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THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE DIK-DIK DRIVE
Text & Main Photograph Elzanne Erasmus
I was brimming with anticipation as I drove north from Windhoek with a group of close friends for a visit to Etosha National Park recently. I had never visited the park in the summer before, never seen it green and blooming and wet. I’d never been there when the waterholes were superfluous and when you had doubt in your mind whether the shimmer on the pan was the usual mirage or actual water.
This time round I was extremely happy to find that it wasn’t the bending of the sun’s rays bamboozling my eyes, but rather the accumulation of the November rainfall. I had visited the park during the winter high season in June, and was excited to experience a new side of this old favourite.
My three companions and I decided that it was high time we explored some of the less mainstream routes available in the park. It’s almost too easy on your way in from Von Lindequist Gate to take the first turn-off to your left and start your next spectacular Etosha trip on Dik-dik Drive. Home to one of Africa’s smallest antelope, the drive is more than willing to appease each and every traveller in search of this small and gentle creature. The Damara dik-dik is Namibia’s smallest antelope species. They frequent the eastern karst woodlands and love pitter-pattering around the tamboti woodlands near Namutoni. On our first drive down Dik-dik Drive we spotted our first dik-dik no more than 40 metres in. Trying to hide from the fierce Namibian summer sun, the little ram stayed in the shade of the leaves as he lazily trotted a bit farther into the underbrush, glancing back at us once or twice before disappearing from sight. Dik-dik number two followed soon afterwards.
As our first trip down the drive had been so successful we decided to continue exploring some other less-traveled routes around Namutoni. We set off north from Namutoni on the drive around Fischer’s Pan, which none of us had ever explored. The pan, named after Lieutenant Adolf Fischer who was stationed at Namutoni in the 1880s, is home to a large variety of water birds such as greater and lesser flamingos, Egyptian geese, African spoonbills and white pelicans during the rainy season. Regular plains game and giraffe also abound. We were even treated to a rare Etosha sighting of eland on the northern edge of the pan. The route around the pan is approximately 30 km long. It would be advisable for future would-be Fischer’s Pan adventurers to note that the road strays quite far away from anything resembling a bathroom for quite a while. We learned this the hard way as the morning’s coffees and the cooldrinks we had stocked-up on at Namutoni led to, what will forever be known as The Fischer’s Pan Bathroom Debacle of December 2014.
As we were on our way out of the park that day we could not resist one final trip down our new favourite road. We had almost finished the route and had been treated to giraffes drinking at the Klein Namutoni waterhole, a natural spring frequented by plains game such as impala and zebra, when we spotted dik-diks number three and four. Damara dik-diks form monogamous pairs and the couple were all too happy lying by the side of the road after a tiring day (probably doing pretty much nothing) to be in any way disturbed by our presence.
Their relaxed and timid natures made for extremely enjoyable photographic opportunities as they lay there peering up at us from under long elegant lashes.
The little guy and girl leisurely carried on nibbling at branches, having a much-needed siesta in the shade while we snapped on from two metres away.
It is not often that you can recommend a certain area of a national park to other travellers with a guaranteed spotting of a specific animal, but on this visit to Etosha I was glad to be proven wrong. We returned to the park the next day and went down the drive twice more, both times spotting the little antelopes peeping out between the low bush branches. With a success rate of four for four, I can now say with confidence that a Damara dik-dik will be found on Dik-Dik Drive if you only bother to glance downward and look for it.
Damara dik-dik (Madoqua damarensis):
- They are the smallest antelope in Namibia.
- They occur in eastern karst woodlands, especially in the tamboti woodlands east of Namutoni.
- They form monogamous pairs.
- The male has tiny horns on either side of a reddish tuft of hair on top of its head.
Popular Namutoni area waterholes:
- Springbokfontein: spot the springbok “pronk”.
- Okerfontein: keep your eyes peeled for bat-eared foxes and African wild cats.
- Kalkheuwel: watch elephants have a shower that leaves them gray-white.
- Chudop: spot the lions often resting under trees near the water.
- Namutoni: enjoy the floodlit waterhole at night if you’re staying at Namutoni camp.
- Tsumcor: look out for caracal, aardwolf and honey badgers during the late afternoon.
This article was first published in the Autumn 2015 issue of Travel News Namibia.