After arriving in Africa we have only visited one park (Addo Elephant National Park) to look for animals. Now it was time to visit Etosha, “one of the world’s greatest wildlife-viewing venues”as Lonely Planet described it. We had heard that camping in the park is quite expensive and it would be worth camping at one of the campgrounds just outside one of the main park gates and go in for a day visit, from sunrise to sunset. But someone had recommended us to stay in the one of the park campgrounds, because then you could watch the animals at the flood lighted water hole at night. We thought it might be worth seeing a water hole at night one time and paid the 50 USD for one night camping at the Okaukuejo Campsite and 21USD entrance fee that was valid for 24 hours when you camped in the park.
In the park we started driving around different loops and we saw mostly zebras and springbok, but springbok does not really count since you see them all over the place outside the parks as well. Compared to Addo we did not see many different animals our first afternoon in the park, and we were not really too impressed. Back in camp we went straight to the water hole and we saw our first elephant in the park.
As the sun set and we were cooking dinner the black backed jackals turned up in the campsite and they came really close to us. If people left any of their cooking equipment or food on their table the jackals would walk over to the table for a taste.
After dinner we brought a wool blanket (it is colder in Africa at night than we expected, but then it is winter time) and a bottle of red wine over to the water hole, and we were ready for an evening of wildlife viewing.
It was really nice and quiet and it was really great to see elephants, zebras, giraffes and rhinos approaching the water hole out of the dark night. In total that evening we saw six rhinos coming to drink water. It was great.
Next morning we were on it again starting the drive around to the different water holes in the park. This time of year is the dry season and animals gather around the water holes, so that would be the best place to spot wildlife. This morning we saw many more animals than the afternoon before. We also got to another part of the park where we could see out over the 5000 sq km Etosha salt pan. It looked hot and dry.
On our drive in the park we did not see any of the cats or hyenas. All in all the stay in Etosha was ok, but we still thought Addo was better. With one hour left on our 24 hour permit we decided to go back to the Okaukuejo water hole and eat lunch there. It was not just us that had decided to have lunch, it looked like all the cud-chewing mammals in the park had decided to visit the same water hole as us. We could hardly believe our own eyes when it came to the amount of animals there, it was just incredible.
As soon as they were done drinking the animals headed off, but there were even more animals coming in. So the Okaukuejo water hole made the whole stay in Etosha worth it for us.
Entering a park like Etosha or Addo to see “wild” animals is kind of contradicting. The animals are wild, but they are in a fenced off area and they cannot migrate like they normally would. Etosha is more than 20,000 sq km and that is quite large, but there is still fences around it. Etosha National Park is also divided into two sections, and the western section that covers one third of the park is served exclusively for tour operators and the eastern two thirds are open to the general public like us. When we visited now it was low season and we did not even have to book a campsite in advance, and there were still free campsites the night we were there. But still, at the water holes where the animals are you are never alone, you always share the spot we a few other cars.
At the water hole in the afternoon and evening it was quite entertaining to look all the different people and their camera equipment. We realized we need a serious upgrade when we looked around us. In the evening it was definitely a higher number of living creatures behind the fence than in front of it.
We just wanted to write short about this part of seeing wild animals in Africa. We all see the amazing animal photos of wild creatures and we all try to take the most amazing photos for our self, but what we don’t see that often is the scene behind and around the camera. This is not to say that we do not like the parks, we will visit a few more over the next weeks because it is the best opportunity to see many animals close up. But if we end up with a few good photos of wildlife then you know that it was probably another twenty people that got the same image on their cameras too.