Visiting the Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is located in northern Namibia, about 5-hour drive from Windhoek, the capital city of the country. This famous game park is dominated by the arid Etosha Pan, a lake that dried up millions of years ago. Proclaimed in 1907, Etosha celebrated 100 years of conservation in Namibia during 2007. It is home to nearly 114 mammal species, including black rhino, leopard, lion, elephant, hyena, giraffe, zebra, several species of antelope and more than  380 species of bird.

Etosha National Park, Lion basking at the sun in the high grass
Etosha National Park, a Lion basking at the sun in the high grass

Etosha means “Great White Place” which refers to the salt pan around which the national park is centred. The pan takes up about a quarter of this 22.912 km² park, but there are many watering holes scattered across the reserve. The park initially measured about 90.000 km² and was at the time, the largest nature reserve in the world. In 1967 received the status of National Park.

Etoshan National Park, a big white rhino
Etosha National Park, a big white rhino

The Park can usually be explored by a sedan (we suggest a 4wd vehicle) because the gravel roads are in good condition. The speed limit is 60 km/h to protect the wildlife and prevent cars from skidding along the way. A 4×4 vehicle or overland truck give you the elevated vantage to explore off the main tourist routes and above all are always much safer in general and during the rainy season when wet conditions can make getting around quite challenging. There is also the chance to arrange a game drive with a 4×4 open vehicle through the campsites’ reception.

Etosha National Park, a big and lonely elephant
Etosha National Park, a big and lonely elephant

One of the best game viewing strategies in Etosha Park is to locate one of the numerous watering holes and wait for the wildlife to come up to you. The southern fringes of the pan, among the Rest camps of Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni, are where the majority of these waterholes lie. Close to each campsite, there is a waterhole easily approachable by foot where you can take a seat and wait for the games coming to drink. The waterholes are also illuminated by floodlights at night.

Etosha National Park, a small herd of Gnu
Etosha National Park, a small herd of Gnu

Need to know about Etosha

1. Map of Etosha

Click here to see the map of the Park;

2. Reservation

You can only book your accommodation in the Park through the official website of Namibia Wildlife Resorts;

3. Where to sleep – the Camps in Etosha

The camps offer accommodations,restaurant and kiosk, a swimming pool, a petrol station and a waterhole. If you choose to camp with your tent, you’ll find a covered field kitchen, showers and bathrooms. The office of all camps arranges morning/afternoon/night game drive (3 hours N$ 550 p.p. – about 40 USD).

Etosha National Park, Okaukejo rest camp waterhole
Etosha National Park, Okaukejo rest camp waterhole

Okaukuejo rest camp  This camp is located along the western edge of Etosha Pan in the southern part of Etosha National Park. Situated only 17 km’s from the Anderson Gate, Okaukuejo is the first camp you will reach when travelling on the main north-south road between Windhoek and Etosha. Here, you find one of the best waterholes in Africa.

Halali rest camp – This camp is located midway between Okaukuejo and Namutoni in the central part of Etosha (south of Etosha Pan). Its strategic location makes it an excellent stopover for lunch, ice cream, a refreshing drink or just petrol. A short walk will take you to the camp’s floodlit waterhole with excellent day and night game viewing.

Namutoni rest camp – This camp is located in eastern Etosha, on the southern edge of Etosha Pan, and can be accessed via the Von Lindequist Gate (far eastern boundary). Built into an old German Fort Namutoni Camp has a unique atmosphere. Its proximity to Fisher’s Pan makes it a hotspot for birders.

In the western side takes place the exclusive Dolomite Camp (limited number of visitors); Situated in the wilder, more remote and previously less-utilized western section there is Olifantsrus (only camping); In the remote north-eastern part of the park, there is Onkoshi camp (on the border of the parks characteristic salt pan, runs mainly on solar power).

Etosha National Park, night game viewing at Halali waterhole
Etosha National Park, night game viewing at Halali waterhole

4. When to go

The best period is the dry season from May to September (winter) when the temperatures are cooler, and the animals congregate at the scarce water sources. During winter the sparse vegetation also makes it even easier to spot wildlife and birds, with the dry salt pans stretching out endlessly in a dusty white expanse. Be sure to pack warm clothes for the cold nights.

5. How to reach Etosha National Park

The park is easily accessible from Windhoek through a well-maintained tarred road. The drive takes between five and six hours. If you are heading to Namutoni, it takes about five hours via the Von Lindequist Gate (530 km) in eastern Etosha. If you are driving to Okaukuejo via the town of Outjo, then you will enter the park at the Anderson Gate (400 km) in southern Etosha, which takes less than five hours. Driving from the north of Namibia (Kunene region) you can enter Etosha at the King Nehale Gate lying southeast of Ondangwa. If you depart from Epupa Falls take in mind that it’s a long way to get to Okaukejo. Consider about 9 to 10-hour drive – about 740 km. The Galton Gate provides access to the Dolomite Camp in western Etosha only for the residents. You can also drive to Etosha from Swakopmund in about seven to eight hours, but an overnight stop is recommended en route. It’s worth a stopover at exciting places in Damaraland, near Brandberg Mountain or in Twyfelfontein.

Important notice: remember that you need to arrive before the gates close at sunset or after they open at sunrise (times vary according to the seasons). If you don’t get there on time, you won’t be allowed to enter the gates because it’s strictly prohibited to drive in the park at night.

6. Entrance fee

The park entrance fee is N$ 80 p.p. per day (about 6 USD) and N$ 10 per vehicle per day.

Warning

Namibia is the scene of serious accidents every year. Be careful and drive safe respecting the speed limit (max 90 km/h) to prevent skidding. The routes around the country are long and straight gravel roads; therefore, it’s very easy to go over speed without realising it and have a car crash.

Etosha National Park track road
Etosha National Park track road
Etosha National Park, Oryx next to a waterhole
Etosha National Park, Oryx next to a waterhole
Etosha National Park, a lonely giraffe
Etosha National Park, a lonely giraffe

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