Seeing vast herds of game against the backdrop of the pan, referred to in the local vernacular as 'the great white place of dry water', makes visiting Etosha a truly unique experience. Johannes Kapner, a park ranger, shares his Etosha...
“If you look out across the Etosha Pan and see animals shimmering in the heat haze, these are the Devil’s cattle. My ancestors called them this because, when they were hunting, these animals would come close but they would always disappear back into the heat haze and never get close enough to actually kill. You see, the Devil was teasing the hunters.
Today, I think he also teases the tourists while they wait at the edge of Etosha Pan for the animals to come closer and closer. When they are within camera range, it has been worth the wait. Etosha has great herds of elephants, zebra, wildebeest and springbok, plus the predators, like lion, hyena and jackal, that like to feast on these animals! It is natural.
Like my mother before me and her mother before her, I was born in Etosha National Park, at Namutoni. I’ve spent my entire life in the park and I’ve worked for the Ministry of Environment and Tourism since 1984. I’m a Ranger based out of the Etosha Ecological Institute at Okaukuejo. Researchers study everything from diseases like anthrax to lion movements in the park so there are some interesting displays of information in the Institute that tourists can see.
I am happy to raise my family in Etosha; they get good values being so close to nature. There is a sense of history and a sense of belonging for us here. Everything feels good in nature and I’m not afraid of anything. I like to stare into a lion’s yellow eyes and have his eyes stare back at me.
Meat is very important to the Hei//om; we are hunters. We used to hunt in the park where we’d steal a bit of meat from the lions’ kill and always leave a bit from our kills for the lions. We can’t do that any more, but we still love meat. Now my favorite meat is eland and zebra. The best way to eat zebra is to cook the neck on the coals until the mane falls away, then you add a bit of salt, slice and eat the meat. There is nothing better.
For guests visiting Etosha, I would say you must go to the Sandveld, north of Namutoni. This is where you find big herds of elephant and eland, and every season is different, so there isn’t one good time to be there, you can go anytime.
I like going to Damaraland, but for me there is no better place in the world than Etosha. This is a place worth sharing.”