[Road Trip 2013] Part 5 – Namutoni, Etosha National Park

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Namutoni Campsite

Day 6 – Arrival at Namutoni

Tsumeb to Etosha was our shortest leg of the trip and a little over an hour later, arrived in the park. Getting through the gate was quick and easy, followed by a short drive to Namutoni, where we’d be spending the next three nights.

The check in at reception was quick and painless, albeit the conservation fees were quite steep for our week in Etosha. We drove to the campsite and spent a few minutes deciding on which site to use, chose a nice shaded site and went about setting up camp. It was incredibly hot and took a bit longer than we had expected but the result was a very nice camp site.

Afterwards, beer in hand we relaxed in the stunning North Namibian warmth and decided to go for a quick drive around one of the smaller pans near Namutoni Rest Camp. It was a lot bigger than we thought and the last part of the drive was spent doing the speed limit (unusual for us as we tend to game drive at about 20km/h) just to get back to camp before the gates closed.

Dinner that night was a delicious Chili con Carne made in a potjie pot over the coals. It was the first time I’d done it that way and am very happy to say it was a great success.

We were exhausted after dinner and had an early night. Lying in bed listening not to the sound of jackals calling, but rather Spotted Hyena who laughed away all night.

Day 7

We rose early the next day and after the customary coffee and short bread headed out on another drive. The bush was quite dense and made it difficult to spot but we had our fair share of sightings including a number of elephant. Eventually we made it to a picnic spot to empty our bladders, fill them again with a cup of coffee and stretch the legs. It was then that the discussions started about how good the Amarok was doing on the trip; fuel consumption, size, power, accessibility and we spent the better part of the trip trying to convince Jason to get one.

From the picnic spot we headed further north and discovered some grass plains near Etosha’s northern gate. What a sight! Flat grass plains that seemed to stretch forever. We then realised where the rest of the game was, all sitting/standing out in the open. There was a loopy warthog running across the plain, going where we had no idea but he was doing a very good job of spooking the herds of game standing around.

Namutoni Zebra

 

We came across a watering hole not too far away with a large herd of Burchelle’s Zebra having a drink. That was one of the largest zebra herds I had ever seen. We stuck around there for a while before starting the long drive back to camp.

At this point we discovered our first, and biggest, criticism of Etosha National Park. Given the size of the park, the distances you need to travel and the time it takes to cover them, there are not nearly enough places to get out and stretch your legs, and more importantly, empty your bladder. Driving for three or four hours without a break is not uncommon and that can be using the most direct routes between stops.

Passing a turn off to a waterhole on the way back we decided to pop in and have a look. On our way out in the morning we had stopped there but it was fairly desolate, this time however, we were stunned.

At the water hole was a herd of 30 to 50 elephants taking turns to drink. The matron and other females, calves of varying ages from tiny to teenager, and everything in between. There was elephant dust bathing, water bathing and young must bulls chasing warthog and guinea fowl. Amongst all of this was zebra and giraffe too trying to have a turn at the water.

Namutoni Elephant

 

We sat there for ages watching the life around the water hole. It was so good not to be chased by elephant and actually have the chance to watch the interaction of the herd. There was one incredibly selfish bull who was having a dust bath and every time another elephant came along for their turn, he’d lie down and cover the whole dirt pit with his body. The others would get fed up and walk away and then we’d have a good chuckle as he tried to get up, just to repeat the whole process when another elephant came along.

Slowly they started to move off and one of my fondest memories of that stop was a young calf that had stayed behind while it’s mother moved off was having his way with a small bush. In the distance we heard an elephant trumpet and all of a sudden he stopped, perked up and ran off in the direction of his mother, ears flapping, trunk raised and trumpeting off into the bushes to catch up to her.

On a couple of occasions our hands moved to the keys, getting ready to start up and make an exit when one or two of the young bulls got a bit feisty with the vehicles but patience won out and in the end, it was a very placid herd. Unlike this experience.

Mid-Afternoon we eventually got back to camp and relaxed for a bit before taking a walk up to the main section of the camp. We wanted to browse for curios and check out the watering hole. Approaching the shops I had a minor disagreement with the wooden decking we were walking on and sprained my toe. Ouch! Of all the clumsy, stupid things to do…

Anyway, we got what we wanted, and more wood, and made our way back to the tents to relax for the evening. The plan was chicken roasted in the cob but in the end just had a chicken-flatty braai.

While waiting for the chicken to cook, out of the corner of her eye Jenece spotted something running around the campsite, lurking in the shadows. At first we thought it was a dog but as soon as we put the spot light on it, saw it was in fact a Black-Backed Jackal. He spent the entire evening running around the camp, being chased off by those who were awake and sniffing around for scraps at the sites where everyone was sleeping. We named him Jack.

Namutoni Jackal

 

We were some of the last people to go to bed that night so Jack spent a lot of time around our campsite and we spent a good deal of time chasing him off, especially when he got too close to the tents and our grocery stock.

We had our dinner, still chasing off Jack, and hit the sack before another early rise the next day.

Day 8

Again we got up just before sunrise for our last full day at Namutoni and while having our morning coffee noticed that Jack had been back while we slept and helped himself to some spilled marinade from the previous night’s chicken and any other scraps he could find. Sadly for him, as far as we could tell, there were none.

That was another very long day on the road with few stops but we did have a lovely noodle lunch at the park’s central picnic spot overlooking Etosha Pan. It was there we discovered the pan, at it’s largest point, is 110km long by 60km wide. That is an unfathomable area covered by absolutely nothing!

I need to add too that at that picnic spot, it was the first we’d come across where there was running water and flush toilets. Everything else at that point had been dubious long drops.

Not far away was the Etosha Pan lookout where you drive out about a kilometre onto the pan and I must say, that view is absolutely incredible. The pan is vast, hot and desolate. Looking at the cable demarcating the lookout you can see salt crusted along it’s entire length as a result of the constant north-easterly wind that blows all day, every day, over the pan. As far as you can see there is just white nothingness. The glare is harsh and without our sunglasses we would all have had rather severe headaches. It was beautiful.

Etosha Pan

That day’s drive had a very good finish when we came across a young pride of lions getting ready for the hunt. We spent a good amount of time watching them until they moved off and started their hunting.

No trip is complete without a rant and this is where my first major rant took place. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it short. People need to realise that they are NOT the only ones at a sighting and this BS of blocking everyone else’s view is insanely STUPID!

Back at camp, and after a very long day on the road we decided not to cook that night, but rather to eat at the restaurant. It was a pricey dinner, N$170 (R170) per person for a three course buffet but in the end it was well worth it. The food was exquisite. Only after our first serving of the main course did we discover the starter and dessert table but that didn’t stop me from going back for more mains. The lamb was stunning and to order, you could also get a Gemsbok steak. That was the winner for all of us.

Limping along with my sprained toe, we stopped at the water hole on our way back to camp to see what it was like at night. It was lit, but there wasn’t much too see because a) there was nothing there, and b) there are a lot of tall reeds and the water itself is elevated so the view point was not the best. Either way we went back to the tents and climbed into bed. The next day was also going to be a long one, 134km across Etosha National Park to get to our next camp and we knew it would take a good few hours. Also, having seen how many people arrived at Namutoni in the afternoon, we wanted to get there early enough to secure a good camp site.

Namutoni Etosha Sunset

Jason called us out of bed to say two of our boxes holding either food or utensils was on the roof of his car. What?! We spent a while trying to work out what had happened and in the end decided Jack had been back while we were having dinner and one of the neighbours, thinking our stuff was in jeopardy lifted the box for us. Thank you to whoever that was.

 

 

Day 9

Breaking camp at Namutoni that morning didn’t take long at all, although it was delayed quite a bit by much swearing from Jason’s side. It turns out a loerie had spent the night in the tree over his car and it must have had some rotten berries the day before because the car was covered in a thick, green slime. That wasn’t all, the lourie was still in the tree and dropped one of its bombs while Jason walked below it. Yummy green slime all down Jason’s neck. Jenece and I spent a good amount of time laughing at his expense and eventually hit the road…after Jason put in more fuel.

In the next post I’ll cover Okaukuejo, the main camp in Etosha National Park and the emotional roller coaster that was our stay there.

Useful Links

To find out more information about Namutoni Rest Camp and Etosha National Park, you can visit Etosha National Park which has a wealth of information on the region, wildlife, vegetation and camps at the park.

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