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Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea)

Now, these birds have very few natural enemies. One of them, however, is the crocodile. Crocodiles sit at the waterhole, waiting for the birds to start drinking, and then - SNAP! - two or three birds are gone. That explains why the birds are extremely cautious when sitting down for a drink.

Sunset at the Moringa Waterhole

So, once the sunset was approaching, the birds were silent and stopped flying around. Petra and myself just admired what was happening right in front of us - the sun was going down, illuminating a few clouds, and we had seen so many animals that day. Okay, elephants were still missing, and lions, and cheetahs, but the National Park is roughly 23,000 square kilometers (8,900 square miles) so they have some room to hide. And tomorrow was yet another day in the park.

Sunset at the Etosha National Park

So we sat there with a dozen of other tourists, enjoying the sun going down in silence. Five minutes later, I suggested to Petra to go for dinner as nothing seemed to happen any more. She told me to wait for just a few more minutes. It was still quite warm, and there was no hurry. "Let's enjoy the scene for a few more minutes, okay?"

Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

And then, like two minutes later, a single tiny elephant came running (!) from the left towards the water hole, just as if someone had shoved him onto a big stage, saying "okay buddy, it's your turn now". :-) And then a herd of 15+ elephants approached slowly the Moringa waterhole and drank. And bathed. And breathed. And played. And we sat there just about 10 meteres away from it all.

Elephants at Halali waterhole

As the light was more or less gone already, I had to beef-up the ISO setting of the camera to 1600 - the results are still okay at this setting. But it was getting darker by the second, and the 100-400 zoom would just not give any good results. I needed something else...

Elephants taking a bath

To capture the full scene with the elephants and the evening sky, I went for the 50 mm 1:1,4 lens - allowing for several dramatic photos of the herd at the available light. The light, by the way, was now a mixture of the evening sky and the two artificial lights illuminating the water hole.

Elephant after sunset

Then, about 30 minutes later, the herd was gone and dusting somewhere in the bushveld. Only one single elephant was still there, obviously enjoying the silent bath too much! So he kept on drinking and pouring water on his skin. Simply stunning. - Ah, in case you want to do such shots, here is the basic data - Lens Canon EF 50 mm/1:1.4, 1/50 sec, F 2.0, ISO 800, manual setting.

Elephant taking a bath after sunset at Moringa water hole, Etosha National Park

A tourist admires a single elephant taking a bath after sunset at Halali waterhole.

Moringa waterhole after sunset

Roughly 25 minutes after the elephants entered the stage, this elephant was taking a last drink and then followed his herd into the night of the National Park. - And we left as well, hurrying for dinner (the restaurant accepts only orders until 8 pm). Needless to say, this was way beyond our expectations, and we were really happy after having witnessed this incredible scene.

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