This morning we had a look for the man who had keep us so wide awake, but just before the sun rose we found some wildebeest who we decided to backlight. Who wouldn't? Their manes and horns and tails look beautiful rimmed by the early suns rays. I was considering hopping out of the vehicle for a better angle when we heard a roar behind us, and the wildebeest began to snort and we knew we had our guy.
|Wildebeest at Dawn|
We watched him for ages as he purposefully crossed the huge plain, before walking off into some bushes. Now I'm sitting at the waterhole in the direction he was heading, drinking some Douwe, eating some coca pops and hoping for the best as I warm my frozen fingers! It is incredible just how cold my hands get when taking photo's pre- dawn. I could hardly feel the shutter- need some proper gloves!
The guineafowl are here as usual, pecking at the ground and stirring up the dust. Fortunately in winter here, the sun has real warmth, and it is a pleasure to sit and bask in it. The poor fowl spend the whole morning running in a panic to drink at the waters edge, before getting a fright and running away in a noisy, chirping cloud of dust. The one morning while drinking coffee at Chudop, I decided to count the guineafowl. My total was around 245. There are literally guineafowl everywhere in this park, and I am so surprised there are not more predators that have learnt to thrive on this easy meal.
Last night we set out early for a drive to check Klein Namutoni for some shade to sit in instead of just lying in the tent. When we arrived, there were about 30 vultures next to the water, enjoying the sun. We positioned ourselves to shoot them as they flew off, as their large size means they often take off into the wind as its easier to get lift. Four hours later the last one left, and we were there to see him go. In that time we had a herd of Eland come to drink, many impala, countless giraffe, awkward as they splay their legs to get a better angle, kudu, 2 warthog- one of whom was a male who seriously wanted to get lucky with his lady friend. He actually chased her, with his head on her rump as she ran for at least 15 minutes. We also saw 2 of the vultures mating, seemed to be a Cape and a White- Backed, which was a little odd!
Anyone who has watched giraffe drinking will have noticed that every minute or so they flick their heads, spraying water in an s-shaped arc before standing upright again. Apparently this is to stimulate blood flow back to their brains, and if they drink for too long without standing they could in fact die from the lack of blood flow! (I stand to be corrected, I'm no expert- just someone with an over-keen interest in wildlife and an over-enquiring mind!)
That evening, just as the sun began to paint the water a delicate pink, a black rhino wandered out of the bush, and I finally got to photograph one of these shy animals out in the open, (and at dusk!) It was very exciting, watching him slowly weave his way toward the water, backtracking every few metres as he was very cautious and unsure out in the open like this. Black rhino are browsers, so when they feed it is in thicker bushy areas, which is why they are harder to see in the day time than White Rhino. I have rarely seen a black rhino so clearly, and so this was a real highlight.
We also enjoyed a dinner at the restaurant one evening. I had a fillet steak, and although not of the quality we would expect at home, it was a tasty meal, hot, and relatively tender. In other words, far better than the last time we were here when it tasted like a dead, sun dried shoe. As at Okaukeujo, the staff were also very friendly and I must say it appears as though the whole of Etosha has stepped up to the challenge of improving their standards.
The waterhole at Namutoni is nothing like Okaukuejo, and we have yet to see anything come down for a drink. However, the water holes in the surrounding areas are brilliant lighting and sightings wise. In the mornings we are not even sure where to go, the options are endless! The pan in this area is full of water- quite a surprise! And it makes for a beautiful backdrop. it gives the park a different feel as well, and is a stark contrast to the brown grass which lies all the way up to the very edges of the water. I am loving the game drives we have done out of Namutoni, and would in future spend more time at this camp. On both mornings we have also rocked up at the gate 20 minutes before opening and the guard has let us out!! I won't go into details about why I would be at the gate so early; suffice to say I'm a nerd, and I love early mornings when they are filled with the promise of an exciting new day! Being let out early was a huge surprise, you can't know how happy it made me!
|Giraffe at the flooded pan at sunset|
|Some birding just inside the gate|
One drive we had the strangest African Wild Cat sighting. He was so high up in a tree which was basically made of little dry twigs, no shade or cover, and looking extremely uncomfortable with life. Thoughts are that he was chased up there by something, as there is no way he would have chosen to sit in that tree. He was also panting like crazy, and balancing precariously on some spindly branches.
Now its time for a toasted cheese and tomato, a quick photo download, and then more driving! This is the life- nothing is better than every day in the bush (in my opinion.)
The Namutoni area has a drive which is aptly named and well known for the presence of Damara dik dik. These are very small buck, with beautiful huge watery eyes, which make your heart melt when they stare up into yours. I wanted one the second I saw it, I figured it could be a great friend for my Golden Retriever Anakin. Anyway, after deciding to steal one, we set out on the drive to find our lucky dik dik.
|Potential target... Dik Dik|
We saw 6 in all that drive, and a couple the following day, but as they looked so beautiful and happy in the bush, we left them there, hearts heavy... :) In all seriousness, they are very cute antelope, and surprisingly unafraid of the vehicles which trundle past them every day searching under bushes. Almost all of ours were in plain sight, and in the relative open.
|A flock of Teal at sunset|
|Beautiful sunset at the pan|
Basically, our routine at Namutoni was either Klein Namutoni or Chudop and the plains areas for sunrise, and the watery pan or Klein Namutoni for sunset. At sunrise Klein Namutoni can only be used to backlight animals, as the sun rises directly in front of you. Chudop is pretty good any time of day. The area further north is a huge open grassveld, and has been good for game in the past. This time we weren't so lucky, but it certainly can be productive. We wanted to stay longer at the camp, but it was full! It was just a really great area to drive, and we were happy there despite the ice cold tent at night!!
|At Chudop early morning|
|Sunset at the edge of the pan|
Camping in winter in Africa seems to be very risky business. In Kalahari last year we had temperatures of -14, and here around -4 at night. Basically, be prepared, just in case!!
|Me, napping at the waterhole after a cold night|
Next time I am in Etosha I will definitely have 4 nights here... I can't wait! One of the challenges I set for the trip was to become better at bird ID'ing. Now, to put it lightly, I am useless, except with the everyday common birds. I am hoping to reach 70 that I positively identified, which means somewhere around 100 overall. (Yes, I am that bad!)
|Black Shouldered Kite- a common sighting on the plains.|
|Kori Bustard at dawn|
|Booted Eagle? please correct me if wrong!|
I could write forever about the things we saw, from small mongooses, to new raptors to Rhino, but I would certainly bore anyone reading this! Namutoni was great- go there and see for yourself one day, if you're fortunate enough to be able to...
|Wildebeest on alert at dawn|
|Rush hour in the water!|