After a good few weeks of not seeing any big game, we were very keen to get into Etosha – one of Africa’s best-known game parks. It is mainly known for its massive congregations of game around the waterholes in the dry season. After some tyre problems, we didn’t manage to get into the park for our first night we had booked and had to stay in the nearby town of Outjo to get new takkies put on Winchester.
Arriving at around mid-morning at our first camp, Okaukuejo, we immediately saw where Etosha gets its reputation, with lots of noise coming from the waterhole. We quickly set up camp, put a few G&T’s in the cooler box, and headed down to the waterhole. We sat for hours, amazed at the vast quantities of Springbok, Zebra, Gemsbok, Kudu, Giraffe, as well as a lone Elephant who were all chilling around the water.
Sunsets and night-time at the waterhole were also great. Replacing the G&T’s from the cooler box with ice and Whisky, we spend a good number of hours watching a group of Black Rhino drink, play and mellow around. This must surely be one of the best places in the world to watch Black Rhino.
Halali was our next camp in the middle of the park. This camps waterhole was not as productive, but we did get Black Rhinos drinking there every night, which is a rare treat these days!
Lastly, we moved across to the Eastern side of the park to Namutoni camp, which had nice camping grounds. The highlights here were two Cheetah sitting at a waterhole with an amazing sunset as the backdrop, as well as the enormous flocks of Red-Billed Quelea coming in to roost. These birds are the most common bird in the world, with 1500 billion birds worldwide. They form huge flocks in the dry season as they head out to forage for food. Their nesting site was a reed bed right in front of the Namutoni camp. We headed up the fort at sunset and watched the birds come in from their day’s outing. Flock after flock, it was amazing to watch them just keep on coming and coming, dancing in the air as they fly in a synchronised rhythm.
After a week in the park, we moved on towards Bushmanland, an area on the Eastern side of Namibia. We had a friend who had been there for 3 weeks doing research on the predator population in the area – mainly lion, cheetah and wild dogs. It was great to share a campsite with a few other people after a month or so on the road. Marnus, along with his Danish friend and colleague, Casper, had been using the local Bushmen as trackers to do their research, by driving lengths of road and using the Bushmen’s expert knowledge in identifying spoor, to determine the numbers of predators in the area.
These Bushmen are the closest you can get to the real thing. No, they don’t wear skins anymore and have moved a little towards a Western lifestyle in some ways. But they do still live in little mud and grass huts and live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Their language of clicks was absolutely fascinating to listen to! I wondered when a group of girls wearing flip-flops walked by how they didn’t get confused between the sound of their footwear and the clicks coming out of their mouths! They also speak Afrikaans so we could speak to them with the little bit we know.
Marnus had organised us a day to spend with two of the Bushmen to learn some of their skills and way of life. One of them was, according to Marnus, in the classic film ‘The God’s Must Be Crazy’ when he was a young boy! So off we headed into the bush, Stu and I, with our two Bushmen guides, David and Gideon. Our aim was to see if we could walk and stalk some Guinea fowl and get some dinner. After spotting a flock at a waterhole, we hopped out the car and got into single file formation, the two Bushmen followed by Stu and I. The Bushmen, who must have been in their 50s, moved extremely quickly and quietly in pursuit of the birds. Their clicks replaced with a series of hand movements to communicate, we made up ground and got into position before they both started letting off shots. The birds took off, but one of them was caught in the firing line and dropped to the ground stunned, but not dead. David then rushed out to catch the bird and make the kill. We shared the Guineafowl around the fire that night – certainly an experience to remember!