Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Etosha National Park: A Do-It-Yourself Safari

 Welcome to Etosha National Park, in northern Namibia.  Etosha is a large wildlife sanctuary, where wooded plains filled with 150 species of large mammals surround a vast salt-desert depression.  We embarked on a safari in Etosha in our rental car, without a guide.  Click the link to see how we fared


We drove our rental car through the gates of Etosha National Park, and almost immediately encountered a wide array of beautiful four-legged critters.

One of my favorite animals is the giraffe.  This may be because, according to certain friends (who shall remain nameless), my neck is almost as long as a giraffe's.

Giraffes are known for eating leaves from tall trees, but they also eat grass from the ground by splaying their legs.  Below is a video of giraffes splaying and then standing upright.

One of the most photogenic animals is the zebra.  And we saw many, many zebras, as you can see below.

We noticed a few times times that some zebras rest their heads on the bodies of other zebras, as seen below.

 Below are two videos of a crowd of zebras and other animals at a watering hole in Etosha.  The first video shows a couple of zebras nuzzling each other while others rest their heads on other zebras.

Etosha is full of other hoofed animals, such as springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest and impala, as seen below.

 The largest animal in Etosha--indeed, the largest land animal in the world--is the African elephant.

Below is a video of Beth eating peanuts in the car beside an elephant.

We spent a night inside the national park, near a water hole which was popular with the park's elephants.

Above are a couple of photos of me at two different times at the water hole near our hotel inside the park.  Spending the night near this water hole allowed us to witness some incredible interactions between elephants and other animals.

At one point there were 26 elephants at this water hole.  The younger elephants seemed to want to play, but the older elephants were not in the mood.  Below are a couple of videos of elephants playing while others drink and bathe.

One interesting dynamic is how fiercely protective the elephants were of the area around the water hole.  Repeatedly, an elephant would chase away other herbivores (who pose no threat to even baby elephants) from the water hole.  Below are photos and a video showing a rhinoceros and several antelope being chased from the waterhole and prevented from drinking by the elephants.

Finally, the elephants finished drinking, bathing and playing, and they left the waterhole.  That allowed the patient rhino to finally get a drink as the sun set.

After spending many days on safari in the Okavango Delta in Botswana and Etosha in Namibia, we still had not caught a glimpse of the king of the jungle, the lion.  (The phrase, "king of the jungle," is a misnomer, since lions live in the savannah--such as that found in Etosha, the Okavango Delta, and other African plains--not the jungle.)  On our final day in Etosha, as we drove toward the park exit, we had resigned ourselves to not seeing a lion.  It was just then that a group of four lionesses sauntered into view, onto the road, and right in front of our car.

Below are a few of videos of our encounter with the lionesses.

As the lionesses walked along the road, they approached a road construction crew.  The workers, who at least were all inside vehicles at the time, ought receive some sort of hazard pay for working in lion territory.

The lioness is one of the most feared predators in the world, but she's also a member of the cat family.  This is evident when the screech of car brakes causes one of the lionesses to jump like a cat in the above video.  By the way, it is true that the lioness (i.e., a female lion), as opposed to the male lion, is the most feared predator in the savannah.  Lionesses do almost all of the hunting, while the male lions wait with the cubs and then arrive to dine on the carcass after the females have finished killing the prey.  Yet, somehow, the male lion is known as the "king of the jungle."  Even among other species, males like to take credit for the females' labor!

Of all the animals we saw in our time in Etosha, these majestic lionesses will linger longest in our memories.

Above are a few photos of the four of us goofing around with Nick's camera and tripod on the vast salt-desert pan which lies at the center of Etosha National Park.  Even more than the animals we saw, what I will remember most about our time in Etosha is the great times I had with my wonderful human companions.


Marianne said...

You guys look like you're doing an ad for North Face clothing or a James Bond promo. Sorry I missed your call. Not sure how to get in touch otherwise. Love you.

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