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Friday, June 11, 2010

Lions, Elephants and Giraffes, Oh My!

Game parks stoke me out. I know, I know, there is something majestic and unparalleled about seeing animals range free in their intended environment, migrating hundreds of miles in search of food, water and/or a mate. In an ideal world, all animals could experience this kind of freedom. As Glenn and I have recently learned, nothing can compare to spending weeks following Namibia's endangered desert elephants up dry riverbeds in search of water… and finally finding them. The opportunity to watch elephants just be elephants is such an incredible privilege. But I have to tell you, having 50 or so elephants file past your car over the course of a couple hours is also quite exciting.

After our desert elephant search we headed to Etosha, Namibia's most famous [read: commercial] game park. Until now we have skipped the main attractions, for instance, South Africa's famed Kruger Park, for lesser known gems like Imfalosi and Umkhusi National Parks. We both prefer the quite, laid back atmosphere and lack of crowds. In Umkhusi, we drove for two days and maybe passed one or two other cars. You could sit watching animals for hours without disruption. That sort of scenario doesn't happen in Etosha. In Etosha, busses and busses of people are carted in daily, the restaurants are cavernous dining halls to feed masses of people, camps are big enough to get lost in and the kook factor is off the charts; zipoffs, pith hats and large cameras obscure the landscape. But once you're away from the camps, driving through the park the masses disperse. Etosha is huge, so there is plenty of room for everyone. Before long, you're standing on top of your car watching a pride of twelve lions laze under the shade of an acacia tree. Magic. For all of its sins, Etosha is still a place of majestic beauty. It is a huge hard pan that turns into an enormous sea for a few weeks every year, then dries up. Animals once migrated hundreds of miles during the rainy season to drink from its waters.

Etosha supports large populations of animals year round. We saw: baby elephants nurse, giraffes drink from clear blue waterholes, a pride of lions wake from their slumber, then slink across the road right in front of our car, hawks fighting over something just above our heads, a rhino sauntering past (apparently inspecting us), a constrictor warming its reptilian body in the morning sun, at least 5 or 6 elephant families file past on their way to the watering hole, a brand new baby pacaderm slip and fall into the water and the commotion that ensued and countless other scenes.

We spent 4 days in Etosha, but day 3 was by far the most remarkable day we've ever experienced in a park. Toward the end of the day it would have taken something really, really special to have topped all that we had seen. Maybe a leopard giving birth by the side of the road would have sufficed.

We have organized our photos according to day. You can check them out here:


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