Tag Archives: Etosha National Park

Namibia, picture perfect!

7 Oct

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An ordinary evening at an Etosha waterhole

7 Oct

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It is 18:30 and we take a sit at a waterhole in Etosha National Park. While waiting for the animals to arrive I get the feeling I have booked for the opera The Lion King. On my left and right several tourists with their binoculars ready and the sun that is starting to set in giving the idea of lights going out just before the actors arrive on stage.

The first animals start to arrive. Tens of zebra’s, wildebeasts, gemsboks, impala’s and giraffes suddenly show up from behind trees, bushes and from some dry area’s in the far distance. All in a hurry to recover from the extreme heat of that day. The arrival of these animals does have extreme similarities with the start of the musical The Lion King. For those who have seen this musical, I can tell you that they have done their research well. The zebra’s and wildebeasts are the first to jump in the water for some bathing and a lot of drinking. I imagine seeing the relief in their eyes after experiencing the heat of Etosha that day on our campsite myself. The gemsboks and impala’s quickly join the zebra’s in and along the waterhole, the giraffes patiently waiting for their turn. The show has officially started.

The incoming dusk announces one of the main characters; a rhino has silently arrived. The bathing animals politely take a step a side for the rhino, but don’t seem to be scared of him. The rhino seems restless. The water is apparently not the only reason of his visit. I try to peek behind the coulisses to guess what he is looking for, but I do not have to wait long before my question gets answered. From far away I see another rhino coming followed by her baby. Father rhino pulls himself out of the cooling water and greets his family warmly. Mother obviously being very thirsty, starts drinking immediately and seems less interested in seeing her husband again. The little baby tries a few sips from the water but realises that this is not what was written in the script. He quickly turns around, bends his four little legs, slowly lies down on his side underneath his mother and starts drinking. While I enjoy this touching scene I notice many animals have left and a leopard has sneaked in for some water. But before we realise it happening he dissapears. Clearly there was not enough budget left for such an expensive actor.

The dark has set in. Only a deep red line is still shown at the horizon. From the red light a small silhouet is moving towards the audience. Silently the silhouet moves closer and closer and becomes bigger and bigger. A huge elephant bull enters the middle of the stage. The zebra’s, wildebeasts, gemsboks and impala’s that are still around, move quickly a side reminding themselves of the fact that they are just supporting actors. The giraffes almost seem to bow for the elephant. I often wonder why they call the lion ‘the king’ of the jungle when an elephant seems so much more powerful and has nothing to fear either.

Some movement on the left. From out the bush three other elephants are approaching the water. Two bigger bulls and in the middle of them a just born baby elephant. I recognise the baby; it is Dombo! A tiny elephant trying to keep up with the others while trying not to step on his big ears or trip over his mini trunk. All his features and cute movements are exactly like in the Disney movie. It is clearly not only the European musicals where they use famous stars to promote their show…

Dombo does not notice the audience laughing silently and keeps his head up high and flaps his big ears while proudly following his big brothers. The big elephant seems to recognize the three elephants. He quickly takes his trunk from out the water, takes a few steps backwards and than greets his family members by taking his trunk up, fold it like an attacking snake with the end bit facing the others. The other elephants do the same thing towards him, while still hurrying towards the water. I had seen elephants greating me like that in the circus, but never realised that this is their official way of greeting one another. A beautiful sight.

After fullfilling most of their thirst the four elephants gather along the water; the three bigger elephants facing eachother and the little one underneath them in the middle. The bigger bull puts his trunk a bit higher up, while his sons snuggle theirs around it. Dombo is putting his trunk in the air as high as possible to reach the other three trunks that are now completely wrapped around eachother. A group hug of an elephant family that obviously has not seen eachother for a while. I look to my right to see if I am the only one fighting against my tears. Luckily I notice Shun being just as silly.
Dombo gives up reaching the group hug and puts his trunk in the water to start blowing bubbles. The three bulls look over to their naughty family member and grandfather kindly strokes Dombo over his head. To protect their skins from insects and sunburn the elephants start to rub themselves in mud. Not only their trunk is used to spray mud over their backs, but they also use their legs. They stick one leg in the mud and than rub it over their other leg. Dombo copies his big brothers but has difficulty to balance on three legs. Fortunately his big brother saves him from falling over and rubs the mud over his wobly legs. Again tears burning…

The elephants and most other animals have left the stage. Only the giraffes and rhinos stay behind for the final scene that evening. Suddenly two lions have arrived. The atmosphere does not seem to be so cute and quiet anymore as the lions are not thirsty but obviously very hungry. It is no tender little jumpy impala they are after that night, no it is giraffe they have on their menu. Although I know that giraffes are not an easy target for the lions, I do not understand why the giraffes did not run away. Instead of running away, one giraffe starts daring the two lions. She does not move but swings her head towards the approaching lion. The lion stops, but than the lion on the other side starts approaching the giraffe. The giraffe turns around and also starts daring the other lion. The rhino is annoyed the quiet night seems to be over and charges towards the lions. The lions run, but return 5 minutes later. Again they both head for the giraffe. I get nervous, as I know soon other lions will arrive. She will be able to handle these two, but not 5 of them. Please run you giraffe!! Are you stupid!? But than I realise what is going on. On the left two little baby giraffes are looking at their mother almost being attacked. They nervously move towards and from the scene, being scared but also not wanting to move on without their mother. The mother is trying to tire and distract the lions, as when she runs, they will go for her two babies, who will obviously follow her. The scene seems to go on forever and I get more and more nervous and unhappy. I know it is amazing to see a real kill during a safari and it is often one of the main goals besides spotting ‘The Big Five’. But a giraffe mother being ripped apart in front of the eyes of her two scared little babies is too much for me. Just as the mother giraffe seems to get tired another giraffe proudly shows up and takes over the scene. Please run you mother! Take your babies and run!! But no, she still needs to drink before leaving and uses this moment to stretch her four legs and bend over the water. My goodness! How can she run quickly, standing in that position!? I guess she has no choice and will not make it the next day in the heat without drinking. The lions notice her being in this difficult position and turn towards her. Again a long scene of the mother giraffe distracting the lions, while now the other giraffes use this moment to drink. As I can’t handle looking at the two worried babies anymore, I decide to go for an open ending. I look at my watch and notice it is almost midnight and go to bed.****

* Above content is fully based on a true story and happened right in front of our eyes.
* Nothing was directed or influenced by human beings except of there being an artificial light.
* Unfortunately pictures were not possible lacking sufficient lighting.
* Four days later a terrible man made fire in Etosha killed and burned a lot of elephants, rhinos and giraffes. Especially their babies got killed, not knowing what to do. No a happy end after all….

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