What to do when a jackal steals your food
During this last week, a friend from CCF and I took a trip to Etosha National Park, the flagship nature reserve in Namibia. It is famous for its huge salt pan that is over 100 km wide at some points, but also famous for the wildlife that lives there. I had never been before so was very excited to go, especially as there is a lack of wildlife on and near my farm (partly due to it being poached out, potentially by the refugees at the camp just 15 km away….).
On the day of departure Anja was packing some items in the back of my car and found a scorpion next to the camp food box! She managed to get it out and I took a snap of it before we released it back into the wild away from our sleeping bags and mattresses – didn’t want to get a shocking surprise when getting into bed that night!
We arrived into the park at lunch time and had a brief drive around before heading to one of the rest camps as it was far too hot for both us and any wildlife to be out at that time of day. After having a much-needed dip in the rather lovely cool swimming pool, we headed back out for an afternoon game drive. We were not disappointed! A ghostly group of white-painted elephants (from rolling around in the clay, I assume) stood next to a waterhole drinking, a black rhinoceros wandered past us and two lions sat next to the road. A jackal took to the shade of an extremely small bush by the side of the road, noticeably panting. We stopped to watch, and as we did so, noticed that next to the bush was a den, and another jackal appeared! It trotted off into the distance, looking for an afternoon meal, maybe to feed some pups in the den.
As we were driving back to the rest camp for the night, we came across another black rhino on the side of the road. We stopped to take some photos (although we knew we were cutting it fine for the sunset curfew) and were very happy and taken aback that a spotted hyena was on the other side of the road watching the rhino! We sat there for a while seeing what would happen; the rhino didn’t appear to notice the hyena, but the hyena was very curious about the rhino. After a few minutes we decided that we needed to leave as we would otherwise get back to camp after the gates had closed. We sped along the road as the sun set and managed to get back to camp just 2 minutes before curfew – phew!
That night we went to the waterhole at the camp to see if there were any animals going for an evening drink. We were not disappointed! A herd of elephants drank silently at the water’s edge, opposite a group of dainty giraffes. Pairs of jackals ran around looking for bits to eat and oryx wandered off into the last few seconds of the sunset.
We went back to our campsite and decided to cook some dinner over a fire. I’ve never made a fire before, so Anja tried her best with the fuel we had, but as we didn’t have any fire lighters, couldn’t manage to get the fuel to stay alight. Fortunately a nearby camper gave us some so that we could cook our dinner – phew! As Anja was busy preparing the fire, I was entertaining myself with a very friendly jackal who kept circling the picnic spot. I bent down to extend my hand and the jackal even came over and sniffed me! How cute, I thought! The next second, the jackal had taken one of the plastic bags of food that was on the chair and was running off with it! Quickly, I rose to my feet and chased after it as fast as my little legs would carry me. After about 50m, it stopped, looked at me, and I glared at it, growling. It didn’t seem to like my offensive gesture, so dropped the bag and wandered off – food saved, woohoo!
After a rather yummy meal of 2-minute noodles with vegetables and beans, we hit the sack. Both of us didn’t really sleep well that night though, as a very rude pride of lions decided to come and roar next to our camp for most of the night – how inconvenient! Don’t they know that people are trying to sleep?!
A very groggy morning awaited us, as we clambered out of our tent too early in the morning. We left camp around 7 am and were very happy to see the same (probably) hyena wandering around the plains that we’d noticed the last night. Just a few kilometres up the road, another spotted hyena sat next to the road, but started moving off as the car pulled up next to it. I didn’t want it to escape before I’d got my picture of it, so Anja rolled down the window and I did my best whooping noise of a hyena calling for its clan mates. Either the hyena stopped and looked round to wonder what on earth that weird noise was, or it actually didn’t sound too far off the real thing, because it definitely seemed curious about who was making the whooping noise! Pictures taken, we then drove off to find what else we’d see.
We came to a very open savannah habitat near the pan’s edge with one of the few remaining natural waterholes still with water left in (it’s right at the end of the dry season here and we’re in the worst drought for 30 years). The biggest herd of zebra that I have ever seen were migrating towards the waterhole that already had a large group of wildebeest drinking from it. It was fantastic to see such a huge group of animals and I do love admiring the beautiful stripes of zebra.
As the area is so dry, we stopped by every waterhole we could to see what animals were there. The next waterhole we went to after the zebras and wildebeest had a fantastic array of animals there – giraffes, kudu, oryx, springbok, wildebeest, steenbok and goodness knows what else. It was strange to see that none of the animals were drinking though; they were all just standing there on high alert staring at one corner of the waterhole. As we got closer, we realised that there was a rather large pride of lions sat there drinking – including a cub!! The lions decided they’d had enough to drink and started walking off into the bushes, right towards a group of zebra. Although their bellies suggested that they had recently just eaten, it was still a bit tense watching them and wondering if they would try their luck with the zebra! Fortunately for the zebra though, they just strolled on by.
Next up we saw a very cute family of ostriches with mum, dad and around 11 very young chicks waddling around. And then we came to a waterhole and found a family of elephants, including a small calf! The group appeared very protective of their little one, as they sheltered it from the potential threat of predators (which also meant it was hard to get photos of it!).
Afterwards we took a detour next to the pan in a very beautiful open savannah area. We thought it looked like prime cheetah territory but I don’t think there are many cheetahs in Etosha so we never thought we would see one. However, as we took a bend in the road, I spotted a creature sat under a tree that looked strangely like a spotted feline! We got closer and there it was - A CHEETAH! It looked like it’d just woken up from a midday nap so we were lucky to spot it, as the grass was so tall there that you wouldn’t have noticed if it had been laid down.
That evening we stayed at another rest camp and watched the sun set over a lovely little pond (albeit without elephants in this time). I took a go at making the fire that night and with the use of some more fire lighters did a pretty good job! Fortunately no more noisy lions kept us awake that night, neither did any jackals try to steal our food. However, I still didn’t sleep too well, as I do find it hard to sleep in new places.
The next day was another groggy morning for me so we left the camp and drove in the wrong direction, heading out of the park. This ended up being very fortuitous for us though, as we came across a pride of lions eating a giraffe!! It looked like it was only recently killed as there wasn’t a lot that had been eaten. Like with most animals, predators like to go for the softest, most easily accessible part of their food first, which often happens to be their rear entrance! Yuck!
We left the lions to finish off their breakfast and headed back in the right direction this time. As we drove along, I noticed something move at the side of the road. I was very surprised to see that it was an African wild cat, in broad daylight!!! These are normally solely nocturnal animals, so it was amazing to see it out in the middle of the day! Again we tried our luck at making funny noises at the cat to get it to glance over (the kinds of noises you make to your pet cat, actually) and it seemed to work!
Just before leaving the park and heading home, Anja spotted a raptor sat on a tree next to the road. We went to get a closer looked and it was a pale chanting goshawk. A few seconds after arriving, another one landed on the dead tree too! Presumably a breeding pair. How lovely!
We had experienced such a wonderful time at Etosha that we were sad to leave but happy with the fantastic viewings we had been so lucky to see. I would definitely recommend going to Etosha in the dry season to anyone and especially to go check out all the waterholes they come across to see what they can find!