If I had to choose just one game park to visit for the rest of my life, it would have to be Etosha National Park in northern Namibia, because it hits you between the eyes every day with fabulous sightings of animals, as if they're still roaming everywhere like they did 150 years ago. Take the 'Day of the Cheetahs' as an example.
Not long after we had passed Springbokfontein – named after the herds of springbok that drink from this pair of contact springs on the level plains along the edge of the enormous Etosha Pan – we got our wish in the form of a cheetah mom with three fairly small cubs bouncing after her, all hairy backs and cute teddy-bearish faces.
Mom was on the lookout for something to hunt, scanning the horizon, using her brains in this very flat environment by walking to the top of a broken termite mound for a better view of potential prey.
Before long she realised this, and crossed the road to the other side, where they could get a bit more cover from shrubs. She paid a lot of attention to one spot on the ground, sniffing it, circling around and coming back to sniff again. A possible lunch had obviously been sitting there not long beforehand. She walked 50 metres through the shrubs in the hope of picking up the scent.
No luck. So she recrossed the road, the littles bouncing and bounding after her. She lay down on a small rise, waiting to see what might pass by without concentrating on their predator evasion techniques. She had loads of patience.
We’d taken a drive around Fischer’s Pan, which was very dry this year of poor rains. So we were complaining about the lack of water birds and waders – we can usually see lovelies like flamingos here in the dry season if there have been good rains. There wasn’t even a sprinkling of plains game in more than 20km.
Finally, near Two Palms – named after the two fan palms growing behind the water-table spring on the edge of Fischer’s Pan – we spotted a small herd of gemsbok and two giraffe. It was better than nothing, but we weren’t exactly skipping with joy.
They were both resting when we arrived, the little one bloody-faced and messy because he hadn’t learned proper table manners yet. A jackal appeared and mom chased it off. She went back to the carcass for a few more bites before settling to keep a lookout while junior started tearing and gobbling as if there was no tomorrow. Which often is the case for cheetah – they have lots of their kills robbed from them.
By early the next morning, not a trace of the kill was left. But whether the cheetahs had eaten it or they’d lost it to jackals there was no way of telling.
It's all part of the mystery and allure of Etosha National Park, Namibia.
More about Etosha
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