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Namibia East

Anderson Gate to Von Lindequist Gate

24th September Etosha/ Mushara

Whilst we paid (with cash because their internet was down) a giraffe came to drink, splayed legs and head down. Then we drove back to Okaukuejo to re-enter (same admin as before) and drive across Etosha East to the far east end.
Etosha is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000 million years ago. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds.
For simplicity our route between waterholes (+ main animals seen) was :-
Okaukuejo lion, lioness (on an open plain)
Pan southern black korhaan
Kapupuhedi/ Ondongab ostrich, wildebeest
Homob cape ground squirrel (actually a colony, very cute and active)
Sueda/Salvadora views of pan
Charitsaub falcon, goshawk
Rietfontein great sparrow
into Halali camp giraffe
Rhino Drive to Noniams and Goas birds (and not much else)
Naumses impala, eland, kudu
Etosha Pan view
Springbokfontein giraffe, springbok
Batia wildebeest, red hartebeest
Ngobib elephants (found by us, completely by surprise; quite impressed with our spotting abilities here; a small family group of 3 matriarchs, several small babies and a large bull taking the rear), plains and mountain zebra
Okerfontein elephant (a very large group of 50 or so crossing the road to access better grazing), secretary bird
Kalkheuwel termites, lapwing
Chudob oryx, plains zebra, eagle
Koinachas pied crow, wildebeest, impala, giraffe
Namutoni hyena

Blue Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) aka the brindled gnu. Despite their appearance, they are very agile and if spooked will instantly run off, stopping at intervals to look back to assess the situation, before repeating as needed. They can remain suspicious, watching their trail for long periods of time. An inquisitive animal, they will stand looking at an intruder while snorting and blowing through their nostrils. They will also run around in circles, prance about waving their tails, and pawing at the ground. Blue Wildebeest live all over in the open savannah of southern Africa. They are social creatures and live in groups of 20 to 40, sometimes in larger herds, with cows and calves led by a bull, while bachelor bulls will form their own groups. There is considerable competition for rank among individuals following a breeding herd, pressurising the bull in the hope that it will leave. In Namibia, wildebeest are commonly found in the Etosha. Wildebeest are grazers, particularly associated with savannah woodland with available water. Their favoured food source must have high leaf-to-stem ratio and they prefer the shorter grass swards. A slate grey coat, sometimes with a brown tinge, a black tail and a long narrow head carrying horns which curve down and then up. The front quarters are heavily built and there is a mane and a beard reaching down the throat. There are darker creases on the sides. At birth, calves can stand within a few minutes and run within 5 minutes. Both sexes have horns.
Northern Black Korhaan (Afrotis afraoides) is fairly common and widespread in Namibia, found in a variety of habitats including Kalahari sandveld, dry grassland, grassy dunes and open savannah. Solitary creatures, they are noted for preening, sunning and head-scratching behaviour. These small bustards have black bellies and distinctive aerial displays combined with a loud, harsh call. Afrotis is Latin 'African bustard.’ It pecks close to the ground as it walks, often breaking into a run to catch flying insects.
Ostrich (Struthio camelus) prefer open woodland, semi-dry and dry grassland habitat. They can also be found in shrub and sparsely vegetated desert plains. They are greater in number on plains with short grasses and dry savannah, but avoid stony or rocky ridges and higher density woodlands. Ostriches gather in pairs and groups of 5-24. In the Namib Desert their main predator is the leopard. Jackals, hyenas and martial eagles prey on the young. They are fairly prevalent in Etosha Park, the Kalahari Desert and around Windhoek, Swakopmund and Luderitz. Their diet consists of small succulent plants and grasses pulled up (including roots) and swallowed whole. Leaves are striped from larger trees as well as selected flowers and seeds, with flowers and pods of acacia a favourite. Males and females have distinct plumage colours; adult males are mostly black with white wings and tail while females have a greyish brown body, wings and tail. They stand up to 2m tall and weigh around 100kg.
Ground Squirrel (Xerus inauris), like its close relative the mountain ground squirrel, has no tree-dwelling tendencies. It has a characteristic long-haired tail, which when swung up along the back and rear of the head, presents a fan like appearance, due to the flattening of the hair. This acts as a sunshade. They prefer open terrain with sparse bush cover and avoid areas of loose sand which makes burrow construction difficult. They are diurnal and gregarious, living in colonies of about 30 in underground warrens with multi-entrances. The building and re-building of new burrows and tunnels is a constant activity for ground squirrels. Social organisation is based on a group of several females with offspring. Adult males do not remain with a group, preferring to move when the female is on heat. Ground squirrels only emerge from their burrows in the morning, well after the sun is up and retire before the sun sets because their burrows retain a stable temperature. Their main food consists of the leaves and stems of grasses, seeds, bulbs, roots and plant stems. Although ground squirrels are predominantly vegetarian, their diet can include some insects. They have a characteristic white lateral stripe, one on either side of the body and white rings around the eyes. The fan-like tail has long hair, broadly black at the base, then white, then black with broad white tips.
Homob waterhole
Great sparrow (Passer motitensis), aka southern rufous sparrow, is found in southern Africa in dry, wooded savannah and is superficially like a large house sparrow with a grey crown and rear neck and rufous upperparts.
Brown Snake-Eagle (Circaetus cinereus) are usually solitary birds, often seen perching on the top of a tall tree in pairs, close together. They inhabit a wide range of woodlands including mopane and Kalahari thornveld in north and central Namibia, especially Etosha. It eats mainly snakes such as mambas, cobras, boomslang, although it is not immune to venom and also takes monitor lizards, chameleons, rats and game birds. It kills its prey by dropping them onto their backs to smash their spine with a set of small, powerful feet before crushing the head of the snake, swallowing it head first. Cinerus is Latin for ash grey, a reference to their overall brown head, body and feather colour. A small platform nest is built using 'pencil-thin' sticks, lined with leaves. Only 1 egg is laid.
Tawny eagles (Aquila rapax) ‘rapacious eagle’ prefer lightly wooded savannahs and perch on the top of tall trees, even during heavy rain. Absent from most of west Namibia, they are found in Etosha and the Kalahari Desert. This bird eats a combination of birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and insects. A stick platform nest is placed on the top of a tree and lined with green leaves. Wahlberg's eagle (Aquila wahlbergi) is named after Swedish collector Johan Wahlberg (1810-1856) who worked in the Cape. This species inhabit regions of well-developed wooded savannah with tall trees in central/ north Namibia inc Etosha and northern Kalahari.
African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) is the world's largest land mammal. All elephants in Namibia are African elephants which generally live in families of 10-20 animals. These groups frequently congregate in larger herds at communal waterholes, led by dominant females (matriarchs). Bulls live alone or in small bachelor groups, only joining the herds when the cows are in season. Males can be identified with a rounded rather than angular foreheads and thicker tusks. The flaps of the ears are very large, reaching a height of 2m and a breadth of 1.2m. Elephants can live up to 70. The massive tusks of older bulls usually weigh 50-60kg, but tusks weighing 90kg have been recorded. An elephant's hearing and smell are excellent, but eyesight is moderate and best in dim light. The hair from the tail is a sought after commodity for pipe cleaners and bracelets. The trunk has many uses: used in conjunction with the tusks to break down branches; to pluck bundles of grass by curling up the end of the trunk around the stems; to convey food to the mouth, to drink by filling the trunk with water and squirting it in to their mouth or they cool themselves by spraying it over their bodies. During droughts, they dig for water, using first the tusks, then the trunk. There are great numbers in Etosha, especially during the drier winter months and Namibia also has a population of desert-adapted elephants, in Damaraland and Kaokoveld. An adult elephant eats around 250kg of vegetation every day (leaves, bark and grass) for over fourteen hours a day. These feeding patterns modify woodlands in the process. They are dependent on water and can drink up to 200 litres in a single session. Their grey colour is often obscured by their habit of dusting and mud-wallowing, assuming the colour of the soil in which they carry out this practice. African elephants are not seasonal breeders. Generally they produce one calf every 3 to 4 years. At birth, calves weigh about 100kg and adult males can weigh 6,000kg and 4.0m in height.
Red Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus) have excellent smell and hearing, but poor sight. When alarmed, they mill about in confusion, snorting nervously before running off. Once in its stride, a hartebeest can achieve a speed of 65km/hr, zigzagging left and right in bouncing flight, which make it difficult for predators to catch them. Like the blue wildebeest, it has an uncanny sense of direction and will find water and fresh grazing after rain has fallen a considerable distance away. They are associated with open country, grassland, semi-desert bush savannah and sometimes open woodland. They are fairly common in central Namibia and the Kalahari Desert and small herds can even be observed while landing at Windhoek International Airport. Red hartebeest are predominantly grazers and are not dependent on water, but will drink it if available. Most individuals are a reddish-brown colour, although this does vary to yellow-brown or tawny. Not always obvious is a darker saddle which extends on the mid-back from the shoulders to the base of the tail, not so dark on females. They have a black forehead, with a patch of reddish brown across the face between and in front of the eyes, and a black band on top of the muzzle.
Gaber Goshawks (Melierax gabar) can be found in Namibian indigenous woodland such as dry, open Acacia woodland and mopane tree woodland. Observed singly, in pairs or less often in small family groups, they perch within the tree canopy, leaving their roosting posts in the early morning. They are widespread in Namibia including Etosha, Windhoek and the Kalahari Desert. They eat mainly birds including doves, pipits, weavers, francolins, kingfishers and sparrows, but will also take squirrels, shrews, bats, lizards, snakes and insects. Larger prey is captured with the feet and stamped to death. This large raptor has a slate grey coloured head and upper parts, short, blunt claws on shortish toes, dark red-brown eyes and red feet and legs.
Warthog is an African pig with large curved tusks protruding from its huge flattened head, one set from both upper and lower jaws. It gets it name from the gristly warts that protrude from the sides of its face. Boars have two pairs, sows only on. It is not known for certain what purpose the warts serve. One explanation is that they are used as a weapon, or, alternatively, as a defence in fending off blows from other warthogs. Warthogs live in families of related females with their offspring and ten individuals may form a sounder. They travel in small family groups and are a common sight in Namibia, often seen wandering along the side of the highway. They act as as nature's gardeners and till large areas of soil through their digging exploits. Apart from aerating the soil and softening it to allow the rain to sink in, they also bury and thus protect seeds from fire damage, whilst at the same time they expose other bulbs to which birds such as the francolin are partial. They are great mud wallowers. Warthogs can be seen all over central Namibia and are often found grazing on the verges of the road. Care should be taken while driving as warthogs can do considerable damage to vehicles and passengers. Generally vegetarian, warthogs will take carrion. They are not dependent on the availability of water, but will drink it regularly if there is a supply. Their tusks may be 61cm long.
We drove along the entire Etosha Pan on the south side as it changed from open grasslands to woodland, back to scrub, open grass filled with game and finally low trees. We were especially proud of finding elephants by ourselves! The pan is beautiful, even in the dry season and the shimmering of the salt creates the strange effect of water. Several large dust devils blew up as we approached the viewpoint for the pan itself. We left via Von Lindquist Gate (checking out as usual) to drive to Mushara Bush Camp, A total contrast to Overland Lodge, these were real tent-like chalets, with a lovely central area for food and drink.
Welcome to Mushara Bush Camp https://www.mushara-lodge.com/mushara-bush-camp/ privately owned luxury accommodation on the doorstep of famous Etosha Park in northern Namibia. The latest addition to the Mushara Collection of exquisite accommodation establishments is Mushara Bush Camp. The Camp offers a down-to-earth authentic tented bush camp experience, much like the early explorers used. The main House is thatched and dinner, lunch and breakfast are served on the thatched verandah with the bush being a mere step away. Each custom made en-suite tents are built from canvas, wood and local limestone. With a private veranda and windows from floor to ceiling, these tents are spacious and airy. The brushed cement floors and stone walls keep the tents cool even in the afternoon sun. The tents are equipped with a coffee/tea station, safe deposit box, mosquito nets, socket, hair drier and floor fan. Enjoy the privacy of your veranda or comfort of your tent. Wi- Fi is available in the main lodge area. We offer morning and afternoon game drives. https://wetu.com/iBrochure/en/Information/26668_8030_20477/mushara_bush_camp/Activities
We arrived feeling very hot and were only too happy to take a dip in the pool to cool down before the evening meal.

Posted by PetersF 21:39 Archived in Namibia Tagged animals zebra namibia antelope lion giraffe springbok etosha hornbill

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