View from the top of Old Man of Coniston hike in Lake District National Park, England.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Preston, Lancashire, England.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Wyke, West Yorkshire, England on May 29th!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Our first Namibia self drive Safari...what a day we had!

We were up at sunrise yesterday morning, along with most other people in the campground. Sunrise around here is at about 5:50am.

There is a wildlife viewing area at the Namutoni Campground in Etosha National Park and we had heard that if you head over there first thing, you might see some animals. So we went over right away before coffee. There was nothing to be seen for us at that time, but fortunately that wasn't the way the rest of our day was going to be!

Only one problem. We noticed that our fridge wasn't working properly. It had been working great. It has a digital readout and even in the heat of the afternoon it had been keeping things cold. So when we noticed that it was reading almost room temperature, we knew something was not right.

It's actually called a "coolbox" here. It's about the size of a large cooler, and it operates off 240v AC or 12v DC. So they've installed an additional battery in the engine compartment that charges when you're driving and only supplies power to the fridge. The fridge was making a low humming noise but not the proper noise that it had been making when it was working. I checked everything I could, including going online to the manufacturer website. But no luck. Then, I thought maybe the battery was low. That didn't make sense, but it was worth checking. I used the supplied booster cables to hook the two batteries together, and sure enough the fridge kicked in the way it's supposed to.

So the problem is that the second battery is not charging. When I leave the cables hooked up and start the engine, the battery charges. But it does not charge without the cables. So there is either a bad connection or a faulty solenoid or something. I have no tools and no meter so I can't do anything to try and check things any further. So for now, we're stuck hooking the booster cables up to charge the second battery enough to operate the fridge when we're driving around. Anyhow, with that done, we went out to find some animals!

Again, we were a little late starting out compared to most people here. The campground was fairly busy, and the people were a mixture of self drive tourists like us, and big safari vehicles that hold maybe 20 people and all of their gear and tents and everything. We've pretty much decided that is NOT the way to go. It's self drive for us, and we'll explain our thinking in another post.

Etosha National Park is huge. It's about 8,600 sq miles. That's a lot of area to cover and we are only here six days. And even though we had read that it's one of the world's best spots for viewing "big game" we didn't quite expect it to be as good as this!

The blackfaced impala at Klein Namutoni waterhole.

We started off at a route only a few minutes outside of the camp. And even though there were a couple of other vehicles (including one "monster" safari truck!) around, we soon felt like we were totally on our own. In fact, we were on our own. That is, except for the wild animals.

A kudu on Dik-dik Drive.

We believe this is a red-billed hornbill.

Every corner we turned there was a new sight to see. In fact to put it in perspective, we drove a total of about 110 kms (68 miles) and it took us over 6 hours!

A helmeted guineaufowl.

We know you wanted to see another dik-dik. They are sooo cute!

We came around a corner and saw all of these animals heading for the waterhole! Zebras, impalas, and giraffes. 

We didn't expect this number of animals. We thought we would have to search a lot harder. Some of the animals, you DO have to search for. There is a park speed limit of 60 km/s (36 mph) and they say that the slower you drive the more you will see. And how true that is.

We think this is a tawny eagle.

At the Koinachas waterhole, we were lucky to see a spotted hyena. These fellows are normally sleeping during the day and apparently they're tough to find. This one was wallowing in the mud, and he sure was making all of the other animals nervous!

The spotted hyena. They're a lot bigger than we thought they were. 

The giraffes were watching his every move!

We sat and watched for 20 minutes or so and eventually the hyena got out of the water. Some of the other animals ran away, but these two kudus stood their ground. Then the hyena went back in the water.

Many of the typical tourists simply buzz right from waterhole to waterhole and drive as fast as they can in between. We found that when we were on some of the routes without waterholes was when we saw the most interesting things. And we could stop and just scan with the binoculars to see what was to be seen.

Apparently there are 110 species of mammals and 200 species of birds living here in the wild. One of the most elusive is the cheetah, and even though Namibia has the worlds highest population of cheetahs living in the wild, not every visitor to Etosha gets to see one.

We were lucky though! On our very first day out!

This cheetah was pretty far away. We might have missed him if not for a couple of other vehicles stopped looking. If you come across another vehicle stopped at the side of the raod, make sure you stop and have a good look around! Glad we have binoculars. And have I mentioned how much we love our 42x zoom lens on the camera?!

This is a red hartebeest that wandered across the road in front of us.

We only saw six elephants the whole day. 

We saw a lot of zebras, and a lot of giraffes. And hundreds of impalas and springbok. One cheetah. Quite a few wildebeest but no decent pictures of them. Oh, and we saw a blackbacked jackal. It was a very productive day, and one that everybody should experience in their life. It is a totally different feeling seeing these animals in their wild environment rather than a zoo or "game farm".

Back to the campground about 3:00pm. We went and sat in the air conditioned reception area where they have some comfortable chairs and lots of electrical outlets. There, we sorted through the 250 or so pictures we had taken, and whittled them down to 72 really good ones! Of course we couldn't show you them all, but what you've seen today are some of the better ones.

As we were sorting pics, we also used our painfully slow internet connection to post the blog from the day before. It took two and a half hours!

In the evening, we tried getting on the internet again to work on the next blog post, but it came up "connection terminated" without even connecting at all. We had this happen several times in Mexico over the years, so it's a temporary problem but who knows when it will be repaired. Currently 6:50am on Tuesday the 12th as I write this, so no idea when it will get posted!

Edit: Got our internet working again, and it took over two hours to post this. Hey, at least we have internet! Never did get around to putting more pictures into yesterday's post. That may have to wait until we're back in civilization!


  1. I totally agree with the above WOW, WOW, WOW. I don't even mind waiting for slow Internet connections for these marvelous photos. I just can't believe how many animals you saw in only one day. My very very favorites are the elephants. I was near several in India and was awed by how big they are when there's no moat between them and me!
    I continue to be thrilled with your adventure and my virtual adventure. Thanks Kevin and Ruth for the journal.

  2. The header with the elephants and zebras look like bookends! What an awesome experience - the animal photos are wonderful - we are so enjoying the trip along with you!!! Thanks for taking the time posting......B&C

  3. WOW I want to go watch Lion King again, your pictures are awesome!
    Safe travels.

  4. What a great trip. Take your time and enjoy as much as possible. A once in a life time adventure.

  5. This has been an incredible adventure, and you just started! WOW!!!

  6. Spectacular. This may be your best adventure ever. Thanks for taking the hours to share with us.

  7. WOW this is something we want to do so I will be following you with bated breath.

  8. Gee, only 6 elephants? Love the pics, thanks for the effort.

  9. AMAZING! What more can I say? :) Keep those pictures coming!

  10. Absolutely awesome photos! Glad I get to experience the trip through you guys!

  11. I am so enjoying your trip so far, especially the birds-you have named them all correctly so far. Tawny Eagles are beautiful. Infact African birds are amazing. I can't wait to see more. I bet you'll love them, looking forward to seeing your Lilac Breasted Roller photo!

    And of course the animals. The texture of the elephants' skin has been captured beautifully with your amazing camera.

    I didn't see a Spotted Hyena properly 4th African Safari but then they became a highlight of that trip, after seeing some chasing an African Wild dog (complete with blood all over their jaws) and some really close up, laughing. They remain one of my favourite African animals. So how lucky are you seeing one already.

    And of course the cheetah. I got a similar distant viewing of one on my 1st safari (it remains a photo in my memory as my camera was ill-equipted) and then never saw another until 2012. So you are sooooo lucky to see one.

    Pinch yourselves, how lucky are you!! As someone said the adventure of a lifetime.

    It makes me even more determined to keep saving for our 2020 trip. Can't wait to go from Cairo to Cape Town.

    Take care x

    Sft x

  12. we are all glad you have that 42m also. did you study a brochure to know all the different animals or are you finding out what they are after you see them? from picture the hyenas are much larger than I thought too. ones I have seen in zoos are a little less than half the size of Riggs. can't wait until you have a great connections and can inundate all of us with pics

  13. What a great camera choice you made. I was slack jawed at your header picture and just became more and more amazed. 6 days of this is just going to be amazing. Glad you got a temporary fix on the fridge. What a shame to have a malfunction.

  14. OMG!!! These are amazing pictures! We're for sure going to make it to Africa one day :)

  15. love the pictures thanks for taking us along!

  16. Very enjoyable. So nice that you got to see a cheetah...they are such beautiful animals.

  17. Tom and Carroll: Love your Blog. We feel we are right with you. We did South Africa in 2011/12 and when you go there you must do Kruger Nat Park. We did the self drive for 8 days and it was fantastic.

  18. What an excellent first day! Well except for the battery issue. I sure hope to get to Etosha this March.

  19. Did you win the safari on the contest?

  20. Great start and you are so lucky seeing the cheetah. The Etosha park book is brilliant for identifying all the animals and birds with pictures of eat. Worth having a buffet at one of the campground restaurants so that you can try eating kudu etc, bit of a splurge but well worth it in our opinion.

  21. Truly amazing photos and just the fact that you are seeing all these animals in the flesh is even more remarkable. I have never had any real urge to visit Africa. Until NOW. Thank you!

  22. Great great photos and what an adventure. Some advice for uploading photos is reduce your picture size before uploading, I have done this on my travels and it works faster unless you doing this already.

  23. Well now that I finally figured out that I had to set up an account I think I can post. I've been following the blogs and pictures but now can finally post. So this has been amazing, incredible to see all the animals, it must be fantastic for you. I just can't imagine the excitement you must be feeling.


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