Etosha National Park in the north of Namibia is one of the finest game 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 huge park that encloses a vast saltpan. Dry and shimmering for most of the year, the pan fills with water after good rains. It forms an immense, shallow lake attracting great numbers of flamingos and other water birds. In the dry season wildlife is attracted to perennial springs and waterholes offering a much-needed water source for the high numbers of animals.
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.
Why Visit Etosha?
- 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
An Etosha safari can be undertaken using your rental car. Or you can stay at one of the private game lodges on the edge of Etosha and join their guided game drives.
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 this is the time they give birth to the season’s young after the sporadic rains. But don’t expect vast herds of game, especially elephant.
Deservedly popular during the dry season from May to October, the park gets booked up – so book your Etosha safari early! There’s a range of options to suit most budgets. The rest camps inside the Etosha National Park have been upgraded and offer a good, simple quality of accommodation, each with its own active waterhole for game viewing. The new Onkoshi eco-camp within Etosha is worth considering with only 15 chalets. Alternatively there are several private lodges just outside the gates, such as the lodges of Ongava, Onguma and Mushara. From here you can take guided game drives into Etosha in open 4×4 vehicles. You can also enjoy night drives and bush walks in their own reserves.