Etosha Pan in Namibia is Africa's largest salt pan. It has one of the harshest environments, with scorching hot temperatures in summer and freezing nights in winter. As inhospitable as it may sound, it is home to an amazing array of wildlife. I am a wildlife photographer, and I have been photographing along the edges of the Etosha Pan for many years. I have witnessed many marvelous sights and have fallen in love with Etosha Pan and its inhabitants.
Lion And Cub
One of my favorite animals is the elephant. And Etosha is home to the largest elephants in the world. They may lack the enormous tusks of their East African cousins due to a mineral deficiency in their diet, but when you are close to these pachyderms, you will be in awe of their size. Natural springs bubble up along the edges of the Etosha salt pan and are a lifeline to the wildlife. The water forms into small pools that turn into a grey, cement-like sludge that the elephants use as sunscreen. They spray their enormous bodies with this grey sludge and have earned the nickname "Grey Ghosts" because of the grey cement color of their bodies.
Leopard And Brambles
It is hard to imagine any life at all living along the edges of this salt pan. But when the seasonal rains arrive between November and January, it transforms the pan into a sea of shallow water that attracts large flocks of flamingos. The water does not remain long and once it soaks into the earth, the salt pan becomes covered in a sea of grass, attracting large herds of herbivores: antelope, zebra, and elephants. Which, in turn, attracts the predators who prey on these animals as they come down to eat or drink on the edges of the salt pan.
Five Marching Bull Elephants
Bull Elephant And Wildebeest
Once winter arrives, the grass disappears from the pan, and the wildlife lives off the remaining unappetizing withered grass, leaves, or roots. Winter is my favorite time to photograph in Etosha as the wildlife congregates around the few remaining areas for food and water. This makes it easier photographically for me, as I do not have to spend a lot of my time looking for subjects.
The skies in Etosha during winter are a dull grey/mauve color. Due to the winter winds that whip up the grey calcrete dust and sand from the salt pan, this gets trapped in the lower atmosphere, turning the sky this grey/mauve color during the day. But there is a bonus to the trapped dust in the lower atmosphere—sunrises and sunsets are magnificent and, once seen, will never be forgotten. The sun is blood red, and skies turn every hue of magenta.