Cased in armour
We arrived in Etosha Park earlier than expected on Tuesday afternoon, allowing us the opportunity of a 70km game drive straight off, basically just to get to our camp site. Etosha is widely regarded as one of the world's greatest wildlife-viewing parks: 20,000 square kilometers that are home to 114 mammal, 340 bird, and 16 reptile/amphibian species. And but so, the way game viewing apparently works is this: mainly folks drive around in trucks, buses, and 4x4s, traversing the dirt roads that crisscross the park, pulling over by numerous waterhole turnouts and seeing if any creatures are out and about. In large part, it's a real matter of luck, and we apparently had some our first time out. Here's what we saw:
- A giraffe, right away.
- More giraffes.
- More giraffes, part of a multicultural riot at a waterhole.
- Lovely springbok.
- Lots and lots of lovely springbok. (These ubiquitous guys can run 80k/hr, and jump 2.5 meters, we're told.)
- A much more tumultuous waterhole riot . . . . . note the shouting ostrich probably telling the damn oryx to watch those horns, for God's sake.
- A munching, roadside elephant.
- Three wise oryx.
Also, alternately, our campsite has a very cool on-site waterhole: a retaining wall surrounds it, to keep the tourists from the big cats, and flood lights kind of gently illuminate the depression. That evening, we went out to this stellar scene, sat in silence (and then in a thunderstorm), and were rewarded with any number of elephants as well as a lioness and two cubs, and two rhino! However, I missed the lions and couldn't get any decent shots of the rhino. But I have these two lovely elephant shots for you. Also, I came back at first light, where I sat swatting angry, buzzing flies and passed the time with a single, lonely Goliath Heron.
- Elephants involved in some weird elephantine hybrid of dancing and making out.
- Goliath Heron.
After that, at a decent hour, we all loaded into the truck, and headed out for another longish drive. Paul: "Okay, the rain has turned all the sand into mud, so there's a good chance we're going to get stuck at some point. When we do, I'm going to take the two biggest men which I think would be Mick and David and we're going to go out with the tracks and unstick the truck. Everyone else's job is to keep a sharp watch out for anything that looks like a cat." Doug: "And after the cats come, we'll send out the next three biggest guys." We didn't get stuck. We saw:
- More zebra. There are a lot of freaking zebras.
- A couple of kudu! These guys are huge.
- A red hartebeast, out in our path, drinking from a mid-road puddle. He ultimately cleared out.
- "Will you freakin' zebras get out of the zebra crossing?!"
- Perhaps in sympathy with the zebras, an ostrich mooned us.
- Wildebeest! Pretty close up!
- Another, very pretty, giraffe.
- An ex-giraffe.
- And finally, pleasingly, a dikdik the smallest antlered creature going, I believe. (Think "reinmouse.")