In The Park

Prebooking for the NWR-run rest camps listed following is mandatory. Although it is sometimes possible to reserve a space at either of the park gates, it's best to contact the NWR office in Windhoek (see p315) well in advance of your visit.

Okaukuejo Rest Camp (camping for 4 people US$20, economy r or bungalows US$33,2-bed r US$41,3-bed bungalows US$41, 4-bed chalets US$50, 4-bed luxury' bungalows

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO TRACKING GAME

Visitors to Africa are always amazed at the apparent ease with which professional guides locate and spot their quarry. While most of us can't hope to replicate their skills in a brief visit, a few pointers can hone your approach.

Time of day - this is possibly the most important factor for determining animal movements and behaviours. Dawn and dusk tend to be the most productive periods for mammals and many birds. They're the coolest parts of the day, and also produce the richest light for photographs. Although the middle of the day is usually too hot for much action, this is when some antelope feel less vulnerable at a watering hole, and when raptors and reptiles are most obvious.

Weather - prevailing weather conditions can greatly affect your wildlife-viewing experience. For example, high winds may drive herbivores and birds into cover, so concentrate your search in sheltered areas. Summer thunderstorms are often followed by a flurry of activity as insect colonies and frogs emerge, followed by their predators. Overcast or cool days may prolong activity such as hunting by normally crepuscular predators, and extremely cold winter nights force nocturnal species to stay active at dawn.

Water - most animals drink daily when water is available, so water sources are worthwhile places to invest time, particularly in the dry season. Predators and very large herbivores tend to drink early in the day or at dusk, while antelopes tend to drink from the early morning to midday. On the coast, receding tides are usually followed by the appearance of wading birds and detritus feeders such as crabs.

Food sources - knowing what your quarry eats will help you to decide where you should spend most of your time. A flowering aloe might not hold much interest at first glance, but knowing that it is irresistible to many species of sunbirds might help to change your mind. Fruiting trees attract monkeys while herds of herbivores with their young are a predator's dessert cart.

Habitat - knowing which habitats are preferred by each species is a good beginning, but just as important is knowing where to look in those habitats. Animals aren't merely randomly dispersed within their favoured habitats. Instead, they seek out specific sites to shelter - hollows, trees, caves and high points on plains. Many predators use open grasslands, but also gravitate towards available cover such as large trees, thickets or even grass tussocks. Ecotones - where one habitat merges into another - can be particularly productive because species from both habitats overlap.

Tracks and signs - even when you don't see animals, they leave many signs of their presence. Spoor (tracks), scat (droppings), pellets, nests, scrapes and scent-marks provide information about wildlife, and may even help to locate it. Check dirt and sand roads when driving - it won't take long for you to recognise interesting spoor. Elephant footprints are unmistakable, and large predator tracks are fairly obvious. Also, many wild cats and dogs use roads to hunt, so look for where the tracks leave the road - often they mark the point where they began a stalk or sought out a nearby bush for shade.

Equipment - probably the most important piece of equipment you can have is a good pair of binoculars. These help to not only spot wildlife, but also correctly identify it (this is essential for birding). Binoculars are also useful for viewing species and behaviours where close approaches are impossible. Field guides, which are pocket-sized books that depict mammals, birds, flowers etc of a specific area with photos or colour illustrations, are also invaluable. These guides also provide important identification pointers and a distribution map for each species.

Remember, although the majority of foreign visitors to Southern Africa choose to join an organised safari, nothing is comparable to the thrill of doing it yourself.

US$58, 4-bed self-catering bungalows US$95; IP] «J) Okaukuejo's camping ground is a bit of a dust hole, but the self-catering accommodation may be the nicest in the park. The bungalows and chalets all have a kitchen, braai pit, and bathroom and toilet facilities.

The floodlit water hole is probably Etosha's best rhino-viewing venue, particularly from 8pm to 10pm. Also popular is the sunset photo frenzy from Okaukuejo's landmark stone tower, which affords a view across the spaces to the distant Ondundozonananandana (Lost Shepherd Boy) Mountains; try saying that after three pints of Windhoek lager (or even before!).

Halali Rest Camp (camping for 4 people US$20,2-bed r US$37, economy bungalows US$42, self-catering bungalows US$48-81) Etosha's middle camp, Halali, nestles between several incongruous dolomite outcrops. The name is comes from a German term for the ritual horn-blowing to signal the end of a hunt, and a horn is now Halali's motif. A floodlit water hole extends wildlife viewing into the night, and allows observation of nocturnal creatures. The watering hole at Halali is arguably the best wildlife-viewing venue in the park. The bungalows are for four people.

Namutoni Rest Camp (camping for4 people USS20; 2-bed rwith shared bathroom US$18,2-bed r US$41,2-bed economy flats inside/outside the fort US$38/27, 4-bed chalets US$45, 4-bed flats US$42/50, 4-bed luxury ste US$87) The most popular and best kept of the camps is Namutoni, with its landmark whitewashed German fort. It originally served as an outpost for German troops, and in 1899 the cavalry built a fort from which to control Owambo uprisings.

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Reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information presented in this book is  accurate. However, the reader should understand that the information provided does not constitute legal, medical or professional advice of any kind.

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