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False 20 Travel Namibia Essential Namibia of Africa’s top wildlife reserves. It’s one of our favourite places because, in this bleached landscape of shimmering heat - Etosha means ‘ great white place’ - it’s possible to pick up the stories of individual animals encountered on previous game drives. Etosha is one of those places where you can really tune in to the unique rhythms of its ecosystem. Because the landscape is so open, it’s an excellent place to see and photograph iconic African wildlife at whatever time of year you visit. It’s also one of the best places for seeing some of the smaller, lesser- known, but equally fascinating creatures, like bat- eared foxes, silver foxes, honey badgers and the diminutive dik- dik antelope. Many operators run tours to the park, but Etosha is also an excellent self- drive destination. The park is easily reachable from Windhoek along Namibia’s well maintained, empty, metalled roads. And you can negotiate the reserve’s gravel roads in a two- wheel drive sedan, although a larger 4WD does provide a little extra comfort, and after heavy wet season rains a few roads can flood. You don’t need an expert guide to take you round, as the road lay- out is simple and you can buy a roadmap of the reserve on arrival. The roads explore the thorn bush and arid savannah grasslands that skirt the south and east sides of the reserve’s most dramatic landscape feature, the expansive Etosha pan. This massive dried- up lake is around 120 kilometres long and up to 60 kilometres wide. The reserve’s 100 plus mammal species and 340 or so bird species can be a lot easier to locate in this vast wilderness than in many more densely- vegetated reserves. The drive between each restcamp is only about 70 kilometres and petrol is available at each camp, as well as a shop selling basic supplies and a restaurant. The best time to visit? Most people choose to go in the dry season, with August to October being the busiest months. This is certainly the best time if you want to see large concentrations of game, including big elephant herds, lurking predators and hundreds of herbivores gathered en masse at water. At this time of year the best way to enjoy the reserve is to simply park up at a waterhole and let Etosha’s wildlife come to you. The downside of a dry season visit is that everyone else also wants to visit then, so you do need to book well in advance. Call us perverse, but our favourite season in Etosha is the Southern Hemisphere summer. The reserve attracts fewer visitors at this time because of the heat - temperatures can exceed 40 degrees - and there is the ever- present threat of thunderstorms. But Etosha wears a completely different mask at this time of year. It’s lush and green, alive with waterbirds, an unexpected treat in a usually arid reserve ( in good rainfall years the pan shimmers with pale pink clouds of flamingos) and most of the animals have their young then. You won’t see big elephant herds at this time, as they disperse deep into the bush, and game generally is scarcer, but so too are other tourists. And those thunderstorms can be spectacular. There’s also a lot to be said for visiting around April and May, when daytime temperatures are more bearable and the chillier nights of winter have yet to arrive. Back on our afternoon game drive we’re still on the lookout for our lioness. Ivy’s afternoon routine is unusual. Unlike most lions that rarely stir before sundown, Ivy starts moving around the bush in the late afternoon. She’s quite conspicuous too; boldly crossing the open terrain, advertising her presence to anything nearby. We pick her up like this again today, sitting quite openly on the edge of the plain. We stop, scanning the nearby bushes for the four cubs. Not one is to be seen. But Ivy seems content enough sitting there and isn’t looking about her constantly as she might if the cubs were missing. When the cubs still don’t show after a while we decide to drive on. The light’s softening now. We wonder if we’ll run into the clan of hyena we’ve seen a few times nearby, most recently making light, but noisy, work of a zebra carcass which they had filched from three Of all the pride members, Ivy has captivated us most. Something about her assured manner suggests that she’s a seasoned and skilful lioness. photo TIPS n Make use of the golden light at the start and end of the day. This is also when predators and crepuscular creatures become active. n Cut camera shake by supporting long lenses on bean bags over the open window of your vehicle. We make ours from the sawn- off thigh sections of old trousers which we fill with rice, sewing up the last open end on arrival. n Switch off your engine when you stop to photograph. This will cut camera shake and is less likely to spook your subjects. Coast up to subjects with the engine turned off if possible. n Never reverse up to an animal or bird you’ve driven past. Drive past, turn the car round and approach the subject again slowly from the front. Ivy, the lioness Ann & Steve Toon

False Travel Namibia 21 Etosha is one of our favourite places because, in this bleached landscape of shimmering heat - Etosha means ‘ great white place’ - it’s possible to pick up the stories of individual animals Searching for water. Ostriches on Etosha PanAnn & Steve Toon Waterhole madness Gondwana Collection