More on my adventures with The Hostel Life
Today we woke up early at the Treesleeper camp, ate breakfast, said goodbye to our new friend Moses and got on the road to head NorthWest to Etosha National Park. We were told that the opportunities to see game in their natural surroundings were many at Etosha, but no one could have prepared us for just how many different animals we would see in such a short time. After roughly an hour and fifteen minutes on mostly dirt roads we pulled up to the gate and headed into the park. Less than two minutes later, just driving up the driveway to Namutoni camp we saw a group of zebras crossing the road and then minutes later our first of many giraffe sightings. Seeing this massive animals cross right in front of our truck stopped us dead in our tracks with smiles on everyones face. After that we pulled into Namutoni to do a little shopping at the gift store, find our campsite and pitch our tents
Once we were all set up at the campground we got back in the truck and headed out to find some watering holes and see what animals were out. Watering holes are where all of the animals must go eventually to get a drink and cool off in the hot Namibian sunshine. Before we even got to the first one we came across a large group of zebras. Adults and children walked around on both sides of the road eating, playing and even getting into the occasional playful tussle.
After that we saw springbok, buffalo, red hartebeest, african storks, mongoose and a large group of giraffe hanging out drinking around the watering hole. It seemed like we couldn’t drive more than a few feet without running into some new animal that none of us had ever seen before in our life. The opportunity to see wildlife at Etosha is far beyond my wildest expectations.
After spending an hour or so shooting video and stills and just marveling mouths agape at the many animals we decided that it was time to get back to our camps. The footage that we are getting here is gorgeous. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. We could shoot all day and into the night, but the weather was starting to worry us. The sky in Namibia is massive. In Windhoek we were at 1660M (5440 feet) altitude so the clouds seemed very close directly above, but due to the flat landscape we could also see for many miles in every direction. Here at Etosha it was very hot and sunny directly above us, but there were storms brewing off in the distance and they seemed to be moving in our direction. Seeing all of the lightning and distant rain we thought about our tents with the windows open and decided to call it a day hoping that tomorrow we would see some of the big cats or any of the other ‘big five’. The big five in Africa refers to the five most dangerous animals, but also the five that most who come hope to get a glimpse of. They are lions, leopards, elephants, rhinoceros and buffalo. We got a distant look at a buffalo, but were yet to see any of the others. The leopard is an elusive animal with great camouflage and a reluctance to be near humans. The rest seemed possible to spot, but seeing a lion would be a real treat for me.
We headed back along the dirt roads in our 4×4 pickup truck when we noticed a couple of other vehicles pulled over to the side of the road as if they were looking at something. We pulled alongside and asked a safari guide what they were looking at. He said that there was a lion in the bush. We looked for a few minutes, saw nothing and then headed on down the road. Evan, our Director of Photography, then said that he just barely saw a lion really far back under a tree behind us. We drove for another half a minute contemplating getting stuck in a massive thunder storm and coming home to wet sleeping bags before deciding that we had to turn around and press out luck. I couldn’t be happier that we did.
It took a while, but eventually we too spotted a lion off in the trees. At first I shot a picture of her ears and then two eyes came into view. This was it, an actual wild lion less than 50 feet from our truck. I was firing off photos thrilled to get the smallest bit of fur on film. What happened next I never would have imagined possible. First one lion came forward out of the trees walking right towards our vehicle. ‘Was this safe?’ I wondered as I hung out the window to get a clear shot? Next thing I know I see a little cub, then another, then another. They were bouncing around playfully tackling one another moving closer and closer to our vehicle. It wasn’t long before they were out in the street right right in front of us Mom and Dad keeping a watchful eye on both them and us all the while.
We must have hung out with the lion pride of an hour inching along the road following them back towards the watering hole in awe of just how beautiful and peaceful this family seemed. At times it really seemed as if mom and dad were showing off their family for us. They certainly didn’t see us as a threat or show any desire to be anything other than friendly towards us. It wasn’t until the very last minute before we knew the park was to close that we decided to leave the lions to their wild Namibian home.