A month has passed and we are getting used to our new, “hopefully temporary” life in Namibia. There have been no new cases of Covid-19 in Namibia since April 1st and the country has moved from stage 1 to stage 2 of lockdown. There is still a ban on international travel, but we have much more freedom to move around within the country.
We had heard that there were very few visitors to the Etosha national park and animal sightings were plentiful. So after a quick check online we booked 6 nights, split between the Okaukuejo lodge and Dolomite camp.
From Walvis bay where we have been staying to Etosha is 550km. We set off mid-morning and as there was only 100km of gravel roads and we weren’t towing the trailer with us we made good time and arrived in the late afternoon.
Now, we have done plenty of safari on our journey, but we still haven’t seen so many Lions, in fact we have actually seen more Rhinos than Lions. Rhinos being one of the most endangered species on the planet.
After a bit of research before we left, we knew that lion sightings were most common in the western area of the national park. With approximately 800 lions in a park that’s 22,270 km², they can be surprisingly hard to find.
However, our research paid off and after leaving the lodge in the morning it wasn’t long before we found our first lions of the trip. A young male and female sitting just a few meters from the track.
We stayed and watched them for the entire morning. Lions are lazy, so they didn’t do much more than move from tree to tree trying to find the best spot of shade, however just before we were about to head back for lunch the male lion got up. He started to inspect the bushes in the area around where they had been laying. He had found something he liked and carefully spent the next 5 minutes extracting a piece of stick from deep in one of the bushes. He took the piece of stick and gave it to the female that had sat up at this point to see what was going on. She seemed pleased with what he had brought her and at that point then they began to have a hug. Neither of us have ever experienced an animal showing this sort of affection to its mate, he had actually brought her a present. It was a very special moment.
We spent the next 5 days with various prides of lions, from an old veteran with plenty of battle scars to a group of cubs playing in the grass and hassling their mother. We had definitely succeeded with our quest to see plenty of lions.
We had an amazing few days and most importantly we got some fantastic pictures to save the memories. It was great to see so many animals on this trip, but the lack of tourists to the park is having a huge impact on the whole area, with many lodges and camps now closed for the foreseeable future. The virus is having such a dramatic effect in every corner of the world.
When we first arrived in Namibia, everything was completely green as there had recently been some days of heavy rain. But now, everything is brown, dry and dusty. It’s astonishing how things can change in just a matter of weeks.
The Land Rover is getting tired, with suspension bushes having seen better days and the door seals now very dry. It’s still soldiering on but whenever we travel on the gravel roads, the dust that gathers inside equals that of the outside.
Our next trip was just a mere 200km up the road, it was a much shorter drive compared to what we have become used to. The Spitzkoppe is a group of bald granite peaks in the Namib desert, at more than 120 million years old they rise up about 1,728 metres above sea level. The peaks stand out dramatically from the flat surrounding plains. The rock formations are quite amazing, having been shaped by the wind and sand there is even a natural archway carved into the rock. We made the most of our short trip and snapped plenty of pictures.
Back in Walvis Bay we finally got to use the off road permit that I had been to collect last month. There is an area in the dunes that stretches approximately 40km along the coast. It’s basically a huge octane fuelled playground. I have to confess that my ability to drive in the sand has not progressed since the last sand encounter.
Even after lowering the tire pressure and disabling the traction control the sand tracks still got a fair bit of use. We did manage to make it to the top of one of the larger dunes in the end where we were rewarded with an amazing sunset.
In the last moments of writing this article, we have just received an email from the British High Commission of Namibia with a possible option to return to Europe. It is only in the early planning stages but they are hopeful it will work.