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down by the watering hole
at etosha

Etosha watering hole elephant

Etosha Okakueje watering hole

I am a National Geographic addict.  My parents used to order the magazine when I was a kid and I would read the whole thing cover-to-cover every month.  Patrick, knowing my love, ordered me the entire collection on DVD for Christmas.  The pictures and writing in National Geographic inspire me to be a better photographer and writer. 

Oryx

Oryx at Etosha

But, one of the problems with National Geographic (or any wildlife magazine, for that matter) is that they make game viewing look too easy

Antelope Etosha

Springbok, Etosha

When I flip through the pages of National Geographic and look at the amazing shots of cubs and lions, I don't think about the patience required to take these pictures, the time it takes to find animals, and the hours spent waiting for the animals to do something cool and exciting.  Now that we have been out game viewing, I understand the challenges involved. 

Springbok through the front windo Springbok

Herd of springbok from the front window and walking in a line

Our first three hours at Etosha National Park in Namibia, for example, were a bust.  We sat on the overland truck with all the windows wide open, our binoculars out, and cameras at the ready, but didn't see more than a few dozen springbok, the ubiquitous antelope in that game park, and some zebra and giraffe. 

Wildebeests and zebra at Okakueje watering hole Impala and oryx at watering hole
Springbok at watering hole Nyala Etosha

Herds of animals at the watering hole

Then, we arrived at the watering hole at Okakuejo, described by Jacques, our group leader with our Africa-in-Focus overlanding excursion, as "the best watering hole in Africa."  He wasn't kidding. 

Fun at the salt pans

Me holding Patrick at the salt pans

Namibia is one of the driest countries in the world, with over 300 days of sunshine on average in the year, meaning that the animals across the huge national park flock to the few manmade watering holes across the park in the dry season.  

Salt pan Etosha

Salt pan

We were there in October, one of the driest months of the year, when the salt pans were long stretches of flat white nothingness, the grass was yellow and brittle, and the animals needed the year-round water afforded by the manmade watering holes.

Hyena
Hyenas Etosha Hyena Etosha

Hyenas

At dawn, the hyenas, with their wicked grins, drank their fill before they found a place to sleep during the day. 

Oryx Zebra
Black faced impala

Oryx, zebra, black-faced impala, and another antelope whose name I can't remember

Then, the other animals began filling in, the antelopes and zebras arriving in herds while the coyotes prowled for small prey amongst the masses.

Elephants at watering hole

 Elephants at watering hole

When the elephants arrived at the watering holes, the other animals (very smartly, I might add) moved away.Rhino, zebra, nyala Etosha

Rhino, zebra, and nyala at the watering hole

One afternoon, we drove to another watering hole, where we captured this picture of a rhino, zebra, and nyalas. a type of antelope with Charlie Brown ears and white stripes  This is the sort of thing that we saw at Etosha's watering holes that makes game viewing look so easy.

Zebra Zebras
Zebras Zebras at watering hole

Zebras

I should just show you pictures of those striped zebras that we found everywhere in Etosha.

Zebras

Zebras drinking in the evening

The show really begins when the sun sets.  The animals come to the water at dusk, thirsty after spending the day hiding from the harsh sun.

Giraffe at watering hole Giraffe at watering hole
Giraffe at watering hole Rhinos at watering hole Etosha

Giraffes and rhino at watering hole at dusk/dark

The Okakueje watering hole is floodlit and we spent the first night enthralled by the succession of animals that came in.  At 5:00, a herd of giraffe arrived, then at 6:30, the rhinos, then at 9:00, lions (which I'll tell you about later this week), and then at 11:00, a huge herd of elephants, as if they had made appointments to drink.

Zebras in the red light

Zebras on a night drive

Later in the week, we took a night drive, where we searched for nocturnal animals.  We drove for an hour and half, shivering in the cold darkness and wrapped in multiple blankets, but did not see much more than a number of hyenas, a wild cat that looked very much like a domesticated house cat, and zebras and giraffes in the eerie red light.

Zebras

Zebras looking at us

But, that just goes to show how varied game viewing can be.  Sometimes, the animals are there, ready to be photographed, standing in perfect symmetry, as if posing for us.  Other days, they refuse to appear and we scratch our heads, wondering how the folks at National Geographic get those amazing shots.

*Our trip was sponsored in part by Africa-in-Focus but they did not ask us to write this post or any part of this post.  As always, our opinions (both good and bad) are our own.  If you are interested in our perceptions of the expedition in general, check out our Overlanding 101 post where we provide a detailed review of the trip.

01/10/2011 12:33
That first photo is absolutely stunning! All of them are beautiful per the norm, but I love all the animals crowded around the watering hole together...I definitely never saw that in South Africa!
01/10/2011 14:54
Love your posts from Africa... as we get closer to the continent on our RTW trip (after South America), we might have to bug you with some questions on Namibia.

Keep them coming!
jill-Jack and Jill Travel The World's recent blog post: Ujung Genteng Discover Java Islands Hidden Treasure
01/10/2011 17:51
Wow, these photos are stunning! I can't wait to go back to Africa later this year and see (hopefully!) sights like this.
01/10/2011 22:17
Amazing photos! Particularly love the one of the two of you at the salt pans--so cool!
Christine's recent blog post: Postcard from Killarney
01/11/2011 07:27
Lakshmi Sankar
Absolutely stunning pictures! I am so glad that you were able to experience it first-hand. Love, Mom
01/11/2011 08:51
Agree with Kristin!!! Though I do love the Zebra butt shot too! ;-)

Seriously, these deserve to be in NG mag. WOW!!!
01/11/2011 12:08
Great shots! I love animal photos. What a wonderful experience! Love the forced perspective shot too. hehe.
01/11/2011 20:34
Kristin, Thanks! We honestly couldn't believe how many animals there were at that watering hole. There were hundreds of animals and our capture couldn't even capture them all.

Thanks jill! South Africa is amazing but Namibia is a very special country. Let me know if you have any questions about the country.

Rebecca, I hope you do, too! Africa is ah- ma -zing.

Thanks Christine! We had so much fun playing with the depth perception at the salt pans.

Thanks Mom! It was an incredible experience.

Thanks Andi! Yeah, I am totally into zebra butts, too (regardless of how weird that sounds). I love how their stripes end in nothingness.

Thanks Kim! We had a phenomenal time at Etosha and I always think that I have Patrick in the palm of my hand. :)
Akila's recent blog post: candid canine: war eagle!
01/11/2011 23:33
Love your photos. I agree with your comments about natgeo pics. They are amazing, but generally take a long time to capture! I can only hope to be that good.
Adam @ SitDownDisco's recent blog post: Taxis in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
01/14/2011 15:41
Thanks Adam! I think NatGeo is what we all aspire to take pictures like but they have a lot more resources, time, and talent than we do!
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
01/17/2011 09:08
What truly amazing photos! How fantastic that you were able to go there and experience that with your own eyes.
01/17/2011 09:08
Thank you Andrea! I went through some of our videos from the watering hole last night and I couldn't believe how amazing it was, even though we were there filming and taking pictures. Every time I see the pictures, I fall back in love with Etosha and Namibia.
Akila's recent blog post: 25 lions, 24 hours
09/29/2011 02:35
Really amazing photos. I am also a photo addict and I love the way you present your photography concept. Very close up pictures and nice photo angles. Really nice.
09/30/2011 10:46
Thank you very much!
Akila's recent blog post: the taste of two years
02/15/2012 06:44
Great photos. I will hopefully travel to Etosha in May. As a keen photographer I hope to see plenty of animals and some great pics.
02/15/2012 10:02
Thanks!
Patrick's recent blog post: changing perceptions in madrid
02/22/2012 21:55
Wow!!You were lucky indeed to see so many animals.Looks a snapshot of national geographic channel.
River Rafting's recent blog post: Binsar
03/12/2012 06:19
Thank you so much! It was an amazing place.
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