I spent the last two weeks of December traveling to countries 49 and 50: Namibia and South Africa. Warm weather, safaris, sand dunes, and good wine; what better way to spend the last two weeks of the year?
After a 12 hour flight to Cape Town and a two hour flight to Windhoek, my boyfriend and I got into our rental car (a big Toyota 4×4) and drove for five hours. Destination: Etosha National Park in northern Namibia.
On the way up to Etosha we saw all kinds of animals running along the side of the road. From a baboon enjoying the remnants of a roadside picnic to a warthog running through the bush, the local fauna kept us entertained all the way up north.
Our camp, Onguma, was just outside of the eastern edge of Etosha. We arrived around 6pm and were greeted with a refreshing drink before being shown to our bungalow. The room was huge and was beautifully decorated in desert colors. It had a big deck in front with great views of the watering hole in front of the main lodge. Aside from the bugs that seemed to think that our room rate included their accommodation as well, it was perfect.
For the next two days my boyfriend and I enjoyed a mix of guided game drives and self-drive safaris. We saw everything from lions enjoying the last of an oryx carcass to giraffes and elephants munching on leafy greens. There were hundreds of springbok, zebras, and Black-faced Impalas; Spotted Hyenas and Black-backed Jackals; and even a Black Mamba Snake, which is said to be the most feared snake in Africa.
In the afternoons we lounged around and read books or took a nap. Waking up at 5am every day for the morning game drives was a bit rough, so the afternoon siesta was the perfect way to recover. One afternoon we drove around the reserve and found some baby jackals, rabbits, and an adult jackal munching on the last of a wildebeest kill.
In the evenings we enjoyed dining al fresco, where we ate everything from springbok carpaccio to oryx steak. The chef was French trained and did a great job at fusion cooking with local Namibian ingredients. The only drawback was the hundreds of giant beetles that flew through our camp each night and made me jump out of my skin every time they landed anywhere near (or on) me.
After two days at Onguma we drove through Etosha to our second camp, Ongava. Ongava was located just outside the southwestern border of the park, and our accommodations consisted of giant tents as opposed to bungalows.
Ongava was special in that they did game drives on their own reserve, which boasted of a pride of 22 lions and a number of both black and white rhinos. We saw all of them, including the elusive black rhino, which showed up two nights in a row to drink from the watering hole during dinner.
The most memorable part of my stay at Ongava was the lions. We woke up at 4am each day to the sound of mating lions. Right outside our tent. It was a bit scary, and even more so when we found their footprints in the dirt outside the in the morning.
But it was nothing compared to the walk we went on during the last morning of our stay. Led by a guide with a rifle, we walked all around the surrounding area. While my boyfriend enjoyed watching the local flora and fauna, I pictured myself getting mauled by a lion, cheetah, leopard, or even a tiger on holiday from India.
Despite my attempts to worry myself into invisibility, we arrived at the camp safely and made the five hour drive back to Windhoek to start the next leg of our Namibian adventure: the sand dunes!