Etosha National Park

It is located in northern Namibia, about 5 hour drive from Windhoek, the capital of the country. This famous game park is dominated by the arid Etosha Pan, a lake that dried up millions 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, 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 centered. 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 originally 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
Etoshan National Park, a big white rhino

The Park can usually be explored by a sedan (we suggest a jeep vehicle), because the gravel roads are in good condition. The speed limit is 60 km/h in order to protect the wildlife and prevent cars from skidding along the road. Obviously, 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 more 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 strategy in Etosha Park is to locate one of the numerous watering holes and simply wait for the wildlife  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 walk where you can take a seat and wait the games coming to drink also during the night because they are illuminated by floodlights.

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

Information

Map of Etosha: click here;

Reservation: you can only book through Namibia Wildlife Resorts;

Where to sleep: all the restcamps offer a wide range of accommodations,  restaurant and kiosk, swimmingpool, petrol station and a waterhole. If you are camping there is a covered field kitchen, showers and bathrooms. The office of all rest camps  arrange  morning/afternoon/night game drive (3 hour N$ 550 p.p.)

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 traveling on the main north-south road between Windhoek and Etosha. Here you find one of the best waterhole of Africa.

Halali rest camp – This camp is located midway between Okaukuejo and Namutoni in the central part of Etosha, south of Etosha Pan, and its strategic location makes it a great stopover for lunch, ice cream, a cool 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 close 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 section 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

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.

Getting there: 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 (500 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. The Galton Gate provides access to 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 interesting places in Damaraland, near Brandberg Mountain or in Twyfelfontein.

Important notice: when driving to Etosha you need to arrive before the gates close at sunset or after they open at sunrise (times vary according to the seasons). Visitors are not allowed to drive in the park at night. Entrance fee is N$ 80 p.p. per day 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 because the routes around the country are long and straight gravel road so it’s very easy to go overspeed without realizing 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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