March 26, 2011

Through the Windows

Yes, I know I haven’t finished all the camping trip posts, but I'd like to take a small break to let you look through our windows. Before the rainy season, there were hardly ever clouds in the sky. But once the rainy season arrived (in full force – 100 year rains in Windhoek this year and it’s not over yet!), the skies were loaded with stunning clouds every day. Living on the 7th floor, we have beautiful views through our windows. I never get tired of looking at the city and cloudscapes as each day progresses. Apparently, I never get tired of taking their pictures either as I just found a big stack of them in my photos folders. Here’s a little sampler of the varied views through our windows.


Just as the sky begins to lighten in the morning:



Sunrises:




 Partly cloudy days:






Bright sunny days:






Visitors at the window (Yes, they sting. Entire blog post about them coming up!):



Storms brewing:




Tropical Rain:




After the Rain:



 Sunsets:


The rainy season usually plays out here in April.  I will really miss these gorgeous clouds.  I took lots of formal portraits of them and will post those here at a later date.....sort of an ode to the rainy season.

Next post:  back to the camping trip in the Caprivi area of Namibia.

March 15, 2011

Camping Safari Day Eleven – Halali to Etosha East and Onguma Bush Camp


After the lions the day before, we were anxious to see more big game – hopefully, elephants this time, but it wasn’t to be —not even a brief glimpse for the whole day. We had a great drive though with lots of birding that helped populate our family ornithologist’s life list. Since you are not allowed out of your vehicle at Etosha, this was a long day in the car. We were able to get out of the car for lunch at what was supposed to have been a gated fenced site, but the gate and the surrounding fence had been trampled by elephants and both were just left hanging open. The elephants who trampled the area must have visited another day as they weren’t anywhere to be seen. We did get to see these smaller game animals in the early part of the day:

Yellow billed hornbill

Black winged stilts

Comb duck

Egyptian geese
Lilac breasted roller



Etosha was positively verdant on this trip


and because of the rains, lots of migratory water birds were here for their breeding seasons.  This pair of blue cranes was beautiful to see and apparently, quite rare in this area.  They were taking turns incubating the eggs in their nest. 



Late in the day as clouds were beginning to gather to rain,


we arrived at the far eastern part of the park and were astounded to see herds of 20 or more giraffes peacefully grazing by the sides of the road, standing in the center of the road, and moving through the thorn bushes and mopane trees.




Lots of herbivores were on this side of the park and their babies who had been born as the rains brought on the luscious grasses.


And it never fails, that I find impala still practicing their mirror image trick.



We finally arrived at Namutoni on the eastern edge



but had to leave soon after in order to make it to Onguma Bush Camp for the night before the skies opened up. We didn’t make it. The rain started just about here.


We arrived at Onguma in the middle of the storm. Fortunately, we could duck into the Lodge restaurant and sit out the storm sipping hot coffee in the lapa area until near dark when we finally got to set up camp. This was a beautiful campsite with our own bathroom facilities and hot shower. Nice luxury for camping out!

March 10, 2011

Camping Safari Day Ten – Anderson Gate to Halali – the Lions


We got up very early the morning after the professor’s birthday celebration to take a half day game ride into Etosha. The professor and I hadn’t been back to Etosha since November when bright green leaves on the mopane trees throughout the park contrasted starkly with the still parched ground.

Etosha, November, 2010

The park in November was positively verdant compared to the first time we saw Etosha back in August.

Etosha, August, 2010
We were anxious to see it now that the rainy season was underway.

We couldn’t believe the transformation.

Etosha, January, 2011
The entire park was carpeted in the brightest, nearly day-glo green groundcover, with grasses and shrubs of myriad shades of green to complement it.

When it’s really green and verdant like this, the shrubs and trees can easily hide the animals. We didn’t see as many on this game drive as usual but enjoyed finally seeing this park so lush and green. A few of the Etosha regulars were going about their business and enjoying the cooler weather and the easy availability of water.

Black backed jackal resting in early morning

After the game drive, we got back in the truck for our drive to our overnight location -- Halali Rest Camp about midway across Etosha. We saw some small pockets of antelope and springbok and a few individual animals out and around



but most of the animals were obscured by the heavily leafed out shrubs and trees.

We could see the arriving storm that would be right over us about mid-afternoon and sure enough, it didn’t disappoint.


Heavy rains filled every depression in the smaller side roads and created mini-ponds in others so the going was slow and photography options limited. By the time we drove out of the downpour and back on the main road to Halali, the sky was getting increasingly dark and the rains were abating but not over. We drove into a pack of cars pulled over to the side of the road, and just as in Yellowstone when that happens, you can be sure there is something interesting to see.

Just as we pulled to a stop, our eyes could pick out an impressive pride of lions at rest on a hillside. The lionesses, which looked like giants, were on guard at various locations facing out toward grazing springbok in the fields just beyond – all of them positioned just out from the pride’s male.



Their sizes were startling. As we looked closer,


we could see the male had been deeply wounded.

His entire left lower jaw was hanging flaccid off the side of his face. His face and legs were covered in recent battle scars.

video


video

We speculated that perhaps he had battled another male for dominance of this pride and maybe also had to battle the lionesses to assert himself as this pride’s new male. The professor thought he might not be able to survive as he couldn’t see how he could chew well enough to feed himself. It was hard to leave this compelling scene but we had to be inside the gates of Halali by nightfall so we were forced to move on.

On the way into Halali, a herd of big kudu and some springbok were enjoying the tasty grazing courtesy of the rainy season.


P.S. Later, I spoke with a professional photographer on assignment in Etosha. She and her crew had stayed later than we to watch the lions. She told me not to worry too much about the male. They had seen him kill and eat a springbok sometime after we left!

I guess when you are king of the jungle (or in this case, the salty soil of Etosha); it takes more than a jaw hanging off your face to set you back!