*This section is due to be revamped with additional pages containing general information and images which will hopefully be of interest to anyone planning to visit.*
The Ozonjuitji m'Bari waterhole was visited three times during our second holiday in Namibia and it proved to be one of Etosha`s highlights. Having booked a couple of nights at Dolomite Rest Camp, which is located in the previously restricted western section of the park, we set-off from Okaukuejo just after first light on the 290 km drive. Dolomite opened in June 2011 and initially only guests staying there were granted access to the vast western section of Etosha by driving in from Okaukuejo but now visitors can also access the area directly from the south via the Galton Gate which some may find more convenient. The western section of Etosha sees very few visitors compared to the rest of the Park and most of the time we had the waterholes to ourselves - three cars at any one spot is classed as busy!
After checking out at Okaukuejo`s reception we set off with the rising sun still low in the sky. The first wildlife encounter was a family of Giraffe at the roadside. Most of the waterholes along the first part of the route are totally dry and haven't held water for decades. Grunewald (not illustrated), only a short diversion from the main road, is one such location. Despite the dry conditions, large areas were almost like open UK parkland in autumn with lots of well-spaced trees and golden brown leaves.
The appearance of our 4x4 startled a Honey Badger foraging right beside the track. I missed out on a good close-up as it quickly toddled off but managed this shot for the record. These elusive animals are not usually seen during daylight hours. Back on the main road, a pair of Rhino were spotted grazing in the distance.
Unlike some of the other waterholes off the north side of the main Dolomite - Okaukuejo road, Ozonjuitji m'Bari is an excellent location for photography in the morning light. It's a magnet for plains game where literally hundreds of herbivores can be within sight at any one time. This was one of many spots we had to ourselves and sat for over an hour taking in the constantly-changing scene, before reluctantly continuing on our way.
Hawks were hunting among huge flocks of Namaqua Sandgrouse and smaller birds coming to the trough, successfully latching onto a target every few attempts and devouring their catch on the ground. In the shot on the left, a raptor can be seen in the top left corner starting its attack dive. A pair of Lanner Falcons were doing particularly well.
Even at the height of the dry season, waterbirds can be found albeit in reduced numbers. The heron pictured below was scanning for potential prey from the top of the waterhole pump`s solar panel.
One minute, there were only a few animals in view, then large herds and sometimes individual animals would appear and make their way over.
Wildebeest, apparently desperate for water, charged down kicking-up a large cloud of dust in the process while other animals just ambled along.
A few days later, on the return journey from Dolomite to Okaukuejo, intermittent wildlife sightings continued but the scene that greeted us at Ozonjuitji m`Bari was nothing short of amazing! I`d never seen so many animals together in one place - there must have been well over 1,000 spread across the plains with large herds and individuals, coming to or going from the waterhole. Just before I turned off the main road, I saw these four lionesses sheltering from the sun, just out of sight of the vast procession of potential prey. Luckily for this Giraffe, they`d obviously decided to wait until it was a bit cooler before hunting.
I spotted Secretary Birds at various locations but they were all fairly distant. This one ended up being my best shot.
The common name for this species is thought to have originated from the crest of long quill-like feathers around the head, which gives the bird a secretary-like appearance with quill pens tucked behind the ears, as was once common practice. An alternative suggestion is that "secretary" is borrowed from a French corruption of the Arabic saqr-et-tair or `hunter-bird`.
Although similar to crane when viewed from a distance or in flight, the Secretary Bird is instantly recognisable due to its eagle-like body on crane-like legs which increases the bird’s height to as much as 1.3 m (4.3 ft) tall.
These birds prefer open grasslands and savannas rather than forests or dense shrubbery and although they spend much of their day on the ground, they return to roosting sites, usually the local Acacia trees, just before dark. Unlike most birds of prey, the Secretary Bird hunts on foot. Adults work in pairs and sometimes as loose familial flocks, stalking through the habitat with long strides to flush or catch their meal. Prey may consist of insects, mammals ranging in size from mice to hares and mongoose, crabs, lizards, snakes, tortoises, small birds, birds` eggs, and sometimes dead animals that have perished as a result of a grass or bush fire. Snakes also feature on their diet including venomous species such as adders and cobras.
These are all Burchell`s Zebra but the rarer Hartmann's Mountain Zebra also visit here although they're more often found at the waterholes closer to Dolomite Camp. Hartmann`s is a subspecies of the mountain zebra found only in far south-western Angola and western Namibia. They prefer to live in small groups of 7-12 individuals. They are agile climbers with the ability to survive in arid conditions and steep mountainous country. The main identifying features are that their stripes are thin, all black and close together. The stripes also go all the way down the animals` legs, unlike those of the common or Burchell`s Zebra.
One of the highlights here was seeing the Zebra stallions battle. The fights were usually vicious but brief.
As well as Zebra stallions, male Springbok and Oryx were all having `head-to-heads`, kicking up plenty of dust in the process.
A Red Hartebeest.*
Around mid-day, this big male lion just sauntered up amongst the hundreds of animals at the waterhole and took down an Oryx which had been drinking contentedly at the water`s edge. This was the scene once the other animals had scattered and the dust had cleared - no wonder this Warthog decided to make itself scarce!
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