wildlife

Etosha National Park – The Arid Eden

Voor de Nederlandse versie – Klik Hier

Two days, 2200 Namibian dollar (±€130), two new shocks and 650 km’s in total, and we’re back at Etosha National Park western gate. Because this is where we took off with a dancing car, and when your car is dancing over every tiny bump, you know that something is not right! This is what happened: we had to drive down the worst road in the entire history of the world. Okay, maybe that’s not true, but it was the worst road we have ever been on!! Imagine those little “slow-down” bumps they put on roads sometimes for which you don’t actually have to slow down that much (80 k/h is perfect!). Now imagine about a thousand of those right after each other for about 40 km’s on stretch. HORRIBLE!! Depending on how fast you drive, you either stay sort of on top of them, meaning you won’t have any control of where you’re steering, because there is no friction with the road. Or the other option, drive real slow and feel e-v-e-r-y bump. We tried the first option first, driving about 40 km/h, and a madly focus on the road to be sure not to oversteer. And then faith hit and there was one bigger bump, we heard a big PANG, the back of the car drifted, and we were almost sideways on the road. Now luckily, 40 km/h is still quite slow, and nothing bad happened. But we had heard that noise, so we stopped the car, looked around if there were any lions, and then got out to check the car. Oh, we had to look around for lions, because this road happened to be inside Etosha National Park, a NP that is known for its good roads!!! WHAT?! Well, not the one going to the west, that’s for sure. Anyway, looking under the car, we saw oil dripping all over the back bottom and the tires, and a little smoke as well. We still don’t know anything about cars, so we had no idea what could’ve happened. Then a big truck came driving up and the guys were sweet enough to step out and have a look. I must say, they were a lot more worried about the possible lions in the vicinity, but that aside. They had a look at the oil, but also weren’t sure what happened. The engine seemed to be doing well. We checked all the oils and the brake fluid, double checked if it was the gasoline leaking. It seemed to be nothing like that, so we decided to drive on very slowly, hoping very much that we would make it to the next camp. Our initial plan was to leave the park, but we had chucked that one in the bin as soon as we heard that the next 40 km would be the same as this. And to not break our car further, we drove between 15 and 20 km/h! Now you think, that isn’t so bad when you’re in a game reserve, right? Find some animals? But this game reserve is very, very dry, and thus collects its animals around water holes. And we didn’t come across any waterholes, so there were no animals, just that endless number of bumps without relieve. And then a light turned on… the ABS.. Now what the hell does that mean?! (I told you we don’t know anything about cars). But, we are a bit prepared, or Lars was anyway, and he had bought an overlanding book. This mentioned something about an ABS, couldn’t find what it was exactly, something with the brakes. But I did find that we would be able to keep driving. That’s all we needed to know! Later Lars his brains worked again, and he remembered it stands for Automatic Brake System, whatever that is!

Anyway, we finally made it to the camp, called Olifantrus (I’ll spare you the dirty details of why it was named like this), and here we met a wonderful Dutch couple that got us easily out of our bad mood. When we entered the camp, there was a single bump and here we realized that the thing that had broken might have been our shocks, because our car danced after hitting the bump. Lars went to ask our neighbours, the ones with a beautiful, camperlike overlanding vehicle, to see if they might know a bit more. Marco (as tall as a Dutchman can be) came to have a look and confirmed our suspicion that one of the shocks had broken. This shock wasn’t even two months old! As always, we look at the bright sight of a bad thing and this time it was the fact that we had to stop at this camp. First of all, there was a beautiful waterhole with a hide next to it, so we saw a lot of owls and drinking black rhinos that night. Secondly, we got to know Yvonne and Marco. They had been traveling for six years!! What an amazing way to live. They are absolutely diehard travellers, and we could learn a lot from them. Not just for traveling, but also when we want to start our project, with their vast amount of experience. We heard a lot of stories, and if you would like to check out what they’re doing, you can find their facebook. They’ve been to Kafue NP and Yvonne told us that when we’re at our starting point, they would come visit and help us!

If you’ve read our blogs so far, you might have noticed that normally something good happens after something bad. Besides our meeting with Yvonne and Marco (which was very good), this time it was the other way around. A lot of amazing things had happened at Etosha National Park (and before the NP) before the car incident. This incident was to balance it out. But wait, let me start at the beginning.

And this time, the beginning is not exactly in a game reserve. Instead (before Etosha), we went to an area where we could hike, called the Waterberg Plateau. It was time to use our legs again, just like in Tsodilo hills (read about it here). We decided to stay there for two nights and the first morning we slept in (7.30 am) and took it slow before we finally made it up the mountain. It was a short, but beautiful hike, but because we were a bit late, we decided to head back to the pool and cool down! In the afternoon we had planned to go on a game drive. Apparently, the top of the plateau is a game reserve. Oh sorry, so we did go to a game reserve again. Anyway, after chilling at the pool, we went on the game drive with a local ranger. We wanted to do this drive mainly because we wanted to go on top of the plateau!! He told us that, besides being a NP, the plateau was also used as a breeding area; there are no predators (accept the occasional leopard) and the edges of the plateau are natural boundaries for everything (including poachers!). We had our beautiful view and we saw a lot of buffalo’s and we made some friends (Belgian/Dutch, right on the border?! Still not entirely sure). They were going home the next day, but hadn’t seen a rhino yet. So, your wish will be fulfilled and just before we got back to camp, when all hope seemed lost, there was the rhino! A white rhino, right next to the road! He was curious and came pretty close to the car before taking off grazing again. Satisfied with our drive we went to bed.

The next morning we woke before the crack of dawn (5.30 am), because we wanted to see the sun rise from the top of the plateau. We were a bit late (couldn’t get out of bed, go figure), so I think we set down a record time sprinting up the plateau. They normally suggest it takes 40 minutes, now took us 20, WITH some pictures in between. We weren’t exactly on top when the sun touched the horizon, but it was close enough! And it was beautiful! We had an amazing view on a misty country and the colour of the rocks couldn’t have been more mesmerizing. Now that’s what you call, a good morning wake-up hike, plus we had some fun making pictures and using the tripod! By the time we got back to the car it wasn’t even eight ‘o clock! In the Netherlands, that’s when I get up! We had enough time to get to a nice guesthouse with proper WiFi and a swimming pool and sort pictures, and post some blogs on the website.

Our jumping jacks that morning!

After some shopping the next morning, we set out for the next NP, Etosha! This is supposed to be the Kruger of Namibia, where even sedans can get everywhere (remember the first paragraph of this blog……). We entered Etosha NP, and the drive to the camp was about 90 km and indeed this road was very good. As we had an early morning we went straight to the camp, no detours to waterholes. The next day we got up early (again) and did a drive to some waterholes before coming back to the campsite for lunch. This morning drive we didn’t have a lot of luck, but another chance that afternoon! I was kind of tired of driving the whole time, so I tried to convince Lars to take it easy just one afternoon. He thought it was a waste (which of course it was), so we compromised: we chilled at the pool for half an hour and left around 4 pm so we could catch the best hours of the day. We went straight to an area that had three waterholes close to each other. Lars and I had discussed that morning what we still wanted to see. I mentioned that I had never seen a cheetah drink… And Lars just wanted to see a cheetah, because that was the only cat we hadn’t seen yet. So we set out to find it, and find it we did! Or Lars did, he saw something stalking through the high grass and seeing a group of Hartebeest all looking in the same direction, we knew it must be a cat. We followed it, and there he was, an old male cheetah!! And a cheetah with a purpose, although a little distracted by some springbokkies that were running away, the cheetah went straight to the waterhole to drink! There you go Kellie, handed over on a platter, your drinking cheetah. As the good people we are, we stopped two other cars, so they could enjoy the view with us. The cheetah even walked by on the road, and we were a very, very happy couple on our drive back to camp. We stopped at one more waterhole and there we saw a white ánd a black rhino drinking! Wauw, could this day get any better. We had to rush back to make it in time before the camping gate closed.

That afternoon we had met our German neighbour, Dominik, a guy traveling on his own. He liked the company and so did we and after our dinner (very sophisticated according to Dominik with his peanut butter sandwich), we all went together to the waterhole next to the camp. This waterhole had a tribune for the crowd and a light so that we could see the animals that visit at night. What an amazing concept, a lot of animals you just won’t see during the day. The night before, Lars had seen hyena’s and two black rhinos fighting and expectations were high! It didn’t let us down, again we saw hyena’s, five of them. And we saw a black rhino with a young, and four other ones. As we heard a leopard in the vicinity, we couldn’t help ourselves and stayed a lot longer than intended in the hope it would come visit. It didn’t. No fuss, more chances the next day!

And so we rose with the sun again! We went to the same waterholes where we had found the cheetah, see if it was still around. And we were not disappointed! Although, now we found four cats. And it wasn’t cheetah, but lions! How about that! Now we only needed to find a leopard and we would’ve seen all cats in Etosha!

I should tell you that I had absolutely no image of Etosha before we arrived, not about the landscape, not about what to expect of the animals, just that it would be busier with cars than any place we’ve been so far. That’s what Eddie and Vera had told us. It turns out Etosha mainly consists of a huge saltpan which ones used to be a lake, surrounded by marsh land. Now everything is dry, but it is beautiful! There are huge stretches of edible grass and they are filled with so many different animal species; zebra’s (both mountain and Burchell’s zebra), kudu, springbok, black-faced impala (endemic and endangered), wildebeest, Red hartebeest, ostriches, giraffes, steenbok, elephants and eland. And then there are the waterholes, especially during the dry season, these waterholes attract animals. We had one particularly amazing sighting after we left the lions to their daytime-naps. We went to a waterhole and had seen a lot of zebra following the same road as us. We knew they must be heading for the water. We had parked the car at this waterhole, an especially beautiful waterhole I may say, and waited. After about five minutes the zebras came pouring out of the bushes all heading towards the water! I tried counting and there were at least 150 zebras! And as soon as the zebra’s thought it was safe enough to drink, the wildebeest finally found the courage to approach the waterhole as well. A group of about 50 wildebeest joined the zebras at the waterhole. I have never seen such big herds, and it is impressive!!

The beautiful sighting at the waterhole, with the biggest herd of zebra we have seen!

Now, I mentioned before that there were supposed to be a lot more cars in this park, Eddie and Vera even felt like they were in the zoo at times. At this waterhole we were the first to park, and thus had the best spot in tha house, but overall about six cars had appeared. I never actually realized they were there, because I was so taken by this beautiful sight. And the rest of this day and the day before we were baffled by Eddie and Vera’s judgement, it wasn’t busy at all! Turns out, this might had to do something with good timing, aka, the waking up early part! And then during the afternoon, we are not on the road as animals are not on the road; it is too HOT! That’s when you should chill at the pool. And so we did 😊, this time at Okaukuejo, the main camp in this NP. After some tanning, we headed back out and had some more wonderful sightings at the waterholes.

A few pictures to get a feeling of the amazing characteristics of this park. Both the animals and the landscape!

We ran into Dominik, he was so kind to have taken two dutchies with him on the game drive! We tried to find the lions again, but they had moved on. And so did we, however, at a much slower pace than Dominik. And lucky for us, because of this pace we happened to spot something with the shape of a cat sitting in a field. When we spot a cat in the field, we generally assume it is a cheetah. But looking through the binoculars, we realized it is a leopard! Damn! Etosha made sure we saw everything, didn’t it!! And to have a really good sighting, most of the time you need to be patient. We waited for the leopard to start moving. And finally, she did. In the meantime, (only) two other cars had joined us. And one ranger stopped for a little bit before moving on, he told us he drove this road every day twice and it been months since he saw a leopard! I can’t believe we were that lucky. Anyway, the leopard started moving and we slowly followed. There is an unwritten rule that the one who starts the sighting, owns the sighting, so can claim the best spot. As we were the first car, that was our place and we claimed it! We followed the leopard and finally we could make a turn and if she kept that pace up, she would cross the road in front of us. We saw her through the bush moving closer and stopped the car. I was sitting on the edge to try and make pictures of her through the bush. And then she decided that where we were standing, was where she would cross the road!! She stalked out of the bush, looking right at us! It was amazing, I had adrenalin rushing through me! I could see her so clearly, also through the lens of the camera. Then I heard some whispers behind me from the other car, and I realized that maybe I should get back in the car! Actually, by then it was a little late, and the adrenalin rushing through me had nothing to do with the idea that I might have been doing something dangerous. It had to do with this beautiful, beautiful animal that allowed me to look at her from so close by!

After this, she disappeared into the bushes and we went back to camp (again making it only just before the gate closed, which is at sunset). We had another campfire meal and a good night at the waterhole (though a bit shorter) and the next day we decided to sleep in a little bit, get all our stuff, including the laundry we had done the day before, and leave at a decent hour. Which, in this case, meant we left around ten. And now did we finally experience what Eddie and Vera probably had experienced; a huge number of cars on the road. At the place we had found the leopard the night before, we saw about four cars parked. We stopped and asked what they saw, it was the same leopard hiding in a tree!! But you couldn’t really see her, plus we had to share the experience with a dozen other cars that arrived after us. So naturally, we moved on, we wanted to get to the western gate that afternoon. Now you might think, wait, the western gate… isn’t that the one she mentioned in the first paragraph. Oh yes it is. This is where we get back to where I began, that HORRIBLE road!

I want to end with a positive note though, when we left the park the last morning with our dancing car, we had stopped at one last waterhole. We saw a herd of elephants here, with one enormous female. And we are not entirely sure if it’s true, but we think this might have been a famous Desert Elephant. Hopefully, we will find out more about this animal in our next adventure, our drive to the beautiful but inhospitable Kaokoveld to visit a several conservancies (after we fix the car).

And of course if there is a salt pan, we’ll take the opportunity to have some camera fun!!

Posted by bylifeconnected in Blog

Mayuni Conservancy Namibia – And a way to build up some good karma!

Mayuni Conservancy - Some "good karma"-building

A blog about our adventures ánd a conservancy project!

Voor de Nederlandse versie - Klik Hier

After our beautiful wildlife trip in the Okavango (read about it here), we went for a cultural experience. From Maun, we traveled the long distance to the deserted area of the Tsodilo hills. An area also known as the Mountain of the Gods. We drove up around sunset and we could feel why this area is and has been a sacred area for many different cultures over thousands of years. The mountains arise out of nowhere in an else-wise flat and dry country. In these mountains, there are about 4500 different rock art paintings of which many are over 3000 years old!!

Sun was setting behind the Mountain of the Gods when we arrived. Beautiful!

We arrived at the campsite where we met Craig, a South-African bloke who had been travelling on his own for a while. He and we were happy with the company. We enjoyed a beautiful chatty, star-gazing night together and the next morning we woke up early to hike the hills in the cool of the dawn. We were guided by two local men, Tshebe and Phetolo, who told us everything about the paintings and the area. Besides visiting the paintings, we also did some rock climbing and caving. Okay, I might make it sound a little bigger than it was, but it was very nice for a change to do some active things instead of sitting in a car the whole day! During the hike, and in one of the caves they showed marks in the rocks. These marks in the shape of holes, were made by the many, many tools that were sharpened so long ago. It was very weird and at the same time impressive to see something so touchable and real like the paintings and these marks, and then realize it was made thousands of years ago by people so alike and yet so different from us. Nowadays, however, they still use the holes in the rocks, only not for tool sharpening, but for a game! It’s called Diketo, and works like this: you repeatedly throw a rock up in the air, and while the rock is in the air, you scoop several smaller rocks out of the hole, after which you try and put them back in one by one. Phetolo showed us and made it sound and look very, very easy. But this hand-eye coordination is a lot harder than you might imagine! Lars and Craig both tried, but were failing miserably, throwing rocks in all directions except into the hole! It was kind of dangerous! And I guess, after that, I was afraid to even try. Plus, I might have been a bit more interested in exploring the cave (even though we were told there might be snakes…). By the time we finally got back from our supposed-to-be-2-hour-walk, it was very hot and we took a refreshing shower before we hit the road. As Craig planned to go in the same general direction, we convinced him to join us to the campsite we booked. What we didn’t know was that it was only for 4x4 cars…

When we arrived at the gate, the guy told us we still had to drive about 13 km on a road with a lot of soft sand. And looking at Craig’s car All-Wheel Drive Sabaru, the guy said he probably wouldn’t make it. I suggested he could pack his gear in our car, but with an uncanny amount of faith in his car, Craig said the car could do it! It was sort of a 4x4 after all! The gate guy looked at us sceptically, but let us in anyway... All right, we figured to just give it a try then! And it worked!!! His car kept going, even at the parts I really thought he wouldn’t manage.  But then, about halfway to the campsite we had to drive uphill in deep sand, and the clearance of Craig’s car simply wasn’t high enough. So instead of reaching the top of the hill, he ended up on top of the sand just before the top, without any grip with his wheels whatsoever. As this was the third car (and the fifth time) we had to dig out someone else’s car, we were, what you would call, experts. We knew the problem was the clearance and that we had to remove the sand under the car. We knew we had to get some sticks to put under the wheels for some grip. And we knew that if we would push hard enough, while he kept hitting the gas, we would probably be able to get it out. Of course, Craig didn’t know all this, so he was in a bit of a worry, walking around his car frantically, while we were digging the sand from under his car. Then we told him to hit the gas while we pushed. At first, he hit the gas, stopped and hit it again. If you let go of the gas, you just roll back in the hole. We started shouting loudly at him to keep it going and very slowly we pushed the car out and on to the side of the road. As we were only halfway there, we decided to get his gear and leave the car behind. You should know that all of this happened while we were within a game area, were wildlife roams freely. I was explaining to Craig that our experience is that after a shitty ride (or a stuck car) something good is bound to happen here in Africa, especially in game areas. And not even a minute later we almost drove into a pack of wild dogs! And this is a very, very rare sighting, especially as this was a group of about four adults with nine pups! And there they were, right in front of us on the road. The pups were fighting over a kill that had just been brought over by one of the adults! Beautiful! And there is so much interaction amongst wild dogs, we saw one adult arrive and the pups went running towards her and just jumped on top so she rolled over by the force of the pups. After that, she gave them the kill and they ran off and five of them started pulling it in different directions. Lars and I were so happy and excited! At first, Craig was still with his head in worry mode for his car, but he got dragged in by the wild dog’s behaviour and our enthusiasm. And only after we arrived at camp and the staff told us how few wild dogs they saw, and how envious they were, he finally realized how rare this sighting was (even though we had told him). And it hit him (and us) how much luck we had that his car got stuck; we might have missed them if we would’ve been able to continue!

By the time we did arrive at the campsite, it was already dark, but we were lucky enough that the manager had not given our spot away. Again, we had the best spot of the whole campsite right on the edge, next to the river, and some other people kept on insisting they wanted to move there! I don’t know why we are so lucky with these things, but I am really happy we are. We went to put up the tent when Craig finally realized he had forgotten to take the box with his tent in it! It was so funny, and luckily the managers saw the humor as well when we walked back over to the lodge and he booked one of the luxury tents there. After that, we just got a beer at the boma (fireplace) and called it a day. The next morning, we went on a game drive with a local game ranger named Justus who had been working in the conservancy area since 1992. Besides the regular impala, lechwe and hippo, there was not a lot of game that morning, but we almost found lions! And even more important, Justus told us everything about the area. Which was one of the reasons we wanted to visit Nambwa and the Mayuni Conservancy in the first place. We wanted to know more about how this conservancy was set up, and the fact that, in part of it, hunting is allowed.

 

Our beautiful campsite with a deck looking out the river. We heard the hippo's and saw some lechwe's right across from us!

This is what we learned. First, let me just say it is a very successful cooperation between community and lodge owners with the aim of conserving nature so they can benefit from tourism. We had not realized this before we visited, so that was a very interesting finding. Mayuni conservancy was the third community conservancy set up in this region, after Salambala conservancy in the East and Wuparo conservancy in the South. It was started by IRDNC (Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation), an NGO which works in Namibia and has pioneered one of Africa’s leading models of community-based natural resource management. This is apparent from the successes of the conservancies we have seen in the Caprivi strip region (now called Zambezi-region). Hopefully we will be able to meet with someone from this organization, as we haven’t been able to get in touch yet, but we will try visit their office in the coming month 😊.

Anyway, back to the Mayuni conservancy, the area where we saw the wild dogs (yaay!). When IRDNC came in, people were skeptical and suspicious of these people and their plans. However, four volunteers started with demarcating the conservancy area, thereby patrolling the border sort of as anti-poachers. However, in the beginning, they did not have any ammunition besides their hands. Locals just laughed at them. But over time, they received ammunition and even a vehicle and the community came to respect them. In the meantime, a meeting was organized, one with food and beers to make it attractive. And a lot of people showed up and the community came to understand what the conservancy would be all about. For example, if someone has a good well-substantiated idea to start a project, e.g. farming or small craft business or whatever, they can ask money from the conservancy. But they can also ask money for a guiding education, where the conservancy will see it as a way of investing in them. So, the money from the conservancy is coming back into the community. Take for example the campsite we were staying at, Nwambwa. This is a community owned campsite of which the profits all went to the community. Three years ago it was expanded with a lodge, which is partly owned by the community and partly by a British-Namibian investor. But besides the managers and a few game rangers, the rest of the employers are from the community.

Then another part of this conservancy is used for professional hunting. However, oppositely to how they do it around Kafue NP (read it in this blog), here they hunt sustainably. Hunters are not allowed to go without a guide and they can only kill old males; old elephant bulls, kudu’s or old hippo’s. If you ‘accidently’ shoot a female, you’ll have to pay a fine. And if you kill two instead of one animal, you must pay double the amount. And the beautiful thing here is that the conservancies in this area work together: at the end of the year each area does an animal count and if it turns out that for example no elephants are in one area, they will refer to the neighbor. Smart!

Justus, who worked for the hunting company in this area for a few years, told us that he thinks in this region they will probably stop hunting within two years, even though they earn money from it. He says enough money will come in from ‘plain’ tourism just like in Botswana. The main reason however, is that if they continue, they will enter a difficult relationship with their neighbors. In Botswana, hunting is not allowed and without fences separating Namibia and Botswana, the Namibian people are killing the animals that wander across the border. And for Botswana this feels like they are killing ‘their animals’, which makes sense. Furthermore, Justus mentioned that lodges are not the only thing that can provide money or the community. The area also needs for example a fresh vegetable garden, a restaurant, a shopping center and even a bakery. So, there will be enough jobs coming around when tourism picks up! And to show that this model has worked, I can quote Justus: ‘People from the village let lechwe and impala walk in their house and don’t see them as meat, but as a way to earn money from tourism.’ And that is a very good way to preserve nature!!

- Kellie -

Posted by bylifeconnected in Blog, Projects, 4 comments
Chobe National Park – Een Waar Olifanten Paradijs!

Chobe National Park – Een Waar Olifanten Paradijs!

Chobe National Park - Een Waar Olifanten Paradijs!

Deel 1 van ons wildlife avontuur in het noorden van Botswana

Tijdens het schrijven van dit verhaal, zie ik een olifant langzaam, stukje bij beetje, op me af komen. Ik vraag me af of hij dichterbij komt (en ik vraag me af of ik dat wel zou willen zo in m’n stoeltje)…  Maar hij is gewoon lekker ontspannen de struiken aan het slopen, ondertussen met zijn vijfde been tegen z’n onderbuik aan het slaan. Ja ja, je hebt een grote piemel, opschepper! Wij zijn geen match voor je, en zelfs onze lokale 'gids' (meer over hem in de volgende blog) is onder de indruk. Hoe dan ook, terwijl een volgende kudde olifanten aan komt en langzaam om ons heen de struiken leeg eten, staan ​​we versteld van het enorme aantal olifanten hier in Botswana. Vijf dagen geleden zijn we Chobe National Park in gegaan, om vervolgens helemaal naar beneden door Savuti en verder naar Khwai / Moremi NP te reizen, waar we nu zijn. Dit gebied staat bekend om de grote diversiteit en hoeveelheid diersoorten, en we hoopten dan ook dat dit de beste natuurervaring van de reis zou worden! De verwachtingen waren hoog en we begonnen in Kasane met een relaxe ​​boottocht over de Chobe-rivier. Rond half vier gingen we aan boord van de boot, wat net zo goed een Duits bejaardentehuis op het water had kunnen zijn; naast ons en een jong Duits stel, waren de resterende 40 personen hoogstwaarschijnlijk hun pensioentje aan het opmaken. Gelukkig had dit in z’n geheel geen effect op de ervaring.  Het was verfrissend om zoiets als een boottour te doen na zoveel kilometers in de auto. Ongeveer drie uur lang voer de boot ons langs nijlpaarden, olifanten, krokodillen, antilopen en vogels die in en langs de rivier leefden. Onder het genot van een koud cidertje hebben we hier een aantal prachtige ”sightings” gehad.

De volgende ochtend kwamen we precies om 7 uur (openingstijd voor zelfrijders) aan bij de toegangspoort van Chobe National Park. Het plan voor de dag was om langs Chobe Riverfront (een route van ongeveer 50 kilometer) te rijden. Er waren echt mega veel antilopen soorten in het park, maar de beste dingen die we gezien hebben waren een leeuwen-stelletje (een beetje verborgen in de struiken), een baby-baviaan op de rug van haar moeder (Jiihaa!), veel visarenden en een enorme kudde van ongeveer 200 olifanten. Vooral dit laatste verbijsterde ons; we hadden al een heel aantal olifanten in de bosjes gezien en toen we een heuveltje op reden,  betraden een heuveltje dat ons een uitzicht gaf over een open gebied naast het water dat vol stond met olifanten. Later kwamen we erachter dat veel kleine kuddes olifanten samenkomen op plaatsen waar water en / of voedsel in overvloed zijn. Hier kunnen mega-kuddes vormen van honderden tot zelfs duizend olifanten. Ze kunnen dit echter alleen in deze regio doen, omdat Botswana ongeveer 250.000 olifanten herbergt. Dit is ongeveer 25% van de gehele wereldpopulatie! Een absoluut olifantenparadijs!

Later die middag kwamen we aan bij Muchenje waar we de benzinetank voor de laatste keer konden vullen. Ook hebben we hier overnacht op camping Muchenje. Zittend op een terras met ons diner, hadden we een prachtig uitzicht over de vlakte en een prachtige Afrikaanse zonsondergang. Een van de eigenaren kwam bij ons zitten, een voormalige Britse man (hij verliet het VK ongeveer 40 jaar geleden), en we spraken over het gebied, Botswana en zijn presidenten. De volgende ochtend hebben we eerst even gerelaxed bij het zwembad, waarna we vertrokken naar het resterende deel van Chobe NP (Linyanti en Savuti). Bij de grens van het park stond er een bord met: "engage 4x4, deep sand ahead". Dit was iets wat we wel vaker gehoord hadden, en toen lukte het ook allemaal zonder, dus logischerwijs negeerden we dit bordje. Maar het zand werd dieper en dieper en na een paar kilometer besloten we om te stoppen en de banden een stuk leeg te laten lopen voor meer tractie. Dat maakte een groot verschil en we reden rustig door totdat we op een voertuig stuitte dat vastzat in het diepe zand! Het grootste probleem met het zand is dat tussen de sporen van de banden het zand een stuk hoger ligt, vandaar “deep sand”. Voertuigen met een relatief lage bodem zullen dus over het zand slepen, hierdoor onstaat meer wrijving, de auto wordt afgeremd en met te weinig kracht, of een te lage snelheid, kom je uiteindelijk tot stilstand. Dit was ook wat er gebeurd was met het Australische (Eddie) en Noorse (Vera) stel dat we tegenkomen. Als goede burgers stapten we uit de auto en liepen op hen af, uitgerust met onze schop en een grote glimlach op onze gezichten. Zij reageerden soortgelijk. Ken je die mensen die alles nemen zoals het is en proberen er het beste van te maken? Maak kennis met Eddie en Vera. Wat er was gebeurd was dat zij gestopt waren in het diepe zand zonder hierover na te denken, want er waren olifanten naast de weg! Zodra de olifanten vertrokken probeerden ze te gassen, maar er gebeurde letterlijk helemaal niks... Ze zaten vast. En toen kwamen wij op het hoekje kijken. Samen hebben we de auto uitgegraven, en terwijl we dit deden, ontdekten we dat het eigenlijk best leuk is om de auto van iemand anders uit het zand te graven (het scheelde ook dat de zon was verdwenen achter de wolken). Eddie vertelde ons over dat hij gelezen had dat "deze weg auto’s opeet als ontbijt". Dat was een mooi vooruitzicht, aangezien we ongeveer 20 meter van de 10 km gereden hadden! Ach ja, eerst maar deze situatie oplossen. Na een paar pogingen en hard duwen van Vera, Kellie en ik, was de auto los. Nu was het onze beurt... Kellie nam een ​​aanloop... en ging er in één keer door! Aan de andere kant waren we allemaal even gestopt en kregen we van Eddie en Vera een koud biertje als bedankje. We kwamen erachter dat ook zij onderweg waren naar de camping van Linyanti en dus vervolgenden we onze weg in konvooi.

Bij Muchenje hebben we een heerlijke maaltijd tijdens zonsondergang gegeten, met uitzicht over een prachtige vlakte!

Slechts een paar kilometer verderop moesten we weer stoppen. Deze keer niet voor Eddie en Vera, maar voor een auto gevuld met vier hollanders. Nu klinkt het misschien net alsof er veel auto's op deze weg staan, maar deze twee waren de enige auto's die we tegen waren gekomen sinds Muchenje. En ze zaten allemaal vast in het zand (behalve Sisi natuurlijk). De Nederlanders vertelden ons dat dit de derde keer (!) was dat ze vast zaten. En in de volgende 5 km hebben we hen nog drie keer uitgegraven... Welkom in de Afrikaanse wildernis! Uiteindelijk hebben we hen maar even instructies gegeven, ten eerste dat ze de auto in de lage 4x4 versnelling moesten houden. Ten tweede dat ze, waar het kon, moesten proberen over de zijkant van de weg te rijden in plaats van in de sporen, zodat ze de wrijving van het zand kunnen ontwijken. En ten slotte dat ze niet moeten stoppen met gassen, ongeacht hoeveel lawaai de auto maakt, het is toch een huurauto! Vervolgens hebben wij voorop gereden, omdat onze bodem wat hoger lag, dus wij konden in de diepste stukken alvast wat zand wegschrapen voor de volgers! Hierna zijn ze er uiteindelijk in geslaagd om de laatste 5 km in één keer door te rijden.

Onze auto had het fantastisch gedaan, en we bereikten Linyanti dan ook vol zelfvertrouwen en trots; onze zelf gekochte en aangepaste Landcruiser uit ’98 kon alles aan wat Afrika te bieden had, beter nog dan de vele nieuwere en heel veel duurdere huurauto's! En achteraf gezien hadden we met onze ervaring in Australie (Fraser Island, alleen maar zand) en Kellie’s ervaring met 3 maanden 4x4 rijden in een game reserve, toch wel wat skills ontwikkeld. We voelden ons goed! Bovendien hadden we de beste plek van de camping, ​​op een verhoging onder een boom, met een geweldig uitzicht over een riviertje en de aangrenzende moerasvlakte. Bij aankomst zagen we olifanten grazen in het licht van de ondergaande zon. Het wordt niet beter dan dit! Vanwege het geweldige uitzicht hebben we Eddie en Vera uitgenodigd om bij ons te verblijven. Ze accepteerden gewillig en we hadden een heerlijke braai; een echt Afrikaans feest met bietensalade, aardappelsalade, paprika, maïskolven met boter, kip en boereworst. De rest van de avond hebben we lekker gekletst en gelachen rondom het kampvuur; de perfecte afsluiting van een opwindende dag!

Onze prachtige camping by Linyanti. Als je goed kijkt zie je de olifanten in het moeras lopen!

De volgende ochtend besloten we om vroeg op te staan (5 uur) en samen met Eddie en Vera zijn we vervolgens op zoek (jacht) gegaan naar de beesten! Aangezien we die nacht leeuwen hadden gehoord, en we zelfs sporen hadden gevonden die net afsloegen voor zo ons kamp binnen liepen, was dit waar we naar op zoek waren. We hebben de leeuwen niet gevonden, maar wel enkele olifanten en een roan antilope. Van daar namen we de weg die, zo dachten we, ons naar Savuti zou leiden (gebied midden in Chobe). Na een paar kilometer vonden we een enorme dode olifantenschedel langs de weg en logischerwijs stapten we uit om er foto’s van te maken en even onze benen te strekken. Op hetzelfde moment vloog er een helikopter over ons heen.. en die begon het gebied rondom ons te omcirkelen. We zwaaiden als brave toeristen, gewoon om te laten zien dat we geen stropers waren. Welke stroper zou zwaaien naar een helikopter, toch? Maar we werden behoorlijk nerveus. Zeker toen de helikopter op nog geen 50 meter afstand begon te landen! Op dat moment dacht ik echt dat we in de problemen zaten, al had ik geen idee waarom. Maar, net alsof we vol vertrouwen zaten liepen we richting de helikopter waar drie gamewachten, eentje met een enorm geweer, uitstapten. Nog ietsje nerveuzer. Toen ze uit de helikopter waren, vroegen ze ons wat we hier aan het doen waren. We antwoordden dat we geïnteresseerd waren in de olifantenschedel. Toen vroegen ze ons of we niet bang waren voor leeuwen. Wij antwoorden dat we dat zeker niet waren! Hier moesten ze om lachen en gelukkig brak dit het ijs. Vervolgens leidden ze ons naar de schedel. Ze begonnen uit te leggen hoe je kunt zien of een olifant is gestorven op natuurlijke wijze of door stropers. Dit checken, was de reden dat ze uberhaupt hier geland waren. Wij waren gewoon toevallig op hetzelfde moment ook daar... Wel benadrukten ze dat we in het park niet de veiligheid van de auto mogen verlaten en vervolgens wezen ze ons in de goede richting (want we hadden een verkeerde afslag genomen). We hebben natuurlijk eerst even gewacht totdat de helikopter was opgestegen, en vervolgens zijn we omgekeerd en verder gereden. Nou, weer een nieuwe ervaring toegevoegd aan de lijst!

Onderweg terug kwamen we deze keer een levende, enorme olifanten stier tegen. Hier waren we even gestopt en hij bleek erg nieuwsgierig want hij kwam steeds dichter en dichter bij de auto! Maar hij gedroeg zich rustig, ondertussen een stukje gras etend, en totaal geen waarschuwingssignalen, dus we bleven staan ​​om te wachtten tot hij zou passeren... alleen dat deed hij maar niet. Hij kwam nog dichterbij en op een gegeven moment had ik zo zijn slurf kunnen aanraken als ik dat wilde. Op dat moment besloot ik dat dit me toch echt te dichtbij was, en ik reed heel langzaam de auto een stukje naar voren. Mijn hart klopte als een gek toen ik de motor startte, omdat ik niet wist hoe hij zou reageren op het geluid! Hij bleef echter ontspannen en stak vervolgens gewoon de weg achter ons over. Met grote ogen keken Eddie en Vera naar ons (zij stonden voor ons), en we hadden allemaal door hoe een bijzonder moment dit was. Na deze ervaring vervolgden we onze weg, en wat een weg was dat, verschikkelijk. De weg werd steeds slechter; diep zand voor kilometers achtereen. We merkten dat onze brandstof hierdoor een stuk sneller ging dan normaal, wat ons nogal veel zorgen baarde omdat we nog een lange weg te gaan hadden! We berekenden dat op deze wegen de auto 1 liter verbruikt voor elke 4 kilometer, wat belachelijk inefficiënt is; normaal is het ongeveer 1 liter voor elke 8 kilometer (ook niet geweldig). We dachten er niet eens aan om terug naar Muchenje te rijden aangezien we die avond een dure reservering bij Savuti hadden. Dit creëerde enige onzekerheid, omdat we niet zeker wisten of we de andere kant (ongeveer 250 kilometer verder) zouden halen. Maar voor ons was de enige optie voorwaarts, dieper de wildernis in... Toen we eenmaal bij de entree van Savuti aankwamen, hoorden we dat een leeuwen pride een olifant hadden gedood. Dus wij meteen weer op pad, op zoek naar tekenen van die vangst, die op slechts 300 meter van de poort had moeten zijn... Niet gevonden... Honger won het uiteindelijk van nieuwsgierigheid en dus keerden we terug naar Savuti en maakten we eerst een snelle lunch (nog steeds met Eddie en Vera btw). Met onze buikjes gevuld, gingen we verder met zoeken. Kellie en ik vonden uiteindelijk de leeuwen door de sporen van andere auto's de bush in te volgen. Ze lagen daar met z’n zessen onder een struik te chillen, hun buikjes nog ronder dan de onze! De zogenaamde dode olifant echter, die hebben we nooit gevonden.

Hierna gingen we nog even op pad, richting het Savuti-moeras. Hier verwacht je een nat gebied, maar in deze tijd van het jaar was er geen waterdruppel te vinden. Desondanks waren de vlakten prachtig met cumuluswolken op de achtergrond. En om onze benen te strekken, klommen we zelfs een kleine heuvel op om wat San people (bushman) kunst te bezoeken. Over het algemeen was het dierenleven tijdens deze rit nogal schaars, wat we niet hadden verwacht na het lezen van de Lonely Planet (dit boek is echt goed in verwachtingen creeeren die te vaak niet uit lijken te komen). Dus, zoals je snapt, begonnen we een beetje teleurgesteld aan de terug tocht. Maar toen we bijna bij het kamp waren zagen we plots een enorme stofwolk; het teken van een grote kudde (buffels of olifanten) in beweging. Dit bleken ongeveer honderd buffels te zijn en ze waren op weg naar de waterhole dicht bij het kamp. Dezelfde waterhole die ook heel dicht bij de leeuwen lag, die we eerder die middag nog hadden gezien! Alle buffels verzamelden zich rond de waterhole, een gat dat veels te klein was voor allen tegelijk. Vervolgens probeerde ook nog een olifant zich door de kudde buffels te dringen om bij het water te komen, en dat terwijl dat kleine gat ook nog eens bezet was door twee nijlpaarden! Maar vlak voordat de olifant het water bereikte, schrok hij ergens van en rende hij trompetterend en wel weg. Alsof ze op dit teken hadden gewacht verschenen uit het niets zes leeuwen! Ze grepen hun kans en sprintten op de buffels af. De kudde begon in één keer te bewegen en lawaai te maken. Maar dit was niet chaotisch, zoals je zou verwachten, maar leek juist erg georganiseerd, de kudde bewegend als één. We voelden en hoorden de enorme hoeveelheid hoeven tegen de grond slaan en een grote stofwolk verduisterde het actie terrein. Na een paar ogenblikken ging het stof liggen en ontstond er een slagveld tussen prooi en roofdier; de leiders van de buffels en leeuwen stonden recht tegenover elkaar. Omstebeurt waren ze elkaar aan het polsen, het was wat je noemt een stand-off. Totdat! De buffel stier gooit ineens z’n horens in de strijd en de leeuwen sprinten achterwaarts, bang voor de kracht van deze horens. Een paar meter verder blijven ze even zitten. Op dit punt zien we nog maar drie leeuwen, terwijl we weten dat ze met zes waren. De andere drie waren om de groep heen bewogen en ineens vallen ze aan die kant aan. Deze tactiek om de buffalo formatie te breken lijkt even te werken, een jong dier loopt eventjes alleen met één leeuw tussen hem en de rest van de groep. Maar voordat de rest van de leeuwen kunnen aansluiten, vallen wat buffels uit naar de leeuw en is het jong weer veilig. Zo gaat dit een tijdje over en weer, recht voor onze neus. Het voelde alsof we in een National Geographic-documentaire zaten! Het enige wat we misten, was de stem van David Attenborough. De jagende leeuwen waren met vijf leeuwinnen en een jong mannetje. Nu vraag je je af, waar zijn de volwassen mannetjes. Zoals te verwachten gedroegen deze zich als typische mannetjes leeuwen. We zagen ze ongeveer 50 meter verderop liggen; net als ons waren ze het schouwspel alleen maar aan het bekijken. De koningen van de savanne die jagen niet, die worden gevoed. Helaas, helaas werd het donker voordat de de leeuwen een kill hadden gemaakt en moesten we terug keren naar het kamp. Maar we wisten dat, al zagen we zelf de kill niet, de kans groot was dat we de volgende ochtend wel wat zouden kunnen vinden! Dus weer vroeg eruit was het motto! Bij het kampvuur bespraken we de dag, en natuurlijk vooral de avond, met Eddie en Vera terwijl we een opnieuw een feestmaal bereidden. Wat was dat fantastisch zeg!! We sliepen als baby's (werden niet eens wakker toen een kleine kudde olifanten ons kamp doorliep, Eddie en Vera wel).

De volgende ochtend namen we afscheid van onze nieuwe vrienden en gingen terug naar het strijdterrein. En we konden onze ogen niet geloven! We vonden inderdaad een karkas omringd door leeuwen, maar het was geen buffel! Blijkbaar hadden de buffels de strijd gewonnen en in plaats daarvan hadden de leeuwen een middelgrote olifant gedood! Vanwege de enorme populatie olifanten in de regio staan deze lokale leeuwen ook wel bekend om het feit dat het olifanten (kill) experts zijn, heel cool! We bleven een paar uurtjes kijken, en zagen hoe de leeuwen om beurten het karkas uit elkaar trokken om vervolgens naar de drinkplaats te lopen om te drinken. Na een tijdje werd het echter te warm voor hen (en ons) en dus zochten ze een een plekje in de schaduw voor hun dutje. Voor ons was dit een teken dat we verder konden gaan, op naar de grootste binnenlandse delta in de wereld: de Okavango Delta! Lees meer over dit fantastische avondtuur in onze volgende blog

- Lars -

Posted by bylifeconnected in Nederlands, 5 comments
Botswana’s Natural Contrasts

Botswana’s Natural Contrasts

Botswana's Natural Contrasts

From huge deserts to beautiful riverbanks and magnificent baobabs

Vind hier de Nederlandse versies van de blogs: Klik hier.

Kellie

We have arrived in Zambia! This took us about 2,5 hours and some (expected) struggles at the border, but I’ll come to that in the next blog. But first let me tell you what we did after we left Sander at Tuli Block. The morning of our departure we said our goodbyes to this amazing area by a wild goose hunt, or rather chasing the many tracks the wild dogs had left behind, trying to make some sense of it! We didn’t, but it was a good morning hike. After, we left for Palapye. Here we had decided to stock up, buy a proper torch and fill up our gas tank. As anything in Africa, this didn’t go as easily as you might think. We drove from one place to another, all telling us they didn’t have the right equipment to fill up the gas tank. Then, and by now we’re at that point saying ‘lucky for us’, we found one who had! In the end, we decided to stay in Palapye instead of driving to the next town, which we originally planned. This was nice, because we stayed at Camp Itumela, a place where Anouk and I had stayed three years before and where we had a lot of fun.

Our camping spot in the middle of the wilderness with no one near us for at least 30 km's.

Central Kalahari

The next day we went off to Central Kalahari, a long drive, but we arrived at the entrance town (read: tiny village) before sundown. That night we slept at a camp near the entrance (with near, I mean a two-hour drive on a so-called “main off-road”). We woke up two hours later because a huge storm hit us and we felt like we would be lifted off and taken to the land of Oz! We got out and packed our tent in the pouring rain at a speed you can’t imagine! But of course, as soon as we were done and warming ourselves in the car… yeah you guessed it right, the storm had blown over… Ah well, back to bed for a few hours, and the next morning an early wake for our trip to the Central Kalahari. The result of the storm was written all over the road, it was very muddy and thus a perfect moment to try our 4WD (without getting stuck). Down in the Central Kalahari this was even worse. Here we found out that putting the gear in 4WD, didn’t mean it goes straight in 4WD. Found that out the hard way, after we got stuck! But by backing up and hitting the gas full-on, we went through anyway. Without 4WD, because that turned on after we went through!

An open plain at sunset, the perfect hunting zone for a lonely bat-eared fox.

Unfortunately, we were in the Central Kalahari at the wrong time of year, which means most of the animals had migrated to areas with water. We saw a Bat-eared Fox in daylight, which was pretty amazing because it’s a night mammal. But the rest of our stay was mainly getting to know our car. Plus, at night we loved being on our own in the wilderness, where we could enjoy the beautiful night sky and the sounds of night animals around us.

Elephant in the Makgadikgadi National Park with in the background zebra's drinking.

Makgadikgadi National Park

Our next stop took us right through Makgadikgadi National Park. We drove to the other side of the park on a very sandy trail right along the river. It was beautiful! At one point, we stopped and saw a lioness, with in the background elephants and zebra’s heading to the river for an afternoon drink. And we heard, more than saw the hippos at the hippo pool.

Many many years ago we would have been standing under water. Now it is a beautiful stretched Salt Pan.

Nxai Pans – aka the Elephant photoshoot!

That night we stayed at Planet Baobab, a very good place for overlanding. It was surrounded by several huge, impressive baobabs. The next morning, we visited the Nxai Pans, an hour drive from where we were staying. As usual we woke up around 5.30 am so we could get there in time before the sun became too hot for the animals (and us) to move. It started as a rather disappointing day, the roads were crappy (which can be expected, but it still sucks), and surrounded by bush. We arrived at the pan and it was pretty, but seemed deserted. Even at the waterhole we only saw a few springbokkies... Was that why we rushed so much that morning?! We decided to drive some more, with in the back of our mind that fuel was running short. But this detour was supposed to be only 2 km’s according to the map. After the first sign, we couldn’t find more so we trusted the little map. But apparently this map wasn’t very accurate! And we drove about 16 km before we came back to our starting point. By that time, it was getting really hot, we had scratched the car because the road we had to take was very small, and we were worried our fuel couldn’t get us all the way back to the camp. We were definitely ready to go back and call it a day. But before we did we stopped one last time at the waterhole. And thank God we did! First, we saw a small herd of zebra and wildebeest approaching for a drink, so we waited. Then, in the simmering distance, we saw two elephants coming! Believe it or not, but it only became better after that! First the two elephants were joined by two Secretary birds of which one fell down in the water, really funny! And after the first few elephants, a whole herd approached! And they were so excited to get to the water, first running and then splashing around getting themselves all muddy. Fourteen elephants and a mudpool, it was the best photoshoot I’ve seen. We stayed there during the heat of the day and then went to see the Baines Baobab.

Baines Baobab

Lars

The Baobabs are our favourite trees in southern Africa and there are lots of legends about their appearance, especially the fat stem and root-like branches. Here is one: There was a time, long long ago, when the first baobab started to grow next to a small lake. She grew slow, like baobabs do, and it took her many years to turn into adulthood. Eventually, though, the tree was tall enough to have a good look at some other trees. Some were very tall and slender, others had brightly coloured flowers or had large leaf’s. Then one day the baobab could see her reflection in the lake which shocked her to her root hairs: for the first time she could see her huge big fat trunk covered in bark that looked like the wrinkled hide of an old elephant. In addition, she only had small, tiny leaf’s and creamy, white flowers. So uninspired!

The baobab, of course, was upset and complained to the God of Evolution. “Why did you make me this huge and fat? Why not slender, with big and juicy fruits?” On and on the baobab went, wailing about the lack of curves until… The God of Evolution had enough of it. Determined to silence the tree forever, the Creator yanked the baobab out of the ground and replanted it upside down. From that day on the baobab could no longer see its reflection or complain and remained the most iconic of African trees, with its roots sticking into the sky.

Me positioned in front of one of the many huge and magnificent baobab trees in this area. We can't even imagine how old they are!

The elephants and baobabs had made our day and relieved we returned to Planet Baobab. The next morning, we took the road again. We were almost out of petrol though and in order to get to the next big town, Nata, we needed to find a petrol station or else we would probably not make it. There was one close to Planet Baobab, but it was without petrol. Hmm… What now? Apparently, this happens quite often as many locals stock on petrol for situations like this and sell it with a profit; I headed into the closest town and bought enough petrol to make it to Nata, and from there all the way to Kazungula where we would enter Zambia. Read more about this adventure in our next blog, click here...

Did you like reading this blog? Or do you have any questions or comments, please don’t be shy to give a comment in the section below.

Posted by bylifeconnected in Blog, 1 comment