Kelbe Photography

Life In A Blink Of An Eye

Tales of Etosha

We can honestly say Etosha is one of our most favourite places on the planet. The jewel of Namibia and a place of endless wildlife spectacles. It never disappoints and we are happy to be returning for the third time. I am fairly sure this will stay true when it is the 10th or 20th time as well. Do yourselves a favour and go.

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Pictures taken in Etosha are often easy to recognise because of the numbers and variety of wildlife in a single photo and the brilliant white dust in the background. Many of the animals , especially the elephants are coated with it. These are the white elephants of Etosha. The BBC Wildlife photographer of the year always has at least two or three Etosha pictures featured. Opportunities for these pictures occur frequently and indiscriminately but you need to be sharp and quick and ready to actually capture them at the time. There are no reruns! We certainly keep trying but there remains room for improvement, an important motivation to return time and again!

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There have traditionally been 3 camps in the park to base yourself but within the last few years the west side of the park, previously kept as a wilderness area, has been opened with the establishment of a camp and a luxury lodge. This is our opportunity to explore a whole new area.

On the March

One of the biggest challenges in Etosha is the time constraints set by the park. Entry and exit from the camps is on a strict time table and the gates are locked on the dot which does not leave much scope for latecomers. Unfortunately the gate times are calculated rather arbitrarily and not in line with consideration of the light for photography so most of the beautiful evening light is spent speeding back to camp. On this particular evening we were turning for home with about 10 minutes to spare ie on a tight schedule, As we left the waterhole we saw the trees on the other side start to move and emerging onto the pan were a huge herd of elephants , perhaps 40 or 50, all ages , marching towards the water in a solid wall, the sun gilding them with warmth.


It was magnificent , they were perfectly coordinated in an unbroken line, the babies sheltered between the legs of the older elephants, trunks raised , thundering down on the water. You could almost see the smiles on their faces after a baking hot dry day.

All thought of the return to camp fled. We turned around to greet this amazing spectacle Tonight , at the gate, we would have some explaining to do!


The King

One afternoon our attention was caught by the trucks gathered at a waterhole. We turned into the parking and saw a magnificent male lion standing next to the pan. He showed a regal disregard for the vehicles which started building up next to him. We swung around away from the other vehicles to get a good view face on. With the long lenses it is not necessary to always be the closest. As more cars and over landers appeared the lion looked increasingly irritated by all the attention and started stalking towards us. He came right up to the beast. I was leaning on the window bean bag to shoot and he suddenly turned and roared in my face. I jumped across that car like a kangaroo. Needless to say I also dropped the camera and missed the shot!

The lion settled down in the shade of our car as if we were there to serve him, looking down his nose at all of us and using the car to shield him from the other tourists. Clearly he thought he had all day.

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This was our day for lion. After we reluctantly left the king of the car park we moved onto the next waterhole to find 2 lionesses and 2 cubs playing by the water. The cubs played tag and would hang on to their mums tail as she swung around and they posed beautifully as the golden hour light settled around us. Another good day in Etosha.

Owl Tales

One of the things we always love about Etosha is the number of owls that may be seen. In the past we have seen many different owls and we were excited this trip to see if this could be repeated.

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In Halali camp there are many owls which come to roost in the morning in the trees. Previously, for a small tip, the night guards would take you in the morning and show you the places they roost. Just by the swimming pool is a tree with a knot hole where we saw a African Scops owl in 2008. We chatted to the people camping underneath the tree and told them to be on the look out. 2 days later as we drove out the owl was there in exactly the same place 8 years later. It seems they are creatures are of habit like us! There were also tiny tree squirrels in the same tree and they ran around the owl without any apparent fear. No one told them they could be on the menu later!

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One morning we were driving out of a waterhole when we spotted a Verreauxs giant eagle owl on the ground by a bush. His distinctive pink eyelids identified him. He was behaving oddly walking up and down next to the bush , strutting and peering into the branches. Later we read that they will often hunt from the ground when their prey gets away from the initial pounce. Then they will walk around the bush or shrub and shake the branches to flush out the hiding victim to complete the hunt. On this occasion, despite persistent stalking, he went hungry.

The Dust Storm

When we entered the west side of the park we knew it was a long drive to the camp, twice the distance between any of the other camps so we left early planning to drop in on as many waterholes as we could on the way. Because this was a previously closed end of the park we have visited few of these waterholes before and we're excited at what we would see. Many of the people we chatted to were enthusiastic about the remoteness of the west and the smaller number of cars and visitors.


The morning was dry and windy with dust and twirlies blowing sporadically and even some cloud cover extending the shooting light. Mid morning we pulled into a pan surrounded by little vegetation and flat sand plains. There were hundreds of animals gathered there, ostrich , zebra, oryx, hartebeest, springbok and a small herd of elephants. Jackals weaved in and out and the sandgrouse swooped. It was surreal. ( A real Etosha moment and one of the reasons you just keep coming back) Just as it couldn't get any better the wind picked up bringing huge banks of dust across the pan engulfing the animals in waves of dust. We looked at each other for a second knowing that to open the window to shoot would bring in the worst enemy to camera and lens gear, thick dust and aerated sand. Should we, shouldn't we? Well of course it was no contest. What's the use of good camera equipment if you are not going to use it. We opened all the windows and shot up a storm. Enough said. Some of the best pictures of the trip.