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Animal Kingdom - not the disney version

sunny 31 °C
View Trip of the Half Century on IronladyTravels's travel map.

We spent 3 nights (in 2 different locations) and 2.5 days in Etosha National Park which is way on the top end of Namibia. The Park is built around an enormous salt pan which in the rainy season floods but during our visit was a vast white dessert. From a distance of half a mile, it looked like it was shimmering water but it was a blinding sea of salt and calcite.

The park has a series of water holes both natural and man made which are literal magnets for animals in the dry season which is what it is currently. As a result, there is a non-stop parade of animals coming and going. The ”camp” that we stayed at for the first two nights (closest to the Anderson Gate - the main south entrance) has the biggest and the primo waterhole - with flood lights and benches and a viewing station. It was never completely empty and sometimes was chock a block full with 30 elephants, 7 rhinos hanging about, herds of zebras and 9 giraffes plus the other antelope hanging about. There was also an audience of whispering camera wielding tourists who would make the spectators at a golf game look rowdy. The only thing we didn’t see were any cats. On our second night, the animals were very watchful and there was a loud ruckus ”off stage” so we were hopeful the lions were on the prowl but by 12:30 we gave up and went to bed.
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During the days, we drove around looking for animals. Aka a “game drive”. For one of those days, we rode on tiered seats on the back of a Toyota pickup. I’d like to say it was all exciting but like most of life, there were long stretches of tedium interspersed with excitement. Fortunately there was no terror - no elephants rushing our vehicle although they are terrible bullies. (see my other blog posts about my observations about animals

Both camps that we stayed at (the southwestern and the eastern one) are run by the national parks people. They both look very glam and swish on the surface - round cabins, enclosed patios, mosquitos netting around the beds, remnants of old fortifications (german). But the decay is just under the surface and they were poorly administered (registering took 45 minutes).. In our first camp, the bathroom was an L-shaped with the shower off the shorter distance behind the toilet - no door and the shower flooded the whole bathroom floor. And there was no shelf in the shower to put your soap - putting your bar of soap or shampoo on the floor or the back of the toilet (nearest handy flat surface) just felt yucky. On the other hand, I did get my wish for a top sheet and a duvet. And the very weird wire patio furniture for perfect for drying laundry (although I discovered I left behind my laundry detergent strips at Oppi Koppi.)

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I suspect you are thinking - get a grip - it’s rural Africa, what the heck do you expect. I was expecting simple and plain. And it doesn't surprise me to discover the power is off for several hours in the afternoon and again over night. But up until the National Park, every place we stayed was friendly and well run - not always completely swish.

And don't’ get me started on the restaurant. There was a limited menu (understood) that repeated for both lunch and dinner. Despite being limited, it meals took 2 hours plus as often ordering took 2 hours (and then food took forever. Breakfast was a disaster - of course, everyone staying there is heading out between 7 and 8 to go on a game drive. Despite knowing that most of your customers will be showing up in that time slot, the staff could not keep up with plates or utensils or glasses or cups. The moment a serving staff appeared with someone, they never made it across the floor to the table to put whatever they were carrying down - it was like a swarm of locusts stripped them clean. I’m not sure they are short staffed like everyone in Canada as this is an area that relies heavily on tourism which was devastated during Corona (aka Covid). At lunchtime , I opted to nap and read a book, eat leftover sandwich from the Outjo bakery and then swim - meanwhile my group was trapped at the table waiting for a meal that was essentially the same as we had the night before. So it was no wonder that for supper, the aussie contingent didn’t even bother to come for supper. And the English didn’t show up for breakfast. The males in my family need to be fed large amounts on a regular basis so we went for food. Anyway, obviously people don't go there for the food.

Both had lovely pool areas with multiple pools and lounges. But non of the pools appeared to have functioning filter systems. And while cool, they were not icy. I now understand why the Omaruru hostess exclaimed with pride - the water is cool, no

TripAdvisor was right - stay in guest houses outside the camp or in the private game reserve outside and do drives into the park during the day. Yes, you’ll miss out on the midnight bathing parties but you’ll have better food and accommodations. And quite possibly free wifi. I have fallen horribly behind on this blog with multiple days of limited (both amount and quality) wifi.

Sunrise the morning we left
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I’m being nerdy and circling on my Etosha guide the birds and animals that we have seen. I guess if I was super nerdy, I’d be marking on the map every place I saw the animals. To my birding friends - I’m not even trying to take photos as I don't have the proper camera.

As nice as it is to have everything planned for me, I am starting to think of everything I would have done differently. For example, . I would have stayed at different places on the edge of but not in the national park and then done game drives in the park. And, (should you ever want to do a version of this trip), there are places I would have visited (eg. skeleton coast, some caves, toured the uranium mine outside Swakopmund) and while I appreciate having a driver, the routes which I take would have less back tracking and a better ratio of activities to riding. Mind you, given that half our group is over the age of 65, this may be geared more for them. (Paul’s gimpy knees are appreciative as well). I am redeeming the time by listening to podcasts (when the roads are too bumpy to be typing).

Posted by IronladyTravels 09:41 Archived in Namibia

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