Birds and Beasts on the Veld, Northern Namibia

Giraffe silhouetted in the Sunrise, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Giraffe in the Sunrise
The view from the truck, as we bounced across the roads in Northern Namiba’s Etosha National Park, was just breathtaking!

It was a dream-come-true: riding around in a truck with a pop-up roof across the open grasslands of Northern Namibia.

When I had the opportunity to travel with a small group of photography enthusiasts under the guidance of photographer Ben McRae and local guide guide Morne Griffiths, I had a momentary pang of guilt: I don’t know how many times my husband and I had planned travel to Africa, only to have something crop up in our schedules to make the trips impossible.

The guilt passed quickly once I was sitting overlooking a Namibian waterhole! (see: A day at the Waterhole)

I had my first taste of the African waterhole experience at a bush camp in Kamanjab, where we stopped overnight before continuing on to the magical Etosha National Park. Waterholes are like a zoo in reverse: people are behind protective fences or in their vehicles while the animals come and go as they please. 

It was nerve-wracking driving across the savannah, scanning the seemingly empty horizon and then seeing SOMETHING! anything – and stopping; standing on the seats of the vehicle to aim the cameras out from under the pop-top. Oh, how I envied the other people with their 400mm zoom lenses!

Watching the waterholes, on the other hand, was absolutely mesmerising: you sit, anytime of day or night, and the animals follow their own rhythms – coming and going. We had pitched our tents at Namutoni Camp for two nights, next to the King Nehale Waterhole on the eastern side of Etosha National Park. I could wander out to the waterhole and watch the animals all day long; I could set up my tripod and attempt to take pictures under the low, low, yellow light that was cast over the scene after dark; or I could lay in my tent at night and listen to the jackals fighting over the jerky someone had left in the next tent, with the roar of lions in the distance.

Never mind “Out of Africa”; I was finally in it!

Waterbuck Kobus Ellipsiprymnus at a waterhole, Kamanjab, Namibia

Waterbuck – Kobus Ellipsiprymnus
If you build a waterhole, the animals will come … especially if you are in a game reserve.

Waterbuck Kobus Ellipsiprymnus at a waterhole, Kamanjab, Namibia

Waterbuck – Kobus Ellipsiprymnus

Rock Hyrax Procavia Capensis on a rocky outcrop, Kamanjab, Namibia

Rock Hyrax – Procavia Capensis
Many of the animals are a delightful surprise: hyraxes are a primitive mammal with characteristics in common with elephants, manatees and dugongs.

Rock Hyrax (Procavia Capensis) on a rocky outcrop, Kamanjab, Namibia

Rock Hyrax – Procavia Capensis
They are like irresistible teddies with grins.

Pririt Batis - Batis Pririt in bushes, Kamanjab, Namibia

Pririt Batis – Batis Pririt

Hyena in the Sunrise, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Hyena in the Sunrise
An early morning ride in the truck gives us unique views over the veld: the hyenas are up early.

View from the Truck : Hyena in the Sunrise, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Hyena (Hyaenidae) on the Veld

Etosha Pan, Etosha National Park Namibia

Etosha Pan
In the language of the Ovambo people, Etosha means ‘great white place’; the Etosha Pan, which covers approximately 4,800 square kilometres, is the largest salt pan in Africa.

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella), Etosha National Park Namibia

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella)
The large oryx are a beautiful animal – and a popular menu item in Namibia where “vegetarian” is a foreign concept.

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum), Etosha National Park Namibia

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum)
Our reward for getting up early is a white or square-lipped rhinoceros – with a couple of giraffe on the horizon for good measure! The largest of the five rhino species, the white rhino has been brought back from the very brink of extinction, but is still considered threatened.

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum), Etosha National Park Namibia

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum)
The massive beast doesn’t tolerate our presence long before shuffling away at surprising speed.

Kori Bustard (Ardeotis Kori), Etosha National Park Namibia

Kori Bustard (Ardeotis Kori)
I couldn’t help but think of “All Creatures Great and Small” as I watched the small birds and huge mammals that co-exist on the savanna. The kori bustard is the largest flying bird native to Africa.

Guinea Fowl (Hamanumida daedalus), Etosha National Park Namibia

Guinea Fowl (Hamanumida daedalus)
While the fat-bodied guinea fowl can fly, they are more likely to run around at ground level.

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella), Etosha National Park Namibia

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella)

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella), Etosha National Park Namibia

Oryx on the Run

Springbok jumping away, Etosha National Park Namibia

Springing Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis)
I never tired of watching the dainty-looking springbok hop and run. Protected in Etosha National Park, in nearby game parks, springbok are raised for their popular meat.

Two Gnus on the salt pan, Etosha National Park Namibia

Two Gnus
Not the most elegant of antelopes, the large wildebeests tended to cluster near the waterholes.
I grew up listening to Flanders and Swann’s songs about animals, including: “I’m a Gnu”. Every time I saw these creatures, I’d end up singing: “I’m a g-nu, spelled g-n-u… You really ought to k-now w-ho’s w-ho!”

Zebra, Etosha National Park Namibia

Zebra
In distinct contrast with the gnus, the zebras are quite beautiful.

Laughing Doves

Laughing Doves

Black Backed Jackals (Canis mesomelas), Etosha National Park Namibia

Black Backed Jackal (Canis Mesomelas)
In the evening, as the light and temperature drop, the jackals come out to the King Nehale Waterhole on the eastern side of Etosha National Park.

Black Backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas), Etosha National Park Namibia

Black Backed Jackal (Canis Mesomelas)
I love how the angled evening light catches their fur!

Giraffe in the dark, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

Giraffe at the Waterhole
After dark, the animals come out: …

Giraffes in the dark, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

Giraffes at the Waterhole
… singly, and in pairs.

White Rhinos in the dark, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

White Rhinos at the Waterhole
The rhinoceroses are a treat; an added layer of hush falls over the animal-watchers around the waterhole when they come out.

White Rhinos in the dark, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

White Rhinos at the Waterhole

Oryx and Rhino, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia.

Oryx and Rhino
It is fascinating watching all the animals take their turns.

And then, there were the elephants! 

They stand alone, so I’ll save them for another day.

Until next time – 

Happy Travels!

Pictures: 18-20August2015

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