The Daily Dozen: Okaukuejo, Etosha National Park

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

Today, we moved to the far west resort area (Okaukuejo) in Etosha. We broke camp in the dark so we could be out the gate as soon as it opened. Our first wildlife sighting was in the campground: a honey badger raiding trash cans. I trapped it in one of the cans until Mike could get his camera, but it was dark, and the pictures are bad, so you have to Google “honey badger” if you want to see one.

As we move west in the park, it gets drier and drier. There are fewer trees and bushes. Sometimes there are none, just miles and miles of rocks interspersed with tiny, dry tufts of sharp, tough grass.

Zebras and Springbok at the Waterhole, Etosha National Park

Zebras and springbok take their turns at the waterhole. Click to see a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

As is typical in dry conditions, wildlife is concentrated around waterholes. Not just at waterholes, mind you, but within several miles of waterholes; food is limited, so the grazers and browsers need lots of space to find enough of it.

Some waterholes here in the park are man-made or at least man-maintained. Solar pumps keep waterholes filled. I was surprised to discover that many waterholes aren’t much more than puddles.

Animals particularly suited to this environment seem to be . . .

Mama Zebra and Baby, Etosha National Park

Mama zebra and baby.

. . . zebras. Okay, this picture wasn’t taken in a particularly dry area, but we saw pockets of zebras in the dry places, too.

While we’re looking at zebras, note the shadow stripes on the rump—the brown and gray stripes between the black ones—the mostly white legs, and the stripes that go down around the belly. Those details will be significant in a couple of days.

A group of springbok in Etosha National Park

Springbok, aka “cheetah food.” Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Springbok strike me as the impala of dry areas. There are tons of them, mostly congregated in herds.

You can click on this picture and see a larger version. See how crispy the grass looks? Now look at the horizon: There’s a big, dry, hot pan out there. And what do you suppose these springbok do for shade? Nothing! We saw them just lie down in the sun during the heat of the day. Gah! It’s hard for me to imagine what it’s like to be able to tolerate that. I find the sun on my skin actually painful. Despite the heat, I wear long sleeves and long pants so the sun can’t bore into my skin. The sun is worse than the heat, which, frankly, is unbearable.

According to the wildlife book, springbok can live without surface water. So can these guys:

Gemsbok with normal horns, and a gemsbok with curved horns.

Gemsbok horn comparison.

Gemsbok (pronounced HEMS-bok). It’s also called an oryx, but I now understand there are other kinds of oryxes, too, so maybe I’ll stick with “gemsbok.” They’re one of the bigger antelope, up to four feet tall at the shoulder.

Their horns are supposed to be straight, like those of the gemsbok in the top picture. But nature has its variations, and sometimes we come across a gemsbok with wonky horns. The nicely delineated color pattern of the fur, however, tends to be fairly consistent. Males and females look alike, fur, horns, and all.

The drier the environment got, the more gemsbok we saw. Herds of them, sometimes.

Like how I got two pictures in one here? Sneaky, sneaky! And I’m going to do it again.

Ostrich head up. Ostrich head down.

Ostrich head up. Ostrich head down.

We’re also seeing ostriches here in the drier part of the park. Another way in which they’re like ballerinas is in their flexibility. I’m talking about their necks. They stretch high; they stretch low. They can walk with their heads up or down depending on what they want to look at, or according to any other neck-altering whim.

The giraffes must be crazy-jealous of this flexibility. Ostriches have no trouble drinking from a puddle.

Springbok and Wildebeest, Etosha National Park

Shade seekers (springbok) and food seekers (wildebeest). Yep, you can click this one, too.

Springbok and gemsbok alike will take advantage of shade if it’s available, and sometimes it is. There are a few trees out here. Springbok seem to share shade more than gemsbok do.

European Bee Eater, Etosha National Park

A European bee eater from the front. Love that turquoise belly!

I wouldn’t say we’re seeing more of them now, but we’re still seeing bee eaters. This is the belly side of a European bee eater. We saw the rust- and olive-colored back side a day or two ago.

Spotted hyena, Etosha National Park

Spotted hyena eating or drinking or suctioning something off the ground.

We’re seeing fewer hyenas, to be sure. We saw this one on our way out of Halali this morning. I find the jowls on this hyena strangely enormous. They look like a tent. Where did all that skin come from? Normally, a hyena mouth looks like a non-jowly dog mouth. So what’s with the jowls here? I have no idea! I presume the animal is eating something, or attempting to eat something. Is it trying to suck something up out of the ground? Inquiring minds want to know. Any ideas?

My favorite photos of the day are these:

A pile o' lions.

A pile o’ lions. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

As we headed back to camp for a break (and cool shower) during the heat of the day, we came upon this pile o’ lions. There was but one tree in the vicinity, and all the lions wanted to be in the shade. Who can blame them? It was about 100 degrees out.

You can’t see them all in this picture, but there were eight lions in this pile. A ninth lion found shade for one behind a fairly tiny bush.

Jen in the truck videoing a lion walking behind the truck.

Videoing the lions as they walked past the truck.

That evening, however, as the sun lost its power, they began to stir and decided they wanted to be on the other side of the road.

Lions in Etosha National Park

See them? See all of them?

We hung around and watched them wake up, survey their domain, and wait for the cover of darkness to hunt.

If you don’t see five lions in this picture, click for a larger version, and look again.

Lioness, Etosha National Park

Lioness glamour shot. Yep, you can click this one, too.

There’s really not a lot more to the story here, but there are more pictures, so they’ll get their own post eventually.

Categories: Africa, Africa, Travel