[Road Trip 2013] Part 6 – Okaukuejo, Etosha National Park

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Etosha Pan

Etosha Pan

Day 9 – Arrival at Okaukuejo

Continuing on our road trip we had a long and fairly uneventful drive to Okaukuejo that day but we did have the nice surprise of a leopard early on in the morning. He was far off by the time we got there but it was still the first leopard we’d seen since 2011 in the Kruger National Park.

Okaukuejo is a beautiful camp, lovely decor with buildings, parking and people everywhere. It has a lovely curio shop which included meat for sale. Score! Jenece browsed through the shop while Jason and I checked in. It took a while, there were a lot of people ahead of us but eventually, all paperwork was taken care of. It turned out we need not have rushed as we were assigned a campsite.

The awe and beauty of Okaukuejo was short lived when we eventually got to the camping area. There were so many camp sites, and they were all on top of each other.

On our drive in we saw there was little vegetation in that part of the park but we weren’t expecting a campsite of rock-hard sand and most of the sites had no shade whatsoever.

We found our campsite and spent the better part of half an hour trying to work out how we were going to make the most of the site.

It took us a while to set up camp as our motivation was lacking somewhat. Once we had everything set up, we sat around and relaxed before heading off to the shop for cold beers and meat.

On our way to the shop we noticed one of Jack’s friends running around the chalets, another Black-Backed Jackal. Little did we know what would happen in a few hours time. Returning from the shop with our supplies, the jackal followed us most of the way back to our tent.

We lit the fire and settled in for the evening. In the distance we heard the shouts of many jackals, spanning the horizon. What a beautiful start to the night, and a peaceful end to a mixed day. Then it began…

Right at sunset the camp was swarmed by jackals, so many it would be impossible to count. They were doing their utmost to raid every single site on mass. We tried everything to fend them off, stamping feet, shouting, chasing after them, even the sound of a tazer didn’t help. They were between the cars, between the tents, under the cars! Everywhere you looked there were jackals and from every direction was the sound of campers trying to chase them off.

A little way off from us we noticed there was a large commotion at one of the tents. Neighbours to that site were constantly trying to chase the jackals from the tent. More and more jackals ran in. As we passed our spotlight over the area we just saw a mass of jackals.

The next morning Jason discovered that the jackals had gotten into the tent and raided the campers food supplies. They wreaked so much havoc the poor people ended up cutting their stay short and relocating to another camp the very next day.

Falling asleep that night I was reminded of the adage: “Be careful what you wish for, it may come true but for all the wrong reasons.”

Every time we camp, I hope for the sound of jackals at night. That night I got it, but it wasn’t the hunting calls of jackal in the distance but rather the ravenous barks of jackals raiding everything they could get their jaws on.

Day 10

 

We had a lazy start to day ten, slowly making our coffee, sorting out the ablutions and Jenece made some tea that she let cool and put into the fridge for iced tea later in the day. It worked out great and was very delicious.

We hit the road and explored a very arid part of the park, it was so desolate even the ants and termites thought better of making a home there.

We drove as far west as we could, further than that were the private concessions.

As desolate as the landscape was we went through some very interesting landscape. They had what the called the Phantom Forest, once we got there we weren’t sure why it was named such but the trees were interesting. A sparse forest, all of the same types of trees, all the same height with the lower branches all the same height above the ground.

The Phantom Forest (Sprokieswoud) is the only location where the African Maringa tree grows on a flat area.

We saw an elephant carcass and presumed it was the result of lack of water, however, that’s something we’ll never be able to confirm unfortunately.

Mid-afternoon we started making our way back to the camp and drove down the western edge of the pan.

On a dune a few hundred metres off we noticed a small pride of lions lying out in the open and in the baking sun. We watched them for quite a while and were very interested in the interaction with the other game in the area. Springbok would walk along happily until they either saw the lions, or smelled them and would then gallop off into the distance.

Etosha Lions

 

One giraffe in particular was very interested in them and while not getting too close, would not stop staring at them.

We went back to camp for a short time before heading out again, back to the lions to see if anything had changed. They were still there, although higher up on the dune and therefore more visible. Of all the predators we considered seeing, a pride of lions was far down on the list in this particular area.

Back at camp we finally had our bacon. Jenece made a stunning pasta and bacon dish that we all filled ourselves up on and we made another loaf of bread with the coals of our fire.

Jason and Jenece went off to wash dishes and by this time the jackals were back in the camp again. One sneaky bugger came up behind me and helped himself to a whole plate of our delicious bread before I could get him away.

Before going to bed we packed everything up into their boxes, stacked them high on the table where they were out of reach and weighed them down with various kitchen equipment. We learned our lesson the night before.

Day 11…oh wait, not yet…

Still Day 10

Once we’d all fallen asleep Jenece was woken by someone outside shouting that the jackals were eating our food.

She tried over and over again to wake me up, which she got right eventually and we spent a good amount of time around our campsite chasing off jackals and gathering the scattered remains of what was in the supply box they got hold of.

We put everything into the bakkie, had another look around the site to make sure there was absolutely nothing they could get hold of and went back to bed.

Day 11

Impressively, after the events of the previous night we got up early, had our coffee and set off, this time in an easterly direction.

While getting ready to leave we saw the remnants of the jackals feast and just off from our campsite was a massive Sociable Weaver’s nest, they were enjoying a hearty breakfast of crumbs from our Big Corn Bites, Kips, coconut marshmallows and the dried mango that the jackals had gotten hold of.

We were still having issues with the sheer distance in the park between places we could get out of the vehicles and eventually found somewhere we could empty our bladders. It wasn’t far off from a watering hole and we could hear elephant in the distance.

After our rest stop we pulled up to the watering hole and saw a bit of game walking around. There were a few cars there, including our campsite neighbours and then we saw them, three male lions finishing off a Kudu they had killed the night before.

Etosha Lion

 

We positioned the vehicles where we would all see nicely and spent ages watching them. There were two Black-Backed Jackals helping themselves to some of the scraps lying around and it was interesting to watch them trying to get to the carcass and being chased off by the lions who weren’t quite finished yet.

Jason spotted a female off in the bushes to the right but Jenece and I only caught an occasional glimpse of her.

The lions slowly moved off and lay under various trees scattered around the clearing and we then started noticing more lions. In all there were nine of them, yet we didn’t see all of them.

There was another kudu hiding up on the hill and we assume he was drinking with a buddy when the lions came and made their kill.

After watching the lions for a while, a small breeding herd of elephants stomped and trumpeted their way to the water.

By then there were a lot more cars around and we were starting to get irritated. Not only were we parked in on all sides, but people were hanging out of doors, windows and sunroofs all trying to get their pictures and watch what was going on.

Most of those were against park rules and even forgiving that aspect, given the nature of the sighting we were at, and the fact that there were lions scattered all over the place, it was down right dangerous what they were doing.

There was an unfortunate tour bus who, when they tried to move off from the sighting, couldn’t get the engine started. They tried and tried with no success.

We spoke among ourselves and came up with the idea of selling them soft drinks while they waited. N$50 per can of coke! We didn’t actually do it, but I’m sure we could have made a tidy profit. Eventually the vehicle mechanic came out and got their engine running as a replacement vehicle arrived for the travelers.

We didn’t see much more that day, drove to Halali for fuel and took a long drive back to camp.

For dinner we had a stunning braai and had a chat to the neighbours about the lion sighting and shared a few pictures.

After dinner and after making sure everything was back in the bakkie, we certainly didn’t want a repeat of the previous night, we walked up to the watering hole at Okaukuejo with all our camera equipment in tow.

The watering hole was stunning. It was large and flood lit surrounded by pitch darkness. Animals could be a few hundred metres off and you would have no clue they were there.

When we arrived we were greeted by a few Black Rhino drinking and interacting around the watering hole. What an incredible sight to be out in the open and so close to those amazing creatures. We spent the rest of the evening taking pictures and watching the nightlife around the water.

Slowly people started to leave and once the rhino had moved off, I also decided it was bed time.

I hadn’t been back at camp for very long when Jenece came rushing in and announced that a pride of lions had come down for a drink. Quickly I gathered up the camera equipment again and together we went back.

There is something surreal about a waterhole at night. Yes, it had a floodlight or two shining on it but watching the wildlife in the dark is a beautiful experience that I’d recommend to anyone.

We watched the lions, about seven in total, have their drink and two juveniles playing around a fallen tree and all made our way back to camp.

Okaukuejo, Etosha

 

That night we fell asleep to the sounds of lions calling right next to the camp, jackals howling in the distance and zebra yacking to each other. What a perfect end to our last day at Okaukuejo.

Day 12

It was sad to leave Etosha, the initial feelings upon arriving at Okaukuejo had faded and we ended up thoroughly enjoying our time there.

During the night, another campsite had been raided, this time behind us. Seven jackals got into the tent and raided food, all while the occupants were sleeping, in the same tent!

We packed up quickly and started the journey to Rehoboth where we’d spend that night before entering Kgalagadi (and South Africa) the next day.

Useful Links

To find out more information about Okaukuejo 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.

Have you been to Etosha? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

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