Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Etosha: Full Moon Rising - and Some Quirky Facts

One August evening, I found myself alone in the middle of Etosha Pan.

We had organised a special adventure for Namibians to mark the centenary of one of Africa’s best-known national parks. Strict park rules forbidding people out of vehicles, or even out of the main camps such as Okaukuejo, were bent for the first time in 100 years. 

A group of seasoned trackers, led by the legendary Jan Tsumeb, accompanied 20 nature lovers on a moonlit walk across the pan.

My job was to keep the fire beacon alight. This was about six kilometres away from where I dropped off the adventure seekers

The Milky Way lay scattered overhead. A full moon flooded the pan. The distinctive scent of burning mopane filled the air. A hyena cackled. Then a lion yawned its roar.

It was then that it struck me. I was alone in a national park where animals reign supreme at night. Ones with teeth and claws. This was not your average Etosha safari holiday. It was another day at work. And I loved it.

Copyright: Linda Baker
This is how most people see Etosha! From a bench at Okaukuejo Waterhole. I like to do things differently.

Etosha in Numbers

Here are a few random facts from the history books.
  • 1881 - The last heard of elephant in the area is driven into a marsh near Mamutoni and killed.
  • 90 000 km2 - Size of  Game Reserve Number 2, later known as Etosha National Park,  when it was proclaimed in 1907.
  • 22 270 km - current size.
  • 5 - Current number of tourist camps -Okaukuejo. Namutoni, Halali, Onkoshi and Dolomite camps.
  • 31 - Etosha's full staff contingent in 1955. 
  • 20 000 - Number of flamingo chicks rescued in 1969 when the pan dried up. Staff caught chicks and released them at Fischer's Pan near Namutoni. Several more rescues have taken place since then. 
Namibian National Archives
Some of the flamingo chicks rescued  in 1969 when Etosha Pan dried up. Apart from the hats, I don't think the staff outfits changed for about 35 years! Photo: Namibia National Archives

  • 114 – Number of mammal species in the park. A lot of these are bats!
  • 23 -Number of black rhino poached in Etosha during 1989. Authorities later dehorned rhinos to deter poachers.
  • 0 - Number of lion, elephant or rhino in the park when it was proclaimed.Populations have steadily increased! 
  • 0 - Current number of African wild dog, hippo, buffalo and vervet monkeys in Etosha.