WE are up early for today is game driving day and we are heading to the Etosha National Park. We are told the park has a salt pan so big it can be seen from space.
As we drive along we begin to see animals and stop to take photos. There are springbok, impala, gemsbok, giraffes, warthogs and many zebras. The cameras are clicking away with everyone looking for that special shot to take home.
We are staying at the Okakeujo Restcamp in the Etosha National Park. They have a waterhole that attracts animals from the park and they are all there including elephants. One-by-one the animals come in to drink. Different species warily moving past each other to get to the water.
Every now and then an animal will take-off in fright and many follow but the call of the water is too great. They must return on-mass to drink their fill, again side-by-side but when the elephant arrives all give way to his might.
If the lion is king then the Elephant is the mighty one. You will see them on hot days standing under trees flapping their ears. The underside of the ear is covered in veins close to the surface, so the flapping cools the body down.
At waterholes, on entering, the elephant will take a trunk full of water and blow it under the ears increasing the cooling effect.
They do take over a waterhole. The young elephants will plunge in completely submerging their bodies and play in the water for a long time. On previous visits to Africa I have seen up to 240 elephants gather at a single waterhole and take turns from the youngest to the oldest washing the entire herd.
The thing that makes them different is the elephant’s long memory. If one of the herd dies the others will mourn the death for days, often returning to the site each year to touch the bones with their trunks marking their loss.
Indeed if the government has to cull elephants because of growing numbers they will cull the entire herd. To leave some alive would be to curse them with the living memory of loss for the rest of their lives.
There was also the case of Laurence Anthony known as the Elephant Whisperer. He cared for elephants all his life at his game reserve and wrote a number of books on the subject. Upon his death, the elephants were aware of his passing and gathered en-mass at his home at Thurla Thurla. They stayed at the homestead for many days putting their trunks in the open windows showing their loss; this is a feature of elephants well documented.
We now reach the Okavango River and spend the night at the Hakusembe River Lodge. My chalet overlooks the river and as I enter the room, it’s dominated by a huge bed. Above the bed hovers a mosquito net that will be lowered tonight, as this is malaria country.
Sitting on the porch the river is the border between Namibia and Angola. At this time of year it is so shallow in parts that you can walk across it. On the opposite bank a woman and her children are washing and the kids playing in the water. They wave to me and I wave back.
Later on we take a sunset cruise on the river where we spot crocodiles, many birds and many families washing and getting ready for the night. They wave and we wave. As this is a champagne cruise, an announcement comes over before out come the glasses. The corks pop and as the sun sets into a big red ball there is lots of laughing.
Then we hear it. Faint at first, but as we near our lodge it gets louder…the sound of African song. As we reach our birth there they are; the staff at the lodge are singing us home.
We are back on the road heading to another river camp. There are lots of bush homes along the way. In this part of Africa, polygamy abounds so the housing layout looks like this…a compound fenced in walls of brush or tall grasses about two meters tall. Inside is a series of round huts with brush walls and a thatched roof.
The first one will be for the husband and his number one wife. It consists of a single room for sleeping. Next there is another hut for the children and then a third for the kitchen. When wife number two arrives another hut is added for her, then wife number three and another hut is built.
The number one wife is in charge of the kitchen but she invites wives two and three to join her in preparing the daily meals for the family. The only decision to be made by the husband is in which hut the lion sleeps tonight.
To be continued.
Until next time,