With the rains closing in off the Atlantic, we rode around Dune #7, avoiding the coast, and made our way towards Etosha National Park.
On the first day we ended up dodging most of the rain, but the thunderstorms chased us all the way to Otjiwarongo, and our thunderstorm hideaway for the next couple nights, the Out of Africa Lodge. This beautiful lodge has been built in stages by the South African owner. The African decorated lodge offered us a secure place for the bike, good meals, a nice room away from the storms and a relaxed area to chat with other people.
Etosha National Park spans an area of 22,270 km2 (8,600 sq mi) and gets its name from the large Etosha pan which is almost entirely within the park. We wanted to stay in a campground that looked as if it was at the Eastern gate. It wasn’t and we were denied entry. So we turned around INSIDE the gate, so technically we did ride inside the park.
But there was another campground 100 meters from the entrance, Onguma lodge, which had two campsites. They also have their own game reserve that shared the eastern fence with Etosha, so everything was also here. We ended up with a site about 8 kms in, the Onguma Tamboti campsites. Since it was inside the game reserve, they notified the campground to expect us in a few minutes. If we didn’t show up, they were to come find us. Would that be too late?
Us: “Are there lions in here?”
Us: “Do you see them here?”
Us: Gulp, “Okay, let’s go.”
Luckily, no lions, but many Zebra in the road there. The campground was one of the nicest we have stay in, US$22/night. The campsite was very private and isolated. It consisted of a grassy area, a braai area, and a combination concrete ablution (toilet) area, kitchen and shower. In the morning, tracks of deer were visible on the road leading to all the camping areas. The office area had a beautiful terraced area looking over a watering hole that was lit with soft yellow lights at night.
In the evening we went out on a sunset safari in Onguma. The main objective were lions. Driving along we looked at many tracks, many were fresh lion, but never saw one. At sunset the driver stopped overlooking the savannah. As we were taking sunset pictures he opened up a table and set out a couple hors d’oeuvre trays and a mix of wine, beer and gins with mixers. After packing up and as the sun was turning the sky a deep red, two giraffe next to the road turned and posed at just the right moment. A great end to the day.
During the night we heard the huffing of male lions. I really hoped that the sound traveled a distance because it sounded really close. The next morning we were up early for a morning game drive, the only way to get into the national park on a motorcycle. Driving in slow loops in our open Land Rover, we searched the edges of the savannah for an ever elusive lion. Then, just around another corner, Lions!! Counting we see 11, then 12. No, fourteen, including young males and two large males with full manes. We sit still in our open Land Rover safari vehicle about 40 meters from the closest. They are scattered in a small area, lounging and sunning as the heat begins to build on the expansive pan. After about 20 minutes, the alpha male got up from his position watching over the pride, stretched and yawned a lazy yawn. He then slowly walked to a position just slightly behind our truck, and maybe 30 meters in from the road. One by one, all 14 of the others followed. Except two young males. They laid down facing into the wind, just a couple meters apart.
Next is the NatGeo moment we will never forget.
Just entering into view, upwind from the lions, is a beautiful male Oryx, one horn partially broken. We all hold our breath as he walks straight into the waiting ambush. The two lions visibly tense there haunches, positioning their powerful rear legs directly under them. Then, the attack. Both lions explode with power as the Oryx reaches full speed in a racing heartbeat, right between the two hungry young lions, and right towards the front of our truck. In unison, the other lions all give chase, splitting in two groups, one on either side of us. The Oryx hit the bush in front of our truck, and the lions give up the chase, some still on either side of the truck. They trot ahead and disappear into the bush. Behind us the big male is just walking slowly towards, US. He turns and walks behind of the truck, and into the bush. We all just sit, adrenaline pumping through our veins, not quite knowing what to say after what we had just witnessed. Our guide and I had both videoed the attack and chase.
We sat a few more minutes before moving in and seeing the broken horned Oryx emerge from the bush a bit down the road, walking slowly into the wide expanse of the savannah.
We spent the rest of the day just processing what incredible scene we had just witnessed.
The next morning we headed out towards Botswana and the Caprivi strip of Namibia, and another adventure.
Cheers, and happy we weren’t eaten by lions this time.