An African Safari

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We are on our way to Etosha National Park but first, we travel over a huge mountain range and down to the sea.

This seaport was once home to the German Navy back in World War One and the navy has gone but the Germans have stayed. German is freely spoken and many of the towns have German names; I have even seen a street named Bismarck. At Walvis Bay, it’s now home to tourism and many cruise ships visit this fishing port providing visitors with sports fishing, boating and whale watching, to name a few.

The weather is quite a bit cooler by the sea and at this time of year, hundreds of Flamingos have made the lagoon their home. Many of the bright pink birds have flown in from the Etosha National Park, as the drought has taken its toll.

It’s now time to leave the Atlantic coastline. We take the Trans Kalahari Highway and head inland to warmer climes in our search for African fauna.

We have arrived at our safari lodge for the night, situated just outside the Etosha National Park. The Toshari Lodge is situated on an outcrop of dolomite rocks and overlooks a forest of Mopane and white Seringa trees.

Each individual chalet has all you need and set amongst the trees gives a relaxed feel and the lodge itself has only recently been rebuilt after a fire destroyed the original. There is some wildlife in the surrounds, including a very large warthog with very large tusks, he likes to visit you but l am not sure the feeling is mutual.

Today we have entered the Etosha National Park. People come from all over the world to see the wild animals and you have to pre-pay the entrance fees. Etosha is said to be the Namibian government’s biggest source of foreign currency.

We are on safari and so far today we have seen elephants, giraffes, zebra, rhino, springbok, oryx, élan, warthogs, wildebeest and many birds. But towards the end of the day, a magic moment occurred as we crept up on a water hole: zebra were approaching and l was up above them as they began to drink the still water to take in their reflections. The photo is at the top of this page.

We are now leaving Etosha National Park; it’s been a great experience, but time to move forward and head to the Okavango River.

Along the way, we stop at Rundu and the Mbunza Living Museum. It’s a traditional cultural school set up by the local Kavango people. They show us their traditional way of life and entertain us with traditional songs and dances, they are very enthusiastic about their performance and everyone joins in the magic of the moment.

Tonight we are staying at the Kaisosi River Lodge on the banks of the Okavango River. Our chalet overlooks the river, it’s beautiful weather and we can see children playing on the riverbank. The river is the border between Namibia and Angola, we are on the top story of our chalet and the view across the river is quite stunning; the next morning the sunrise is breathtaking.

We are on the road again travelling to our next lodge. On the way, we stop at a local market; they sell everything from hand-crafted goods, to clothing. In the centre of the market is a stall packed to the ceiling with old electrical appliances: TVs, radios, and boom boxes, all in pieces. A man in the centre of all this has a soldering iron in his hand and is working on circuit boards; hopefully, at the end of the day, something will work again.

Back on the road, we travel past little huts like a shanty town but its more structured than you think; our guide explains that each large unit of huts is a village with a headman and many villages then come under the control of a chief. A code of living overlooked by the chief covers everything, from how men and women relate to each other, to the family hierarchy. There is also a code of dress: married women wear a beanie and if another male messes with what’s under the beanie, there is a fine of one cow. When it comes time for children to go to school the family pays one cow, which covers all the family’s children for their entire schooling years; so cows are quite prized, and a rich man has many.

It’s a subsistence farming system but if the rains are good and the cattle fatten then all is well. But at the moment the drought is taking its toll and many of the shacks are made of tin with dirt floors, the temperature inside in the summer can be stifling and overnight, freezing; but its cheap construction and covers basic needs.

Irrigation has come to this part of Namibia with small farmers using the waters of the Okavango River. But because it is so successful, the big boys are trying to move in on the little guys and set up massive irrigation farms. Angola and Botswana have protested, saying the amount of water taken would kill the river downstream, even affecting the Okavango Delta (sound familiar?). The government has limited the size of pumps, but where there’s a will…

To be continued…