Covering an area of more than 8,600 square miles, the Etosha National Park’s main characteristics include a vast flat salt land and plenty of waterholes. The environmental conditions meet all the criteria of a dry area, yet the park is home to an abundant of wildlife including but not limited to 114 mammal species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species, and 340 bird species.
The existence of the waterholes makes animal sightings easier than ever. All you need to do is park your car next to one of the waterholes, and watch hundreds of animals flocking around to hydrate themselves.
Expect to be stumbling through vast open African land on the back of a 4x4 vehicle as you go game driving for an intimate view of roaring lions, stampedes of elephants, spot groups of wild buffalos, take in the palette of colours of the African leopard and if you’re lucky enough, spot the rare black rhinoceros. These animals, which come together as the “big 5” of Africa and more await you at Etosha.
While it is famous for game viewing, the crown of the jewel has to be the incredible saline pan which sits smack bang in the middle of the park for public admiration.
The pan measures a staggering 130km west to east, and 68km north to south. Due to a lack of vegetation, the pan creates a majestic effect like mirages when the midday sun hits it.
This unusual effect makes Etosha a particularly special place in Africa as a wide range of wildlife can be found congregating along the edge of the pan, creating a natural stage for wildlife viewing.
Get ready for an intimate encounter with the wildlife.
When to visit Etosha National Park
Right here winter is the dry season (May – October). Animals look for waterholes to hydrate themselves, which means sightings are easy. Both big and small mammals are flocking around limited supply of water. A combination of chalky desert, water, and animals of various species and sizes make for scenic photography scene you cannot get anywhere else in the world. Please remember that in these months, the camps are often fully booked so you need to prepare everything in advance.
From November to April, the average temperature in the park is somewhere between 25°C and 35°C. This is the season of plenty for the animals with lush green grassland and more than enough water to keep the throat wet all day long. Even the salt pan takes water and invites various species of birds to have a feast of fish. Big mammals have no difficulties in finding water, but it does not mean that they disappear. An experienced guide or ranger can tell you where the elephants, zebras, buffalos, and their neighbors are.
what to Do and See
Dry season is the time where game drive is at its best. Etosha National Park is basically an open view with easy visibility to its numerous waterholes. Accompanied by an experienced guide, you can start several-hours of game drive to cover the most interesting spots all across the park. Game drive is available any time of the day from morning, afternoon, to evening; as long as you have a guide, you will not miss a single spot. Another good thing is that the guide can explain in details about the all the animals you see including the Big Five: elephants, lions, leopards, rhinoceros, and buffalos. As previously mentioned, every group of animals does not just come in one or two individuals, but hundreds.
In additions to the Big Five and various species of birds, there are also other species for examples giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, hyena, cheetah, honey badger, squirrel, kudu, steenbok, gemsbok, eland jackal, warthog, bat-eared fox, and more. Certain animals only come out to the waterholes at night, but some camps offer unique experience of floodlit waterholes for evening viewing too. Different waterholes are used by different groups of animals. Each hole has distinguishable characteristics.
Some of the best for animal sighting are as follows:
Okaukuejo: one of the best examples of floodlit waterhole is Okaukuejo. Especially between June and December, this waterhole attracts elephants and rhinoceros almost every night. Even the critically endangered black rhinoceros often come to Okaukuejo for water. Black rhinoceros are on the brink of extinction; many of them have been moved to an undisclosed location for conservation purpose. If you have the chance to see some of them in their natural habitat, it is a rare opportunity you should not miss.
Goas and Halali: both of them are located between the southern and eastern gates of the pan. Halali is man-made waterhole, while Goas is a spring-like natural oasis. These waterholes are your best bet to see the elusive leopards, zebra and wildebeest. Goas is often visited by numerous species of birds as well as elephants and black-faced impala.
Okondeka: located on the edge of the west side of the pan, Okondeka is a natural fountain and lions’ favorite. If you are lucky enough, you may even get the chance to witness how they hunt.
Salvadora and Sueda: among all waterholes in the pan, Salvadora and Sueda offer the best locations to see the span of the salt pan to the northern horizon. They are regularly visited by cheetahs, too.
Please understand that life around the waterholes is dynamic. To get the best experience, you need a combination of good spot, patience, and sometimes luck. There are no regular hours, but an experienced guide can tell you what to expect in each location
Some animals, mostly predators, are always elusive. The good thing is that you can always start your safari from every camp or lodge. Around the afternoon is the best time to start spotting. Bring your binoculars or cameras, and drive carefully. Keep your distance with animals; you are here to feed your curiosity indeed, but you must respect the animals at the same time. Do not scare them away with car’s noises. Take a guide along in the safari and listen to what the person says. Stay in your car at all times; if you feel the need to get out and sit in a picnic spot, pay attention to your surroundings as some picnic spots are not fully fenced.
Etosha National Park gives the perfect example of how the nature can nurture animals to adapt and thrive in a harsh environment. For visitors, the park provides excellent opportunity to enjoy and observe the way wildlife and ecosystem interacts with each other. The facilities are world class and would make your trip to Etosha comfortable, enjoyable and memorable. The natural beauty and spectacular wildlife will provide countless photographic moments.
People come to Namibia for the nature but it isn’t until they step foot onto Etosha National Park that they become reminded of the deep calling of the wild.Hearing the roaring of lions as you drive through wild African desert land will make your skin tingle with the right amount of fear and excitement. Simply put, no theme park in the world offers a better ride or a more thrilling experience than a trip through Etosha.
In conclusion, there’s no doubt that if you are in Namibia to get up close and personal with the wildlife, you have to visit Etosha National Park. With a bevy of fine accommodation, guided game viewing drives and convenient viewing spots, a trip to Etosha will dazzle any traveler.