It's 6.30am Namibian time, the the ominous dark gate blocks our path to getting where we need to go. I anxiously watch the Eastern horizon where the sun is starting to brighten the sky. To pass the time I apply sunblock to my face and lips willing the gatekeeper to appear. Then, just as the first golden orange sliver appears the gate miraculously slides open and after some flashing of papers we are finally on our way. First turn to the right and we hit the white chalky roads of Etosha.
There are few animals to be seen and soon the bush breaks into open plains that are just perfect for a cheetah. But, of course there isn't a cheetah in sight. First stop is Gemsbokvlakte, a barren waterhole, amidst the white chalk. We stop in the designated parking area, there is hardly an animal in sight. We're new to this so we decide to wait. Soon enough a few springbok appear and a quick scuffle around the waterhole between two rams sets my shutter off. But, that is all and we move on. A circuitous route via several waterholes and 48 kilometers later we find ourselves at Charitsaub a waterhole that really, really doesn't do much for exciting photography. There is a lion drinking on his own, a young male that looks as though he may have been ousted from a pride. Then, suddenly on the southern horizon a huge shape emerges from the bush. It always intrigues me that although an elephant appears to be walking slowly they cover huge distances in very little time. This is a very big elephant. His sunken head indicates that he has seen many moons pass over Etosha. As he gets nearer his size becomes intimidating, but he is only intent on reaching the water. He dips his trunk into the murky liquid for a few seconds and then laboriously raises his massive trunk towards his mouth. Once his thirst is quenched he steps forward into the water and starts slurping up the water and spraying it over himself. The water is like a large milky fountain and as he sprays the cool liquid over himself he changes color from a light grey to a dirty white. He spends an inordinately long time in the water splashing around making sure that he has covered his whole body with the muddy water. He turns and heads out towards the Pan and as he gets into some thorny bush devoid of any leaves he stops and suddenly his trunk flies up in the air and a cloud of dust surrounds him. We watch, fascinated by this ritual. Then, he trundles on forth towards the Pan and disappears into the distance.
We take to the road again and after a few call-ins at various waterholes where only a few springbok, zebras and gemsbok lurk on the edges of the water we head off to the picnic spot/toilet. For the uninitiated this must be a real shock. I enter the rather smelly circular building and find a pit toilet that is endearingly referred to as a longdrop in our neck of the woods. Frankly I'd rather take a spade and head off into the bush!
The sun starts dipping towards the Western horizon and we head off in the same direction. As we approach Nebrowni waterhole we once again get sight of another two gargantuan edifices. This time I can get in close. We edge nearer and nearer to the elephants as other cars leave the sighting and it is not long before I can take my wide angle lens out of its cover and take some low level shots of these magnificent beasts.
The end of the day finds us barreling down the road heading towards the exit gate having seen some another of Africa's greats. What a day! As that golden orb slides effortlessly down below the horizon the gate slides closed firmly behind us. Until tomorrow.