The Daily Dozen: Okaukuejo to Kunene River Lodge via Ruacana

Twelve photos from each day of our Africa adventure.

We left Okaukuejo in Ethosha National Park, exited the park through the Galton Gate, and headed north to Ruacana and on to Kunene River Lodge. That was some 300 miles, and we weren’t sure we’d make it the whole way before dark, what with leisurely park sightseeing and then a reportedly difficult, slow 4WD road at the end, but we went about the day as usual, pushed a little at the end, got lucky and had no problems, and made it with just a hint of daylight left. Phew.

I’m grateful for the no problems part, especially once we committed to the 4WD track at the end; although, we were self-sufficient and could have spent the night or a week anywhere. We owe a great deal of our problem-free travel to the drought. Were the 4WD track and the river crossings not dry, this story would be different. It’s the rainy season; they shouldn’t be dry, but they are. The great disadvantage this creates for the locals—people, land, and animals—is our great advantage. We’re very conscious of that.

So the day started in Etosha with a game drive to the Galton Gate, which used to be closed to the public, accessible only to those with reservations at one of the private lodges on the west end of the park. (Sounds almost like Kantishna in Denali National Park, no?) The road is now open to the public, and it put us as near as we could get to our next destination, so we took it.

No understory, Etosha National Park

Sand, trees, and no understory.

The landscape continued to be dry and deserty, though we were heading into the mountains of Namibia. Parts, like the one in the picture, were sandy with trees but no understory, which I found interesting and pretty.

Man-made and natural waterhole, Etosha National Park

Man-made and natural waterhole, Etosha National Park. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Again, animals were concentrated around waterholes. If you click this image for a larger version, you can see a man-made waterhole on the left (a round concrete dish) and a natural, muddy-puddle waterhole on the right. The animals seem to prefer the natural one; isn’t that interesting?

At the moment, the waterhole is occupied by zebras and giraffes. They’re tiny in the picture, I know, but count the giraffes. So many glorious giraffes!

Warthog, Etosha National Park

Warthog, Etosha National Park

This guy was also at the waterhole, but he didn’t make it into the picture above. What are those warty lumps on his face? And why haven’t I researched them yet?

Those are some impressive tusks, too.

Plains zebras, Etosha National Park

Plains zebras. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Now, let’s have a look at these zebras. They’re plains zebras, the same kind we saw in Botswana. I pointed out the details before: gray/brown shadow stripes on the rump, stripes going under the belly, and faded or no stripes on the legs.

While we’re looking closely, check out the skinny black stripes on the farthest right adult and the bright white (not brown) color on the back-most zebra. The left-most zebra looks bright white, too. I love the tiny details and variations.

Four plains zebras drink at a waterhole, Etosha National Park

Four plains zebras.

Here’s another look at the plains zebras because I think it’s a cool picture, and because you can’t have too many zebra photos. Unless, of course, you’ve reached your limit of 12 photos in the Daily Dozen series of posts.

Hartmann's Mountain Zebra, Etosha National Park

Hartmann’s mountain zebra

Now look at these guys. Wow, eh?

These are Hartmann’s mountain zebras, and we’ve been waiting and looking forward to finding them. See the differences?

The back-end stripes on Hartmann's mountain zebra.

The back-end stripes on Hartmann’s mountain zebra.

There are no shadow stripes. Zippo. The black stripes stop on the sides, leaving the belly white. Bold stripes go all the way down the legs.

And there’s more: Look at the stripes on the top of the rump that extend down the tail. I call them “skeleton” stripes; I trust you’ll understand why. Plains zebras don’t have skeleton stripes on their rumps.

Plains zebras are beautiful, but if you ask me, mountain zebras top ’em. The lines of their colors are clean and sharp, very striking.

Plains zebras and mountain zebras intermingle, Etosha National Park

Plains zebras and mountain zebras intermingle, Etosha National Park

According to one source, here in Etosha is the only place we can see plains and mountain zebras intermingled, and here they are, intermingling. How cool is that?

Male elephant, Etosha National Park

Male elephant, Etosha National Park

Farther along as we get more into the “mountains” (“mountains” is a relative term here; these would not qualify as mountains in Alaska), we found an elephant. We weren’t seeing ellies much, so it was exciting when we did.

Elephant Face, Etosha National Park

Elephant closeup.

He looks like an old guy to me, but what do I know? He’s mellow about our presence and proximity, so we got a nice look.

Giraffe, elephant, and gemsbok at a waterhole, Etosha National Park

Species mixer at the waterhole. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

Another waterhole yields another collection of mixed species. This one just happens to have my favorites: a giraffe, an ellie, and a gemsbok.

I think this picture looks suspicious, too. Was one or more of these animals Photoshopped in? Nope. It’s for real.

I’m trying to think of a similar shot we might get in Alaska, and I’m coming up empty.

Mountains in western Namibia

The mountains of western Namibia. Click for a larger image. Use your back button to return here.

And that’s it. We’re out of Etosha and on our way into Kaokoland, the mountains of Namibia, to the Kunene River.

Categories: Africa, Africa, Travel