Etosha: A Land of Dreams and Nightmares
Etosha National Park, Namibia, 2009-11-04 12:00 by Laerke
Etosha National Park is a wonderland, here the wildlife, often in huge flocks, walk around against a bleached white background interrupted by green trees and blue waterholes. It is highly scenic. In the middle of the park is Etosha pan a huge area where according to San legend a woman lost her child and she cried and cried – so many tears it formed a whole lake, when the lake dried up only the salt from the mothers tears were left. That is what the pan is today, a 5000 sq km area of nothing but white ground, you can see nothing on the other side, the heat makes the ground shimmer like water and the ground merges with the sky into a big blue mass - a surreal sight.

Around the numerous waterholes the wildlife congregate, impalas are everywhere, then a big herd of wildebeest approaches, as they see the water they can’t wait any longer and starts running and bucking, the impalas scatter here and there: their white bums bopping up and down. As soon as the wildebeest have had their fill, a looong line of zebras approaches, keeping the young ones in the middle – a typical waterhole in Etosha.

In the middle of the night we are awoken by a large bang as the lit of a nearby garbage can is pushed off, moments later we here a nerve-racking howl and the sound of hyenas fighting!!! Right outside our tent!!! We had thrown some chicken bones in the garbage can earlier and we can now hear the hyenas crunching these bones… For the longest time we can hear them patting around the tent, their paws against the ground close to our heads. We lie rigid with fear and hope for the best, somehow I fall asleep again after some time. Next morning there are no traces of our night of terror, the birds are singing and everybody around us is happy – did we dream it all? A big paw print in the dust meters from our tent says no.

After that night we didn’t make it up as early as we had hoped, wildlife watching is supposedly best at dusk and dawn. But at around 8.30 we leave the camp and drives off, after 10 minutes we spot a pride of lions by the side of the road chilling in the long grass! There are 3 males and 5 females, we sit and watch them for a long time. The biggest male and one of the females mate several times, the other females walks off out over the savannah and another male roars in the background – pure magic.

At a waterhole later we also see the work of lions, a big adult giraffe is lying by the side of the road, all the meat off its stomach has been eaten, a few meters later lies what is left of a baby elephant. We later hear from other travelers the area has been named “the killing fields”… Nature is tough.

There is also some colonial German history in the park, with graves scattered all over the park and a watch tower in one of the camps and a big white washed fort in another. We climb up the wall of the fort and looks out over the park, a lone zebra is grassing right underneath us.

Etosha is the stuff of dreams as well as nightmares.