Before heading to Ethosa we stopped off in the small town of Kamanjab for some supplies. It was surprisingly impressive! The general store at the petrol station doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it has a surprising array of goodies inside. Another gem is the Impala Meat Market near the other general store. Don’t be put off by what is in the display case – they have a secret supply of amazing game meat hidden in the back that you need to specifically ask for.
Etosha is Namibia’s most famous wildlife area, and it’s reputation is well deserved. It’s the only large reserve that is a ‘traditional’ game reserve where the animals are the focus, as opposed to the scenery. It’s well set-up for both self-driving and organized safaris but with a big focus on catering to the self-drive market. There are three main camps within the park, along with a few smaller camps and some luxury lodges around the main entrances. The region is really dry and so the wildlife tends to be concentrated around the waterholes, a combination of seasonal and permanent. Many people seemed to drive fairly fast from waterhole to waterhole in order to maximise their time there, but we found that we saw some really cool stuff away from the waterholes by taking it a bit slower. The game viewing is really amazing, with huge herds of zebra and springbok interspersed between large groups of giraffe, ostrich and oryx. Lions are a common sighting and we saw our best ever sighting of black rhino.
We were lucky to get a booking at the newly opened Olifantsrus Camp, a small camping only place with 8 campsites. It is situated in the western region of the park, which was only recently opened to tourists. Most of the game viewing is along the main east-west road, with pretty much no loop roads as found in the eastern region. The remoteness of the camp means that there are very few other vehicles when you do spot something, and so (unusually for a self-drive camp) it feels a lot wilder than other areas. The campsite is lovely, with good ablutions, electricity, a small kiosk and a nice hide overlooking a waterhole. We really enjoyed our two nights there, and found it by far the most social of the camps. A highlight was seeing 19 lions (including three cubs on their own along the road and two on a recent kill) on the drive to our next camp. We also saw another 4 lions on our afternoon drive, making it 23 for the day!
Our next stop was Okakeujo, the largest camp in Etosha. It is in what is regarded as the best area for game, with several large waterholes a short drive from the camp. The camp is huge, however, with over 60 campsites and a similar number of chalets, and so this tends to also be the most crowded area of the park. The camping area was not great, rocky campsites with little shade, hard ground and inconveniently situated ablutions. However, it is worth spending at least one night there so that you can explore the area, and the waterhole at the camp is pretty good. We watched two black rhinos running back and forth and sparring with each other for about 30 minutes around the waterhole.
After Okakeujo we headed to Halali camp. Several people we met were quite dismissive of Halali as it is a bit more difficult to spot the game as a result of the denser bush in the area. Although we didn’t see as much as in the other areas, the camp is really nicely set up and it has by far the best waterhole at any of the camps. We were lucky to see an interesting interaction between a lone black rhino and a pair of black rhinos at the waterhole, with the pair occasionally charging the single rhino, before they started to cautiously check each other out, with the occasional knocking of horns and pushing and shoving.
As we headed out to our next camp, Namutoni, we had an ominous beeping and flashing orange warning triangle on the dashboard of the Discovery – suspension fault! Sometime over breakfast it seems that the air suspension system had stopped working and the Discovery was stuck in the lower ride height. None of the tricks we’d learnt helped, and after a messing around under the car we reluctantly called Land Rover Assist to arrange for them to collect the car to have it repaired (and supply us with a hire car – a Toyota Hilux). Luckily it was still drivable, but missing some vital ground clearance for the later part of our trip. We could still drive to our final main camp, Namutoni, where we were spending the night and where the car would be collected. As a result of all the wasted time we decided to extend our stay at Namutoni from one night to two.
Namutoni Camp was our favourite of the big camps, with lots of shade, big camp sites and much smaller than the other camps. The camp waterhole was probably the least impressive, but there are some lovely drives in the area and cheetah seem to be more prevalent here than in the rest of the park (although we only got a distant glimpse of one). The highlight of our time around Namutoni was seeing 4 lions on a rhino kill, then around 12 – 15 jackals getting stuck in when the lions went for a drink, and then coming back the next morning to see spotted hyenas having their turn. A lovely side effect was that the jackals that typically hang around the campsite at night trying to steal food were otherwise occupied.
Overall we loved Etosha and think it should be on the itinerary of every visitor to Namibia. The game viewing is spectacular and the roads and waterholes were generally very quiet, something you don’t always get in public game parks in Africa.
Cumulative distance since leaving Joburg 6642 km
Cumulative bird count: 167
* Plains zebra
* Impala (black faced)
* Banded mongoose
* Damara dikdik
Next stop: Waterberg