Rob and I were full of happy anticipation when we drove up to the Reception area of the campsite at Hobatere Lodge, on the western side of Etosha. We’d heard that the place was game-rich and that the birding was very good so the weekend seemed quite promising. Imagine our dismay when the gentleman manning the gate advised us not to wander too far from the campsite as there were lions in the area. When you’ve just driven over 400 kms to have a birding weekend, hearing that does somewhat put a damper on your plans, but we reckoned that a (safe) lion encounter would no doubt make up for the inconvenience.
We located a nice campsite on the edge of a rocky outcrop and then drove the 16 kms further up the road to the lodge to confirm what we’d been told. And sure enough, the manager said that we did have to be careful of lions. He told us, however, that there were folks doing research on black mongooses and that we should go with them when they checked traps. This didn’t really suit us at all from a birding perspective.
There is an enormous hide at the lodge itself where one can look out over the plains. We didn’t have much luck with animal sightings there though, possibly due to the time of day. We were hesitant to book a guided early morning walk* (see footnote below) because of the rather long road we’d had to negotiate to get from the campsite to the lodge. It looked like we’d be confined to the campsite for most of the weekend.
On our way back to the campsite we came across this beautiful chameleon making its jerky way across the road. What a magnificent specimen!
We also saw a pair of double-banded sandgrouse sunning themselves in the road. I love the striking markings on these birds.
In spite of the lion warnings, the weekend turned out to be very enjoyable after all. We managed to take a short walk down the river bed and saw lots of different birds. There was actually also plenty of bird activity around the campsite – enough to keep us occupied and not fretting about not being able to walk far.
The campsite also has a hide that overlooks a waterhole, but we didn’t have any unusual animal sightings – all we saw were a couple of klipspringers on the rocky mountainside, baboons and dassies.
The campsite is very well laid out – each site has its own ablution set-up surrounded by sticks.
There were literally thousands of koringkrieks (armoured ground crickets) around, which was rather unpleasant as they are ugly-looking creatures and make a horrible popping noise if you step on them accidentally! So an inspection of the shower and loo area was necessary before entering.
If you like to take long walks, then Hobatere campsite is not the ideal spot, but it is a great stop-over if you’re going to Ruacana or if you’ve braved (and survived) the Khowarib-Schlucht. The rocky scenery is very pretty and the remoteness of the campsite is a big plus as far as we’re concerned.
As a footnote to what I’ve written above about not going on a 6.00 a.m. guided walk at the Hobatere Lodge: I have four acquaintances who actually went on the walk together, with an armed guide. They were given strict instructions not to run if they encountered a lion, but to stand dead still and face the animal. Well, the adult, John, was at the back, with the guide leading everyone in single file, when he noticed two lions nearby. When John pointed them out, everyone, including the guide, ran for their lives. John stood his ground and faced the two lions that started to walk slowly towards him. With the whole party watching, he stared the lions down for a couple of minutes before they turned around and walked off into the bush. Afterwards they asked the guide if he would have shot the lion if it had attacked John and the surprising answer was that unless you can guarantee to kill the lion with one or two shots, it is better not to injure it, as this would only worsen the situation. So be warned if you’re taking an early morning walk in lion territory – make sure your guide is a crack shot, and that he won’t run if you’re in danger! Or maybe you should just be able to run faster than everyone else.