wanted to upgrade. After a number of hours and negotiations with people further and further up the chain of command we were given a luxury lodge for the price of a bungalow so everyone had the bed they wanted.
The varied wildlife of an Etosha waterhole
Three giraffe run with the Etosha pan behind and springbok in front
The afternoon was spent checking out the varied animals at the local waterhole (which included a number of large male elephants that seemed like large elephant statues, resting in the sun after having covered themselves in mud) and I wrote some more while the truck went out for another game drive in the late afternoon. The drive was rather uneventful and the passengers returned somewhat disappointed. The evening bought dinner and then another night of waterhole viewing.
One of the resting elephants at the Okaukuejo waterhole
A greater bustard seen during the evening game drive
Sunset at Okaukuejo
The Okaukuejo waterhole was many times more entertaining than the Namutoni experience of the night before. We saw giraffe, elephant, rhino and lions come and go during a night of exciting coming and goings. An old elephant got a bit angry with some rhinos, challenging them and chasing them away from the waterhole so he could drink. The lions made all the other animals very wary and it was interesting to see the elephants and rhinos banding together to protect themselves and the young rhinos present (before the elephants chased the rhino’s away). We stayed quite late, finally heading to bed as the lions left. The night reverberated to lions calling, a number of people in tents sleeping fitfully with the roaring which sounded like it was just outside. I’m happy to saw I had a good nights sleep in my bungalow, solid walls between us and the wildlife.
Rhino at night around the Okaukuejo waterhole
Elephant and rhino together