Etosha National Park is unique in Africa. The park’s main characteristic is a salt pan so large it can be seen from space. Yet there is abundant wildlife that congregates around the waterholes, giving you almost guaranteed game sightings. At the same time Etosha National Park is one of the most accessible game reserves in Namibia and Southern Africa.
The park is malaria free, accessible in a regular sedan car and the rest camps provide a range of accommodation as well as restaurants, viewing decks, shops and petrol stations. Luxurious camps in Etosha’s remote areas have now added top end accommodation to the park’s offerings.
Landscape and Vegetation
Namibia is a very diverse country with an array of habitats and vegetation. It is also one of the few countries where animals still roam freely mostly unrestricted by human influence. The country has a great mix of desert, semi- desert and savannahs. As you travel further north in Namibia towards Etosha National Park, you will find a place that offers visitors a complete contrast of wide open grasslands, a massive pan that covers 4731km² and large camel thorn trees mixed with Mopani trees. This diverse vegetation accounts for the abundance of wildlife that thrives in the park.
The various accommodation options in Etosha National Park are well equipped with restaurants, shops, curios, swimming pools and petrol stations. The three main camps (Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni) offer various types of accommodation from camping to chalets overlooking floodlit waterholes. Situated deeper in the park are the more exclusive camps (Dolomite and Onkoshi) that provide a safari experience for discerning travelers.
About the Park
Before you decide to visit Etosha National Park, it is always a good idea to learn more about its many intricacies and what to expect. Below we have information on the park that will guide and inform you, leaving you well informed before your trip to this beautiful place:
The abundance of game in Etosha National Park is somewhat unexpected, showcasing some of the most common and rarest wildlife species. The areas with thicker vegetation are home to elephant (some of the largest in Africa due to the vitamins and nutrients found in the ground), the endangered black rhino and even leopard. Lions are camouflaged in the pale- golden colour of the grasslands, while giraffes rise- high above most of the dry vegetation.
Birders will love the rainy season in Etosha. After good rains the salt pan fills with water attracting a cloud of flamingos. More than 340 bird species have been counted in Etosha National Park. Among the migratory species, the European bee-eater is possibly the most popular sighting. The game reserve is also home to the world’s largest bird, the ostrich, and the heaviest flying bird, the kori bustard.
Please note that Etosha National Park is immensely popular, hence advanced bookings are recommended.
During winter the Etosha Pan is bone dry. This endless white expanse is an unlikely venue for a wildlife sanctuary. The park is a wasteland of white dust which comes from the clay in the pan. Bushes along the road turn white as vehicles throw up dust and visitors who leave the park usually have a dusty aura around them! This is also the time when most of the visitors come to the park as the climate is mild and the wildlife concentrates itself at the waterholes. Yet the surrounding areas overflow with springbok and zebra.
The summer in the park is vastly different with heavy rains turning a dry dusty Etosha National Park into a lush green oasis. This time of year means life in the park for new born animals as well as birdlife. Many European migratory birds come south to enjoy the new life that has been washed into the vegetation. Driving during the rainy season can get a lot trickier as roads can be flooded and having an equipped vehicle will make the journey a lot more enjoyable. It is also advised to do a lot more driving to view the wildlife as animals tend to keep clear of the once active waterholes that posed such dangers during the dry season.
Western part is Open
The western part of the park used to be exclusively for tour operators with special permits. It is now open to visitors who book a night at Dolomite camp (named after the waterhole at the foot of the Koppie Dolomietpunt). The camp is located on a ‘koppie’ in the western part of the reserve. The area and vegetation is very different to the south- eastern and eastern part of the park. One can find the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra
In this area and with a more undulating landscape, it makes for a very different wildlife experience. White dust and clay which makes up the Etosha Pan turns to a reddish brown soil during this time which may lead you to believe you have entered an entirely new park when you visit.
The route from Okaukuejo to Dolomite is a roughly 175km’s with 15 waterholes evenly spaced out on route. These waterholes have been open for several years now and have recently been revamped, ensuring that the wildlife becomes more prolific in these areas. You can also access Dolomite from the Galton Gate which is located in the western border of park. You will need to have a reservation at Dolomite to visit this area or get access through the Galton Gate.
Many keen photographers visit the park looking to enhance their skills and photo- library. In winter, the waterholes offer a unique opportunity to sit and wait for your subjects to come to you. The waterholes that surround the camps ensure that you are never left without something to photograph. The landscapes and the vast Etosha pan are always highlights for any photographer. Taking pictures of animal silhouettes crossing the vast pan is a picture that takes patience and a bit of luck, but the outcome is often something very unique to Etosha National Park.