Written by: Francisco Hernandez
I was looking for a unique African wildlife experience and the Africa Geographic team suggested that Namibia would be the perfect place to start!
After a very pleasant flight over Africa, with incredible views, I picked up my car and drove to Okaukuejo Camp in Etosha National Park, arriving shortly after sunset. As I drove through the main gates to explore the surroundings of Okaukuejo Camp my first impressions were summarised in one word – amazing.
In Okaukuejo, as you approach the waterhole on foot, you start hearing sounds that are reminiscent of an African wildlife documentary and the feeling that envelops you is one of calm. The meditative state is interrupted only by the sound of water splashing, animal grunts and birdsong.
Only once you reach the banks of the waterhole does your mind start to truly take in the tremendous beauty of the surroundings. At the beginning, I could only stare in disbelief. It was difficult at first to comprehend that what I was witnessing could be real. The animals were completely disinterested in us, and went about their business as if we weren’t there.
For three days straight, I drew. The waterhole teemed with wildlife from sprightly springbok to enormous elephants as well as oryx, kudu, giraffe and many more. I scarcely put down my pencil.
Sketching wildlife is notoriously difficult, animals are not in the habit of posing. But here it was often the case that there were so many animals in one area that if the animal that you were drawing moved, there were 10 others in the same position that you could focus on instead. Sometimes it was necessary to practice a bit of patience, but ultimately another animal almost always took up the same position a few moments later. Frequently, the animals often remained in the vicinity of the waterhole for a long enough time to be able to complete some sketches.
Next to the waterhole, there was a big tree under which hundreds of springboks spent hours resting and ruminating in the shade. On the same tree, I even saw a steppe eagle, a black-chested snake eagle and a pied crow.
There are many reasons why Okaukuejo is a special place to draw wildlife. Firstly, the wildlife comes almost continuously to the waterhole to drink and there is a large open vista without any vegetation which means that you can continually observe the movements of hundreds of animals easily. In addition, as there are so many pairs of watchful eyes keeping a lookout in the vicinity, the waterhole is not the best hunting ground for predators, which makes the animals feel safe and calm.
There are many places to observe and draw comfortably, while sitting on wooden benches under the shade of trees or from a high, sheltered observatory. A roof is an important component for those planning to draw for several hours. The campsite is close enough to the waterhole that one can easily walk there in a few minutes.
For most of the day, visitors prefer to leave the campsite and waterhole on game drives through the park, which means that one can be completely absorbed in art creation with few distractions. I have to say this was one of the best natural drawing studios I have ever had the pleasure to spend time at.
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