Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Classic Okaukuejo...

There is something timeless about sitting at a waterhole, coffee in hand, watching the night unfold in front of you. Nowhere is quite as iconic at Okuakuejo for that, countless rolls of film and memory cards having been filled in the past from the same piece of ground on which I now sit, sipping my hot coffee, in the brisk night air.

Earlier, when we arrived back from a drive and wandered down the sun was busy setting, a huge orange globe in an equally orange sky, while 2 elephant bulls drank, and a journey of giraffe made their cautious way down to the waters edge. It was beautiful, the sound of the sociable weaver nest above as the birds began to sing their last song for the night. As dusk deepens into night, the Rhino begin to arrive. It is almost a procession, one after the other, coming to slake their thirst in the inky black water. The elephant are never too happy with this, and often shake their trunks at the intruders.

The chorus of jackal then starts up, each calling to the next, advertising territory, communicating predator presence, and discussing hunting grounds. And here I sit, camera next to me, safely on the tripod, coffee in hand, a full tummy from the delicious (surprisingly) Kudu steak and pepper sauce we were served at dinner. How perfect, does it get better than this?

An elephant bull has come down for a drink. In the silence you can hear every grumble of its tummy as it digests the few hundred kg's of food it ate today. Each slurp of water can be heard as it trickles down its throat. Earlier a black rhino walked right up to the barrier and I could see into its eye, barely 2 meters from me. As it broke of twigs from a bush, I could hear them crack, and each molar as it chewed them.

Suffice to say, I'm excited about being here. Its beautiful and rewarding, even if it means no sleep! Here's to not getting eaten as I sit alone, watching the night go by.

Seeing as I'm typing this while sitting enjoying my coffee, I'd like to add that the chorus of night sounds has just been improved by the call of a male lion, and the alarm calls of a zebra. The zebra calls are something very distinctive, a quick and repetitive high-pitched 'whoop whoop' sound, and it’s one of my favorites.

Day 2: 

The highlight of this afternoon was definitely the Zebra again at Okaukuejo. We did see some flat out lions, followed by an Aardwolf. The aardwolf was pretty exciting, one of the most exciting small mammals, its striped coat and shaggy fur quite distinctive. 
Zebra at dawn

Kudu reflection

We headed back early though, so as to spend the twilight hours at the water hole. I was hoping for some elle, as had seen a great shot yesterday, but didn't have my correct kit unpacked yet. This time I was ready, and all set up an hour before. The elephant never arrived, so I thought I would go home empty handed! Nature, however, had its own idea, and just as the sun began to dip below the horizon, a herd of zebra made their way down to drink, kicking up dust as they nipped each other playfully, before pausing to check the coast was clear. It was beautiful and although I'm sure ill look back at the shots and think ' I could have done more!' I am happy. It was one of the moments in time where I could see so clearly what I want from life.

I had been dog tired, a result of the past 3 nights only totaling about 12 hours sleep in all. I was almost ready to call it a night as soon as dinner was over. Then the zebra came slowly through the trees and dust and I shot away to my hearts content. I knew then just how much I love photography. And how much I love being in the bush and in Africa. My heart felt as light as a feather. If ever a few months goes past without me picking up a camera and visiting the bush, I will be slowly letting myself die inside. There is nothing that feels so worthwhile or so rewarding as seeing nature in its element, and feeling like a small part of it.

The jackals and lion are calling again, the first rhino has arrived for a drink, and I'm wide awake and full of anticipation. It is cold though, somewhere in the region of -2 degrees, as the thermometer lets us know every morning...

For anyone who is considering a trip to Namibia, I have a few things I would like to point out. Most of you will want to visit Etosha. Do so. Its a fantastic park, despite any bad service reviews (which are generally true by the way). If you like camping, that is the most economical way to stay in the park, although at around R300 a night, its not cheap. If you prefer chalets and see the price, faint, then wake up having decided not to go- this is for you.

Yes, the chalets are expensive. But bear in mind that with most you have breakfast and dinner included. Now, this is an understated advantage. When you arrive back from a game drive, you would usually have to start cooking. With this system, you arrive back and sit at the waterhole. After a while, the sun has fully set and you are bored of the steady procession of animals- its just too easy... (Jokes) and you wander down to a well lit dining area and help yourself to an array of salads, followed by meat and desert. So far we have been served Oryx steak, kudu fillet with pepper sauce, lamb chops, beef stew. And all have been surprisingly tasty. Its is such a treat to know that there is nothing for you to prepare or do, except sit as you will, relax, drink some wine and watch the elephant slaking their thirst.

In the morning, breakfast starts an hour or so before th gate opens, so you can eat your fill before the drive. The breakfast is your usual buffet, fruit, cereal, eggs bacon sausage and an array of jams and bread. Nothing spectacular, but it certainly saves time and effort of packing pans, food etc for a picnic. Now, all that is left to do is make the coffee- strong preferably!

If you camp, but factor in meals, you will be paying around R550 a person- not much less than the rate of a chalet. On this trip we have three nights in a chalet, and 6 camping, and I'm certain the 6 will not be as easy as the 3 we are nearly through with!

As for the service, so far so good. The rooms have fresh crisp linen, smell sparkly clean, and aside from the canteen only having stock of the first 3 of 20 menu items, the people have been surprisingly friendly and helpful. The head (presumably) chef at Okaukuejo even takes great pride in his work, and loves to chat to us and find out how everything is. Last time I was here in 2009 this was not the case, and it remains to be seen if the rest of the park can live up to the standard of Okaukuejo. On that note- the correct pronunciation of this is O- cow- kwey- yo, just in case you were wondering!!

Wildebeest at dawn near Okaukuejo

Now, with a full tummy, I'm off to the water hole to listen to the lions roaring and the jackals crying (again- to be honest it never gets old. )


  1. Love the Kudu reflection shot. Enjoy!

  2. Ditto Shem... I wanted to say that too - great work!