October has seen a return to Africa. One of the great game parks is Etosha in Namibia. My previous visits have always been hard work but very fruitful. This time of the year is hot and dry with most of the action going on near the various natural and man made waterholes. We tend to stake these out and are rarely disappointed. Initially we stayed at Mokuti lodge on the edge of the park. This is a nice lodge, but has the disadvantage of being outside the park boundary, which opens at sunrise.This means that getting into the park proper can take a frustrating 10-15minutes in the morning, and you have to remember to get out before sunset. This can mean missing some very nice light, but rules are rules! There has been an increase in rhino poaching recently, so control of who is in the park is important. The two nearest waterholes to the lodge are at Klein Namutoni and Chudob. Chudob is good in the mornings and has always yielded some good lion activity as well as masses of herbivores. On my first morning, I caught a glimpse of a couple of lionesses who were walking towards Chudob but were in thick scrub. I got down to the waterhole and then enjoyed the site of six lionesses coming down to drink. They had clearly eaten well, but the sixth one was huge.She was full and pregnant, and could hardly walk!

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Although the middle of the day is not always ideal, you can often see elephant activity, and we regularly saw families coming down to drink and play. A truly wonderful and moving sight.

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As well as the local elephant families at Klein Namutoni, we had a nice sighting of a very relaxed female leopard art the waterhole.

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Etosha is very hot and dry, and this landscape lends itself to some dramatic scenes.

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After a couple of days at the eastern end of the park, we drove across to our second destination, Okakuejo. This camp is within the park and has a fantastic floodlit waterhole.. This is a very reliable site to spot black rhino. One night, there six around the waterhole at once! Amazing.

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Lovely to see young rhinos in spite of the disgusting poaching that continues. This area has another great waterhole, Nebrowni. It is a few minutes from camp, and provides a different type of image for photographers. Although we saw lions here, the bull elephants were the stars. There are a large number of these huge elephants around the park, and they also need to drink. They are easy to spot and always fun to watch.

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In spite of their huge size, they all have small and broken tusks. This is probably due to calcium deficiency, but may be a life saver as they are not such a target for poachers as the great tuskers of East Africa.

We spent one night listening to the fantastic sound of roaring lions. As soon as the sun came up,I drove out to try and find them They were about 100m from camp and provided some great images.

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Not all the predators are as big as the lions, and early morning also revealed some local bat eared foxes. These are small and quite shy, and sometimes all you can see is the large ears on show!

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These open plains are also home to another very characteristic bird present in large numbers in Etosha, the ostrich.

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After a few days, we headed back east to Onguma. This is a separate privately owned reserve on the edge of Etosha. I wanted to go there as they have built a hide at a waterhole. This is always an attractive option for a photographer as it allows you to watch the animals at eye level, rather than from a vehicle. It proved very successful with lots of animals coming to drink. The highlight of the whole trip however was when two lionesses with four six month old cubs came to drink and play. I didn’t what to look at with plenty of amazing action in every direction!

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As well as the group shots, the cubs came so close to the hide to investigate that portraits were very easy, so close that I could pat them on the nose!!

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The mums were not quite so pleased about this and kept us on our toes!

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Lions were not the only visitors at this waterhole. It provided a chance to see some of the gorgeous small birds that can be so difficult to see on a normal safari.

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At the other extreme, giraffe also came to drink.

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Black backed jackals are always busily running around. They seem to be on a mission, always running in such a purposeful manner!

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Lots of herbivores need to come and drink in this very hot environment. There was a virtually constant parade of these guys coming to drink. Some of them such as the zebra were not surprisingly, very wary!

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I thoroughly enjoyed the hide, and enjoyed shooting with Bill Gozansky who shared some of the sessions with me.

Our last few days in Etosha were a really special experience.It seems to get better every time I go. We yet again failed to find a cheetah in spite of looking hard. Everything else however behaved  as well as we could have asked for.What was best? Elephants are always such amazing animals.

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Rhino are so special and the continuing poaching is so tragic. Even cutting off the horns makes no difference, but lets hope that the market in China and Vietnam can soon be shut down before these animals disappear.

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But the best? Lions. Just can’t get enough of them!

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