Monday, 2 June 2014

Francois Ghanem - Self Driving in Namibia

We are in Namibia! We overnighted in Windhoek with high hopes of getting our rental car and be on the road by 9:30 AM at the latest - for our long drive to Etosha.
First thing this morning we had a very informative pre arranged meeting with Birgit - one of Elizabeth's Namibian colleagues.  The meeting reviewed our plan and was very helpful in answering some last minute questions I had.  Birgit's first hand knowledge of driving conditions throughout the country provided "real" confirmation to the stuff I've been reading and researching for months.
Anyhow, due to a car rental snafu (Disclosure: I made car rental arrangments independantly of trip arrangements made with Elizabeth) and really slow rental process (including actually counting the number of dings and scratches in the car) we got a start about 2 hours later than we wanted.  (more on that in a subsequent blog.)  So with little time to spare we made the long but easy trek (on paved roads - except within the park) in time to see a bunch of Zebras, elephents, wildebeasts and a wild dog - and another spectacular African sunset.
We spent two nights in a centrally located lodge in the middle of Etosha, and another night just a few kms south of the park.  So basically we had sufficient time to explore diferent parts of the park.
The lodge in the park was in a great location and allowed convenient access to a significant portion of Etosha.  Accomodations were practical and comfortable. We ordered lunch packs for our planned drives around the park.  The packs were very good and ample.  Dinners were a small buffet with the entrees cooked to order - typically a beef steak and a game steak grilled as one likes it.  I tried the Springbok steak here and I enjoyed it very much.  Staff was perfectly fine and helpful.
The lodge a few KMs outside the park  was good and in all aspects would be comprable to a mid level hotel in Europe or USA.
Now that is out of the way - let us talk about the park.  We did most the exploration on our own guided by a good map and seeking as many waterholes as possible.  We supplemented our drive with guided game drives offered by the lodge.  Both approaches yielded great game watching opportunities.
We saw more ellies, giraffes, zebras, wildebeasts and black rhinos - alas no big cats sighted.
The pan and varried landscape were a very interesting and beautiful backdrop as we looked for the animals.
A couple of highlights to mention.  On one of our independent drives we came across two ellies that appeared to be tussling in the middle of the road - with no intention of moving.  So we turned off the car and observed and waited....  As we waited we quickly recognized that the ellies were not fighting but were an amorous couple.  After they finished their " activities" the female ellie walked over in our direction and stopped about half a meter from the front of the car.  With my hand on the car keys we watched with interest and nervous caution.  Miss, or more aptly, Mrs. ellie looked at us raised her trunk and opened her mouth as in a yawn.  (she was so close we could see her teeth.)  At this point I slowly  took a few photos (could not let this go by) through the windscreen and started the car and slowly reveresed out of our spot.  Ellie seemed to lose interest and retreated into the bush.
Another fantastic memory was as the sun was setting on the park lodge's water hole.  Two adult and a baby black rhino came by to drink.  Simply magnificient!
We found the combination of the lodges, locations, and the three nights were ideal for our exploration of Etosha.  One could spend weeks exploring this massive expanse of a national park and without any doubt find every moment exciting.
A very rewarding experience indeed!!!
I think the "animal" portion of our trip is over.  Next, we are moving south and will focus on scenery in other Namibian national parks.  But who knows we may run across ( not literally - I hope) the desert ellie that makes Damaraland its home.

That will be our next spot and our next report.

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