By Jason & Lyndon Duplessis
Today we departed for our first true game viewing opportunity in Namibia, Etosha National Park. The drive was about 5 hours again but felt much shorter as a large portion was finally on paved roads. We arrived at Taleni Etosha Village at about 4 PM and as a group decided that we would quickly unpack and head out for an evening visit to the park. Since this visit was not planned, we had to pay the park fees which were very inexpensive.
This first game drive was quite memorable. We had only just entered through the Anderson park gate and began heading toward Okaukuejo when suddenly (on a paved road mind you) our right rear tire had a blowout! This was easily the most jarring of the 3 flats that we had on this trip because we were going slightly faster on the paved road. Our guide Mark did a great job of keeping control of the vehicle even though he struggled to slow us down. The only problem with a flat in the park was that officially Mark could not leave the vehicle to repair it by himself! We had to request help from Okaukuejo. Luckily the rangers were quick to respond and had our spare tire on in a few minutes. Finally we could head out to do some actual game viewing.
Mark drove us through Okaukuejo toward a watering hole named Gemsbok Vlakte. It’s known for being a nice flat open area for lots of wildlife to congregate. We noticed a vehicle was stopped at the watering hole from a distance, which is usually a good sign. But while we scanned the horizon, something seemed to move a bit differently than the springbok and zebra in the area. It was our first lion sighting, but certainly not our last. Two lions, one male and one female, were on their way to the water hole for a drink. This brought our attention to the water hole itself, where it seemed a large dark skinned animal was already drinking. It was a black rhino!
We quickly drove to the parking area around the water hole and got directly between the lions and the water so they would walk as close to us as possible. This ended up being a great move and we were both able to get some great shots of the lions walking, the rhino backing up, the lions drinking with the rhino nearby. Unfortunately it was quite a quick evening due to the flat tire so we had to head back and be out of the park before sunset. As we left, we were lucky enough to see two more black rhino! A mother and calf that had been drinking slowly walked away from the water hold and gave us a quick glance.
Taleni Etosha Village itself is owned by the same company that owns and runs Sossusvlei Lodge so many of the same food choices can be had there. We had a similar buffet of game meats and a stir fry option with plenty of other buffet choices for dinner. Breakfasts have a huge selection as well with omelet/egg stations where the chefs will prepare eggs any way you like. The rooms were nice sized permanent tents with en suite facilities (even though they were technically outside the main living area of the tent).
Our second day in Etosha went quite well once again. We managed to come across half a dozen lion early in the morning, two of which put on a nice roaring show for us. It really is impressive to hear the vocal power of these lions! Another pair of lions just down the road posed for Valentine’s Day while holding hands. We even got to see two different lions mating. It seems like Etosha had V-day planned for us all along. The evening game drive unfortunately got rained out as a large thunderstorm was blown in. It was actually impressive to see how quickly the weather could change. The rain only lasted about 45 minutes but it was enough to get us out of the park and back for an early dinner.
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