For former serving South African Defence Force members, the names of Ondangwa, Oshakati, Ongwediva and Oshikango, stir long submerged memories. We decided not to camp – that would have been too close to the bone. We had pre-booked the Mango Guest House in Ongwediva. Our frame of reference as late 1970s and early 80s. Our vehicle became quieter and quieter as we drove through Oshivelo, Ondangwa and then turned into Ongwediva.

‘Rough’ directions, even with the GPS did not allay our fears and after a bit of driving around, we found Mango Guest House.

A chilled Savignon Blanc (Nederberg Rose was rejected), and wi-fi.

What a revelation! The staff service levels were nothing short of phenomenal (up there with the best of Asia), the rooms comfortable and spotlessly clean, a great pre-dinner boma area and a functional dining room. Nothing was too much trouble for John the owner and his staff.  They even allowed us to bring our Nespresso machine and milk-frother in to the breakfast room! Add that to the fact that there was wi-fi everywhere and we had some pretty happy campers.

The entrance area of Mango Guest House

By Namibian standards, the food was good and wholesome. The parking is very secure and there is the reassuring presence of a heavily armed guard at night time. One negative in our room was that the hot tap did not work in the wash basin, but then after camping, this does not pose a problem!

 

Two great curious little kids near to the Etosha Pan

 

The ‘modern’ Chinese side of Oshikango – even a hotel

Way back in the 70s, 80s and90s, the border post of Oshikango/Santa Clara between Namibia and Angola was a cluster of little pock-marked and shelled houses. To-day, as we approached, we had heard that Oshikango was a ‘wild’ place. Well, we were not misinformed…. it was a hot windy Saturday morning and hundreds of thousands of people were teeming through the border, trading and ferrying goods over to Angola. On the left hand side of the road, were the South African-based retailers, Jet, Mr Price, etc etc. On the right hand side, the Chinese traders and their dark shopping alleys. Everyone was doing a roaring trade.

People were carrying TV sets on their heads, another rolling a huge water tank, another pushing a trolley with a double door fridge! And amongst the mayhem, the starving cattle and goats picked their way through the debris and munched on cardboard and other flotsam and jetsam of consumer society.

Even a KFC!

 

Ex members of the old SADF will remember the water tower – always a sign of relative safety, after a border incursion

Is it safe? Depends what you call safe. Is it exciting? Yes, the energy is palpable. If you’re in Owamboland in Northern Namibia, it’s worth a visit.

Not surprisingly, there are Portuguese signs everywhere – this an Angolan logistics company

 

Cars, cars

 

 

A giraffe stately and composed – Etosha

Prepping for another gourmet meal

 

This chap is called a ‘Dik-Dik’ – or Dikololo for his real name

 

Off to the shop in the Namuntoni Fort – more ice!

 

Before the caravan moves on to our next destination..three more lovely pics from Etosha:

Erica, Madame and me wincing against the glare and heat at the edge of the Pan

 

A great surprise! A lone rhino..

 

An experienced bush professional, whom we were soon to meet, Pete Morgan of Kunene River Lodge told us that if the zebras are thin, then the rest of the game will probably be dead. In the case, at Etosha, everything is fat! We love the zebras – so much character.

Some more views of our mighty matriarch with her itchy foot….

Pics by Mark Botha.

 

 

 

 

A real Matriach. She had been spraying herself with dust to keep cool.

 

The, we got an itchy foot. No problem, use a tree trunk.

 

Herds of Springbok

 

A little sunset

 

Kudu herd with magnificent horns

 

A muddy, dried dusty Rhino. Pure beauty. Help save them!

The Etosha is remarkable for its herds and hards of game. We always love the Zebras!

 

A little Springbok ewe along the way.

 

The Park gates open from Sunrise to Sunset and you are compelled to stay in he well-signposted roads. We took the road along the southern ‘ridge’ of the Pan to Halali for lunch and then returned along another route. Along the way, we saw teeming herds of Springbok, Gemsbok, Wildebeest and pockets of lion, elephants, giraffe, impala and so much bird life.And, of course, a real joy was to see a lone rhino walking over the road in front of us. What a privilege.

The Pan itself was hot, hot, hot – eye-burning heat after lunch. Barren though.

Set for lunch at Halali Rest Camp

 

A view of the Pan

 

Some interesting, and unexplained stone sculptures alongside the pan

 

A Never to be forgotten privilege – visiting the Etosha Pan

 

 

 

The old German Fort at Namutoni in the Etosha Game Reserve

 

A short overnight at the Roof of Africa Hotel in Windhoek and a stop for more provisions and to collect Sue who had flown up from Cape Town to join us. On we pushed, north on the B1- the main route north to the Angolan border at Oshikango. Through Otjiwarongo we went and then through Outjo to the turn off to the Etosha Pan National Park.

The Etosha – literally meaning “The Great White Place” – is one of the world’s most iconic Game Reserves. A massive 22,240 square kilometres, the actual Pan, a vast white wasteland in the centre of the Park is 4,590 square kikometres. That’s big in anyone’s language. The Reserve in encircled by 860km of fences! To put it into perspective, the Park is half the size of Switzerland.

Semi savannah at the water holes, only. The rest – arid!

The Etosha is home to 4 of the Big 5. The only missing one is the Buffalo – the area is too arid for the Buff. There are three main Rest Camps – Okaukuejo (in the restricted Western Sector); Halali (in the Central Sector) and Namutoni (Eastern Sector). They’re all (well) run by Namibia Wildlife Resorts. They have chalets and camping areas and are very popular, particularly with German tourists and younger ‘tent tours’. Everything is self-catering and you have to be self-sufficient in everything (cutlery etc), however, there are restaurants at the camps – not gourmet but adequate.

We chose Namutoni for a couple of reasons : The Camp is at an old German Fort which we wanted the girls to see; Namutoni was the ‘battle preparedness camp’ for South African soldiers embarking to the operational Area during the Border War of 1970s and 1980s.

One of the camp stretchers did not enjoy Simon’s weight so a lilo had to be purchased in Windhoek. From now on, it was sleeping on the floor! Fortunately Mark has the compressor for blowing this monster up.An new addition to our camp set up.

 

Many hands make light work

Memories came flooding back as we saw the Old Fort………now a Tourist Centre, restaurant, curio shops and NWR headquarters for Etosha.

We were getting quite slick at the camp set up by now – 36 minutes and the first rose was poured.

 

 

 

Couldn’t resist this one. Under a truck sits a local mechanic fixing some unknown problem on this cattle truck in Solitaire. The dampness on the ground is not from any rain but the 20 or so cattle loaded on the truck and wetting our mechanic as he laboured in the 34 degree heat!

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