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Nothern Namibia - Etosha and beyond, a photographers tale

Namibia ETosha Hoanib River Grootberg Lodge Khowarib Erindi wildlife photography

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#41 buddy4344

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Posted 18 December 2016 - 10:34 PM

Okaukuejo Waterhole – First Impressions

 

By the time we finished our lunch, it was late enough to allow check-in to the rooms. We quickly did this, then grabbed our cameras to see what was happening at the Okaukuejo waterhole.

 

 

Arrivals of game were pretty steady and the group could use a day of rest, so stayed at this waterhole all afternoon. After sunset, there were a few animals that came to the waterhole, but I chose to just watch rather than photograph.

 

In planning my trip, I underestimated how good this waterhole can be during the afternoon.  I had reasoned that since the view faces west, shooting in the afternoon would be a challenge.  It really wasn’t.  I highly recommend that if you are taking a long stay at Etosha, take a mid-day break from driving around and spend an entire afternoon at this waterhole.  It is glorious with the mix of animals and activity.

 

Another good day in Etosha! 

 

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And one last image for you from that afternoon.  In case you are wondering, this one has been flipped 180 degrees to have the reflection on top.

 

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If the giraffe lifting from drinking shows last on this post, I'm sorry, it's a duplicate and I've tried to delete several times but saved changes keeps reverting to showing this.

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Edited by buddy4344, 18 December 2016 - 10:38 PM.

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#42 Treepol

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 01:33 AM

@buddy4344 fabulous Etosha photos, these bring back happy memories for me.

 

Looking forward to more when you have time.


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#43 xelas

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 09:25 AM

@buddy4344

 

Never mind duplicates when they are of your quality  :) . Impressed by b&w phto of ellie family ... perfect composition!

 

Speaking of filters, did you use CP-L during midday? To keep the harsh light at bay or ... ?



#44 buddy4344

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Posted 19 December 2016 - 01:52 PM

@buddy4344

 

 

Speaking of filters, did you use CP-L during midday? To keep the harsh light at bay or ... ?

 

@xelas, I did not use a CP-L filter on this trip.  I"m not a fan of these.  Though I understand the concept, I never seem to get iniform sky colors with them.


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#45 Peter Connan

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 07:25 PM

When we visit Etosha for the first time in April next year, we are only staying in Okaukeujo.

 

These photos seem to vindicate that decision. Hopefully I can get half the quality and variety shown here!


Edited by Peter Connan, 20 December 2016 - 07:25 PM.

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Ek oefen skelm.

#46 PCNW

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 11:31 AM

I havent been on ST in awhile and this report makes me realize what I've been missing. So many beautiful images, thank you for sharing.
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#47 buddy4344

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 01:54 PM

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.

 

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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).

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#48 buddy4344

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 03:02 PM

The Afternoon session

 

After lunch, we decided to make one last run eastward to Reitfontein as we would be headed west the next morning. Once more, this water hole delivered as we were able to catch a herd of elephants playing in the mud and even swimming around in the deeper water. The elephants were having a blast, but not everything was photogenic as the animals were so close to one another.  Perhaps my favorite scene was a young elephant that was having some fun in the mud, but then wanted to leave the mud and began to struggle with the deep mud. Mom comes along and, with her trunk, gently pushes junior until they clear the deeper mud.  A really fun moment.

 

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We left that waterhole and wanted to hit at least one more before trying to catch afternoon light at the Okaukuejo waterhole, so we headed out to Gemsbokvlakte. The waterhole had several zebra at it as well as springbok when we arrived. Generally, I liked this waterhole as a photo location as there were no obstructions other than very distant bush; however, the water level was low, so when animals were drinking, the feet and head were below the ridge of dirt surrounding the borehole.

 

Then, I spotted a rhino trotting toward the hole from a distance. As it got closer, the hook lip quickly identified the brute as a black rhino. He immediately went to the water to drink, but after a few sips, decided it was time to let all of the other wildlife at the waterhole know this was his waterhole. This worked out nicely as the rhino was now in full view and fairly close.  I really enjoyed photographing this animal.

 

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We then returned to the lodge to watch the afternoon parade of game at the Okaukuejo waterhole. I also worked on some more reflection shots.

 

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We had only settled in for a short time when the wind picked up really strong and out of know where a storm blew through the area. We rushed back to the rooms to keep equipment dry, but after only a few minutes the rains had gone; however, in that short period, there were a few lightning bursts and once and the power at the lodge went out.

 

With rains gone and no power at the lodge, we headed back out to the waterhole. Darkness was falling upon the area and, with power out the viewing at the waterhole was difficult, but we were treated to something different and special.  The storm had moved south and west and we could see lightning jumping from cloud to cloud in the distance.  Back to the room to grab a cable release and now we made attempts in the darkness to photo lightning. The funny thing is that these shots would not have been possible if the lights were on at the waterhole. They are noisy due to high ISO, but I still liked the effect. Luck came our way.

 

No significant game activity, power still out but we heard food was still being served by candlelight, so we ended our evening with a few beers and dinner under candlepower.

 

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Edited by buddy4344, 03 January 2017 - 03:07 PM.

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#49 Dave Williams

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 05:40 PM

You have me drooling over those shots and wondering just how badly mine will compare when I finally get my chance to visit which is now only next month!

The shots of the Lion and Giraffes and the Lightening are superb.

I have already changed my accommodation booking to give me an extra night in Halali as a result of this blog, the tips on waterhole photography are very handy too.

Any tips on must haves, must go to places would be more than appreciated. I'll put a request in the Trip Planning part of the forum too. 

Looking forward to the next instalment greatly. 

Thanks Dave.


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#50 buddy4344

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Posted 03 January 2017 - 08:24 PM

@Dave Williams,

 

I hope my comments are of help. The beauty of a forum like this are the tips on lodges and waterholes. It's a good forum I've enjoyed, so I feel the need to return the favor. With such a beautiful country as Namibia is, photography becomes the easy part.  I'm looking forward to my return, though no date is set yet. I think the upcoming comments on Grootberg Lodge and Khowarib Lodge as well as the Hoanib River will be of a lot of interest to folks.  Stay tuned and I will work to get more of my write-up done.


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#51 elefromoz

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Posted 04 January 2017 - 08:43 AM

@buddy4344, the series of photos from Okondeka are so beautiful.


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#52 Treepol

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Posted 04 January 2017 - 10:12 AM

@buddy4344 the yellow water with giraffe reflections is a stunning photo


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#53 MR1980

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 12:54 PM

Thank you very much for your report @buddy4344, loved it! Brought back some great Etosha memories... Superb photography as well!! 

 

Cheers,

 

Michel


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#54 buddy4344

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 10:27 PM

Thank you very much for your report @buddy4344, loved it! Brought back some great Etosha memories... Superb photography as well!! 

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

Thank you! More to come.  Hopefully in the next few days.  The holiday season is always so busy with no photo work. :)


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#55 Robjwilli

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Posted 24 January 2017 - 11:31 AM

Great report and wonderful iamges, looking forward to the next chapter!

#56 buddy4344

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 01:22 PM

Leaving Etosha

 

Sorry for the long delay, life gets in the way of getting to writing.

 

Etosha has been a blast, but now it’s time to leave Etosha and head west, then north on a trip to check out Himba settlements. Our original plan was to head south out of Okaukuejo and hit the main roads toward Kamanjab and over to Palmwag area for the night; however, at the last moment and based on some advice from others, we decided to head west within Etosha and depart via the Galton Gate.

 

We knew this part of the park was less visited and were told that because the game was not as habituated to humans/vehicles, the wildlife would be more skittish. While there were less vehicles, we didn’t really detect a large amount of difference in game behavior.

 

The paper maps of Etosha one can buy at the stores within Etosha do not provide map information for departing the west gate. In one of our two vehicles, we had the Tracks4Africa maps on the GPS and used this information to decide which waterholes to visit. This worked well.

Taking this path, we saw plenty of oryx (Can someone tell me why they are called oryx in Namibia, but Gemsbok in South Africa?), wildebeest, springbok and also zebra.  Regarding zebra, we saw both the more common Burchell’s Zebra and the Hartmann Mountain Zebra. These latter animals were new for me this trip, so I really enjoyed photographing them.

 

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The drive to Galton Gate, as we expected, had much fewer vehicles, but we really enjoyed the drive.  There were three or four really good waterholes along that drive, but there were also several waterholes that the GPS told us were dry and we did not even check those out as the Tracks4Africa was quite reliable.

 

The waterholes did leave a strong impression. 

 

·         One had lots of zebra and also a lot of vultures as well as some antelope. We could see giraffe in the distance and also a few lone (probably bull) elephants coming toward the waterhole. This waterhole allowed for some great zebra shots of both species.

 

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·         At another waterhole, gemsbok were fighting while giraffe and zebra drank.  This was fun to photograph

 

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·         And last, but not least was the waterhole just below Dolomite.  Here we spotted an elephant walking very fast toward the waterhole and were able to drive parallel to his path and take some really nice shots.  We also had an oryx gallop past the waterhole for some action shots.

 

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Once at the Galton Gate, we stopped for a bio-break and took a few moments to photograph the beautiful Agama lizard on the wall there.

 

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The road to Kamanjab was not particularly quick and I don’t recall any special moments there.  We re-fueled the vehicles and headed toward Palmwag and the Grootberg Lodge, where we planned to stay the night. This part of the drive was memorable as we traveled through several small villages and past some very scenic rock formations. I would have liked to have stopped to photograph more of this trip, but we were concerned that we needed to get to Grootberg Lodge well before sunset.

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#57 buddy4344

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 03:49 PM

Grootberg Lodge

 

Several clients over the years have voice interest in visiting and photographing indigenous peoples. On many of my trips to South Africa and to the Chobe, I've found great people, but know my clients want something less western in the experience, so I set out on this scouting trip to also visit a Himba settlement.  I had read that there was one near Grootberg Lodge and a trip could be arranged, but back in August, I learned this settlement was to be displaced by the government in an effort to protect a wilderness area. Knowing this, I searched north of Palmwag for options and learned that I need to go to Sesfontein or further north. I wanted to check this out as I didn't want anything that was too commercial nor did I want to take folks to a 'people zoo'.  I wanted somewhere that would allow the local settlement to be shown with dignity and even to elevate interest in supporting their goals.  

 

Looking at the map, it became obvious that to go from Okaukuejo all the way to Sesfontein would be a long day of driving, so even though Grootberg Lodge no longer had Himba, I decided to book a night there before traveling further north. I had been told that the drive from the entrance up to the lodge was not for the faint of heart. I had learned that many park at the bottom of the mountain and get shuttled up. I was open to the latter idea ... but got more bold the more I drove in Namibia.  Upon arrival, the gentleman at the base said I shouldn't have any problem as long as I was in low gear/4 wheel drive. He was right, but I took it nice and slow.  Friends, let me tell you it is a steep drive to the top.

 

About half way up, it dawned on me I would also have to drive DOWN this steep road the next day. That's a story for my next journal entry.

 

The folks at Grootberg where AMAZING. They needed to put us in a family chalet and, being 4 men, we needed them to bring an extra bed into one of the two rooms.  No problem, it was done. The chalets and lodge are perched on the precipice of a long extinct volcano.  The views were grand. The walkway to the room wasn't treacherous, but one did have to watch for the cliff edge and the rocks.  The room was really nice and the lodge beautiful.

 

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We arrived at Grootberg just in time to join a game drive, but we immediately saw a problem.  The 4 of us were photographers and the others were clearly 'sightseeing'. We knew we would both frustrate those folks and also be frustrated, so we requested a separate game drive vehicle.  No problem and it was done. Let me be clear, the term 'game drive' really did not apply.  This is a landscape drive with some wildlife.  We saw a very few springbok, an oryx or two in the distance and on out return leg, we saw a few Hartmann Mountain Zebra. With that said, I wouldn't trade this 'game drive' for one full of wildlife.  The scenery was amazing. I can only describe the plateau landscape as being as I would expect the surface of Mars.  Red to burgundy red rock everywhere. Virtually no vegetation except a lone tree here and there. It's hard to imagine how any large animal could live up on that rock.  The sterile environment had a tragic beauty.

 

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Then we got to the far edge of the mountain with a view of the valley below as well as other mountains.  A perfect sunset view. A butter tree here and there on the edge, but otherwise a sheer cliff.  I won't try to describe further, I will just let my photos show what we saw. The gin and tonic sundowners added to the end of a perfect day.

 

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I did enjoy the Hartmann Mountain Zebra in our path on our trip back to the lodge after sunset.

 

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Following the game drive, we sat down to a FEAST.  The food was AMAZING. Maybe because the food at Etosha was so bad, or maybe this was that good, regardless, it was a wonderful way to end the night.


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#58 Dave Williams

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 04:36 PM

Enjoying this especially as we are on our way in less than a week. I'm wondering if an SUV can make it to Grootberg or is there little point in trying and just accept a lift from the car park.  



#59 buddy4344

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Posted 30 January 2017 - 04:42 PM

Enjoying this especially as we are on our way in less than a week. I'm wondering if an SUV can make it to Grootberg or is there little point in trying and just accept a lift from the car park.  

 

I'm glad you are enjoying this write-up.  Doing this is letting me re-visit the trip in my mind.

 

While steep, an SUV should work fine. I was workers for the lodge go up and down the road in unloaded bakkie and those are pretty light weight on the back end.



#60 xelas

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 04:59 PM

@buddy4344 , both your words and your photos have brought back the beauty of what Grootberg Lodge is giving to their guests (and I hope also visitors). A said, the game drive, for wildlife, is nothing special. But the wildlife in that landscape, wow, amazing. In 2014 Zvezda and me were lucky to have the car for ourselves thus no problems with stopping wherever wished. The drive up ... well, I know about it, and also about the drive down, but I would (will) do it again without a second thought.


  • buddy4344 likes this





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Namibia, ETosha, Hoanib River, Grootberg Lodge, Khowarib, Erindi, wildlife, photography


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