Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is Namibia's biggest game reserve and should be on the itineray of everyone who visits Namibia and wants to see the "Big 5" (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard). There are about 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species and 16 species living like kings in the kingdom called Etosha National Park. The large mammals in Etosha National Park include lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, giraffe, wildebeest, cheetah, hyena, mountain and plains zebra, springbok, kudu, gemsbok and eland. Among the smaller species you will find jackal, bat-eared fox, warthog, honey badger and ground squirrel.
There are a few gates to enter the park, the most famous being Anderson Gate which is situated on the south side of the park and about 17km from Okaukuejo Rest Camp. Von Lindequist gate is on the east side of the park and only 12km from Namutoni Rest Camp. The third of the popular entrances to the park is Galton gate which is situated about 40km from Dolomite Camp on the western side of the park.
Each camp in the park has it's own waterhole where you can see lots of animals during the dry season. Our first night was at Namutoni Camp and it was quite unforgettable. The gate to the camp closes after sunset and opens after sunrise so you have to stay inside for the night. The camp is surrounded by electric fences and as soon as you close your eyes in the evening you will understand why. You can hear lions roaring the entire night and you get a feeling that they are right beside you. It is very exciting and quite scary at the same time.
The number of lions has decreased dramatically in Namibia in the last few years due to being shot, trapped or poisoned when trespassing on farms. Most of the population can be found in Etosha and their number is somewhere between 250-750.
We almost missed this lion while on the game drive with our guide. As we were travelling on the gravel road in an open jeep we spotted a group of tourists taking pictures of something in the distance. Looking at the group we stopped our car right beside the tree where we didn't realise a male lion just had his nap. As soon as we stopped, he got up and got quite aggravated.
At one stage he even got up and charged at us with a big roar showing his huge teeth but our guide assured us that they rarely attack people in cars. It was hard to believe when he was only 5m away from our faces in an open vehicle. Fortunately he calmed down when he noticed that we didn't pose any threat to him and started to walk away.
It was only then we realised that he was most likely trying to protect another lion lying a few meters away in a grass who was guiding and protecting his recent kill.
Another animal on our wishlist to see in Namibia was the cheetah. They are much harder to spot as they hide in open grasslands or savannah woodland. That's why we decided to accompany an experienced wildlife biologist as she tracked wild cheetahs. To our surprise it was a young blonde lady from Pittsburg.
We were driven to the cats in an open top game viewer. When we reached the location, she tried to locate the cheetahs using radio-telemetry. Once within a 100 metres we then accompanied her up to the cheetahs on foot, providing a fantastic opportunity for photographs.
We couldn't believe our ears when she told us to get out of the safety of the car and start walking towards the cheetahs. In case of an attack (which proved to be true later on), she didn't have any weapons with her, not even a stick. Suddenly she stopped a few metres from a small bush and sure enough, a couple of cheetahs were well hidden in the high grass having a rest in the shade.
We took a few pictures while she was talking about their habbits and behaviour, and then walked back to our car. A few minutes later we spotted a mother and daughter cheetah in a nearby bush. We stopped and got out of the car again. This time our experience was a little bit different. As Zdenko kneeled down to get a better angle for his shot, the mother cheetah suddenly lunged at him and our guide. The guide told Zdenko to stand up immediately and freeze. The first thing your brain tells you to do is to run. Sure enough as he stood, the cheetah saw that her target is much bigger than she originally thought and stopped. I was only 10m to the right of the incident and both me and Zdenko were still taking pictures even during the attack. It's a passion that we have for photography:-)
On the way back to the lodge, our guide said that she never met such a crazy couple like us who would still take pictures while being attacked by a cheetah:-)