Driving Across Etosha | Sense Africa

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Driving Across Etosha11th May '15  |  - 1 Comment

Grab life by the horns and drive across Etosha National Park.  Despite it only being about 160 km from the Anderson Gate to the Von Lindequist Gate, it will take you all day.  I was driving west to east through the park and I was very conscious of not making a rookie error and spending too much time in the western section and not leaving myself enough time to explore the eastern side.

Etosha pan was originally a lake that dried up millions of years ago  And the actual Park covers an area of 22,270 km housing 114 mammal species, 380 birds and 110 reptiles.  Surprisingly there are also 16 amphibians and even one fish species to discover.  It shirt is one of Namibia’s oldest national parks and was proclaimed in 1907, now being over 100 years old.

My day of driving across the park from west to east I had an early breakfast and set off on my way.  You have to have a permit to get into Etosha and this is paid for at one of the three rest camps. there are brilliant maps of the area with the waterholes marked, showing whether they are borehole (meaning that they have water in them all year round) or whether they are natural.  The wonderful thing about self driving is you can get excited just by making a plan of which route you choose to take across the park, of course this will change with the incredible wildlife sightings that you may see, but I loved making the plan with anticipated excitement of what I was going to see.

That day I had made the decision to avoid the main camp of Okaukuejo and wind my way directly to the first borehole supplied waterhole on my route, Gemsbokvlakte. and what a great decision this was. I think I was the second car to stop on the gravel road beside a pride of 11 lions, what a treat that was.  It was away from the water hole and not many people had driven this road as yet in the morning so the Bush Telegraph was not working very well and I had the pride to myself for half an hour.

IMG_0873The beauty of driving yourself is that you can stop and look at things for as long as you want to and you don’t get swept up with other people trying to bag as many animals as possible.  I love taking Africa at a slow pace and allowing the surroundings speak for themselves.  I watched a Kori Bustard walk past me, it took 10 minutes because he was busy surveying his territory, it was delightful.

Practically all roads are not sure dirt roads and there is a general speed limit of 60 km/h, however it is advisable to go slow as you never know what you might Miss.  I find that sometimes there seems to be an urgent rush to get from one waterhole to the next however there are so many other opportunity to see different wildlife on the way the slow steady speed will enable you to see as much the possibly can.  I nearly drove past a black rhino and it was only 20 m off the road in the bush, if I had been driving any faster I may well have missed it.  Admittedly it is a little bit harder when it is just yourself…

IMG_1068After seeing numerous elephants at waterholes, vast herds of gemsbok and a very regal male lion I decided to move on from the western area of Etosha and towards the Etosha Look-out.  The roads to the Look-out simply go straight onto Etosha pan, it is mind blowing.

The scenery is extraordinary, it is like being on the moon.  Nothing but white for miles and miles and miles, in complete contrast with the bright blue sky and the little market posts to mark the road.

Although on your Etosha permits your regulations will say that you need to stay in the vehicle at all times, apart from at the designated toilets, most people seem to get out of the car here and enjoy this vast expanse of nothingness.  You can see for miles and miles and miles. So I suppose you would be able to see a lion if it was approaching you…

It was now around lunchtime and as I stopped at to yet another waterhole, keeping my eyes peeled to see if anything interesting would come along, I munched on my copious supplies of snacks.  One of the things I would say is that when you are driving in Namibia it is best to have a lot of water and an assortment of drinks on you, think of what you would normally drink and then quadruple it. And of course lots of yummy snacks.  I had slightly overdone it on the snack front and I think I had half a cow’s worth of biltong.

The lovely thing about driving in Etosha is that you never really know what you will see round the next corner.  I was lucky that day, I’d seen black rhino, elephant, lion and as I was driving along the roads that clung to the actual pan a flick of a tail caught my eye and there in a shade of an acacia tree, lay three cheetah.  They were quite a long way away but again, I had these fantastic predators to myself and I could watch them at my leisure, as I chowed through my biltong.

Before I left the park, as I was staying in a lodge just on the outskirts of Etosha, I decided to visit one more water hole, Chudob.  There were a few vehicles around the waterhole but generally fellow travellers are really good in allowing you to see the waterhole, and the design of the park allows for quite a few vehicles to simply park up and watch the wildlife extravaganzas unfold.  As I approached the waterhole I could see a number of  giraffes drinking and as I sat there I got some great photos of them.  I was so busy looking at the giraffes and getting excellent film footage of them, and neglected to look around the rest of the whole.

IMG_1126Admittedly they had been very still, statue like, but no excuse, I had missed seeing three hyena lounging by the water’s edge.  I’d recently read an article about some very clever hyena that had adapted to ‘fish’ in one of the waterholes and my luck was in. Motionless, crouching in the pan with its snout inches away from the water , sat a hyena waiting for its lunch. It was remarkable, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I really wished I had a better lens on my camera.  It was lovely to watch and I settled back with more biltong to see whether he was going to be successful.

What a day that was, all nine hours of it.   Yes, it had taken me nine hours to drive 160 km. I had been very lucky in my sightings, but even if I hadn’t seen lion or hyena, the scenery in itself is extraordinary. You are practically guaranteed to see massive herds of zebra and gemsbok and experience a mini adventure on a self drive.

Sitting in my office I really wish I could spend the whole day in a car in Etosha, biltong mandatory!

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  1. Explore on Your Own Steam on a Self Drive Safari to Namibia- Expert Tips | 2 Feet Africa says:

    April 14th, 2016 at 10:16 am (#)

    […] Driving across Etosha is an absolute dream. Again, park entrance fees are approximately N$80 per person and N$10 per vehicle per day. You pay for this at one of the rest camps and not at the gate.  It is always a good idea to go to the rest camp nearest to your entrance gate as there is a book there that other travellers will have written in if they saw anything of interest.  Always good to see if a pride of lions has been seen recently and where best to catch them! […]

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