Black rhinos are shy, evasive creatures. They seem to prefer solitude and flee when company approaches even at a distance. We were lucky to encounter one on the side of the road on our very first afternoon driving inside Etosha, but we could only get a picture of its backside as it fled on seeing our car. After dinner at the Halali Resort the same night, we strolled to the floodlit waterhole adjacent to the resort just in time to see a black rhino turn its back and disappear into the woods. The next afternoon, after reviewing the sightings book filled in by other visitors, we headed to the Twee Palms area some 12 km from the Namutoni Resort on the eastern side of the park hoping to see lions. It was not hard to find the spot - two palm trees by a water hole. We could not believe our eyes when we saw a black rhino having a quiet drink. But to our dismay, it saw our car and walked away quietly. Something caught its attention and it stopped. Just a few feet in front of it was a lioness. The two permanent members of the Big Five club regarded each other for a few moments before deciding that they had no business with each other. The lioness marched to the water for her drink. The black rhino stayed put. The lioness finished her drink and sat between the two palms. It seemed to be a favorite position of hers.
Video - Black Rhino and Lioness
Video - Lioness has a drink
Video : Black Rhino Charging
We saw a movement in the bushes a little to the left and saw another black rhino enter the stage. It did not seem to notice the other two creatures and walked purposefully towards the water. For a change, we were glad that our presence did not seem to bother a black rhino and it continued walking towards us (and the water). M was taking a video of the rhino when we suddenly realized that the rhino was well aware of our presence and not oblivious to us as we had previously thought. Its steady gait progressed to a gallop and we saw that it was actually charging at us! We quickly started the engine and turned right to move away when we noticed that the rhino had turned left and moved towards the water. It lost no time in quenching its thirst and then turned right back and ran at a good speed towards where it came from.
Video : Black Rhino running away
As if this were not enough, a Lilac Breasted Roller appeard in front and perched itself on a tree in a perfect angle to catch the rays of the setting sun. We had taken several photographs of this ubiquitous bird during the past few days in Botswana and Namibia but had failed to capture the lilac adequately. We finally managed to get the perfect shot.
Not every moment in Etosha is as dramatic as this. The network of gravel roads inside the park links its three main resorts at Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni. Several side roads branch off from these roads to various natural and artificial water holes. The waterholes provides the visitor the opportunity to witness several species peacefully sharing a precious resource. Elephants, zebras, giraffe, wildebeest, springbok, oryxes can be seen in a single frame sharing the water. It is quite a sight to see the occasional lone elephant sniffing around the dry desert surface looking for a suitable spot for a mud bath. Despite the innumerable elephants we saw at Chobe, it is always a thrill to see another one, particularly in a totally different setting as the one at Etosha was. A giraffe drinking water is also a curious sight as it takes a wide stance to allow its head to dip low into the water. We learnt on this trip that most giraffe die of heart attack due to the excessive demands placed on that organ having to pump blood a long way up to the head.
Video - Zebras coming in for a drink
Video - Lone Elephant walking across the Etosha desert landscape
Video - Running Oryxes
One can also venture deep into one of the side roads for surprise encounters with solitary animals or those in small groups for a different sort of experience. We saw dik-diks, kudus and hyenas while venturing out of the way. Bird life is abundant in the park and we had our fill of Kori Bustards, Secretary Birds, Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks, Tawny Eagles, Lilac Breasted Rollers, European Bee Eaters, Black-shouldered Kites and many more. The Secretary Birds are so named because of the quills sticking out of their ears making them look like secretaries of old. Sociable weavers may not be able to compete with the Bee-eaters in appearance but it is remarkable to view these birds share a "nest colony" - a large mass of twigs with individual holes for families.
Etosha has been on our "must visit" list ever since we heard about it during our 1994 stay in South Africa. We were quite happy to check this one off the list with plenty of great memories of this very unique place. A mild regret for V is that we did not see any storks - one of the first-day-covers in his collection features Etosha Storks and he has always associated the place with them.
Google Maps Link
One of the great nature reserves of the world. Your photos of this are especially nice.
Yes, I have had the experience of sighting rhino backsides too. They do turn and run and give a clear view of their ass when you are trying to see their horn :)
Can't fathom V's interest in storks though !! From , on Mar 12, 2013 at 11:06AM
@Ramesh - V collected a bunch of first day covers when he was staying in Pretoria decades ago and a really attractive one featured Etosha storks. He was hoping to catch sight of some of them on this visit. While we did not see any at Etosha itself, we actually saw a couple of them earlier in Chobe. From, on Mar 12, 2013 at 09:11PM