I’m writing this blog post in the sparse shade in the campground of Okaukuejo, in Etosha National Park. There are worse surroundings to be writing from. After dinner on our first night we decided to quickly check the nearby waterhole, just in case something was there. And we were totally spoiled! No less than eight black rhinos (the really rare, endangered ones) came to drink including two babies. A couple of them didn’t appear to be friends and when one arrived and realised “Oh it’s you” we were treated to a bit of a spectacle as they roared and hurrumphed at each other and even had a bit of a joust with their horns. Without even leaving the campsite, this has been my best Etosha visit yet!
But let’s begin at the beginning. On Sunday night we enjoyed a drink with Dennis and Merete at the Sky Bar on top of the Hilton Hotel looking out over the bright lights of Windhoek, Namibia’s not-so-booming capital. It’s been a year since we saw each other, so it was great to catch up on all the news.
Monday was a bit busy – we needed to stock up on all our kitchen equipment before embarking on the trip. But in Windhoek it’s much more fun than Nairobi. An amazing store called Cymot has all the camping equipment you could dream of and we went a little bit crazy. But it was good to have the necessity to purchase everything. We have been saying that we will get the equipment one day, but sometimes you just need that push (even if it’s not the best time financially, but will it ever be??). And now every night when we unpack the car and prepare dinner Francis and I are like proud parents, admiring our shiny new pots and pans (a little bit sad, I know).
After all the shopping we met Henning and Pia, who completed our group, and together we headed to Swakopmund. It was so nice to smell the salty sea air – I realised it’s been quite a while since I’ve been near the ocean. Swakopmund is a lovely town, and we were able to visit many of our old favourite places.
From Swakopmund, the next stop was Twyfelfontein. It was a dusty drive, but we had a beautiful campsite at the end of it. The bar had an upstairs section where you could look out over the desert as the sun set. Twyfelfontein is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its ancient rock engravings. They estimate the engravings are between 2000 and 6000 years old and they are mostly of animals, used to communicate with others about what has been seen and hunted in the area. They are incredibly well-preserved.
Also in the same area is the Damara Living Museum, a village set up in the traditional way of the Damara people, one of the oldest tribes of Namibia. We saw how they make fire without matches, just by rubbing sticks, some traditional song and dance, their natural medicines, and how they treat the animal hides to make clothes and blankets.
From Damaraland we continued north up to Kamanjab where we stayed at a Cheetah Farm. Cheetahs are seen as a pest in Namibia, but there a few farms that keep cheetahs so farmers don’t kill them. This farm has four pet cheetahs which you can pat before heading out to the paddocks to feed the wild cheetahs. That night as we sat in the dark by the glowing coals, we heard a rustling in the rubbish bin. It was a genet cat, one of the most shy animals in Africa and rarely seen. We were so lucky!
Northern Namibia is occupied by the Himba people and the next morning we visited a Himba village to learn more about their culture. The women paint themselves with a mixture of red ochre and fat to protect their skin from the sun, giving them a beautiful red colour. They also apply it to their hair, after first making dreadlock-like braids with ash. All the wives of one man live in one village and children are brought up by the community.
From the Himba village we came to Etosha National Park, Namibia’s jewel. On our way from the gate to the campsite we were greeted by black-face impalas, springboks, zebras, and one huge elephant. The black-backed jackals hardly bear mention here as they roam the campsite after dark raiding the rubbish bins and generally causing havoc. Jackals are interesting in East Africa, but in Etosha they are a pest.
Yesterday someone told us there was an elephant at the waterhole. Not just an elephant though. Zebras, springboks and oryx were there in numbers. What a spectacle! Then at sunset a herd of giraffes were taking a drink – they look so funny spreading their legs to get close enough to the ground. In the evening we got everything: giraffes, black rhino, elephant, zebras and plenty of nocturnal birds.
We have another day in Etosha before heading north to the Caprivi Strip and then into Botswana and the Okavango Delta. We have more tribes to visit and wildlife to see, so press the Follow button below to keep track of our adventures.