21 Jul 2020
As the scorching sun gradually turned into a gentle, skin-kissing touch, it was time to unwind at Okaukuejo’s waterhole – a peaceful, enriching favourite place ever since my childhood. It had been an exhilarating day of game drives and astonishing wildlife encounters. With a refreshing drink in hand we headed to the waterhole, and as we approached, a herd of elephant was coming from the opposite direction towards the waterhole – the perfect unplanned sundowner date.
A drive on the wild side
At the top of my American travel companion and now husband’s safari list was elephants and lions. No worries, I told him while reminiscently thinking out loud about my childhood visits to Etosha. My family only lived about an hour away, and a peaceful excursion into the wild was a great little escape, even just for the day. While lions might lie low depending on the time of day, I have unfailingly seen elephants on every visit. I was feeling cool and confident about creating these expectations.
After abundant wildlife encounters at various waterholes, we stopped at yet another one with giraffe, ostrich, zebra, red hartebeest and our first two rhinos! As a passionate wildlife lover, I was chatting away about these animals, when he asked, very cool and composed, “Is that a lion?” – unlike me, who was nine all over again when a lion appeared through the shrubs and grass. We were in awestruck wonder of His Majesty’s entry onto the scene as the herds of animals scattered in all directions, only to stop and turn after reaching what they deemed a safe distance, perhaps not too keen to entirely give up their spots at the waterhole?
Still no elephants. Maybe we should have taken the busier roads. Then, we saw something in the road ahead of us. We slowly neared the unknown when two cheetah silhouettes arose from the ground and started heading into the bush, but not before we could get a good look at these gorgeous, slender creatures. Further along the way, a massive black rhino emerged and crossed the road right in front of our noses. Wonder upon wonder upon wonder. Yet, still no elephants.
The Etosha Pan
Of course, we also made the compulsory stop at the Etosha Pan itself to stretch our legs and take pictures of all the ... nothingness. The staggering 5000 square kilometres of white clay soil make it hard to believe that Etosha used to be a mighty freshwater lake. Millions of years ago, the Kunene River supplied the now dried-up salt pan with water. However, the flow of the river changed, which cut off its fresh water supply. Due to the relentless sun, this resulted in the formation of salt pans, the biggest of which is the Etosha Pan that can be seen from outer space!
Backtrack to the safari
Did we finally get to see elephants? Yes! Etosha never disappoints. One herd met us in the road to display their gentle giganticness right before our eyes. One would expect the earth to quake and roar with thunder with every step they take, yet one hardly hears a thing. We spotted another herd from afar. And then, we were finally able to enjoy the blissful encounter at Okaukuejo.
Gondwana’s Etosha Collection
There are many accommodation possibilities in and around Etosha. Gondwana offers travellers four different options, each one representing so much more than mere accommodation. Each establishment is an experience that will ensure visitors will leave with a story to tell.
Safari meets culture at Etosha King Nehale
Gondwana’s most recent addition to the collection brings together world-renowned Etosha and the lesser known regions, Oshikoto, Oshana, Ohangwena and Omusati. Safari meets culture at this exclusive lodge. A private waterhole in Etosha National Park, inaccessible to other tourists, awaits guests for legendary wildlife encounters and the most incredible photo opportunities.
The culinary experience offers guests a taste of the Oshiwambo culture, from the way they wash their hands, to the joy of sharing food and what is served on their plates. An indulgence of note!
Unwind around a campfire at Etosha Safari Camping2Go
Spend starry nights indulging in the sounds of crackling campfires and chirping crickets. Some prefer to soak up as much of nature as possible. Situated atop a hill, the permanent tents overlook mopane woodlands below. Tents are fully equipped for a comfortable stay. Cook your own food or dine out at the lodge or camp restaurant while on your safari.
If you are a camper at heart, the mopane woodlands are your oyster. Book your spot at Etosha Safari Campsite.
Unparalleled sunsets at Etosha Safari Lodge
The deck, the dining area and the swimming pool all overlook the same stunning mopane woodlands. When the clock strikes “sundowner” – a must for a complete safari experience – everyone makes sure to get a spot facing west to compare the colours in the sky with the pink and orange in their cocktails. Another stylish stay!
Jive under starry skies at Etosha Safari Camp
Dance the night away to the live music by the Etosha Safari Boys with their large repertoire including Bob Marley, the original Gondwana song, some of Snotkop’s latest hits, and many more. Faithful to the shebeen-themed restaurant, pap and relish accompany lip-smacking meats with a cornucopia of other foods to suit different desires. Enjoy the story that this township-themed lodge has to tell.
No matter how many times I come to Etosha, or how many times I’ve seen a lion or an elephant, it is always an indulgence. Etosha means “place of legends” – it is indeed where legendary encounters take place.
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