My Last Full Day in Etosha
We had one more full day of exploring central Etosha and we decided to start the morning by heading northwest from Okaukuejo to the Okondeka waterhole. Our reference book said this waterhole is often littered with bones of past prey, so this sounded like it had potential for a few ‘big cat’ sightings. Sure enough, about a kilometer from the waterhole, we found a very dried up carcass of a Giraffe. Basically all that remained were bones and hide.
As we approached the waterhole, my heart started pumping as we could see a pride resting near the waterhole. Oh, and by the way, the ground was completely littered with bones from different past meals. This was clearly a favorite killing ground. What made this sighting really exciting is that there was only one other vehicle around.
As we watched, we could see various animals coming in from the salt pan: an ostrich, an oryx wildebeest, all approaching from the distance with no apparent fear from the king and his pride. The sun was rising and the lions were not particularly active. Occasionally, one would get up, move, maybe get a drink of water and then … down again. As we watched from the roadway I noted that they should be heading for shade soon, but looking toward the pan, no shade was in sight, so we decided to drive on and come back to these sleepy lions (there is an irony here that will be noted a little later).
Continuing on the road, we saw a few springbok and oryx here or there. Not much for the next hour, so we decided to head back past Okondeka before stopping for the mid-day. As we approached Okondeka, we saw there was close to a half dozen vehciles parked. There is plenty of space at this waterhole and the presence of predators made it no surprise that others had stopped.
Whoa! Several lions were up now. The cubs were playfully fighting. Time to stop and shoot … but wait, several are heading straight toward the roadway further ahead. Time to rush to get into position. As we drove with aggressive intent, I realized there was a very large, low set of thick bushes about a 100 meters from the roadway. IF I HAD LOOKED BEHIND ME BEFORE WHEN I NOTED THEY WOULD BE HEADED FOR SHADE, I WOULD HAVE OBVIOUSLY SEEN THE ONLY SHADE AROUND AND THAT MY VEHICLE HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN DIRECTLY BETWEEN THE CATS AND THE SHADE. We would have not moved and been in perfect postion for close ups! Now other cars were there.
Since we could not get in the desired position due, we decided to position the one vehicle so that we were looking toward the salt pan in line with a nice composition of an ‘S’ shaped stream. This turned out to be the best luck of the trip as several giraffe came to the waterhole in line with our composition. Better yet, the big male stood and posed a bit for us.
Now we had the cubs and one large lioness cross the roadway to go to the shade. No great photo angles, but we shot what we could.
Then two other lionesses decided to head to shade and they took a different route, passing right by our front bumper. This photo is actually through our windscreen.
Photographically, I loved this waterhole. The 's' shaped' water stream, the clean pan in the background, the bones in the foreground ... all marvelous. It was hard to leave this scene; however, with the lions now under the brush, I predicted they had settled in for the mid-day heat, so we decided to head back to Okaukuejo for brunch.