PN Etosha, Namíbia

The Lush Life of White Namibia

Dead End Acacia
Pasto Duo
bad camouflage
“Stay in your Car”
The King of the Road
Celestial Giraffes
Wildebeest & Rhino
A hurried oryx
Watered Aurora
A vast salt flat rips through the north of Namibia. The Etosha National Park that surrounds it proves to be an arid but providential habitat for countless African wild species.

We woke up to an unexpected rainy dawn.

From the roadside where we admire it, the sun rises behind a tree with broad but thin branches that the light highlights the smallest details. It is born in conflict with a broad and heavy cloud.

Little by little, its waving water tentacles capture it and darken the gold. The rain dances over the Terra. Bless the parched savanna with more life than the savanna has.

If we were in Botswana, the rain would fall while “chickens”, the most valuable thing in this Kalahari nation.

So precious that the national currency is called this and the phenomenon illustrates its notes.

Botswana is right next door, to the east. The southern border of Angola is much closer, preceded by a constellation of villages that, for some earthly reason, have names starting with Ó.

Oh of Oshivelo, of Omuthiya, of Ondangawa, of Oshakati, of Ongwediva, of Oshikango, of Okathima, of Oukahao and of Outapi, to mention a few.

So that there is no doubt about Namibia's appetite for lands thus begun, know that the three provinces around Kunene that we explored were Oshana, Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa.

We had climbed to the top of Namibia determined, among other things, to get to know its “Great White Place”. As soon as the rain and the golden glow of early morning fade away, Etosha National Park regains its whiteness.

Etosha National Park: the Great White and Salty Namibia

We enter the immense stronghold of the park of the same name. As soon as we surveyed the landscape, we saw a couple of ostriches, with their beaks probing the ground and, in spaces, acting as the periscopes of suspicious creatures.

Nearby, one of the many black-backed jackals that inhabit the surrounding area observes the birds, unmotivated because they are not on the menu for his species.

In the opposite direction, expectations are even more meager. Two adult giraffes stand out above the thorny forage.

So tall and broad that, to feed, they bend their neck exaggeratedly.

Appropriate for the season, the rainfall had germinated vegetation that had been surrendered to the heat for months.

The green of the wild grass and the yellow of the hay disguised the aridity and rawness of the scene. The sharp horns and spartan bodies of some oryxes stood out from this velvety pasture.

As we got closer to the heart of Etosha National Park, not even the rain was working miracles anymore.

Little by little, Etosha became the great salt plain that cuts across the map of Namibia.

Salt Roads Crossed by Animals

We continued along the road with compacted and level soil. At a certain point, we come across a group of zebras that block the passage and that not only don't move, but also seem to want to coexist with the passengers in the cars.

One of these visitors ignores the rules. And a minimum of common sense.

Open the driver's door, squat on the green verge and photograph the zebras. In several other cases of similar negligence, in different places, lions, tigers and similar predators did not forgive. Luck and probability were on his side.

We arrived at an observation point on a dead-end branch, in the shade of a large acacia tree fought over by corvids.

There, in the form of a geodesic landmark, a warning written in red on white cement reminded those most tempted to go out for some airy contemplation: “Stay in your car".

So we do. Even if, onwards, the vision of Etosha only salty and endless, cried out for unconsciousness.

Etosha: a Salar generated by the Dispersion of the Cunene River

The main salt flat of Etosha is, by no means modest, 130km by 50km. It occupies more than 20% of the total area of ​​Etosha National Park and is distinguishable from Space.

It is also the deepest section of the park, although located between 1071m and 1086m above sea level.

The Etosha Salar was formed during the Pliocene.

It arose from a process of dispersion from the upper Cunene River and, eventually, also from the Cubango, to the south, which generated an inland lake and a swamp, similar to the Okavango River Delta (Cubango).

Later, the Cunene flow diverted from south to west, towards the Atlantic. High temperatures and insufficient rainfall caused the lake to shrink. Until the clay and salt contained in the water remain.

The salt flat's seemingly sterile appearance leads to the mistake of thinking that animals in the surrounding savannah avoid it. In fact, as we have the good fortune to see, its hypersalinity is appreciated by several species.

The Distinct Relationship of Species to Rain and Drought

After the rainy season (December to March), when several channels flow from Angola to the south, the salt flat is covered with water for some time. During this period, flamingos and pelicans inhabit it. When the water drains again, it leaves sections of mud or salty blocks exposed.

The only animal that goes deep into Etosha is the ostrich, which finds nesting places there because no predator of its eggs ventures out.

On the edges, with the vegetation visible, we saw herds of zebras and wildebeests. Other large species have become accustomed to licking mud and salty blocks in order to supplement themselves with minerals.

Etosha could also mean “Place of Mirages”. The fauna that interacts around the salt flat is as real as it is stunning.

It has one of the largest concentrations of large animals on Earth.

They are elephants, rhinos, elands, oryx, zebras, wildebeests, lions, hyenas and giraffes of the Angolan subspecies, among others.

Both the species and the number of specimens could be more.

Etosha National Park and its Vastness Not Always Protected

At the end of the XNUMXth century, elephants – like rhinos, lions and other large animals, were almost extinct. The German colonial government of South West Africa reacted and created an animal reserve.

From then on, almost all species recovered.

The territory that is now Namibia already belonged to South Africa when, in 1967, authorities declared Etosha a national park. Etosha seemed to have a promising future.

But, as happened (for example) in NP Gorongosa, from Mozambique and in different Angola wildlife parks, during the civil wars of both countries, the Namibian War of Independence (1966-88), led to both the guerrilla force SWAPO (South West African People's Organization) and the South African troops fighting it , have slaughtered a large part of the large animals.

Since then, some of the species have recovered again. Others not so. We are lucky to see one of the most emblematic animals in danger of extinction, the black rhino.

The specimen we admire walks alone two hundred meters behind a small herd of wildebeest, gilded by the setting sun.

In order not to attract poachers, authorities choose not to reveal the total number of black rhinos in the park.

It is estimated, however, that in 2022 alone, in the wake of the pandemic, forty-six of Etosha's rhinos were slaughtered.

The reason remains the same. The veneration of countries in the Nibujon (populous China at the head) of the animal's horn, for its alleged medicinal properties and its use in pieces of jewelry.

Elephants, on the other hand, are common in Etosha and in much greater numbers.

In such a way that it often happens, and it happened to us, that their wanderings on the roads affect the traffic of visitors to the park.

Because they block their passage.

And because they follow the pachyderms, determined to get good images of them.

Some visitors, who are less cautious or skilled behind the wheel, find themselves in trouble.

The Crucial Lagoons and Ponds that Authorities Must Maintain

With the afternoon coming to an end and the temperature still high, the animals feel resentful. We advanced close to the entrance we had used early in the morning.

Nearby, we come across a somewhat stony access lake. We are still parking when a long herd of zebras approaches.

Little by little, it enters the crocodile-free water and fills the lake with an almost hypnotic streak.

We wait attentively for the appearance of predators, lions or leopards, as cheetahs are only a few.

Neither predators nor wildebeests appear, which have the habit of joining the zebras' routines.

Water satisfies their communal thirst. Then, we see them stampede towards the heart of the park.

Closer to white and salt, the sometimes feared, sometimes longed-for compound that makes Etosha National Park a special habitat and ecosystem.


1 – Windhoek

2 – PN Etosha


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