ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK, NAMIBIA – It appears from the distance and runs towards the watering hole. Then it stops. Then it’s off running again. Then it stops once more. This time, I see what passes for a mischievous grin on its face as it takes off with a measured run that is part gallop and part bounce.
A group of us are sitting silently in a game drive vehicle, puzzled but amused. A lone hyena sauntering to find water on a blazing hot day at the Etosha National Park should not be cause for amusement.
Except the hyena was making its way to a place that was surrounded by a tower of giraffes.
We didn’t know whether the animals would quench their thirst harmoniously as though they were rehearsing for the Circle of Life, or if it would be WWE: The Wild Edition.
Although they were cautious to not crane their necks too low while the hyena was present, the giraffes let the hyena drink. That was a pleasant surprise.
At the peaceful The Strand Hotel, my room overlooked palm trees and the sea and an inviting breeze wafted in from the balcony. Through French sliding doors, a quaint but modern bathroom was hidden. After a long day of travelling, prompt room service and the most succulent oysters I’ve had in my life, I looked at my watch and it was clear: it was beer o’clock.
Luckily, on the ground floor of the hotel is The Swakopmund Brewing Company, whose tagline is The Home of Namibian Craft Beers. A tasting commenced where I was told the darker the beer, the stronger it is. The drinks were complemented by German cuisine.
The next day, we wandered back into Walvis Bay very early in the morning. I’d slipped out of my sandals into my sneakers as the sky threatened a drizzle. Once in the bay, we sought out a catamaran cruise but wound up on a small boat driven by a larger-than-life captain.
My ears were grateful to get back into the car and drive out to Sandwich Harbour for an adventurous drive on the most breathtaking dunes – which shoot up to between 80m and 120m. The scenery is absolutely beautiful. On one side was the calm sea, on the other were the dunes and in the middle, where we drove, a magenta pathway. I was told the colour comes from oxidised minerals.
Careful to not be found outside the car by hyenas, jackals, springbok, oryx or ostriches in the delta, we picked up oyster shells. For good luck. Or a kitsch ashtray. Then we were allowed to walk up a 25m dune and the sand felt soft and warm to the toes. The panoramic view was awe-inspiring.
A lunch that included delicious Lorentz Natural chips that all South African stores should stock invited a jackal to the party. We ended the drive on a viewpoint called Kodak and obviously took postcard-perfect pictures.
On the final day at the quiescent Mokuti Lodge, we enter the Etosha National Park through the Namutoni gate and see that scene with the hyena and 21 giraffes. But the most endearing moment comes during a five-course meal that takes place after a relaxing massage.
Chef Brian and the attentive lodge staff serve us cuisine that includes chilli poppers, a biltong salad, stuffed chicken breast, game loin, chocolate swiss roll, mango cheesecake and prawns so good I ate some off another person’s plate.
But the best part is when chef Brian tells us that the first time iconic South African hip hop group, Prophets of da City came to Namibia, they stayed at his home. Will he tell us his former rap name?
“Maybe when you return to Namibia,” he chuckles.
I have no doubt I will be back. Independent Online