Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park

The Etosha National Park in the north of Namibia offers some of the finest wildlife viewing in Africa, and is one of the undisputed highlights of a visit to the country.

Etosha National Park

Some of the finest wildlife viewing in Africa

The 22,000 km² Etosha National Park in the north of Namibia offers some of the finest wildlife viewing in Africa, and is one of the undisputed highlights of any visit to the country.

Etosha lionThe Park is home to 114 different mammal species, including 4 of the Big 5 - leopard, lion, elephant and rhino (both black and white), and has recorded nearly 400 species of bird, and over 110 species of reptile. Etosha is also home to 3 uncommon antelope species - the beautiful black-faced impala, the roan antelope, and Southern Africa's smallest antelope, the Damara dik-dik, which stands only 40cm to the shoulder as a fully grown male adult. 

The Park is centred around the Etosha Pan, a vast white salt pan covering over 20% of the Park - a total of 5,000 km² - and is an amazing 130 km long and 72 km wide.  Unsurprisingly, Etosha means 'huge white area' or 'place of dry water' in Owambo, and this is how the Pan and the Park got its name.  Over 12 million years ago it was a shallow lake fed by the Kunene River, but the lake dried up as the river found a new course due to tectonic movement in the earth's crust.

Etosha wildlifeA San legend says that the Pan was formed by a young woman, whose only child was killed by brutal hunters.  The woman cried so much, her tears formed a great lake.  When the sun came out, it dried up her tears, but left the ground covered in salt.  It is true that the Pan does have a high alkaline content, which attracts the wildlife, who require salt in their diet. 

If there is exceptionally heavy rainfall, the Pan is transformed into a sludgy lake, albeit only about 1 metre deep, and it becomes a feeding ground for literally thousands of wading birds including large flocks of pink flamingos.

Vegetation in the park

The vegetation in the Park is mainly grass and bush savanna, and is also home to the striking and certainly odd-looking moringa tree, which looks as if it has been planted upside down and its roots are where its leaves and branches should be. 

Legend has it that the Creator became very annoyed one day with the animals on Earth, and picked up a tree and flung it down to Earth.  Luckily it missed the animals, but landed upside down and there it stayed as a reminder to the animals not to annoy the Creator.

visiting the park on a self-drive safari

Many visitors to Etosha come on a 'self-drive' basis.  There are 2 main gates into the Park - the Andersson Gate to the south, and the Von Lindequist Gate to the east. The gates are open daily from sunrise to sunset. All visitors have to pay an entrance fee.

You can either stay just outside the Park at one of the comfortable lodges near the eastern or southern gates, or at one of the rest camps inside the Park, which are operated by Namibia Wildlife Resorts.

The main roads leading in from the 2 gates are tarred, but after that all of the roads are gravel, and range from extremely good to somewhat pot-holed. The speed limit is 60 km/h throughout the Park.

Only the southern edge of the Pan is open to visitors, and there are no roads across the Etosha Pan itself.

A 4WD is not needed to visit Etosha, however a high-clearance vehicle is a good idea as it improves visibility (for looking over bushes and grass) and ground clearance (for puddles). All roads are accessible by a 2WD saloon car, but do watch out in wet weather that you don't drive through too much deep water and risk getting water in the engine and spark-plugs - you don't want to breakdown in front of lions (trust us - you really don't!) If you do have a breakdown or a puncture, just stay in your car and wait for help to arrive!

when to go

The Park is always extremely busy during December and January, which coincides with being both very hot (average temperatures are just over 30°C) and the school holidays. Early booking of accommodation is definitely advised if you want to visit during these months.

January and March are also the wettest months, and the Pan may fill with water if the rainfall is exceptionally heavy.

The Park is incredibly lush and green, and certainly elephant and rhino can be harder to spot, as they seem to 'disappear' into the thickets to feed. However, there are large herds of zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, oryx and springbok on the open grassy plains, and many animals also have their young at this time of year. 

The winter months between July and September are the dry season, so the temperatures are cooler and there is little or no rain. The veld is drier, making for better viewing both in the bush and around the many waterholes, where the animals will more frequently gather to drink.

Spend some time at one of Etosha's waterholes in the dry season and you will see a constant stream of elephants, zebras, wildebeest, oryx and other wildlife coming to drink.  Lions and black rhino are also frequently seen. 

The recommended stay at the Park is at least 3 nights. An ideal scenario is to stay near one gate for a night or 2 and then drive through the Park and stay at near the other gate for a further night or even 2. This gives you the opportunity to travel right through the Park without doubling back on yourself, and experience new and different game viewing opportunities.

However and whenever you decide to visit Etosha, the memories will stay with you for a very long time.

staying in a private reserve

If you do not want to self-drive in the Park, you can stay at one of the private concessions or lodges just outside the Park boundaries.

You will go out on game drives with an experienced guide, and the drives are either on the private concession or you will have a game drive in the Park itself - so you really get the best of both worlds.

Ongava is one of the largest of these reserves, indeed, it is one of the largest private game reserves in the whole of Namibia.  There are 3 exclusive lodges on the reserve - Ongava Lodge, which consists of rock and thatch chalets, the smaller Tented Camp, or the stunning Little Ongava, which is nestled on the crest of a hill with wonderful views onto the plains below.  Ongava is also one of the few private reserves where you have a chance of seeing both black and white rhino, and tracking the white rhino on foot is a highlight of a stay here.


Okaukuejo Rest Camp

National Park Camp

Guest Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 based on 3 ratings

Okaukuejo is approximately 18 km from the Andersson Gate. The main attraction is the circular limestone water tower, which give excellent views over the bush right to the Pan in the distance.



Namutoni Rest Camp

National Park Camp

Namutoni is situated on the eastern side of the Park, the highlight here is the massive converted old fort, with a superb viewing platform at the top of one of the turrets. The 24 hour floodlit waterhole is surrounded by reeds, and a thatched seating area overlooks the hole.



Halali Rest Camp

National Park Camp

Guest Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 based on 2 ratings

Halali is situated more or less in the middle of the other 2 rest camps. The camp has a good restaurant and a large swimming pool, as well as a petrol station and shop.



Mushara Lodge

Lodge / Inn

Guest Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 based on 1 ratings

The lodge consists of 10 thatched chalets, in a horseshoe shape around the swimming pool. Each chalet is furnished with air-conditioning, mosquito net, mini bar fridge, tea/coffee making facilities.



Villa Mushara

Lodge / Inn

Each secluded thatched villa has its own unique ambience, fine detail has been considered from a small private library in each villa to a silver candle snuff in the en-suite bathroom.Air-conditioning will moderate the outside climate and the mini bar with its comprehensive selection of beverages, will satisfy even the most discerning palates.



Etosha Aoba Lodge

Lodge / Inn

Bordering the Etosha National Park, the Etosha Aoba Lodge is an ideal base for unforgettable self-drive tours through one of Africa's premier parks.The 10 well-appointed thatched bungalows each have their own private veranda with views over the African bushveld, and the flood-lit waterhole attracts a wide variety of wildlife at night.



Ongava Tented Camp

Safari Lodge

Guest Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 based on 1 ratings

The accommodation at this small, classic, traditional tented camp is in 'Meru-style' or East African tents.Each of the luxury 8 walk-in tents have double doors in the front that lead onto a veranda, allowing for views to the bush and waterhole.



Ongava Lodge

Safari Lodge

Guest Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 based on 3 ratings

Guests are accommodated in 14 luxury brick and thatch chalets, each with air-conditioning and an en-suite bathroom with a bath and a shower.  Each chalet is built on an elevated deck, which are linked by walkways.



Little Ongava

Safari Lodge

The accommodation at Little Ongava comprises of 3 luxuriously spacious suites. Each suite has its own plunge pool, en-suite bathroom, a 'sala', an additional outdoor shower, and a superb view of the waterhole in front of the camp from the private veranda.



Harnas Etosha

Lodge / Inn

Formally known as Naua Naua Lodge, Harnas Etosha is situated 44 km south of the Anderson Gate to the Etosha National Park. The property offers 9 comfortable and cosy en-suite rooms, decorated in a warm African style.



Mushara Bush Camp

Safari Lodge

The Mushara Bush Camp offers a down-to-earth tented bush camp experience, and can accommodate up to 32 guests as well as 8 children in 16 custom made en-suite tents (4 which have a double sleeper couch for children), which are built from a combination of canvas, wood and local limestone. With their own private verandah and roof to floor windows, these tents are spacious and airy.



Etosha Safari Camp

Lodge / Inn

Etosha Safari Camp is conveniently situated only 10 km from the world renowned Etosha National Park.22 en-suite tented bungalows offer a warm and creative African ambience, each decorated with artistically painted floors, metal and ceramic furniture created by local Namibian craftsmen.



Onguma Bush Camp

Lodge / Inn

Guest Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 based on 2 ratings

Onguma is one of Namibia's best kept secrets. Situated on the eastern side of Etosha Park, the reserve covers an area of 20,000 hectares and boasts over 30 different animal species.



Kempinski Mokuti Lodge

Safari Resort

The Kempinski Mokuti Lodge boasts unique African charm, and is situated just outside the Von Lindequist gate of the Etosha National Park.Each of the 106 chalets, set under cool thatch, is equipped with an en-suite bathroom, air- conditioning and ceiling fan, telephone, fridge, hairdryer, and satellite TV with various channels.



Epacha Game Lodge & Spa

Safari Lodge

In keeping with the Victorian era in Africa, Epacha Game Lodge uniquely combines turn of the century elegance with personalised safari luxury - the chalets are individually appointed with specially commissioned antique furnishings and stylishly decorated in subtle, relaxing colours.All the luxurious chalets encompass a spacious suite and a magnificent en-suite bathroom as well as an open-air shower, and each has its own private balcony, complete with a breathtaking view across the majestic private reserve and the valley.



Eagle Tented Lodge & Spa

Safari Lodge

Guest Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 based on 1 ratings

This luxury lodge, built from natural rock with thatch roofs boasts 8 luxury canvas tents all with spacious en-suite facilities. All tents have their private raised wooden balcony with breath taking view over the valley amongst the mountains.



Onguma Tented Camp

Safari Lodge

Guest Rating: 2.0 / 5.0 based on 1 ratings

Tented Camp offers guest an exclusive safari experience, in exquisitely styled tents. The surrounding nature lends itself to long lazy afternoons spent relaxing in the lounge area watching the animals at the waterhole.



Onguma The Fort

Safari Lodge

Guest Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 based on 2 ratings

The Fort (formerly Plains Camp) is built on the edge of Fishers Pan, and has 12 standard Rooms, one suite and one bush suite. The main guest area has a curio shop, reading lounge, 2 dining rooms and a swimming pool.



Anderssons Camp

Safari Lodge

The tents are a clever mix of calcrete stone cladding, canvas and wood all with en-suite bathrooms and elevated on wooden decks. These classic-style tents have double doors and a small veranda for uninterrupted views and feature a uniquely designed open-air private shower.



Mushara Outpost

Lodge / Inn

The Mushara Outpost accommodates 16 guest in custom made tent like structures, of wood and canvas which are nestled on the banks of an ancient dry river bed known to the locals as an "omaramba". Each en-suite tent is set on a wooden deck, a meter and a half above the ground, giving a different perspective of the bush.


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