It was day one of my six day tour through Etosha National Park and Sossusvlei with Chameleon Safaris. I met the four other people who would be embarking on this adventure with me, along with our guide Beanie. We studied the map of where we would be visiting, loaded up the trailer, and hit the road. The miles passed quickly as we headed out of Windhoek, and we made it to Taleni Etosha Village just before sunset. This lodge, located just outside of the park, is where rustic meets luxury; you get the African bush feel with five star service. My roommate and I were in love with all the details, including a rain head outdoor shower. Our room was in a permanent tent complete with fluffy down comforters and a heater. We took a short rest while our guide whipped up a delicious meal of grilled pork chops, sausages, potatoes, and stuffed gem squash, finished off with fresh fruit with custard for dessert. Not too shabby ;)
- Etosha means ‘place of dry water’ as at the very heart of it is a huge 5,000 sq. km. pan (salt pan desert). In the rainy season this pan is filled with water, but in the winter it’s completely dry.
- It’s nearly 23,000 sq. km, making it one of Southern Africa’s finest game reserves.
- While the park does have camps, most visitors choose to stay outside of the park to enjoy better accommodation and service.
- The park is home to hundreds of mammals and bird species, including the rare Black Rhino.
It was early to bed so we could get up the next morning to be one of the first to enter the park. Etosha is strict that you must be out of the park by sunset so we needed to maximize our time there. We stopped for tea, coffee, and hot chocolate at reception before leaving at 6:30am. Not five minutes passed the gates and we spotted a lion. It was beautiful with the sun rising in the backdrop. He crossed the road and skulked around for a bit, before resting under a tree.
We continued our drive spotting lots of springbok and zebras almost immediately. Throughout the day, we would visit several waterholes which are an excellent place to spot animals in the dry season.
We also made a stop at the Etosha Pan, to see it’s vast and endless view. Just before lunch we stopped at a busy waterhole and saw, not only a male lion resting nearby, but several female lions hiding in the brush. There were loads of springbok in the area and various other animals approaching, apparently unaware of their feline friends. We looked on, anxiously hoping to spot a kill. After some time, we decided to go have lunch in Halali and make a stop back by later.
When we returned, the male lion hadn’t even moved. I take that back- he had rolled over to his other side (I guess he likes an even tan). His laziness did little to scare away a mature giraffe who sauntered on by. This waterhole was also where we spotted our first elephant of the day. He walked ever so slowly to the waterhole, strolled near the lion, and finally the lion got up! At this point it was time to leave the waterhole, as we were already running late to get out of the park.
On our drive back to the main gate, we spotted some awesome birds. Our guide described every bird as awesome and tried to spread her enthusiasm for them. While many of the birds were fascinating, I think my group was equally as intrigued by hearing the word ‘awesome’ with a South African accent. So, we tried to describe ‘awesome’ things when we could just to repeat it in a non-American accent. Ahem, but back to birds, Etosha National Park has a wide variety that is certain to satisfy the bird lover in you.
Just when we were about 15 minutes away from the main gate, there it was: a black rhino. We had no choice. Really. We had to pull over. You know you’re seeing something rare when your own guide (whom you know has probably seen it all) pulls out her camera. We were within meters of the rhino, and it was phenomenal with the sunset as a backdrop. We watched the rhino for a few minutes before realizing we HAD to go. Luckily, we passed through the gate without any problems and got back into our lodge thoroughly exhausted but thrilled with such a great day of animal sightings. Beanie, our guide, asked us to meet for dinner at 7:00. We showed up where we had dinner the previous night, to find the table empty. Hmm. Surprise! We were having a buffet dinner put on by the lodge.
This succulent meal far outweighed any of the food I have eaten on my trip to date (well, as an ice cream lover, gelato in Italy does come a close second). You could try an assortment of game meats, including oryx, kudu, and springbok as well as stir-fried vegetables, and a tempting array of desserts. I went for the oryx, as I heard it was the best of the game meats, and I savored every morsel. The chef seasoned and cooked it to perfection right in front of me. I indulged on this fantastic fare and got toasty by the open fire, before collapsing into bed from a long day.
We were up at dawn again for our last morning game drive through the park. The best sightings were at a waterhole at Okaukuejo. There were a multitude of zebras, and as we sat alongside them eating breakfast, oryx and kudu stopped in for a drink, as well as a few warthogs.
Guided Safari Tours:
I have done a total of three safaris. And I have done all of them as a guided tour. This is definitely one type of adventure that I think it is critical to have a guide for. Not only do guides know the park well and know the best places to search for animals, but they are a wealth of knowledge and information. My favorite thing I learned? That a group of zebra is called a dazzle. So next time you hit up Trivia Night at the bar, don’t forget to thank me when that question comes up!
If you are interested in the Dunes & Wildlife Tour with Chameleon Safaris, click here.
To read about the next part of the tour to Sossusvlei, click here.
And finally, to read about accommodation at Chameleon Backpackers, click here.