Another amazing life experience I didn’t think I would have the opportunity of doing – and still struggle to grasp that I have seen some of these animals live in the wild.
An African safari is exhilarating and you probably will struggle to find someone who didn’t enjoy their time looking for animals. But that’s it – you are looking for animals or hoping to luckily stumble upon them. It’s like a giant game of Wheres Wally? (Waldo for Americans). It can be long and tiring – I even spent a good 15 minutes taking hundreds of photographs of a rock because we thought it was the head of a lion.
Etosha National Park is spectacular and apparently the cheapest Safari that you can do in Africa. You can get a pass and drive around the park yourself, but I would highly discourage people doing this. Just go with a guide. Their eyes and knowledge are completely invaluable whilst looking at or searching for the animals. They have the experience and know the routes of the park. You definitely don’t want to get lost or stranded. Something crazy I will talk about later on in the Namibian Safari travel blog.
We booked a 3 day/2 night tour. The small seater minivan picked us up early from our house in Windhoek and we started the 3-hour journey north to the National Park. I remember being very excited. Excited to see the animals, but also excited for the whole journey of camping out and being able to hear the animals talking to each other during the night.
Where to stay?
We stayed at Okaukuejo Camp, which was formally a military outpost; but now a rest stop for people visiting Etosha National Park and offers different types of accommodation. Perfect for backpackers or luxury travellers. Okaukuejo camp is a large walled area to keep the animals out. One of my favourite things about this camp was the cool man made flood lit water hole to attract the animals to come visit the camp. You can sit, relax and watch elephants; black rhinos and other animals come have a drink and leave. I spent a good hour each night watching these animals. Truly amazing. We stayed at the campsite during the Namibian winter, so the night time got tremendously cold. Also due to the sun going down around 5/6, the camps gates shut at 5pm – so everyone has to be back and within the grounds by 5pm.
Being back by 5pm
You can lose track of time in the park, so keeping an eye on the time and planning your route is key. We were cutting time short when we started heading home on our second night. We then got stuck behind an elephant. We didn’t care about being back as this was amazing. When do you ever get stuck in a traffic jam because the biggest elephant I have ever seen decided to just have a stroll down the road. Once the elephant left the road, we even came across an endangered Rhino. I can’t remember how long we spent watching that lone Rhino, but we stayed until we couldn’t see it any longer. Our guide insisted we had to get moving back to the camp site as we had a 30 minute drive and the light was started to drop.
Near death experience!
We drove for a bit and then we turned the corner and saw really long skid marks in the dirt road leading to an over turned car. It was obvious that the car had turned the corner to fast, flipped over and skidded in to the side of the road.
Instinctually myself and the people I was travelling with jumped out the car to help. Luckily the two German men and two German were fully conscious. They could have easily been in a hell of a worse situation after seeing how far the car had flipped and rolled over. We rushed over to their car, only to hear the most assertive shout from our African guide ‘GET BACK IN THE MINIVAN! – GET BACK INSIDE NOW!’’ He reminded us that this was Lion territory and at any moment a Lion or another predator could be in the area.
We jumped back in to our minivan and the German group joined us. We couldn’t get any signal on our phone to ring a park ranger, so came up with the plan to try and flip the car. One of the girls we were with climbed on top of our minivan to keep a look out and we rushed over to their car and tried to push it back over to see if they could drive it away as the axel still looked in good shape. No luck though! The car was too heavy and in a ditch. We drove the German group back to the campsite and alerted the rangers to go and help recover the car.
The people we rescued could not have been more thankful. If it was not for that elephant stopping us in the road, then we might not have been late enough to accidently pass them on that road. If we hadn’t of turned up then who knows what would have happened to them in the night. Sit and wait it out over night? Risk being in a vulnerable position surrounded by deadly animals? Or would you risk the 10-20 kilometer walk back to the camp site to call for help? We spent the night discussing what we would have done in that situation. Those guys got super lucky.
What would you have done if we hadn’t had luckily turned up?
The best bits
- The water holes and watching different animals interact
- The thrill of unintentionally wandering upon elephants
- Searching hard to see a Lion and then finding them just as you are leaving the park