Where the buffalo roam the court scene
Etosha National Park Wildlife Safari
Wildlife in southern Africa
The Etosha National Park is undoubtedly one of the highlights of a trip through Namibia. With its diverse fauna, it is one of the most attractive wildlife parks in Africa, ideal for a safari. Since the game population was previously greatly reduced by hunters and gatherers, the region was declared a nature reserve in 1907 and the Etosha National Park was created in 1958. Etosha means "large white space" and refers to the large salt pan that gave the park its name.
History and geology
Millions of years ago the Etosha Depression received water from rivers. When the river courses changed, the lake began to dry up and a salt crust formed on the surface. Only in very rainy years accumulates in the Etosha pan still water, which, however, evaporates again after a short time.
Where limestone dominates, the water seeps away and collects in underground caves and lakes. In the case of impenetrable rock types, the water comes back to the surface and forms it for the animals vital water holes. In addition to the natural water points, numerous artificial lakes have also been created, which made the animal wealth of the Etosha Park possible in the first place.
The Big Five
To experience the "Big Five" lions, rhinos, elephants, leopards and buffalo in the wild is probably the greatest dream of every safari. The name comes from the time of the big game hunters. It's not about the physical size of the animals that were the "big five" hardest to kill for hunters and brought all the more fame and honor as trophies.
Today we only hunt the famous “Big Five” with the camera. The sighting includes calm, patience and also a little luck. There is no guarantee that you will encounter them all - because the wilderness is not a zoo and nature cannot be planned.
It is a very impressive picture when a herd of elephants passes by only a few meters away from the observer. The gray giants can weigh up to 6 tons and have to eat around 300 kilograms of grass, leaves and fruit and drink 100-200 liters of water.
The African elephant has larger ears compared to its Asian counterparts. They are used for thermoregulation and, on closer inspection, have the shape of the African continent. At the water holes in the park you have a very good chance of seeing the African elephants.
The lion, the king of animals, is the largest of the big cats and is also at home in Namibia. No other animal is so symbolic of African nature and wilderness. Only the males have the characteristic mane. You lie mainly in the shade and enjoy a siesta during the day. Lions live in packs and hunt organized collectively. Usually the lionesses take over the hunt at night. Even in a sheltered bungalow you suddenly find yourself sitting bolt upright in bed when a lion roars loudly.
Rhinos are named for their most distinctive feature: their horns. In the 1980s, the rhinos in Namibia were severely decimated by poachers. The horn was sold in Asia as an aphrodisiac and in Arabia, for example, as a dagger handle on the lucrative black market. That was the only reason why many animals were slaughtered.
The population was only able to multiply again in well-protected nature parks such as the Kruger National Park in South Africa or the Etosha Wildlife Park in Namibia. Nevertheless, seeing a rhino is always associated with a bit of luck.
One distinguishes White and black rhinoceros. The white rhinoceros feed primarily on grasses and is easier to spot. The observation of the black rhinoceros turns out to be more difficult, because with it bushes, that means leaves and branches, are on the menu.
Leopards are nocturnal solitary animals. They mostly hunt antelopes. For the consumption of the prey they are able to heave it up high trees. It is not easy to see the predators in the wild. It is worth looking up, because the animals usually rest on overhanging branches during the day.
African buffalo live often in large herds of several hundred animals. With their wide, curved horns and their demeanor, they also know how to defend themselves against attackers such as lions. Buffalos stay in close proximity to watering holes because they have to drink several times a day.
Safari in Etosha National Park
1. Safari day: On game viewing
In the late afternoon we approach the Etosha National Park coming from the south. The drive with the jeep on the sand tracks through the endless expanse of the desert is tiring and our thoughts are somewhere between processing the impressions of the trip through Namibia and the longed-for dinner. "African massage" is what our guide and driver Wentzel calls the constant shaking.
After passing a control post, we gain access to one of the most famous national parks on the continent of Africa. If you want to watch elephants, giraffes, zebras, lions and rhinos in the wild, you will find it here.
Encounter with the elephants
The Etosha National Park has its own laws: Here the animal world has the say, the elephants enjoy priority. We are only a few moments in the park and already some gray pachyderms stand in our way. Not on purpose, of course, this is their realm and visitors have to adjust to their mood.
The Water holes are a magical attraction for the animals. The elephant herd spreads out in the puddle and devotes itself to bathing, playing and trumpeting. The clumsy calves can then be sprinkled with wonderfully fresh dust. Fascinated by this spectacle, we sit spellbound in our vehicle, nobody says a beep, and why, the encounter is simply magical.
"This is just the prelude," laughs Guide Wentzel in his sympathetic manner as he drives off and we protest loudly. He promises us the best animal entertainment this evening, so that we will be satisfied and fall silent.
We move into Bungalows in Okaukuejo. Just dreamed of a fine dinner, it doesn't seem to matter anymore. We long for more animal sightings, Wentzel should keep his promise. You don't need me for that, he says mischievously and gestures in the direction to be taken with a wave of his hand. There is a water hole just outside the fence around the Okaukuejo Resort, where you can comfortably walk there and watch a live animal documentary.
Said and done. A Herd of oryx antelopes approaches slowly and carefully. You argue with a group of zebras about the drinking place with the better escape route. A couple of giraffes spread their legs to get their necks down to the water. "Giraffe yoga," says a happy tourist next to me. Some kudu proudly display their intricately twisted horns. A bird with a large, bright yellow beak flies by.
Even in the bungalow there is still no rest. The night is filled with twittering, chirping, snorting, moaning and roaring. You have to get used to this background noise first.
2nd day of the safari: the morning has gold in its mouth
As soon as the park rangers clear the gate to the national park, we start the safari tour early in the morning the next day. Our Jeep Explorer rattles on the corrugated iron slopes away. The wind whirls a plume of dust into the air.
After about an hour, Wentzel parks the vehicle away from the lanes, switches off the engine and reminds us that we must not get out under any circumstances. Safaris in Etosha National Park are only allowed with a vehicle. "It is forbidden to get out if you are slower than a leopard and smaller than an elephant." The rule is that simple.
Of course, the experienced safari guide didn't stop here for nothing. Something black and white is wriggling on the ground by the roadside. An African one ostrich takes a sand bath, waving his wings as if he wanted to swim across the meadow. At first he does not allow himself to be confused. Only when another bouquet appears do they leave.
Big white space
Etosha means "large white space". It is named after the huge salt pan that creates the white underground. With dimensions of 130 km in length, 70 km in width and an area of 22,000 km2 the protected area is around half the size of Switzerland. The setting of the dried up salt lakes is unique, especially the animal world. Despite mostly complete dryness, the Etosha Park is one of the most animal-rich areas on earth. The best time to go on safari is the dry season from May to September, when a lack of water drives animals to the dozen natural and man-made watering holes in the national park. Our guide is now heading for a water hole in exactly the same way.
Wildlife at the waterhole
An elephant stands in the middle of the water hole and cools its legs in the water. An oryx tries to steal on the bank, but the elephant only lifts one foot and it backs away. A herd of blue wildebeest approaches the water. A few zebras are pushing each other with impatience, everyone is thirsty.
We enjoy the unique experience, my initial skepticism to only be able to observe the animals from the jeep has evaporated. This is also how we experience African wildlife up close. The The mood in the wilderness is peaceful, there is no eating and being eaten. Most animals move slowly and calmly or not at all.
A guide as an animal lexicon
Our guide knows every species of animal in the reserve and has been guiding tourists through the bush for half his life. He explains some miracles to us and Special features of the animal world: "Giraffe tongues are up to 50 centimeters long." "Elephants talk to each other with sounds so deep that we can hardly hear them." "Cheetahs are the fastest land animals in the world, they run up to 110 kilometers per hour." "The elephant dung is the size of a soccer ball and dry, the buffalo leave it black and soft and the giraffes are as small as larger blueberries."
Vegetation in the national park
The Etosha pan has little vegetation apart from a few grasses. The remaining areas of the park are covered by Dry bush savannahs and tree savannahs taken. The trees are dominated by the mopane tree, which is loved by elephants, alongside large tambuti and blood fruit trees, as well as various types of acacia.
A small herd of dainty springbok finds shade under some withered trees. A giraffe plucks the green leaves from the thorny acacia tree canopy with its dark tongue - several meters above the ground. We are absolutely immersed in this world of animals again.
Giraffes a symbol of Africa
Everyone knows them, everyone likes them. But only a few know that this graceful animal, up to 6 meters high, is threatened with extinction in many African countries.
The giraffes in Namibia like to roam through open savannahs with acacia trees, which serve as leaf suppliers. The giraffe likes to be spacious, its residential area is up to 120 square kilometers. This is the only way to find enough food. Adult animals need up to 60 kg of leaves, flowers and shoots per day.
They strut around in a leisurely walk and only fall into a light trot when the safari goers get too close. A The giraffes offer a spectacle while drinkingwhen they slowly spread their forelegs and buckle in order to even get their heads to the water.
In the realm of the leopard
We come across leopards - at least the tracks they have left while roaming their hunting grounds. 'You see that tree over there? During the day, Gary often lies in the tangle of branches.“But today the leopard, baptized Gary, shines with its absence. It's a shame.
We start the return journey. Pale yellow grass and olive bushes claw into the light brown ground. A crooked mopane here, the trunk almost parallel to the ground, the roots just clawing into the earth. Nevertheless, the branches have green leaves, as if the tree wanted to prove that you can exist in this barren environment. The sun sinks towards the horizon when we get back to the Okaukuejo bungalows.
3. Safari day: so far, so wild
The next day it goes through the bush again in an off-road vehicle. Drive? No, bump. We are shaken badly on the first passage. But we look forward to the game drive and the wildlife in the great outdoors. What would we see today?
At last. After a long jeep ride over dusty gravel roads, there is calm. The off-road vehicle has come to a halt on the side of the road. The view sweeps through the open windows. A line of buffalo passes peacefully there. Only a few hundred meters away, a group of elephants and their offspring are heading for a waterhole. Directly in front of the side window, a couple of zebras look up from grazing, pause for a moment and finally trot a few meters away from the road.
Zebras as black and white divas
Zebras are simply beautiful animals with their black and white stripes and the natural work of art that takes up the whole body. They live in small family groups or in herds with thousands of conspecifics. Zebras roam around, but never stray too far from known watering holes. For this reason you can see them very often in Etosha Park.
There are two types of zebras in Namibia: Plains zebra and Hartmann's mountain zebra. The first has hardly any stripes on the legs, the second up to the hooves. The stripes serve as camouflage from enemies and insects: the animal can hardly be made out in the shimmering heat.
A zoo for animals
The sun is now high, all around us is heat, the outside thermometer measures over 40 degrees. In addition, the dry air and the salty taste. The desire is great to stretch your feet outside.
We are heading for a high chain link fence. Here our wish can come true. In Etosha National Park you are only allowed to leave your vehicle in specially set up enclosures for people. «You are not locked in, you are protected», Wentzel explains the unusual location to us. "We also call it the human zoo, where the animals can watch us humans."
Wentzel's gaze wanders over the landscape. Suddenly he points to a small water hole. "An oryx," he says. After a long look we discover the animal, with its long, straight horns and spotted face. Is it a visitor to the human zoo?
The living tree trunk
We're picking up speed again. The savannah grass glows white-yellow. Drought bushes and trees stretch across the plain. But the fat point in the distance can definitely not be a tree trunk lying on the ground. Because suddenly it moves, its contours slowly become visible. The four-legged grazing wild animal is clearly a rhino.
The road is gravel and has thousands of dents. However, we are in no hurry - we thought. Suddenly our driver winced and pressed hard on the accelerator. "The rhino is following us!" A look back confirms the statement. Suddenly the mighty animal has approached and chases us with considerable speed. On the one hand, we are fascinated by this sight, a rhinoceros with its hunting instinct. On the other hand, we have a lot of respect and are happy that the speed of modern vehicle technology is superior to the animal.
The lion is the king of animals
"There, lions" Wentzel brings us the good news. Whether it was the merciless heat or hers royal indifference in any case, the two lions seem to take no notice of us and continue to laze around with relish. For half an hour we admire the graceful animals in reverent silence.
Not far from us, a hyena is gnawing at the remains of a gazelle. Numerous vultures circle over it and stab down to the ground. Everyone wants to secure their share of the success of the big cats hunting. If you visit the same place again a day later, you will only find polished bones. The world seems to be in harmonic equilibrium.
Our safari guide jokingly asks us which animal we would like to see next. We're blown away from our game drive adventure. The Etosha National Park is a park of superlatives in every respect.
Access to the gates
Since the Park completely fenced is, visitors can only enter through a few gates. Coming from the Namibian capital Windhoek, the entrance not far from the Okaukuejo Camp is the most direct route to the animal paradise. The gates open at sunrise and close at sunset.
You can ski the slopes in the park yourself, no official safari guide or booked tour is necessary. Basically, the routes can be explored with a normal car, a jeep or all-terrain vehicle is recommended for a longer safari.
Best travel time
The best time to visit Etosha National Park is this Dry season from May to October. In the dry season, the game gathers at the accessible water points and can be easily observed.In addition, the temperatures are more pleasant, they fluctuate between 10 and 30 degrees. In the rainy season the animals are not dependent on the water holes and consequently you will see significantly less wildlife.
The five state camps Okaukuejo, Halali, Namutoni, Dolomite and Onkoshi are run by the Namibia Wildlife Resort. The Okaukuejo Resort (Website) illuminates the water holes artificially, so that animal observation can continue in the evening hours. The benches demystify the myth of an African safari, but it doesn't seem to bother either the animal world or the travelers.
The Dolomite Resort (Website) is located in a previously restricted nature area in the western region of the Etosha National Park. With no fewer than 15 water holes, the wildlife viewing offers excellent photography opportunities. Rhinos are often spotted at the Klippan waterhole. In addition, the specially arranged game drives will take you to the most exclusive areas of the park, which are generally only known to conservationists.
The accommodation Onkoshi Resort (Website) is in seclusion on the edge of the national park, away from the public self-drive routes. The 15 free-standing chalets overlook the huge Etosha salt pan. A wide variety of exotic wildlife is found here, including plenty of pink flamingos and four of the five large wild animals in the rainy season. At night, the stars fill the wide open Namibian sky and provide sensational opportunities for stargazing.
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