So first things first ….. NEVER believe Google Maps if it tells you that there’s a shortcut to Olifantsrus coming from Kamanjab. Because it’s not a shortcut, in fact, it’s not even a proper road. Let me tell you how we found out the hard way….
Happy Campers BotsNam 2018 – Travel log Day 07 & 08
|Day 07 & 08 – Olifantsrus Rest Camp, Etosha National |
|Type of lodging||Camping|
|Water at site||Yes, shared with your neighbor|
|Diesel||No diesel top-ups on these two days|
We left Oppi-Koppi early in the morning seeing as we read that the road inside Etosha towards Olifantsrus is a tough one. We filled up with diesel and checked all the tyres before we got onto the road heading out towards Etosha. Soon after the GPS told us to turn off the C35 onto a dirt road heading straight towards Olifantsrus. We weren’t too surprised seeing as 90% of the traveling we’ve done in Namibia so far has been on dirt roads and this one didn’t look too shabby. Turns out we were getting hopelessly lost, as we were heading into farmlands, with no access to Etosha whatsoever. After traveling for roughly 120kms in the wrong way, we were finally directed to the main road heading out to Galton Gate which were in actual fact only 68km from Kamanjab. What would have been a 130km trip turned into a 232km trip for us. Needless to say, we ignored Google Maps for the next couple of days…
The road from Galton Gate towards Olifantsrus is definitely the road less traveled. Olifantsrus is a fairly new rest camp in the western region of Etosha, and the only rest camp to offer camping only accommodation. There’s only 10 campsites with a maximum number of 8 people per campsite, with most of the camp sites having a power outlet and a water tap. Electricity is provided via a big generator which is turned off at night and there’s a lovely communal kitchen for those overlanders that does not have a built in kitchen in their rig. We made our camp right next to the fence but the grass was tall so we couldn’t see much of the waterhole or the grasslands surrounding it.
We spent our days looking for elephants and other wild animals up and down the main game viewing routes, and we were lucky enough to find some of the biggest elephants we’ve ever seen. Etosha is very similar to the Kgalagadi in that you have to work hard for your sightings. There’s not a lot of game viewing loops so your best bet is to travel from waterhole to waterhole in the hopes of seeing the animals. Sadly the predators evaded us but we really enjoyed seeing big herds of zebra, spring buck and blue wildebeest.
The viewing hide at Olifantsrus is absolutely spectacular, and you can spend time there no matter what the weather conditions look like. It’s a double story hide, with an open and exposed area at the top and closed off pavilion like section at the bottom. It’s very well lit up at night, well until they switch off the electricity in any case, and we had an amazing elephant sighting right there one evening. I just wish people will teach their young ones to keep quiet when you visit these hides. The animals are not habituated towards people and the slightest noise can chase them away. It’s really so annoying to sit there and watching an elephant slowly make his way to come to the waterhole, only to have the neighbors three year old shouting from the top of his lungs. If you know your kids can’t keep quiet, then rather stay away, but don’t spoil it for everyone else.
Olifantsrus has a rather macabre history and story to tell. During a severe drought period during 1983 and 1985 park officials were forced to undertake a huge elephant culling operation. This was done in order to prevent the desertification of the region which would in turn threaten the survival of other species such as the endangered black rhino. It was also decided that these killings would not be in vain and the officials used this operation as n opportunity to study the Etosha elephants in depth so as to get to know the animals better. In total 525 elephants were culled and the meat was distributed amongst the communities living in and around the national park. By carefully monitoring the elephant numbers in the park as well as the ban on ivory trade, the culling operation was never repeated after these times. The huge steel structures that were used as elephant gallows can be seen as soon as you drive into the rest camp. These rather imposing structures really brings this sad story to life, and the little museum next to the structures is full of information from the culling period as well as what came after that.
“Culling of elephants is a controversial and highly emotive issue. The severe drought between 1980 and 1983 led to the die-off of grass cover at Etosha but at the same time an increase in the population of elephants due to immigration. In 1983, a decision to remove a percentage of the elephant population was based on the perception that their numbers would accelerate desertification and threaten the survival of other species, including the endangered black rhino”. Olifantsrus museum, Etosha National Park
Our last night at Olifantsrus was a noisy one, as a huge South African touring group pulled in to the camp late in the afternoon. This is exactly why South Africans have a very bad reputation when it comes to the national parks in our neighboring countries. We always thought that people were exaggerating when they spoke about rowdy Saffers taking over rest camps but during our stay in Etosha we experienced it first hand at all three rest camps where we stayed at. From we could hear, they didn’t book their stay at Olifantsrus but due to the time they arrived at the camp they were allocated the overflow camp sites with no power and water. They proceeded to annex our poor neighbor’s power point and with ten different rigs all geared up with fridges, microwaves and flood lights, they managed to trip the camps generator roughly ten times before the camp manager switched off the generator for the night. Screaming children running up and down the viewing hide’s ramp, babies screaming at the top of their lungs and their mom’s shrieking that got louder as the wine bottles were emptied. We were so relieved that it was only the one night that we had to endure this torture and we were up at the crack of dawn to pack up our camp site and get going to our next stop – Okaukeyo rest camp.
On a side note, turns out our neighbor was from Cape Town, and he too took the dirt road as suggested by Google Maps. They got so lost they had to camp out on one of the farms the night before we so we felt very relieved that it wasn’t only us who got duped by Google Maps…