Fredo and Janey arrived in Okaukeujo still talking of our last visit. It was dry and dusty and the animals gathered at a few water holes where they could still drink. In this area of the park we found lions everywhere and there was a mixture of other animals.
This time round it is clear that Etosha had good rains during the past summer. The plains are well grassed and Springboks are to be seen everywhere, grazing in their favourite habitat.
On our first day out we first found birds of varying kind, then later warthogs and then elephants at Olifantsbad. There was also a lone lioness at Gemsbokvlakte. She was very pregnant and we suspect that her babies could have been born that day. As lions do, in this instance, the lioness leaves the pride and only introduce her cubs a few days later. We are told that this have to be done gradually because the males do not kindly to new arrivals and all has to be handled according to strict protocol.
[divider]One evening, as usual, we saw six rhinos at the camp’s water hole. They went about their ritual of occupying the water, squaring of and staring down each other and generally scaring off other animals. This happen during the evening when hordes of tourists are watching under the floodlights. This is something special for this camp – you can sit there the whole day and at night and see wonderful things. This time the arrival of a new rhino intruder caused much fuzz and some zebra were the focus of his anger.
The zebra show we encountered over the first few days was something special. The first inkling of what was to come was when, over the mid-day, we decided to visit the Okaukeujo water hole. There were literally hundreds of zebra invading the water, streaming down to the water hole from different directions and the sharp, thrill coughing of the leaders filling the air as they tried to keep their herds together. Here and there intruders were quickly confronted and chased away. The next morning we came across hundreds more at the Okondeka water hole along the pan. The dust were rising as they came from all directions to drink. Even the normally rude and robust wildebeest stood still watching these rude intruders. They churned up the water and there was nowhere for the more descent citizens to drink. We followed the circle road further away and counted between 300 and 400 more zebra walking on the road the other way towards Okondeka.
A little bit further there was a pan without a name. It was filled with water during the summer rains and now there was only big muddy parts with here and there some water. Animals who drink there need to wade through the mud to get to what is left of the water. Despite this there were hundreds more zebra and some blouwildebeest gathering to drink. It was a circus of animals wading through the mud up to their knees, with their hooves making ‘slash’ sounds as the move further.
If you know zebra, you will know that there are rough and ignorant, always causing more problems at water holes then needed. They are always nervous and their own worst enemies. As soon as they get to the water and finally started drinking, one would snort or jump around, setting of the whole lot and this would result in a stampede of note, with mud flying everywhere, When they finally came to a stop, they would shake their heads, turn around and proceed back through the mud to the water, where they will repeat the whole thing.
[divider]We wondered how many of them actually drank some water. After watching this for some time, we proceeded to Ozonjuitji m’Bari, a water hole some 56 kms from Okaukeujo to the west. It is near the Charl Maraisdam, which on our last visit was totally dry. This time there was a few animals and a small pool of water from the recent rains. At the water hole during our previous visit in 2015 there were hundreds of animals and we wanted to see what we could find there this time.
Here we found a lazy herd of blouwildebeest resting near the water. Soon after we arrived the zebra arrived but this lot had a much better drinking experience at a shining pool of water. Not that they cared about what looked like magnificently clean water. Soon, they managed to churn up the water and left it in no state for others to drink. When they had enough, they simply turned around and walked away.
Etosha is however not a zebra experience only. The Springboks of the plains are magnificent and we will talk about them next time.