21 July 2009

Etosha animals

Etosha has been one of the most anticipated places for us to visit. We have heard about the salt pan, the amazing amount of animals that can be seen there, and the beautiful savannah. We planned to spend four nights in the park, the longest we have stopped so far. As usual, it turned out different. The park and camping fees had gone up to twice the price of the two year old guide book listings, so we kept our camping there to a minimum. The salt pan was eerie and empty and vast, but also very smelly and covered with the stickiest substance known to man, a stinky grey mud that stuck to our feet and boots and took us half an hour to wash off in the evening.
We did have some amazing animal sightings, though, thanks to the brilliant waterhole right next to the camp, flood lit at night. The animals seemed to not care about us, although I could swear that the elephants were looking right back at us trying to figure out what we were doing staring like that.
On our second evening elephants and rhinos came out for a testosterone fuelled display. First there were two male elephants who spent more time pushing and shoving than drinking at the water inlet, which seems to be their exclusive domain. Maybe the water is cleaner there than in the main pond. Dangling their huge penises they repeatedly shoved and bumped and groaned in slow motion as if to prove some plodding and mysterious point. Later two black rhino wandered out of the night to drink on the other side of the pool. All was peaceful until another group of three elephant bulls arrived from the far side of the water. In order to get to their brethren by the water pipe they had to walk around the rhino. There was a lot of ear flapping and head shaking as the large bull passed the rhino which seemed to reverse to try to block his path (black rhino have a reputation for being irritable and aggressive - next to an elephant it's probably small guy syndrome). After a short stand-off the rhino wandered off. Of course the second rhino now took offense and tried to take on the same bull. This one lost out like the other rhino, but instead wandered into the water as if to say: I might have to give in, but I can still piss in your drinking water.
The gang of three newcomers went straight for the two incumbents, who gave up their own tussle as they were now chased off by the big new bull. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing until some sort of equilibrium was established and the two smaller bulls stood off to one side to let the newcomers get their fill.
The next morning we drove through the park, and watched a lion/warthog encounter. Two young males were resting by a waterhole, spread majestically like statues at Trafalgar Square, when a warthog blithely stepped out from the bushes. He noticed the lions, but must have thought he could safely pass through them, because he ran on towards the water. It was when one of the lions stretched out leisurely that the warthog must have thought better of it. He turned on his heels to find alternative refreshments.

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