Sunrise over the Delta
Today we broke camp from Spitzkoppe and headed for Cheetah park. We arrived shortly after lunch and had the early afternoon time to enjoy the pool after pitching camp. At 1530 we met the guy who runs the camp and was taken to the house to meet the three "domestic" cheetahs. Having already pet a cheetah in South Africa and coming straight from the pool I stupidly forgot my camera. This was a mistake because these cheetah's were amazing creatures and it was much less of a controlled environment than I had expected. We were seated along the side of the house when the first cheetah came in and went straight for my leg and started licking my skin with a tongue that was rougher than sandpaper.
Then he started licking my arm as the handlers pulled him away. Later on, while petting the same cat he flipped over and slammed his paw down on my foot in an effort to steal my flip flop - which he succeeded. What followed was a game of tug and war with a 50 kg cheetah to get my flip flop out of his mouth. I've got two cheetah teeth prints right through the bottom of my flip flops now. After the photos and petting was done they brought dinner out to the Cheetahs which was cut up pieces of raw donkey. The cats devoured the meat so quickly and neatly it was amazing to watch them chow down just 5 feet away. After dinner (their's, not ours) we loaded into the trucks and went to see the 15 wild cheetahs on the ranch. As soon as we got into the gate the cats immediately ran too us stalking the trucks. We figured out why about 15 minutes later when they stopped and pulled out the dinner (more donkey). They took turns throwing the chunks of meat to the left and the right and we saw the wild cheetah's fighting each other for who gets the first piece of meat. After they were all fed we went to another smaller section to throw dinner over the fence to four cheetah cubs and the mother.
View of the Delta
We broke camp early and started the 6 hour drive to Etosha National Park. Etosha is the main national park in Namibia. It's 22270 sq km and has 114 species of mammal. The heart of the park is the Etosha Pan which is a massive expanse of a dried lake bed.
Since we were here in dry season there was easy game viewing at the permanent watering holes. Driving east to west through the park in our overland truck we saw, almost immediately, zebra and wildebeest with an elephant in the distance. Along the way we also saw Heartabeast and giraffe in addition to the usual springbok and kudu. We arrived at Halali camp in time to pitch camp and walk to the Moringa watering hole in time for sunset. Most of the time we were watching an empty hole, but the highlight of the evening was hearing two snorting rhinos break through the bushes for a drink of water. No more than 5 minutes after this two bull elephants showed up and chased the rhinos off after a brief stand off. Toward the end of the evening an entire tide of fifteen elephants showed up to drink water ranging in size from new born baby to giant father with everything in between.
The morning started with a sunrise game drive through the park where we saw a variety of wildlife.
.. but none of the big five. We drove into the Etosha pan and took pictures in the emptiness. After returning to camp and eating lunch we headed to the camp pool where I proceeded to get a nice sunburn. I spent the late afternoon at the watering hole watching more elephants, kudu, zebra, impala and hyenas come by for a drink. By 1600 we headed back out into the park for a short game drive from then until sunset. This was a short evening for me but did include two attempts of chasing a honey badger away from the rubbish bins around the camp site.
Elephant at night
This morning we packed camp early again so that we'd have time for a two hour sunrise game drive through Etosha on our way out in a last ditch effort to see a lion (which was to no avail).
After leaving the gates we hit the road towards Rundu which is a Namibian border town south of Angola and before the Caprivi region. The drive was fairly boring that ended about two hours before sun set. As we drove into our camp site we could see the Okavanga river that separates Angola from Namibia. after pitching camp three of us headed down to the river banks in search of hippos and crocs which are abundant in the river. We made it all the way to the river's edge but only found three boys fishing. On the way back we were treated to another beautiful African sunset of the water (assuming you were used to the swarms of mosquitoes). Feeling adventurous and having an hour or two to kill before dinner we kept going north trying to "accidentally" cross into Angola. After about half an hour of walking we were disappointed to find out the border was actually another 10km away and that the river we saw was just a tributary from the main river. Returning to camp in the dark we ate dinner and hit the campsite bar. For some reason everyone was in a drinking mood.
Herd of Elephants
After multiple round of beers we started in on the tequila shots. That went on with way too much frequency for the next two hours until the bar was completely out of tequila. That's when we started drinking everything else. Around 2300 the bartender was trying to close down the bar and kick us out but we bought another hour from him for seventy Namibian dollars ($10 USD). For some stupid reason they put the pool right next to the exit of the bar which of course led to drunken midnight swimming in underwear for the last five of us still drinking.
This morning unfortunately started with huge hangovers for a number of people on the truck.
We painfully drove for eight hours and crossed the border into Botswana. We finally made it to Maun which is southeast of the Okavanga delta and north of the Kalahari Desert. Nothing too eventful from this day except to get sleep, buy groceries and prepare for a two and a half day excursion to the delta.
Today started early again as we got picked up at 0700 and drove and hour and a half into the Okavange Delta National park to a local Mokoro camp.
Here we unloaded our supplies for the next two days, partnered up and found a Mokoro driver. The ride took about two hours and covered 10 km through the winding waters of the delta. As soon as we unloaded our stuff at our campsite we had an elephant sighting. Just 50 meters from our camp over the trees was a huge bull elephant walking around eating. Eventually he headed off and we resumed pitching camp. Since the animals all hide during the peak of the day's heat we had nothing to do but kill time at camp swimming in the delta and trying our best to drive a Mokoro. At 1430 we split into groups of five and headed out on a sunset game walk. We eventually stumbled on 3 elephants in a field next to a big watering hole that had eight hippos and two crocs swimming in it. On the way back we ran into a set of trees that had a family baboons in them. The night consisted of eating dinner and drinking too much.
Today started with a sun rise walk through the delta. This was the big game walk of the trip and it lasted for four hours.
Within the first hour we saw four or five elephants relatively close. We also ran across a herd of zebras and an ostrich. We returned to camp for a late breakfast and then hit the swimming hole again. With more time to kill we ended up getting antsy which led to mud fights, Mokoro tipping and throwing almost every local Mokoro poler in the water with us. At 1700 we headed out into the mokoros again for a sunset cruise. We returned to camp in the dark for dinner and then games and traditional singing and dancing from the polers and guides. This night also ended with too much drinking.
Today started with a hangover and breaking camp and loading the Mokoros for an 0800 departure. We made it back to the Mokoro camp by 1000 and got back in the truck to take us to the camp in Maun again. We returned to camp to find lunch ready and then proceeded to have a mad dash for the showers. The delta was a purely bush camp so there were no shower or bathroom facilities so for two and half days we didn't shower or change clothes and we used a hole in the ground behind some trees as a toilet so you can imagine how good the shower felt.
The rest of the afternoon was spent washing our delta clothes by hand to get the smell out of them. At 1515 ten of us headed to the local airport for a 45 minute scenic flight over the delta. I managed to get the front seat of the six seater 1978 Cessna. We flew about halfway to the center of the delta and then made a big u-turn back to the airport, in the process we were able to spot a wide variety of game including elephants, water buffalo, giraffes and zebras from 300m - 500m in the air. We also got a bird's eye view of the grass fires that frequent the delta during the dry season. The highlight for me was the return trip when I asked the pilot if I could fly and he let me. For about five minutes he let me take control of the plane to zig zag left to right and up and down.
Chobe National Park
We broke camp in Maun and started the drive to Kasane for a Chobe National Park excursion.
We did see an elephant next to the road on the way. We arrived in Kasane and immediately pitch camped and the caught the transport to the Chobe river cruise. The boat, a big pontoon boat) took us down the Chobe river into the national park on the border with Namibia. Almost immediately we saw elephants, baboons, kudu and hippos. The two highlights was the sunset and the elephants swimming in the river using their trunks as snorkels. Another early start for a sun rise game drive into Chobe National Park. We boarded the open air safari truck and headed into the park. We spotted tons of impala. We got a distant view of hippos in the river. We also got a close up view of a few water buffalo. We also saw male and female kudu, sable, fish eagles and giraffes. We returned to camp for brunch and then started the short drive up to Victoria Falls.
Giraffes at the watering hole