Etosha National Park

Namibia is not Gabon. You can’t just cycle through the Etosha National Park like I did through the Lope, with a few people saying “oh, and if there are elephants or a panther on the road, just wait until they leave and continue“. In Etosha, you have to remain in your car at all times.

Majestic Elephant, Etosha NP

 

The Etosha National Park is as well-known for wildlife as the Kruger in South Africa and the Serengeti in Tanzania. It’s a huge place, with a large salt pan dried up in the center. It took me 3 days to cycle around on the main road. As an element of comparison, the national park is comparable in size with Slovenia and Israel. It’s twice bigger than The Gambia and half the size of Switzerland. Only for wild animals.

From Tsumeb, one of the entrance gates is just 100 km away, a short distance in Namibian terms. We rent a car to go self-driving within the animals. Loading the water, food, gear in the trunk and driving a car makes my cycling journey look ridiculously difficult, but the experience is unrivaled: compared to cycling, you don’t learn anything and you barely notice anything.

 

Giraffe at Onguma lodge, Etosha NP

 

The entrance fees are reasonable, but the accommodation is out of price. It’s very easy to find a luxury lodge, but you can’t go backpacking there. The cheapest option is 20 USD per person for camping in a fenced rest camp. Most of the people in it seem to be tourists from Namibia and South Africa. The high season in Namibia coincides with the European summer holidays.

 

Onguma lodge, Etosha NP
But where else can you read by a pool with a warthog grazing behind you?

 

Onguma lodge, Etosha NP

 

Not long after the Germans claimed Namibia theirs (South-West Africa at that time) in 1884, they declared a lot of restricted areas in 1907-1908, which are still “special” today. Among these were the Etosha reserve, which boundaries have evolved over time, the Skeleton coast (“entry forbidden”), and the Sperrgebiet (slightly bigger than Etosha), a mining area south of Lüderitz, among others.

 

Etosha National Park, Namibia
Welcome to Etosha National Park

 

I’m not a fan of game reserves. Sometimes you drive a whole day and don’t see anything. When you see something, you just take many bad pictures and feel good. And that’s it. It’s like fishing. You have to wait a lot, and your happiness is linked to the animals having the bad luck of crossing your way.

When I was in South Africa, I had my 55-200 mm lens to take wildlife photos. Now, I only have my 18-55 mm, and it just doesn’t work. A wide-angle lens in a national park is as ridiculous as our rental city car among all the Land Rovers. But the dirt tracks of Etosha are so well maintained a small car can be driven anywhere.

 

Black-faced impala, Etosha NP
Black-faced impala

 

Steinboks, Etosha NP
Steinboks

 

Ostriches, Etosha NP
Ostriches

 

Zebra, Etosha NP

 

Giraffe, Etosha NP

 

Zebras, Etosha NP

 

Black-faced impala, Etosha NP

 

Elephant poop, Etosha NP
Tracking the elephants

 

A family of leopards, Etosha NP
A leopard and her cub

 

The waterhole of the Halali rest camp, located in the middle of the park, is attracting a lot of big animals at night. We’ve just missed the rhinos.

Movement of insects, Halali waterhole, Etosha NP
Bunch of photographers with telephoto lenses waiting

 

Eruption of insects
I’m getting bored and play with the insects …

 

Family of elephants, Halali waterhole, Etosha NP
… until one or two families of elephants show up

 

Family of elephants, Halali waterhole, Etosha NP

 

Etosha National Park

 

Colorful bird in Etosha NP

 

Elephant, Etosha NP

 

Elephant drinking water, Etosha NP

 

Elephant portrait, Etosha NP

 

Elephant, Etosha NP

 

Elephant portrait, Etosha NP

 

Elephant, Etosha NP

 

I was saying I’m not a fan of game reserves, but when there’s an elephant weighting five times more than your car within five meters of you, you realize how impressive these animals are. And you don’t joke. And you don’t feel like overtaking him.

Elephant on the road, Etosha NP

 

Elephant on the road, Etosha NP

 

Elephant on the road, Etosha NP
Damn, he’s not leaving the road. U-turn, then

 

Gemsbok, Etosha NP
Gemsbok

 

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Buffaloes running to the waterhole, Etosha NP
Herd of buffaloes running to the waterhole

 

Buffaloes at the waterhole, Etosha NP

 

We are unable to find the animals!
“We are unable to find the animals!”

 

Zebras, Etosha NP

 

Steinboks, Etosha NP
Steinboks

 

Shining on the zebra

 

Okaukuejo tower, Etosha NP
Okaukuejo, a 1901 German fort turned into the administration of the park

 

Lioness at dusk, Etosha NP
A lucky spotting at dusk on the way out of the park: three lionnesses

 

All in all, we luckily saw four of the Big 5 in two days, and just missed the rhinos by a few minutes at the Halali waterhole. The lesson is that going to a game reserve is kind of the only way to see wildlife in Africa. I’m not likely to see anything (and even less to be attacked by a lion while bush camping) if I’m cycling.

 

Lioness on the road, Etosha NP