Africa Overlanding: Arriving in Namibia and Spying Rhinos in Etosha

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Namibia part one…

Up until Namibia, Tanzania had been my favourite country on our overlanding adventure. I thought it would be impossible to top the bountiful wildlife of the Serengeti, the culture, food, architecture and ornate doorways of Stone Town and the lush sandy beaches of Zanzibar.

Scenic Stone Town

However, the sandy dunes, red rock formations and wildlife in Namibia created serious competition.

Only 1% of Namibia is suitable for agriculture due to the arid climate. Much of the country (which was once a German colony) is made up of the Namib desert, which is the world’s oldest. While water shortages are rife, the dry land creates mesmerising surroundings. I spent countless days dreaming out of the window – and not just because we spent SO much time on the bus!

Windhoek

Capital Windhoek was our first port of call after crossing the border from Botswana. Having not seen many cities of late, we were keen to check out Windhoek, though I can’t say we found lots to keep us entertained. There was a rare bout of rain when we visited so I spent a lot of time slipping around in my flip flops, and as it was a Sunday, almost everything in town was closed. The town was low rise with a European feel but not many Western influences – apart from Nando’s, which I’ve recently learnt is not native to the UK (despite the ‘cheeky Nando’s’ craze) and actually started up in South Africa.

Some areas of the city seemed a little sketchy and in a residential street we were nearly mauled by an Alsatian. In fight or flight mode, I hid behind Amanda and threw her into its path to save myself. When its owners took it away and we weren’t mauled to death, this was a bit awkward and I had to apologise to Amanda for my casual assault on her life. Whoops.

Still, at least we gave Windhoek a go. Often when we stay in rural campsites we have no choice but to stay put, so a little exploration didn’t hurt (at least not for me. Nearly for Amanda).

Usually there’s nothing to do at camp…

We were excited to be staying in static tents which we didn’t have to put up and take down ourselves (Sarah and I thanked the gods and sacrificed a cow). Lots of the group headed out for dinner at a local steak house but Sarah and I decided the luxury tents were too nice not to spend time in so we ate in the onsite restaurant.

Over dinner we met a British guy who was cycling from Cape Town to Egypt. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, look at a map and die of shock. In addition to cycling thousands of miles, he was camping rough and purifying his own water as the volume he’d need per day was simply more than he could carry. If we thought our own overland camping tour was tough, it wasn’t in comparison: he totally put us to shame.

We weren’t sure whether to be really impressed or deem him completely crazy. The trip was taking him almost a whole year in which we wouldn’t even see his wife – apparently it had been on his bucket list since he was 18 and he was now approaching 40. We’ve no way of seeing how he’s getting on but I wish him the best of luck!

Etosha National Park

After our brief stint in Windhoek, it was on to Etosha National Park. This was where the lush green countryside we’d seen in Botswana began to turn dry and desert-like.

We’d already been on safari in Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana but I was keen for more – I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of seeing African animals. There was one particular animal that we were extra keen to see: the rhino!

It was the only member of the big five we hadn’t found yet, after having seen the other four (elephants, lions, leopards and buffalo) in the first morning of our very first safari. We’d had our eyes peeled since but the rhino had evaded us up until this point.

A couple of our group had headed on a scenic flight in Botswana and saw a couple of rhinos from above. Sarah and I had been disgustingly jealous, and it had only increased our desperation to see them. Rhinos are endangered but we were hopeful as Etosha has the largest population of any national park in the world.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long. We spent two nights in Etosha and drove through the park on the afternoon of our first day, the morning of our third day and the whole of the day in between. Due to some road closures and delays after our early start from Windhoek, everyone was tired, sweaty and hot as we journeyed through the arid countryside.

Unlike previous safaris, we weren’t in a 4×4 but our big purple lando bus that gets us from A to B on a daily basis (or Kenya to South Africa to be precise). All of a sudden, Justus spotted a rhino, Joseph drew the bus to a juddering halt and we all screamed, despite the fact we knew we were meant to keep quiet.

That first rhino we saw had its horn removed – a technique used by rangers to make the animals worthless to poachers. The following day we caught sight of multiples rhinos, some with and some without their horns. The big five was complete and we couldn’t have been happier!

We stayed at a campsite within the park. There was a watering hole onsite and apparently in dry season animals come from far and wide to use it and campers can see all kinds of species up close. As it’s wet season at the moment, there are plenty of other places to find water which meant not as many animals came to the camp. Saying that, Sarah, Amanda and Bernie heard a nearby lion’s roar while watching the watering hole so we weren’t completely alone!

We were also luckily enough to see lots of giraffes in Etosha, and a fair few lions. Justus told us that giraffe move in groups known as ‘towers’, and we saw a large group during our early morning safari the next day. One of my favourite moments was spotting one solo giraffe on the horizon just as the sun was rising. The sunsets in Africa are magical, but a pinky-orange sunrise can’t be sniffed at either!

Aren’t giraffes amazing!?

Of the four safaris we’ve been on, I’d put Etosha in joint second place alongside Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. The Serengeti was the sure-fire winner as simply saw more, but Etosha was comparable in terms of dry scenery and flat land that made it very easy to spot wildlife.

READ NEXT: My Serengeti National Park photo blog

The green scenery in Zambia and Botswana was entirely different, but during the Zambia safari we spied a lot more than in Botswana.

The Serengeti always wins

We were definitely happy campers as we left Etosha. We were only a short way into our Namibia adventures – next was camping under the stars in Spitzkoppe. We were headed there via Damaraland, a desert area home to ancient rock carvings.

Thanks for reading!

Read my other Africa overlanding blogs:

See you next time for more adventures,

Rose

What we were about to see

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