After saying our goodbyes to the Nomad guide family, we spent the night at the beautiful Heja Lodge just outside of Windhoek, Namibia. The cottage we booked for the night was the perfect place to do some laundry and relax before the next leg of our adventure – camping through Namibia’s stunning National Parks.
Our Bushlore Land Cruiser arrived just after 6 on Monday morning. After a hour of instruction on the various intricacies of a fully kitted out four by four complete, we checked out and hit the road. Quick stop in Windhoek for supplies and off we set for Etosha.
Everything you imagine an African Safari to be, Etosha delivers. We arrived at the gates and checked into the park at around 5 pm. A 15 km drive took us past giraffes sauntering down the road to the gates of Numatomi camp for our first night. As we checked in for our assigned camp site, a guide from a game drive walked in an informed us of lions lounging under trees just a few kilometres from camp. Change in plans, we hopped back in the truck and headed out. Within 15 minutes we were quietly watching the four lions napping under trees in the late afternoon heat. Back at the camp, we set up a perfect spot with a view over the park. A half hour after dozing off, the loud roar of a lion, followed by their distinct chuffing sound startled us all awake. This was to be our occasional background noise, accompanying the silence of a National Park for the night – very different from the constant background noise of cars and sirens through a Toronto night.
There is no sleeping in on this trip. 5 am wake up, dress, breakfast and pack up camp to get out the gates when they open at daybreak. The rise and fall of daylight dictates your comings and goings at these camps – gates open and close at specific times. If you’re late arriving, you’re heavily fined. Camps boast camping sites and hotel accommodations along with a pool, restaurant and tourist shop. The campsite ablution blocks are, for the most part, clean with hot water for showers. Fully fenced with electric fencing, there is nothing in the camps that can seriously harm you except potential spiders, snakes or small mammals.
The next two days were an animal lover’s dream as we made our way west from camp to camp. Etosha is not a zoo, it’s a national park filled with wildlife and home to some of the world’s few remaining white and black rhinos. They are protected there and hard to find – the park blocks any sightings on the animal sighting app to protect them from potential poaching. The black rhino is on the severely endangered list and we were thrilled to add seeing two of them to our list of animals we encountered. A third of the world’s leopard population also live in the park and we happened upon two of these stunning cats on the same day we saw the rhinos. More lions rounded out our cat sightings.
We were taking a route searching for a rhino and her baby, rounded a corner and there, mere feet from the truck and our open windows, were a group of lions panting in the sun. We sat quietly taking photos for ten minutes, watching the cats.
The camps all host viewing platforms for human visitors and a watering hole that draws wildlife for night visits. Our first two nights faintly unsuccessful viewing wise, our patience paid off on the third with the sighting of the second rhino bathing in the hole.
The entire time spent in Etosha was a surreal experience, that of 6 year old picture book fantasies, we amassed an impressive collection of photographs of wild animals only seen in books or zoos, in their natural habitat. The added adventure of camping vs staying in the lodge’s made it all that more of an adventure, listening to the calls of many of them from our elevated tents, in the night. WiFi was priced by the megabytes and there seemed to be no cell reception so we opted to spend the three days completely offline and absorb every second of it.
Leaving Etosha the morning after the third night was bitter sweet but we had an eight hour day of driving ahead of us and needed to get moving south the Sesriem, Sossusvlei and the Naukluft mountains for our remaining three nights.