More on my adventures with The Hostel Life
Today we had to get up extra early to meet with a guide who was going to take us out in his open air truck to look for more game. Long before sunrise or breakfast we climbed out of our tents and quietly made our way out into the park.
Having gotten so lucky the day before and seeing a pride of lions we were all half thinking that we were already as lucky as we could get. Arrogantly, the other half of each of us was eager to see much more. Elephants and a leopard were on top of our wish-list today. Elephants we expected to see sooner or later. Leopards on the other hand are much more rare, camouflaged and shy. Most everyone we spoke with said that we should not expect to see one on our trip. Demanding the extraordinary while in this remarkable country we set out amongst the giraffe waiting for the sun to come up.
We then spent the next few hours driving around underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the park is amazing and we saw many animals, from hyaena to blue wildebeast to snakes to giraffes and zebras. Oh how quickly the conditioned mind gets jaded. Then, suddenly, our guide stopped the truck and pointed into the brush along the side of the road. At first I saw nothing and wondered what type of pigeon he might have spotted. How wrong I was! Right there, sitting under the cover of a few branches, right on on the road, was a leopard!
We inched the truck forward ever closer until we were within feet of this massively powerful and jaw droppingly beautiful creature. He/she seemed somewhat indifferent to our presence until we tried to get within 10 or so yards. At this point the big cat got up and walked a short ways into the brush. We followed along for some time hoping to see the leopard walk out into open and cross the road. A couple of times she came close, but then turned back into the woods. In all we probably had 10-15 minutes with this magnificent creature.
After that we called it a day and headed back to the camp. Along the way we saw an adorable group of mongoose hanging out around a sign. It’s hard to believe that these cute little ferret like animals are some of the best snake hunters in the world. We were just minutes away from our camp when suddenly our truck changed directions. Our guide had spotted something he couldn’t let us miss. The Black Rhinoceros is currently classified as critically endagered. Their existence here on earth is in jeopardy. Most will never see one, and our children may not even have the chance should we let them go extinct. None the less, here one was, chomping away on some plants right in front of us.
These animals are huge. With their massive bodies and that huge horn protruding out from its head I really felt like I was looking at a dinosaur. Although completely vegatarian this beast can easily weigh over a ton and is know to be rather aggressive. The thought of all that weight charging horns first is enough to give anyone pause. We kept a safe enough distance, but got plenty close to get a sense of just how enormous this grey, mud covered creature really is. Yet another rare opportunity offered to us here at Etosha National Park.
After that we headed to breakfast letting everyone we saw know just how lucky we had been. That left one burning desire in the group. We wanted to see elephants. We talked to a number of people on the staff of the park and figured out that our best bet was not to look along the southern road that heads straight west through the park below the main lake, but to drive north up another road. We got the name of a promising watering hole and headed out in that direction.
Wouldn’t you know it, luck shined upon us once again. Immediately upon our arrival at the watering hole we spotted a large group of elephants hanging out, drinking water, covering themselves with dirt and having a grand old time. There were young children alongside adults all enjoying the fresh water on this warm summer day.
We spent the rest of the day driving around the park marveling at the vast open spaces teaming with life large and small. Here we were having yet another storybook day in Namibia.