After an unexpected amount off wildlife display here at ‘Khaudum National Park’ yesterday, I was looking forward to another exciting day in the Kalahari Desert. No doubt that plenty of elephants and some antelope would show up sooner or later, but I was particularly hopeful to see the real king of the desert! The black-maned desert lion. There wasn’t much of a plan, but instead of driving around aimlessly, I wanted to spend time in a Hyde to wait and watch.
Zimba and I were on the move before sunrise again. A young Caracal quickly crossed the track in front of me, way too fast for a photo. Last time I saw a small cat early mornings was the Serval at “Lower Zambezi National Park’. That day, I witnessed 5 lions taking on a herd of buffalo. A positive sign I thought. But really, what are the odds? It was rather quiet at ‘Doringstraat Waterhole’, only a few Roan Antilope were carefully drinking.
The track to ‘Leeupan Waterhole’ (lion plains) is extremely soft sand. I drove a few hundred meters of this track yesterday, only to turn around in hot conditions. This track was much easier handled this morning. Reaching ‘Leeupan’ eventually, only a 5-meter diameter mud puddle was left. Not surprisingly, that no wildlife was anywhere near. The well was pumping a trickle amount of water, which can not catch up with the water supply needed.
Park rangers do the best they can to keep all wells pumping, a great effort to keep wildlife alive. ‘Tsau Waterhole’ is the biggest of them all and I was a bit more hopeful. Surely it would attract some wildlife, possibly a predator. It was quiet even here. It seemed that the gusty south-easterly winds had blown all animals out off the park. Nevertheless, I was determined to stake out in the sheltering Hyde.
A few Roan showed. These shy Antilope get even more skittish around waterholes.
It really doesn’t take much for them to run off again. Yep, not much happening here either. Maybe I was just really lucky yesterday? Let’s go back via ‘Doringstraat Waterhole’ and if there is no show there, I would have a relaxing afternoon back at camp. A good plan.
Arriving at ‘Doringstraat’, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Elephants were all around, as far as the eye can see.
At least hundreds of them, near and far. Like ants in the distance, it was an elephantastic spectacle once again. Simply outstanding.
The water well was well overcrowded with elephants pushing to get through. There was a bit of tension in between herds, I better check the situation first. I couldn’t park Zimba anywhere near.
Some elephants returned from a mud bath to have a drink, looking all shiny and new. These wells are about 5 meters long and subdivided in smaller compartments to avoid elephants having a bath or destroy the whole system.
Yet, I was a bit worried about the number of elephants squeezing for a drink. There seemed to be a queuing system going on. Herds lining up from far moved in, whilst the drinking herd moved on to the waterhole.
These two youngsters looked like they had some mischief in mind. The waterhole is what took my interest mostly, this is kids territory.
This youngster decided to see if he could walk through.
Being a bit cautious, to begin with, he went for a dive.
He really liked the idea of that.
The sun shone directly on his shiny skin, giving almost perfect water reflections. This was fun, let’s do it again.
And down he went again, an elephant submarine.
A little trunk display was needed.
And some water to drink of course.
He was quietly impressed by his own reflections. Mirror, mirror on the mud…!
Like a fountain of youth, he got out of the waters,
with a little uphill struggle.
It was a coming and going, left to right and right to left. By this time, I used an opportunity to sneak up to the half-constructed Hyde, which gave me a better overview.
My next candidate? Well, I wasn’t sure what he was trying to achieve in this position.
Collapsing on the muddy shoreline got the better of his friend. He literally laid there for a good few minutes with his friend overlooking the situation.
Checking if he is still alive, he gave him a wee notch with his right foot.
He didn’t look to be impressed being so rudely awoken.
Before too long,
he fell back in the mud leaving his friend a little dumbfounded.
Others were not so sure about the waters.
They can be tricky at times.
A few adults decided to take a few youngsters on a mud shower lesson, to get the best trunk action swing.
The young ones tried to copy,
but there still is lots to practice on.
The lifeguard blew the whistle, it was halftime again.
Another herd moved in,
Another moved on to the mud bath
and the other moved out.
This herd arrived, lead by an experienced matriarch. She looked me straight in the eyes as she passed by. ‘I won’t back down’.
With good reasons. In her herd were two very young ones, probably not even 6 months old. Little Dumbo, Khaudum National Park, Namibia. OM-D, how gorgeous are these two?
Being this small, they had to tread carefully around the well.
The next herd was on the move already.
The waterhole itself was kids heaven, It simply is a joy to watch them behave and play around these muddy waters. They seem to lose all senses and let their spirits run free. A real kids playground.
Pushing and shoving, a tag team was created.
Once lying on the ground, elephants can’t easily get up again.
But there is always a helping trunk to push you on.
With so many elephants, it really was hard to focus on any particular. But one elephant’s behaviour really made me wonder. Elephants like trees for shade, body scrubs and chewing the rind.
This one had his trunk high up in the air against the tree trunk, as if he was looking for a connection. Other times he was leaning headfirst against the tree. Not only for 5 minutes but the whole time I was there. This I haven’t seen before. Not so strange as I found out shortly after. From here, an unexpected series of tragic events occurred, which I and the Park Rangers still can’t believe to this day. Find out when this story will be continued.