Etosha National Park, Namibia
This has got to be one of best game viewing places around!!
Etosha is a vast (23,000 sq kms) pan area with grass lands and bushes that surround the barren pan area. Full of waterholes, spread out in what seems like strategic locations, the park is host to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 16 reptiles and countless insects.
It has a network of roads that you can self drive, even in a 2WD, to view the animals roaming around and the waterholes draw in the animals in their hundreds. So sit back by a waterhole and wait, you won't wait long and many waterholes have a constant stream of animals coming and going. Of course, you must stay in your vehicle. If you don't wish to self drive, the rest camps organise 4WD game drives throughout the day.
There are 3 main rest camp areas, Okaukeujo is arguably the best, with its fine accommodation choices and busy waterhole right in the campsite. We also stayed at Halali rest camp which also has a very active waterhole. Both have restaurant and bar.
To do the park justice, I would recommend a minimum of 3 nights. It can be luck of the draw as to which animals you see and where, but with the waterhole systems, you will end up in animal overload.
Etosha National Park in the northern part of Namibia is the best place in the country to see game animals, although it doesn’t compare to the game parks in some other African countries. You can stay in the park at one of several government-run rest camps (with fairly basic chalet style accommodation) or outside in more up-market lodges – we chose the former.
If you’re staying at a private lodge there’s likely to be the possibility of guided game drives but we drove ourselves. That’s got a few advantages – you’re in control of where you go and how long you stay. On the other hand if you go with a guide they’ll probably be in touch with other guides and know where to go for the best recent sightings.
Anyway, we did pretty well on our own. We saw lots of zebra, ostrich and giraffe, and were also really pleased to spot a rhino. My favourites are the elephants, and towards the end of the afternoon we found a large herd at a water-hole – definitely the highlight of our self-made game drive!
Etosha Game Park was declared a National Park in 1907. It covers an area of 22 270 square km, and while it isn’t as abundant with game as some of the more famous parks on the continent, it is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and one species of fish.
Etosha means "Great White Place", and the name suits the landscape, which is dominated by a massive mineral pan. This covers around 25% of the National Park, and was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the lake dried up when the course of the river changed thousands of years ago. The pan is now a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. But the springs and water-holes which remain along the edges of the pan attract large concentrations of wildlife and birds, and are the prime spots for viewing game.
The game viewing in Etosha National Park is excellent, the best time being from May to September - the cooler months in Namibia (we were there in July). Visitors can usually expect to see antelope, elephant, giraffe, rhino and lions, all of which we saw (though the lions only at night). Apparently some lucky visitors also see leopard and cheetah, but we didn’t here, although we did see the latter elsewhere in the country at Okonjima. There is a good network of roads linking the rest camps and various waterholes and other game viewing spots, all of which are navigable with a regular saloon car.
Etosha is a must when you visit Namibia. It offers an abundance of wildlife and understandably attracts lots of visitors. There are two ways of observing animals in Etosha: game drives and viewing them at waterholes while you are staying at a campsite. The floodlit waterholes ( there are three of them in Etosha) allow you to watch animals practically for twenty four hours a day.
I personally found the waterhole at the Okaukuejo camp the best place to observe animals. It was never empty, even at midday. Herds of antelopes, zebras and wildebeest visited it in daylight. So did the elephants that seem omnipresent in Etosha. After dusk the place became the stage for different animals. A couple of rhinos emerged from the darkness, followed by giraffes and then elephants again. The 'audience' sat in silence looking at the amazing spectacle.
Game drives must be done at daylight but they are hardly ever disappointing. During one of them we spotted groups of lions in just a few km intervals amounting to about 25 of them altogether.
This is the waterhole to come to late in the afternoon, before sunset.
We arrived and the couple of cars that had been here were just leaving... with BIG smiles on the faces of the occpants. When we got to the waterhole we saw, to our utter disappointment, the behinds of the last couple of elephants walking away. However, with a handful of giraffe enjoying the cool of the dying day and the water, we were content to sit and watch them - elegant in all their gangliness! And we were richly rewarded for our wait. With no other vehicle about for miles we were treated to not one, not two but thee seperate (small) herds of elephant, including some very old big boys and some incredibly playful calfs and teenagers. As the older elephants drank from what seemed to be the communal elephant drinking area, the youngsters came right down to our car and started to spray water and mud everywhere. It was our last day in the park and it was the most wonderful end to our time there.
ooph how to describe this waterhole. It is a vast area where possibly every zebra in Etosha seemed to gather. In between the sea of black and white stripes one could make out the odd giraffe, springbok, wildebeest etc...
I can only presume it is down to the sheer number of zebra but they were all definitely not very patient with one another and we witnessed many kerfuffles which rapdily turned into rather spiteful disputes!
This waterhole was the only place I saw the colour green in this dry pan.
To say it is an impressive sight is an understatement. Definitely a waterhole to go to.
Each time we visited this peaceful waterhole we were treated to a variety of antelope as well as warthogs and a variety of birds (including thousands of helmeted guineafowl).
It was tranquil and the antelope brought an atmosphere of grace all of their own. We sat here for such a long time, many times just watching. It was totally magical.
We were treated to the presence of giraffe on one occasion at this waterhole, but, quickly the small viewing area filled with vehicles who slewed in sideways ensuring their premier viewing but leaving no space for the likes of us hwo had driven for hours and had children esperate to see... it became apparent these ewre Etosha's tours and they were obviously in radio contact for them all to appear from nowhere.
and note of etiquette... do turn your engine off when sitting and watching.
Watching a (floodlit) waterhole at night is wonderful and magical.
The best time for waterholes is in the dry season - the less the water, the more animals that will gather. But, it should be noted that the dr season is Africa's winter and, whilst the days are still gloriously sunny and warm to hot, the mornings and nights are FREEZING.... especially when you are sitting still watching and waiting. In late July/early August padded jackets, hats, gloves, thermos flasks etc... would not have been out of place. We thought we had enough layers but we underestimated - we soon ran back to our room to get the throws to wrap around ourselves and to make cups of tea!
Despite being frozen - as were all, except the very experienced winter night waterhole frequenters, the rewards were quite simply awesome. Our waterhole did not disappoint - 4 white rhino (including a calf) - 2 adult males having a little "disagreement about who had the right to be there) and then several herds of elephants who meeted and greeted one another - stroking trunks and shunning a couple of loners... and our children... more interested in a rat scurrying around near us!!!
If you come all the way to Etosha, really, you need to try to get to a waterhole at night. However, it is at a premium... you are going to have to stay inside the park and that will suddenly bring the cost of your accommodation up a notch because there are only 3 lodges - Okaukeujo, Halali & Namutoni Resorts and they have the in-park-accommodation-market all sewn up!
Having spent 3 days in Etosha, my opinion is, if you are on a budget, stay outside the park except for the one night you would like to be at a waterhole. There are som good and considerably cheaper accommodations to be found literally just outside the gates - so you can still get up, get in and have a full day inside Etosha.
As with everything in Namibia, Etosha is BIG - over 20,000km surrounding the Etosha Pan.
The general public are not allowed in the west of the park (which takes up about 1/3 of the total area of the park).
You can get around the park easily in a 2-wheel drive vehicle. Or you can organise safaris at one of the lodges... You will sit higher up and therefore have a greater vantage point and guides all seem to have super spectacular eye sight BUT if you have your own vehicle it is a waste of money... drive yourself!
There are 3 rest camps in the park (Okaukeujo, Halali & Namutoni Resorts) which all have information centres, shops etc... Recommend you stop at the first one, Okaukuejo Rest Camp (just inside the Anderson Gates) to pick up a map of the park... I had my Lonely Planet map but it was not as comprehensive as the parks official one.
On entering the park you will be asked to fill out the obligatory visitors forms. Payment is per day, so if you are staying inside the park you will pay upfront for the duration. If you stay outside, you will pay for every new day you enter.
Etosha is vast. We spent 3 days there and did cover most of it. It is possible to drive around for ages and not see so much as a ground squirrel but see lots you will and especially at the waterholes. The best ones seemed to be Aus (for eland, kudu and other antelope species), Sprinbokfontein (for more zebra than you could possibly ever imagine seeing in your lifetime) and Kalkheuwel (for herds and herds of elephnats and giraffe).
Apparantly,The Etosha area was used as a backdrop during the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not particularly relevent to anything else, but I felt you should know!
The Etosha pan is a large salt pan in the north of Namibia. The 120-kilometre-long dry lakebed and its surroundings are protected as Etosha National Park, one of Namibia's largest wildlife parks.
It was first explored by the Europeans John Andersson and Francis Galton in 1851. American commercial traveller McKeirnan visited the area in 1876.
The area exhibits a characteristic white and greenish surface, which spreads over hundreds of kilometres. The pan developed through tectonic plate activity over 10 million years.
About 16,000 years ago, when ice sheets were melting across the Northern Hemisphere land masses, a wet climate phase in southern Africa filled Etosha Lake. Today, Etosha Pan is seldom seen with even a thin sheet of water covering the salt pan.
Now the Ekuma River is the sole source of water. Typically, little river water or sediment reaches the dry lake because water seeps into the riverbed along its 250-kilometre (55-mile) course, reducing discharge along the way.
You can't get out and walk on it as no roads go over it and you cannot leave your vehicle once inside the national park (unless you fancy being a lions dinner!)
Another comfortable Government run rest camp with waterhole.
This camp is distinguished by a fort built by the Germans in 1902-03. It was erected as a border post and was attacked in 1904 by 500 Ovambos during the Herero uprising
.The garrison of seven German soldiers successfully defended fort for the whole day and retreated later during the night. Next day fort was completely destroyed by Ovambos.
After Herero uprising Namutoni fort was rebuild and later used as a police post but during the course of time fall in disuse. Restoration works began on the end of 30s when one of the towers was destroyed by lightning.
In 1950 the Namutoni fort was declared a National Monument
Etosha, which was declared a game reserve by the German kolonial administration back in 1907, covers an area of more than 22 000 sqkms. In its centre lies a vast saltpan surrounded by grass and thorn savannah, Mopane bushland in the west and dry forest in the north-east. About two million years ago, this area was an enormous lake, fed by the Kunene river. However the lake slowly dried up because over time, the river changed its course.
The Etosha National Park has a good infrastructure. Well-maintained gravel roads lead to the waterholes, where game viewing is at its best. In the three restcamps Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni, hotels, chalets and camping sites are available as well as restaurants, stores and swimming pools.
The pan is just about always dry. However, in the southern parts there are have water-holes scattered throughout this area and form the basis of life for countless game.
Be it a lion or an elephant, a giraffe or a zebra; almost all African animal species are represented in the huge nature reserve, approx. 22 000 square kilometres in size. There is an estimated number of 250 lions in the park, 300 rhinos, 2 500 giraffes, 6 000 zebras and more than 2 000 elephants. The dainty springbok are especially numerous; at least 20 000 of them roam the reserve. Often, they can be observed in enormous herds of several hundred animals.
The Etosha National Park consists of three restcamps. The biggest one, Okaukuejo, lies about 120 kilometres north of Outjo - on the south-western border of the Etosha saltpan. This is also the main entrance to the Etosha Park with its administration offices.
The restcamp has a petrol station, supermarket, kiosk, restaurant, picnic spot, swimming pool and a waterhole, which is floodlighted after dark.
Its government run so don't expect to be in the lap of luxury but its well enough run clean and in good condition.
One highlight is to spend the evening at the floodlight waterhole. Its like a mini wildlife documentary with a succession of different animals slipping silently out of the shadows to come and drink. In the space of 2 hours I saw Elephants, Giraffes, Oryx, Hyena, Black Rhino, and a lion.
A vast area on Namibia's central plateau, a haven for 93 mammal species and 340 bird species, the park's focal point is the Etosha Pan - a flat saline desert, 130 km long by 50km at its widest in the eastern sector of the park. The park covers 23175 square kilometres which was reduced from over 100,000 sq km in the 1960s to make way for farmland.
The Pan originated over 12 million years ago as a shallow lake fed by the Kunene River. Subsequent climatic and tectonic changes have since lowered the water level so that the pan only holds water for a brief period each year - it teems with flamingos and pelicans in the summer. The saline and mineral residues together with moisture from perennial springs attract an immense number and variety of game and birds from mid March into November just before the new wet season starts.
Etosha is known for impala, and is said to have the tallest elephants in Africa, measuring up to 4m at the shoulder. The park is also well recognised as being one of the last wild sanctuaries of the endangered black rhino.
Despite the massive size of Etosha, only the southern edge of the pan is accessible to casual visitors. There are three rest camps within the park at Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni. An extensive network of roads links the campsites with over 30 water holes in the central and eastern region - ideal places to sit and wait it out for game.
I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about seeing lots of wildlife but I was not dissapointed. In the course of only 1 day I saw: Giraffe, Elephant, Lion, Leopard (v rare!) Impala, Oryx, kudu, Hyena, Jackal, Ostrich. check out the travelogue section for photos.
Etosha National Park is 22'270 square km and is one of the biggest parks in Africa.
You will have the opportunity to view wildlife when going on game drives as well as observing the animals at waterholes, in the resorts for example. The best times for animal viewing is early in the morning or late afternoon.
We were lucky to see a lot of animals, zebras, elephants, lions, kudus, etc. We could have stayed for hours, sitting silently in the car, watching the elephants. Really amazing experience to be so close to them!
Observing the animals at waterholes is also a must.
Perfect moments like watching the sun go down, while the animals are drinking... Bliss.
Really, you shouldn't miss Etosha Park when travelling in Namibia!