Kelbe Photography

Life In A Blink Of An Eye

Etosha Revisited

We were nearing the end of this section of the trip and soon it would be time to head for home and Christmas . The weather was starting to change with banks of cloud building in the evening. We were in Palmweg negotiating a tricky period with no cash and feeling a bit directionless when we met one of those characters who occasionally pop up when over landing. Lean, grizzled and leathery, clearly a seasoned knight of the road weathered by the sun and experience. So he looked at the sky that evening and said the rain is coming. We looked and saw a very hazy colour change to the horizon but he said it with such confidence. I asked him would the rain come in Etosha. Yes, he said , tomorrow it will rain in Etosha and without hesitation we were back on track with Plan in place


Etosha is a fantastic place in the dry season and we have been there now at this time 3 times and not disappointed but it is said that it is a different place in the rain. The game disperses and the birds arrive. We wanted to see for ourselves. True to prediction the storm clouds became denser as we neared Etosha with the most fantastic evening light . We rocked up without a booking which I was a bit anxious about but amazingly it was empty. This is the off season and it was easy to have our pick of sites . The first night we arrived there was a huge storm. We sat out under our slightly leaky awning nervous to try and pitch the tent in the rain and wind. Still we need not have worried. The tent held up that night and on all subsequent nights without breaking a sweat.


Diving Bee Eaters


With the beginning of the wet season there was a change in the bird life. More raptors and large numbers of European bee eaters.

After the first rain there were puddles of water all down the roads and we saw the bee eaters swooping and perching and stopped to watch. To our amazement they were diving into the water like kingfishers, immersing themselves and then popping out to flutter and dry on the branches above. At first we thought they were catching something in the water but there was never anything in their beaks. I later talked to Hugh Chittenden, bird guru, and he says they are well known to swim, especially when it has been dry and hot. Maybe they are getting rid of parasites or fleas or something. Perhaps just drunk with the joy of water after such a long long dry spell They were certainly having a ball

Capturing them on camera was a real challenge.

Plains Animals

The next few days we toured around the park. What was clear was that the water holes were no longer a place where animal sightings were guaranteed. Most were desolate and deserted. Now you could see how over grazed they were. The antelope were all drinking from the puddles and did not need to venture close to the dangerous water holes. The lions looked glum. Dining would be hard work from now on. The hyena also looked glum as they like to den in the culverts under the road and clearly had been washed out and rendered homeless. We saw more hyena in 1 day than we had seen in the previous trip.


Our days took on a different rhythm. Game spotting in the rainy season requires much more random driving. We set out to the wetlands and the plains. Even after 2 days of rain the grass looked greener. On the plains the herds gathered in numbers, especially wildebeests, zebra and hartebeest, most in a state of advanced pregnancy and more of these animals than we had ever seen before. Even in the rain you could feel their joy and anticipation.

The Tiniest Lion

On the second day we headed west where there had been no rain. We wanted to return to N'Bari where we witnessed the dust storm 2 months before. The clouds were still threatening which made the shooting light longer for the day.


On the way we stopped at Ondeka at the edge of the pan. There were cape foxes on the plains, a first time spot for us. Mind you they do look like jackals from a distance so maybe we were just lucky to recognize them. Just as we left Ondeka we came across a lioness in the road and behind her were 3 of the smallest cubs I have ever seen. They could not have been more than 2 days old. She was marching down the road with cubs in tow on the way to water at Ondeka. The smallest cub was clearly the runt of the litter. He cried and complained constantly as he stumbled along at the back You could almost hear the mantra "are we there yet?" being repeated endlessly. He sat down , fell down or lay down every 10 meters in contrast to his brothers who skipped along much more confidently . She encouraged and bullied them in turns, occasionally taking one in her mouth for a few meters as they jumped and skipped and stumbled over the terrain.


We followed her for about 4 km until Ondeka . She was clearly desperate for water. Her belly distended and her teats hanging down. At the water hole she left the cubs and went down to drink for a very long time but returned to pick them up and take them to shade and safety a little while later. The smallest one looked really vulnerable. I wonder if he will survive this tough home. I suspect he may not.

The Last Lion


We really wanted to see the pan fill up but we were not there long enough for this to happen. It was amazing how much surface water did collect in such a short period and some shallow collections occurred on the edge of the pan but the water birds had not yet arrived and it seemed we were not destined to see this particular spectacle.

On the last morning we set off for Fischers pan, a flamingo spotting spot in rainy season but in our experience with little game the rest of the time. We were not hopeful but Etosha showed its generosity and found for us 7 young lions for a final photo extravaganza.

Will we be back? You bet!