Etosha

Etosha National Park is one of Africa’s premier wildlife reserves: plenty of big game against the scenic backdrop of Etosha’s salt pans, pink with flamingos in the wet season.

Overview

Etosha National Park in northern Namibia is one of the finest wildlife parks in Southern Africa. It’s certainly one of Namibia’s most iconic destinations. Etosha means ‘Great White Place’ in Herero, an apt description of this park as it encloses a vast saltpan. Dry and shimmering for most of the year, the pan fills with water after good rains. Then it forms an immense, shallow lake attracting great numbers of flamingos and other water birds. In the dry season the perennial springs and waterholes attract the wildlife as they are a much-needed water source for the wildlife.

During the dry season in Etosha (which is generally from late April to mid November), the flat open plains are home to tens of thousands of animals. Large herds of springbok, gemsbok, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and elephant gather around these waterholes. The ever-hungry predators follow them – particularly cheetah and lion. The diminutive Damara dik-dik is one of the rarer, but delightful, sightings in Etosha. Raptors such as the bateleur eagle, pale chanting goshawk and red-necked falcon are fairly common.

An Etosha safari can be undertaken using your rental car. Or you can stay at one of the private Etosha safari lodges on the edge of Etosha and join their guided game drives instead.

Baby elephant with its mother in Etosha National Park

Animal Movements at the start of the rainy season

Note that after the first summer rains (typically sometime in November), much of the game moves away from these waterholes and nearby plains, which have been eaten to almost nothing. They head for the open plains in the north of the reserve which will now have a fresh supply of new grass. Here you cannot follow, as there are no roads.

Thus game-viewing on an Etosha safari will be noticeably quieter during this time. It is still worth a visit as many plains species remain on the southern plains. Plus at this time they give birth to the season’s young after the sporadic rains. But don’t expect vast herds of game, especially elephant.

Features

Why you may love it

  • Best ‘classic’ game-viewing area in Namibia
  • Large herds of elephant and plains game
  • Mixed animal sightings at waterholes, especially in the dry season
  • Good concentrations of predators especially lion
  • Etosha salt pans are a sight to see after good rains

Explore the Etosha map

When to visit Etosha

Mid-November to March

Rainy season

This is the rainy season in Etosha. The start of the rains heralds the low season in Etosha as the wildlife can disperse widely across the vast northern plains (and no longer need to come to the waterholes to drink.) Some even leave the park and head north into Ovamboland. So it’s not the ideal time for an Etosha safari. However in some years after good rains, the Pans actually fill with water which attracts flocks of flamingos. It’s a beautiful time of year as the park is lush and green, animals are being born and the skies are dramatic.
AVG MONTHLY RAINFALL 109mm
AVG HOURS OF SUNSHINE 9 Hours
MAX TEMP 30 ℃ / 86 ℉
MIN TEMP 18 ℃ / 64 ℉

April to June

Start of the dry season

This is considered the start of the dry season as the summer rains fade away in April. The landscape is still green and lush but the grasses start dying right back. The sunsets are superb as the skies are clearer. The game-viewing is not as prolific as later in the dry season and the slightly lower safari prices reflect this. But it is still an excellent time to visit.
AVG MONTHLY RAINFALL 40mm
AVG HOURS OF SUNSHINE 9.5 Hours
MAX TEMP 25 ℃ / 77 ℉
MIN TEMP 12 ℃ / 54 ℉

July to mid-September

Dry season - Best time to travel

Traditionally this is the best time to visit as the dry season continues. The grass is very short so spotting game is easy. And the animals flock to the waterholes to drink. But the safari visitors also flock! So it can get a little crowded around the waterholes. And as the dry season continues, it gets very dry and dusty on the park roads. Note that June and July night-time and early morning temperatures can be very chilly in Etosha given its semi-desert climate.
AVG MONTHLY RAINFALL 1mm
AVG HOURS OF SUNSHINE 10.5 Hours
MAX TEMP 24 ℃ / 75 ℉
MIN TEMP 8 ℃ / 46 ℉

Mid -September to Early November

Warming up

Temperatures heat up quickly in late September and October prior to the start of the summer rains and easily get to 33-35C. Somewhere in late October or November, the summer rains start. This leads to a fairly dramatic change in game-viewing as the wildlife disperse across the northern plains of Etosha and away from the park roads.
AVG MONTHLY RAINFALL 38mm
AVG HOURS OF SUNSHINE 10.5 Hours
MAX TEMP 33 ℃ / 91 ℉
MIN TEMP 18 ℃ / 64 ℉

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Accommodation

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Onguma Bush Camp – value for money & family-friendly

Onguma Bush was a great lodge with wonderful staff and vibey atmosphere. Even though it is relatively large, there are separate lounge areas where you can sit and look out over their waterhole in front of the deck. This waterhole is generally quite rewarding. Whilst we were at dinner, a large group of zebra came to drink in front of us.

The bedroom is quite spacious, but the bathroom is fairly small and utilitarian. The toilet was not enclosed. There was Air-con in all rooms which was appreciated.
The food was good with a great variety on offer. Their boma dinner was set up at Etosha Aoba, their sister camp, as a lion had temporarily taken up residence in their boma at bush camp! Great selection on offer for every dietary requirement.

Onguma has a wonderful new option called The Dream Cruiser. This is basically a romantic sleep-out option, but with a twist. The sleep-out is in a converted landcruiser with sleep-out on the roof and ensuite bathroom down in the back of the cruise. This is a brilliant  idea as it's mobile so they choose different spots near the waterhole depending on whether it is summer or winter. The deck is actually quite spacious and the bathroom is great with a fully functioning hot shower & flush toilet. As it is weather dependent, you can only book this alongside a room at one of the Onguma lodges.

Note: Its only for couples (2 pax) on a double bed – no space for kids.

Cedarberg : Gloria Darvall
 
Did you know
  • HistoryProclaimed a game reserve in March 1907
  • NameMeans "Great White Place" in Owambo