We are off to Detroit in the morning, to spend the weekend with my favourite sister-in-law – Cindy to her friends, but Cynthia to her sister. I thought – considering where we are going – I should leave you with a photo, as I will most likely be maintaining radio silence until we are back home after the weekend. No, it’s not Trump – it’s about as good-looking, but it’s a helluva lot smarter. It’s a rhino, heading down to the waterhole at Halali in Etosha, Namibia, for an after-dark rumble. Which about fits the bill, doesn’t it?
Here are three photographs of gemsbok, in Etosha, one in black and white two in colour – I might try the colour photos in black and white, also. What do you think? Also a photo of the Okaukuejo waterhole in the early morning, with zebra caught in the bands of sunlight, and one more (sorry about this) of a zebra misbehaving. All, by the way, from the files I restored on Friday.
One night at Okaukuejo, it might have been our first night there, two male lions materialised out of the darkness, and stepped across the rough stones to the water and drank, in complete silence, before dissolving again, and vanishing into the night, as swiftly and unexpectedly as they had come. Some time later we heard them roaring in the darkness, not too far from the camp – one of those sounds that, once heard in the wild, you never forget. I told you about this some time ago, remember? I grabbed several photos, in the available light and the few available minutes: most of them were blurred, but here’s one that, despite – or perhaps because of – the softness and granularity, might just begin to communicate something of that incredible moment.
Here is a photo of the Okaukuejo waterhole, at daybreak: this one’s in colour, to try to capture that crisp, sharp, brilliant light of the early morning. And a photo of springbok. You’ll notice that the nearer animals are blurry, with the point of focus somewhere there in the middle. It’s an odd effect, and I’m not sure that it works, but I kind of like it anyway because it gives, to my mind at least, the impression of a sea, a wave of springbok sweeping across the veld, which is what it was like, really. See what you think.
I missed it, but Rob’s eagle eye – over breakfast this morning, at the bottom of page L4 in the Life and Arts section of The Globe and Mail – spotted my photograph, just as it was about to be tossed into the recycling. I had submitted the image last week, just for the fun of it – to be clear, this was not a competition, there is no jury, no fee or award – and had heard nothing back from Canada’s national daily, so had forgotten all about it. And it was a little thrill, to be honest, to see my image there in print, even though it is just one amongst the hundreds of reader photos that the Globe publishes every year, to keep its readers happy and its pages filled. A published photographer at last, at the tender age of – well, old enough, anyway. Sweet! Here is the photo in question.
Etosha Pan – a salt pan which lies like a vast silver sea at the heart of Namibia’s premier wildlife reserve – is hard to describe. Shimmering, lifeless, it stretches out to the horizon and reaches into the sky – until suddenly you see a troop of oryx plodding silently across it, way off in the distance, or an island rising out of the motionless ocean. The four images here focus on the pan itself, not on the wildlife; I hope with the black and white rendering to communicate some sense of the immensity, the desolation, and the spiritual beauty of one of our planet’s true wilderness spaces. I will be making art quality prints available for sale, for anyone who might be interested. Just leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you.
The viewing site at Etosha’s Halali camp is built into a rocky crag, with the cliff at your back and the Moringa waterhole below. You look down upon an arena, or theatre, with the evening sun in your eyes, until the light begins to fade and the orange glow of the floodlights comes on. Trundling down the path to our left, out of the bushes, or wings if you like, came the first of our first evening’s protagonists – a large black rhinoceros. He proceeded straight to the pool, dipped his head to drink, and took a few steps into the water. Stepped out again, circled, entered again stage right, this time up to his belly. What a treat, we thought – to the whirring of shutters as the small group of us baking on the exposed rock fired away with our cameras. And then, out of the bushes, centre, emerged a second black rhino. Marched down to the water, put in a foot, waded
A lot of our viewing in Etosha was at the waterholes, where we would sit in the car and wait and watch, and watch and wait. Sometimes we would see stuff, and sometimes we wouldn’t. On the open plains, too, we would drive and drive and see very little, and then we would come across vast herds of springbok, or zebra, or wildebeest, or oryx, whose sheer numbers would overpower the eye – I will include a few photos later, to see if I can give you a sense of the sheer scale of things. At one waterhole, we were watching a few antelope and zebra when out of the bushes to our right, in the distance, a herd of elephants emerged – and man, were they in a hurry! They headed straight for the waterhole and splashed right through it, with barely a pause, and marched on smartly into the bushes to our left. Something must have spooked them, because we barely
From the black rhino that paddled in the waterhole one night at Okaukuejo, to the hulking, huge bull elephant who loomed out of the bushes near where we were parked and scared the bejesus out of us, here are a few more Etosha images.
Day One in Etosha ended as it had begun, back at the Okaukuejo camp. The camps in the park, run by Namibia Wildlife Resorts, were comfortable and clean, though not always well maintained, and the staff, I regret to say, were for the most part graduates of the Soviet school of hospitality – surly, unhelpful, unresponsive. The food was pretty dreadful, and expensive. The best bet, we discovered, was to get a burger for lunch at the cafeteria, and avoid the dinner buffets altogether. The waterhole at Okaukuejo, famed in the guide books for its ‘teeming’ animals, was mostly deserted. We sat up late and got up early, waiting with tripod and cameras and binoculars for that magical sighting, and were lucky enough to see two male lions appear after dark, the one night, to drink, and then – quite literally – melt away into the darkness. We saw a rhino, too, splashing about in the waterhole after dark, black-backed
You know how it is, I have work to do – so here are a couple more photos taken along the road to Okondeka. When it comes to procrastination, I am a master…
The road to Okondeka runs west from the Okaukuejo camp, the main rest camp in Namibia’s fabulous Etosha wildlife reserve. You head out across open plains, waving with grasses, and then the salt pan comes into view on your right, a silver, lunar sea that runs to the horizon. A haze of heat and dust hangs in the air, fine, like powder. We watch for a while as a black-backed jackal skirmishes with a pair of vultures at a carcase; further on, a long line of zebra, preceded by wildebeest, crests a low hill and winds towards us. It is pretty much true to say that over that first morning, and the days that followed, almost all sense of time vanished: the vast expanse swallows you up, and your everyday human concerns and anxieties with it. In that sense, Etosha is a spiritual as much as a tourist experience. Which is a good thing as the latter – aka Namibia Wildlife Resorts – is