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Etosha

What can I expect from Etosha Park?

Etosha is the premium tourism attraction in Namibia. If you want to do a spot of game viewing while in southern Africa, Etosha Park is an excellent choice! There are 114 species of mammals found in the park, rising to 115 if you count humans. Wildlife includes most of the big 5 – you can expect to see herds of elephants, crashes of rhinos, prides of lions, and if you are fortunate, you may spot a leopard.

The park is vast, and much of it is restricted to tourists, encouraging conservation and letting the animals get on with their own thing. A network of roads links the main waterholes where the wildlife congregates. Most of your daylight hours should be reserved for game driving, visiting waterholes to see what is there – and of course, stopping to let elephants cross the road.

The Etosha Pan dominates the northern region of the park, giving the entire park its name. During years of exceptional rains, the pan fills with floodwaters (originating in Angola) – when this happens thousands of flamingos flock to the pan to breed. Etosha Pan is one of only two breeding areas for both Greater & Lesser Flamingoes in the southern African region. Seeing them is a spectacular sight!

View over Etosha pan

“so what are we gonna do?”

Male lion in Etosha

Lion near Okaukuejo

Traditional thinking is that the best time for game viewing in Etosha Park is during the dry winter months (from May through late September). During this period a lack of groundwater forces wildlife congregate at the waterholes making game viewing easy. The veld also become drier and less dense, improving visibility. However we believe there is no wrong time to visit Etosha, and some of our favourite visits have been during the wet season when newborn born creatures frolic and the veld takes on a beautiful green. Read our wet season trip report if you want to find out more about travelling in Namibia out of the main tourist season.

Etosha Park is quite probably the best African park for self drive visitors. The roads are in good condition (with occasional corrugation and potholes), the infrastructure is geared towards self-drivers and the wildlife is easy to find.

You will quickly become blase about your sightings of zebra, springbok and gemsbok (oryx). But do keep an eye out for some of the smaller creatures, jackals playing; warthogs frolicking and dik-diks looking astoundingly cute are a large part of the Etosha experience.

Things to See and Do in Etosha National Park

The main activity here is game watching. Head out at sunrise and see what you can spot
If you are staying at an NWR resort inside Etosha, do a guided night drive
Spend a night at the legendary spotlit Okaukuejo waterhole. It’s an unbeatable experience
Learn the collective nouns for groups of animals - many of them are very funny
Drink a Windhoek lager
Elephants at Okaukuejo waterhole

Elephants at Okaukuejo waterhole

Southern yellow-billed hornbill

Southern yellow-billed hornbill

The Basics

AccommodationNWR (a parastatal organisation) operate the resorts inside the park (Dolomite, Okaukuejo, Halali, Namutoni and Onkoshi). The quality of these resorts is dubious but being inside the park is advantageous – especially for the waterholes at Okaukuejo and Halali.

Dozens of privately owned lodges lie just outside the Etosha boundaries. These vary in quality and price from the unspectacular to the astronomical. For the best experience, we recommend that you spend a night or two inside the park and then any additional nights outside.

Food – As with most of Namibia, you will be eating at your accommodation establishment. Expect the menu to include some of the critters you spotted during the day (ethically sourced and not from within the park!). The quality of food at NWR resorts has reached legendary proportions, so expect to be surprised.

Drink – Take a bottle of wine to the Okaukuejo waterhole after dinner and join the elephants, rhino and lions in an after-dinner drink

Transportation – To get to Etosha National Park you will need to have a vehicle or be on a guided tour. There is no public transport. If you have a car most days will be spent self-driving through the park, although your lodge will probably try to sell you an overpriced game drive.  If you’re on a guided safari, your guide will amaze you with his fantastic game spotting and identification skills (it is impressive what a trained eye can spot – that bush in the distance often turns out to be a hiding elephant!)

European bee-eater

Zebras in Etosha pan

Zebra

Local Tips

1
Stay in your car it’s a park rule and becoming a lions dinner is probably not covered by your travel insurance.
2
Game drive shortly after sunrise Rest during the heat of the day (along with the animals) and get on the road in the cool of the late afternoon
3
Visit the spotlit waterholes Spend at least one night at the Okaukuejo waterhole - Halali also has an excellent waterhole which has less tourists
4
Split your accommodation between inside & outside the park You’re more likely to find good food, accommodation and hospitality at the private lodges outside the park. But you miss out on the spotlit waterholes
5
Elephants are the kings of Etosha if they want to cross the road give way
6
Rhinos are the kings of Etosha if they want to cross the road give way
7
Ground Squirrels are the kings of Etosha if they want to cross the road give way

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