Ted Lawson’s jaw dropped as he watched the scene unfold in front of him. “Herds of elephants hung out, munching on foliage,” he recalled. “Hundreds of zebras walked towards the waterhole against a backdrop of springbok and wildebeest. Everything was in motion.”
This was not one of the nature movies he’d watched since he was a child. He was in Etosha National Park, and this was reality. He’d seen many of the same animals at game reserves during his Spectacular South West Africa motorcycle expedition, but not nearly the numbers he was seeing here.
Declared a National Park in 1907, what is now Namibia’s Etosha National Park is one of Southern Africa’s finest wildlife sanctuaries. It’s home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and one species of fish. Included in these are rare and endangered species such as the black rhino, black-faced impala, tsessebe, and gemsbok.
The best time to visit is between June and November, coincidentally the same time that Renedian runs tours in Southern Africa. It’s the cooler and dry season, which means game animals gather at waterholes left behind after the rains have evaporated most what the rainy season left on the 5,000 square kilometre salt pan.
You’ll almost certainly see elephants and lions in the park. Elusive leopards like to hide in dense vegetation and are harder to spot. One of greatest hopes for Etosha visitors is to catch sight of the healthy population of black rhinoceros.
As Ted Lawson observed, large herds of zebra and springbok roam freely. Also calling the park home are the endangered black-faced impala, and cheetahs. The lucky will also spot giraffes, wildebeests, hyena, kudu, gemsbok and eland. But also keep an eye out for the smaller beings – like jackals, bat-eared foxes, warthogs, honey badgers and ground squirrels.
Motorcycles are not allowed in Etosha National Park—for the safety of riders and animals. Access and the environment are strictly controlled. Beyond that, wildlife roams freely, and it’s not the kind of encounter you want to have on a motorcycle.
Ted’s 3-day safari into Etosha was overwhelming, in a good way. To be guided through the huge game reserve and see wildlife come out of the pages of National Geographic and out of the movie screens was beyond his wildest dreams.
The Etosha Safari is an optional excursion, available for adventurers on Renedian’s Spectacular South West Africa expeditions.
Photo credits: Ted Lawson