Monday, April 25, 2016

Namibia: Hoanib Game Drive and 5 Musketeers

Other Posts: Trip Overview, Little Kulala Lodge, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, Sesriem Canyon And Scenic Flight, Swakopmund Sandboarding, Walvis Bay Dune & Sea Tour, Doro Nawas Camp, Damarland Sites, Damaraland Living Village Song, Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, The Skeleton Coast

Our last full day in camp was AMAZING! We had so much luck on both our game drives. Our friends from CNN were heading off to the Skeleton Coast to film for Inside Africa while Papa G gave us two incredible game drives.

On the morning drive we were joined by the NY newlyweds, Peter and Gen, for their final game drive in camp. We had gotten to know them pretty well and the night before we had to illegally leave our tents at night to trade mismatched laundry baskets (camps do your laundry).

Within the first fifteen minutes Papa G made Gen's safari dream of seeing a brown hyena. These are less-common than the spotted hyenas and they often travel solo vs. in packs. Seeing one active in the morning was supposedly very rare. We watched as he climbed down the sandy riverbank, into the woods, then over to the remains of the elephant named Papa G. The elephants were all named after camp guides and the story was Papa G (the elephant) was pushed over the dry riverbank by Charlie or Alfred (other elephants). We sat and watched him gnaw on some of the 4 month old remains. The hyena was very skittish whenever other jeeps rolled by.

Giraffes and general game were plentiful this morning, including a baby giraffe.

This is one of our favorite pictures from the trip. It was incredible to be able to sit on the top of the ridge and take in so much scenery.

All this would have made it a great day, but then we come across one of the lionesses. Quick story: there are about 70-80 desert adapted lions. The most famous are the 5 Musketeers - 5 males born approximately at the same time to 3 lionesses. We saw one of the lady lions the day before (the pregnant one) and today we came across the second one (third one died).

A few minutes later we found a cheetah. He/she had just killed a springbok and dragged it to a shady place under a shrub. We had just missed all the action - the cheetah was noticeably tired. What made the scene even more bizarre was the oryx just standing around. I guess it felt safe since the cheetah all ready had its dinner.

Yet another pretty background

Peter and Gen were taken straight to the airstrip instead of going back to camp (a Papa G signature move). We saw their plane off and went back to camp for a swim, lunch, and some downtime. Dr. Filip's research jeep was in camp so Papa G grabbed the last known location of the 5 Musketeers for our afternoon quest.

Holly and I were the only guests with Papa G on the afternoon drive and we were warned we were going far and may not see much game, or the lions. Ok with us. We were in parts of the camp area we hadn't seen yet. Our first notable encounter with wildlife was a group of elephants grazing in a grassy area by some volcanic rock mountains. We enjoyed seeing the elephants against the mountains and how it seemed to dwarf them a bit.

After a while it got to the point of "where the hell are we?". We drove around the rockiest terrain we had ever seen. The lions were last seen at maybe 12 km from camp and we were now 16 clicks out. No wildlife but amazing scenery.

We called it quits. The lions must have moved farther. Within 5 minutes of throwing in the towel, Holly sees a form under a bush and says "lion". All 5 of them were finishing up their naps. One lion was awake and started nudging the others. They started yawning and the got up one at a time.

We were both sticking our heads through the pop-up roof and had no time to grab the video camera. Dave did get some film on the DSLR. As they each passed our car they started climbing the small hill just to our left. The last lion took a moment to lie down and pose for us.

Once #5 got up we drove off a bit to try to see them over the next ridge. We caught them coming up another hill then watched them form a long line crossing a clearing.

Now for the best part - the ride home. Darkness was coming quickly and we were far from camp. This is when Papa G told us the radios don't work this far away and he's only been to this part of camp twice. At one point he got out of the car and ran ahead to look for landmarks. He felt safe since we knew we were a klick or two ahead of the lion. About ten minutes later he asked if we wanted bathroom breaks, we said no, but then he told us this was our last chance.... Eventually we made it to camp, and dinner was starting late tonight anyway! We had a fantastic dinner and enjoyed our last night in camp.
The next morning we took a quick nature walk with Papa G, then boarded our flight north up to Serra Cafema Camp on the Kunene River and Angola border.


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  2. Thanks for the feedback Robert. It's nice to know someone besides our family is reading this. It's great to look back on that experience - especially now that only one of the males is still alive.