Never in the history of earth has one person been so excited to hear their alarm going off. I launch myself towards the coffee station and I’m on the patio with a strong brew before I even remember to switch it off. It’s 4am.
Setting off at Fever Pitch
I am hardy aware of the tranquil night sounds around me as I sip in darkness, feverishly going over every detail in my head. Passports and ID documents – check, booking confirmations – check, exact amount in cash for park entry fees – check, snacks for the road –check, food for our self-catering stay – check.
There’s nothing to do but shower, change and wait for my travelling companions to awaken. I hear their excited chatter as I emerge from the bathroom. We’re packed and ready to go to Etosha!
Within the hour we are idling at the gate of Etosha National Park in the chill, still air of morning watching the light creep towards us from within the park. The low hum of engines from the other waiting vehicles is the only sound. The birds have barely uttered their first sporadic chirps when we are ushered in at 6am, complete the formalities, and enter into another world.
It’s only 16km to our rest camp for the night, Okaukuejo but we have places to go and wildlife to see before our 2pm check in.
We pause at Ombika waterhole for our first sighting of the day, a small herd of Mountain Zebra taking turns to sip from the shallows. It’s winter time and the water is low, so they almost disappear as they walk down the slopes to drink.
Continuing along the 6km loop past Ombika we keep our eyes peeled for lions. Reward comes in the form of the flick of a black-tipped tail which reveals 3 young males resting under a sparse tree in the distance.
Lions are great, but not very interesting while they sleep so we continue around the loop. We stop for a zebra crossing before reaching the main road once again. Hunger pains drive us toward the picnic spot at Olifantsbad, an hour’s drive away through the mopane veld.
Olifantsbad and Etosha Pan
This is what dreams are made of. We linger overlooking the waterhole with the aroma of bacon and eggs in the air. An elephant ambles down to drink, a herd of springbok passes by and a cheeky African black cat startles us as it leaps from behind the hide after a turtledove. We could have stayed there all day, but time is fleeting and we need to head for camp, albeit by a circuitous route.
Gemsbokvlakte lives up to its name with a few magnificent oryx scattered among the zebra. At last our travels bring us within sight of the Etosha Pan, stark in the harsh winter sun. The viewpoint reveals nothing of interest in the heat of the day, except the eerie glow of its vastness.
Exhausted from all the excitement, we decide to call it a day and head for camp. It’s only 8km until we reach the fort-like entrance to Okaukuejo.
Although camping would have been first prize for me, we have totally splurged on our accommodation. By booking a year in advance we managed to secure 2 luxury chalets overlooking the waterhole. It’s worth every cent.
We camp out on our balconies, with binoculars fixed to our eyes until it’s time for our afternoon drive. Although guided drives are offered from Okaukuejo, we prefer to go it alone and head for the nearby Kapupuhedi waterhole.
There’s nothing about, but the views of the pan glimmering in the distance are superb. Further along at Ondongab, we are greeted by the sight of a mass of vehicles. As suspected, this heralds a lion sighting. Unable to get close enough for a peek we head back to camp.
Night Time in Okaukuejo
The absence of a secluded braai spot in our luxury chalet sees us carting our cooler box to the communal braai area for dinner. Here, we get to chat to fellow tourists who did stop to see the lion at Ondongab and we share the day’s adventures.
Back at our chalet we settle down overlooking the floodlit waterhole until we start dozing off in our seats. What’s that shuffling into view? A black rhino!
With that I bid you ‘good night’.