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For many people, going on an African photo safari can be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure and you cannot afford to make any major mistakes as you won’t be able to return to correct them!
It is therefore important to have as much accurate information as possible before arriving. You need to know what safari clothing to bring, what photo gear to take along, how far the various camps are from each other, whether you can have a braai (BBQ) or if you must eat at the restaurants, what animals you are most likely to see where and so on.
Etosha, being the crown-jewel of national parks in Namibia, gets over 200 000 visitors per year and is one of the world’s most popular national parks. If you intend visiting Etosha on a self-drive safari, here are a few questions for you to gauge how well you know the park:
Question #1: As a wildlife photographer, it is NOT possible to drive from Namutoni camp to Dolomite camp in one day.
Question #2: This is the only camp in Etosha that does NOT have a waterhole:
Question #3: The only time visitors see animals is during the dry season (June to September)
Question #4: What accessory don’t you need to photograph at night from the camp waterholes?
C. Flash bracket
Question #5: There are braai (BBQ) facilities at the chalets in only the two following camps:
A. Namutoni and Onkoshi
B. Okaukuejo and Halali
C. Halali and Dolomite
D. Dolomite and Okaukuejo
E. All the above camps have Braai (BBQ) facilities
Answer to Question #1: A. True – Namutoni, which is situated on the eastern border of the park, is about 310 kilometres from Dolomite, which is situated in the west of the park. The speed limit in Etosha is one of the highest in African parks, 60 kilometres per hour (compared to 50 in the Kruger and 40 in the Pilanesberg). Even so, you would need to leave camp as the sun rises, then travel at 50-60 kilometres per hour with very few stops, maybe even skip lunch, and possibly kill a few animals in the road and not be able to stop for very long if you spot a pride of lions – this is not a relaxing vacation! The reservations office knows this and will not allow you to book concurrent nights at these two camps – you would need to leave from Okaukuejo or Halali to get to Dolomite in one day.
Answer to Question #2: E. Onkoshi does not have a waterhole as it situated right on the pan and so cannot have a waterhole. Game viewing, therefore, is not as good around this camp as it is at the other four camps. The amazing sunsets and water birds do, however, make up for the lack of animals at the camp. The waterholes at Halali and Okaukuejo are very close to the camp (50 meters) whereas the waterhole at Dolomite is about 350 meters away, making night photography a challenge.
Answer to Question #3: B. False – you can see animals all through the year. During winter the animals tend to come to you, meaning that they are attracted to the various waterholes so you don’t have to drive very far to look for them, whereas in summer you need to drive around in order to see the game. The game viewing during summer can also provide more appealing photographs as you will have the wild flowers blooming and a photo of a leopard in a field of yellow wild flowers is most attractive and unusual!
Answer to Question #4: D. Polarizer – this is a filter that is needed during the day to darken the sky and to tame the harsh sunlight reflecting off the white salt pan, but you will not use it at night. The other four items are necessities in order to get good photographs at the camp waterholes. In addition, a low-light camera such as the Nikon D3S, D800 or D4 would be a big advantage for nocturnal photography.
Answer to Question #5: B. Okaukuejo and Halali are the only two camps that provide braai (BBQ) facilities for visitors staying in the chalets. And then not all the chalets in Halali and Okaukuejo have these facilities – you will need to ask for these specific units when making your reservation. If you are, however, camping then three camps provide braai facilities; Halali, Okaukuejo and Namutoni.
Okay, so how did you do? If you scored 5 out of 5 then it’s looking good for you – you seem to know the park and should be able to plan a successful photo safari. If, however, you did not do well then you need to brush up on your Etosha facts. You can read more about Etosha and challenge yourself with a more comprehensive 20-question quiz on this Etosha page: Wildlife Photography in Etosha National Park.
write by Elfreda