Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Etosha - The Great White Place of Dry Water

Etosha Pan – a vast expanse of desiccated white clay characterised by distant mirages and spiralling dust devils – that makes the game-viewing experience in the world-renowned Etosha National Park different to any other. In September 2007 the park celebrated its first hundred years of existence, the centennial celebrations taking place at the Namutoni Resort in the eastern section of the park.
The park was originally proclaimed as a conservation area in 1907 by German Governor Frederich von Lindequist. This entailed the region south, west and north-west of the pan and Governor von Lindequist named it Game Reserve No 2. (Game Reserve Nos 1 and 3 were established to the north-east and the Namib Desert respectively.) With subsequent additions Etosha became the largest game reserve in the world, extending over a vast area of approximately 80 000 square kilometres westwards across Kaokoland to the Skeleton Coast. However, for political considerations, it was progressively diminished in size until 1975 when it was reduced by 77 per cent to its present surface area of 22 912 square kilometres.
The definitive feature of the park is the Etosha Pan, an immense, shallow depression of almost 5 000 square kilometres of dry, white cracked mud, its flat surface broken only by shimmering mirages and the occasional animal wending its way across the empty wastes. It is this typical appearance that gave rise to the name in the local vernacular as ‘the great white place of dry water’. In the rainy season, fed by the Cuvelai system that has its origins in the highlands of Angola, floodwaters drain across Owambo. The pan fills with water and becomes an important breeding ground for migrant flamingos.Consisting of saline desert, savannah and woodlands, Etosha’s vegetation varies from dwarf shrub savannah and grasslands to thorn-bush and woodland savannah. Mopane, Colophospermum mopane, is the dominant tree species and is found in eighty per cent of the park. West of Okaukuejo a large stand of African moringa, Moringa ovalifolia, referred to as Sprokieswoud, Fairy or Phantom Forest, is the only location in Namibia where this interesting tree grows in a flat area.
A total of 114 species of mammals are found in the park, including the rare and endangered black rhino, cheetah and black-faced impala. Large mammals include giraffe, elephant, blue wildebeest, mountain and plains zebra, hyaena, leopard and lion.

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