“L ions on your right!” Our driver’s voice crackled through the speakers in our truck. I grabbed my camera, fixed my lens to the maximum zoom and set my vision to the distance.
We were game driving in Nambia’s Etosha National Park onboard a mammoth overland truck – I didn’t expect to see much wildlife up close, any animal in their right mind would be intimidated by the size of our truck. But as we gently slowed down to a halt, we got a good view of what lay ahead and an awed hush fell amidst our group of 20 travelers.
A pack of nine lions was lying just inches away from our truck, nonchalantly flapping their ears, yawning and drooling – in spite of our presence. According to our guide, this was a herd of lionesses protecting a young male just before it enters adulthood and gets thrown into the wild on its own. We held our breathes and watched in silence as the group of wild cats lay under the shade, taking their afternoon nap and snoozing out loud. At first sight, our group had erupted into a photo-snapping frenzy, but once we realized the insanity of our oblivion, we ditched our cameras and spent the next thirty minutes observing these wild cats, marveling at the rarity of this encounter.
There’s nothing quite like watching an animal in the wild – the emotions that come along with it often stirring and awakening. As a wildlife buff, I’ve always been drawn to places with great wildlife opportunities – the main reason why I’d journeyed to Southern Africa. The dry, arid savanna of Namibia is home to a large collection of wildlife: from the ubiquitous springbok to the zebra, lion, giraffe, leopard and even the almost-extinct white rhino. All of the Big Five except for buffalos can be found here, thanks to the government’s conservation efforts. While Etosha does not readily promise as much wildlife as the world famous Serengeti, it receives much less visitors and delivers a more authentic and hassle-free wildlife watching experience.
An intimate moment between a teenage lion and its mother
Over the two days in Etosha National Park on my overlanding journey with G Adventures, we were rewarded with plenty of impressive sightings: herds of oryx (Namibia’s national animal) grazing amidst zebras; wildebeests galloping on flatland; ostriches roaming in pairs; a lonesome white rhino on an open plain; a lioness sipping water from a pond; and gentle dik diks by the roadside. But wildlife watching in Etosha can be unpredictable: we had one encounter after another on day one, but not a single sighting on day two despite trawling through the park from dawn till daybreak. Despite the irregularity, game driving in Etosha is definitely worth a go – be patient and you’ll be duly rewarded with some of the best wildlife experiences in Africa.
Here are some of my best images from Etosha, hope they’ll give you a feel of how intimate wildlife encounters in Namibia can be:
Namibia’s national animal, the elegant oryx
A zebra grazing the dry grassland
A pair of wildebeest hides under the shade
A lonesome white rhino by the watering hole
The commonly spotted springbok
A lioness sips water from a pond while balancing all fours on a rock
A pair of ostriches wandering through the vast grassland
Sniffing its way around our campsite, a mongoose busy at work
Sunset at Etosha National Park
This experience was made possible by G Adventures as a part of their Wanderers In Residence program. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own. Flip through more of my Etosha photos or read more about my Namibia journey here.