Emotional encounters

Average maximum temperature: 24,1 °C
Average minimum temperature: 7,4 °C
Sunrise: 06:34
Sunset:  17:22

Olifantsrus, Ethosa
In the dark of the night I saw him slowly moving towards me. Instead of moving around the tight bushes, he passed right through the scarce undergrowth. The branches scraped his grey skin, which made a scraping sound. He continued along the waterside seemingly unbothered, with a clear goal in mind. At five meters from the observation hide the elephant came to a stop at the waterhole, under the window where I was sitting. In the red light I saw how he used his trunk to carefully search for water. A loud slurping sound grew from below me, after which he moved his trunk to his mouth to empty it: it sounded as if someone emptied a bucket of water. Every time he repeated this ritual, I amazed myself about the peculiarity of his trunk. I was so close I could see every muscle in his trunk contract. Big wrinkles showed, especially when his trunk was at his lips. Breathless I watched the impressive show. How did I deserve this, crossed my mind while the emotions got to me, that I get to experience all of this?

We arrived at Etosha with the field team, halfway our midseason break. Recommended by another volunteer, we entered the park through the Galton Gate in the west, and chose Olifantsrus as our first camp. We finally arrived at the park around 2 PM, coming from Uis, after which we had 65 kilometres to go to our camp. With a speed limit of 60 kilometres per hour you would be able to do that in little more than an hour. However, obviously wanting to enjoy the wildlife we would hopefully encounter, we drove 30 kilometres per hour. We had four hours to go to sundown, when the gates of the camp would close. It should give us plenty of time, even with our slow pace and time to enjoy the views. Eventually we already spotted so much wildlife in our first few hours in Etosha that we could only pitch our tent just pasted sunset, during the last rays of light.

We started with an impala, gemsbok (aka oryx) and dikdik, the ungulates which are present in large numbers. Quickly after that we sighted a curious head above the canopies. Through the dense vegetation which is present in the far west of the national park, we could see the rest of the body: a small herd of giraffes was walking parallel to the road. Further on we could enjoy zebras, kudu, a jackal, a bustard, ostriches and springboks. After we saw the first elephants in the distance, we had to wait for a herd of zebras crossing the road. When we continued our way we realised that the road had bended in the direction of the elephants. And surely, suddenly there was a large bull, who instantly spotted us. Threatening he displayed his ears and started to move in our direction, clearly unhappy we unintentionally ended up at 15 meters distance of him. We hurried away, leading us in the wake of an aardwolf. As if all of that didn’t cause us enough delays in our attempt to reach camp before sunset, a herd of wildebeest blocked our last meters to camp.

The bull withdrew slowly, satiated. While he disappeared in the dark of the night at a slow pace, I heard rustling of grass. My eyes focussed intensely and saw two large, light spots move back in the direction of the water. A young was talking to its parent, I can only guess about what. Maybe to ask whether the coast was clear, since they’d left the waterside when the elephant arrived. They were now close enough to the weak red light to see two big horns on the nose of the parent. Less loud than the elephant the black rhino quenched her thirst, while her young was dribbling around her restlessly. With the disappearing of this, one of many and the last, impressive appearance, I could sleep in peace. This first half day set the stage for the remaining five days in Etosha, were we were fortunate enough to also see the endemic black-faced impala, lilac-breasted roller, white rhino, wart hogs, spotted hyenas and lions!