Monday, 20 March 2017

Namibia 2017 Part 15. Etosha N.P. Moving on...Halali Camp.

We woke up to another grey day at Okaukeujo, even the birds were quiet. The only four legged creatures at the waterhole were some Terrapins which had a Wood Sandpiper for company.
We went to breakfast and, passing the car, I was pleased the overnight rain had given it a bit of a wash!
Car wash
Breakfast was again self service and I'd decided to be naughty and pinch some cheese slices to put in the remainder of our bread to have for supper that night. Yes, we thought best to be prepared for more of the same at Halali and if we couldn't buy anything to put in the sandwich there wasn't much alternative than to take a little extra on my breakfast plate.
Only they didn't have any cheese today.
Not only that but the sausages I had enjoyed the previous day were positively vile today as they hadn't been cooked properly. You know straight away when the skin is elastic that it's raw.
That's the problem with mass catering although it shouldn't be. This wasn't even peak season but in fairness there were plenty of guests about.
You wouldn't have guessed that though, as we left our chalet for the final time the waterhole was totally deserted on both sides of the fence.
Okaukeujo Camp  Etosha NP
We loaded up the car just in time too as it started to rain.
So what do I think about Okaukuejo? To be honest in the wet season not a lot! The cost of a waterhole chalet must have been around £125 per night without dinner. Add the meal and it's £150.
Remember I'd only paid £91 per night including a sumptuous feast for both dinner and breakfast at Etosha Village. The room was superior too as were the facilities and in a more private setting. Ok, during the dry season game viewing at the waterhole might be excellent but you are paying even more then. I'd think twice on that one. I have my reservations about watching in the dark anyway. I'm not interested in taking flash shots either, not when you can see the animals in daylight.... hopefully!
I still hadn't seen my Lion!
Anyway, off we went, Claire driving again, me with my gear all ready to go!
Ready to go.
The weather wasn't too good at all though.
Blue Crane     Anthropoides Paradiseus
We passed some wet and bedraggled specimens 
Common Ostrich   Struthio Camelus
but I'm sure they would be enjoying it.
Southern Oryx (Gemsbok)
When the country has suffered such a drought we were happy that it was raining too. I just hope the animals in Grootberg were getting the benefit too.
As we headed east the rain became even heavier.
We caught up with the Storks again, I'm sure they were the same flock. 
Abdim's Stork   Ciconia Abdimii
The Etosha Pan actually appeared to have some water on it although it would take a lot to make a big difference I imagine.
Etosha Pan    Namibia
The rain was grounding some birds, it was raining too hard for insects to fly.
Barn Swallow   Hirundo Rustica
Made for some interesting shots though.
Shaft-tailed Whydah  Vidua Regia
They wouldn't be flying for a while either.
Yellow-billed Kite Milvus Parasitus
There was food about though for those that hunt on or around the ground.
Black-chested Prinia  Prinia Flavicans
I got some good views of these Prinias.
Black-chested Prinia  Prinia Flavicans
By the time we arrived at Halali Camp it was lunch time and the place was heaving. I got the last parking spot that was close to the covered area around reception and checked in.
We had had our request for a Chalet room turned down and got booked in to a standard room instead. A mere £84 including breakfast. I had my doubts as to what lay in front  but again I was pleasantly surprised. We'd been demoted from No1 at the last camp to No2 here though.

Halali Camp  Etosha NP
From the outside the room didn't look much but inside it was great.
Halali Camp  Etosha NP
Big room, bigger than both the other camps we had stayed in within the park and about half the price of Dolomite too.
Halali Camp  Etosha NP
We might not have had the view at Dolomite but we still got a private pool!
Halali Camp  Etosha NP
and in fairness the parking was very close by which is always an advantage although you had to pick your way carefully which I found to my disadvantage when I stood in an unseen puddle in my sandals.
Halali Camp  Etosha NP
Looked like we'd be picnicing inside tonight. We checked out the camp shop and they had nothing much they could offer for a sandwich filling so it was crisps on their own today!
Anyway, the rain eased off so we might as well go out again and once again we came up trumps.
First we found a Golden-breasted Bunting .
Golden-breatsed Bunting  Embieriza Flaviventris
but there was more good news to follow!
A Red-necked Falcon drying out!( I have since been since corrected, Lanner Falcon!)
Red-necked Falcon  Falco Chicquera
It was clearly expecting flight time soon and preparing it's feathers ready for the off.
Red-necked Falcon   Falco Chicquera
It was only the second one I have ever seen but I soon added a third.
Red-necked Falcon    Falco Chicquera
We were heading to Goa waterhole, well known for Lions. Oh yeah? Not when it rains!
Poor Claire had found herself lumbered as my chauffeur once more but at least the conditions were a bit more interesting.
Halali Camp  Etosha NP
In fact sometimes challenging!
Halali Camp  Etosha NP
You just have to hope there isn't a hidden hole in the road. The dread of stalling in the middle was always in the back of our mind but we escaped unscathed, well almost. At some point we lost our front number plate. Must have washed off in the bow wave.
It was whilst we were driving past a shallow pool that Claire made the spot of the day, well spot of the trip in fact.
She saw a slight ripple in the water and stopped to check it out. 
Amazing what appeared submarine like!
It was a Chameleon! Claire said it was the ripple that gave it away, the colours matched the surrounding road you would not have seen it otherwise.
It made fascinating viewing. Moving at a very slow and deliberate pace . It was so close I had a depth of field issue shooting at f8 but at this speed I could increase to f22 and still get a shot, especially as it turned sideways.
You have to give Claire the applause, not many would see one of those without a knowledgable guide.
I was so impressed I waved a passing car to stop and pointed out what to look for before driving on to the waterhole. No Lion as expected and 5 minutes later no sign of the car or the Chameleon when we got back. I guess either the Chameleon had found a quick turn of speed or the occupants of the car were not as interested as I'd been. Shame they might have been able to point out where it was had they still been there but I looked for a good while before giving up. Mind you it had probably changed colour by then so that would have helped fool me!
Driving on we came across a single Black-faced Impala which had me thinking ID for a moment as I hadn't seen one for ages.
Black-faced Impala
Turning around though it was obvious.
Black-faced Impala
Next on the list was a Groundscraper Thrush and so much closer than my sighting at Erongo,
Groundscraper Thrush   Psophocichla Litsitsirupa
but what I saw next was so much better.
African Cuckoo, a first ever for me.
African Cuckoo  Cuclus Gularis
It was having a good groom which makes for a more interesting shot in my book.
African Cuckoo  Cuclus Gularis
Once again the 600mm, 2x TC and the 7D came in to action as it was a considerable distance away.
Delighted with the shots, and I took lots I would have settled for that for the day but it wasn't over yet.
Lesser Grey Shrike      Lanius Minor
And it wasn't the Lesser Grey Shrike that got me excited either.
If it hadn't been for Claire's Chameleon I would have claimed spot of the trip with this Spotted Eagle Owl
Spotted Eagle-Owl  Bubo Africanus
We were heading back to camp believing the day was over and travelling at a fair speed, maybe 40kph when through a narrow gap in the trees I saw something and gave Claire the usual instruction
Only this time we had to reverse, move over to the wrong side of the road and it was on a sharpish bend too.
Still we had only seen a handful of cars all afternoon so it should be OK.
Getting a clear shot still wasn't easy though at the gap in the trees was narrow and the overhanging branches kept getting blow across my lens.
Spotted Eagle-Owl  Bubo Africanus
I checked out the bird book.
Spotted Eagle-Owl  Bubo Africanus
It had to be one of two choices.
Spotted or Cape Eagle-Owl. I had seen Spotted in the past when in Kenya so I really wanted it to be the other. The ones I'd seen previously had been grey in colour, this one was brown. The book showed Spotted to be Grey too, the Cape however is Brown. Spotted juveniles are Brown too but it seems but the deciding factor is the colour of the eyes.
On with the 2x TC again and wait for the Owl to open them as from a distance I couldn't decide it they were yellow or orange.
Spotted Eagle-Owl  Bubo Africanus
Yellow. Oh well, Spotted Eagle-Owl is not to be sniffed at and definitely worth a beer to celebrate. In fact we would have a few!
When we got back to camp we were amazed to find hardly a car to be seen. The place was deserted.
We drove through to the parking area for the waterhole just out of curiosity to see the set up.
Halali Camp  Etosha NP
It looked to have tremendous potential for photography.
Halali Camp  Etosha NP
There was another couple already there but I decided there wasn't any point in hanging around and headed off to the bar. They appeared an hour later so I was able to confirm the decision was the correct one. They hadn't seen a thing.
The beers had gone down well, they were actually slightly cheaper too if I recall, maybe 26NR against 30NR at the last two camps but I might not have got that right. We were offered the menu, again 230NR for three courses but what was much better was you could order each course separately and the cost was appropriately reduced. I was tempted as crisp butties didn't quite seem like a decent dinner ! Instead we stuck with the beer just in case the food was bad. Amazingly by around 8.00pm there were still no more than a dozen or so diners. The food they were being served was cooked to order and everyone we spoke to said it was not bad at all.
We actually thoroughly enjoyed our crisp butties sat on the floor of our room so it wasn't too bad a loss.
If I was to stay within the park again, Halali would be my choice and I thought the room perfectly adequate. What I couldn't understand was why I hadn't been able to book a chalet room as there were probably no more than 40 people staying in the whole camp. Still, I saved a few rand and would happily choose the same room again too.
We were only there for the night, I wished I'd booked longer. Our next destination was outside the park gates again. A place called Emanya@Etosha . I had reduced the number of nights twice from my original plan of 7 , then 4 now 3 and I was a bit dubious about that too. They had had terrible trip advisor reports.
Too late to cancel now though or I'd forfeit the whole amount of the booking which would have been £215, I suppose at £70 per night I should expect the worst. Budget considerations as alway. Mind you the nearest lodge to them was £280 a night and way beyond what I was wanting to pay.
We would soon find out what lay ahead though.
In the meantime, sleep!

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