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Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park

waterholes are worth multiple visits.

half and full day game drives offered.

Burchell's zebra and red hartebeest aplenty

get up close on guided activities.

great photography at eye level

Etosha is home to four of the big 5

nature walks with experienced guide

track wildlife afoot with an experienced ranger.

black and white rhino are found in Etosha

a bush walk in the cool of the day

sundowners in the soft twilight

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park: in detail

Etosha safari holidays: the full story

Translated as the “Place of Mirages”, “Land of Dry Water” or the “Great White Place”, Etosha is an apparently endless pan of silvery-white sand, upon which dust-devils play and mirages blur the horizon. The surrounding Etosha National Park – one of Africa's best game reserves – protects both this vast shallow bowl, the size of Holland, and the surrounding bush. It excels during the dry season when huge herds of animals can be seen amidst some of the most startling and photogenic safari scenery in Africa. For most of the year, the park’s many waterholes are ideal places just to sit quietly, observing and photographing game from the comfort of your car. Follow the rhythm of the animals: rise at dawn to watch them feed in the cool morning; relax during the midday heat; and venture out on safari again in the late afternoon.

Safaris to Etosha National Park

Etosha is so special because of the concentration of waterholes that occur around the southern edges of the pan. As the dry season progresses, these increasingly draw the game. In fact, the best way to watch animals in Etosha is often just to sit in your vehicle by a waterhole and wait.

Etosha was really designed for visitors on self-drive safari holidays; that's how most people visit here, helped by the park's good roads and signposts. If you prefer to be guided around by a professional safari guide, then it's usually better to stay in one of the private camps or lodges.

Flora & Fauna of Etosha

The game and birds found here are typical of the savannah plains of the main safari areas in southern Africa, but include several species endemic to this western side of the continent, adjacent to the Namib Desert.

Big game of Etosha National Park

The more common herbivores include elephant, giraffe, eland, blue wildebeest, kudu, gemsbok, springbok, impala, steenbok and zebra. The most numerous of these are springbok, which can often be seen in herds numbering thousands, spread out over the most barren of plains. These finely marked antelope have a marvellous habit of pronking, either (it appears) for fun or to avoid predators. It has been suggested that pronking is intended to put predators off in the first place by showing the animal’s strength and stamina; the weakest pronkers are the ones predators are seen to go for.

Elephant are very common, though digging for water below the sand wears down their tusks, so big tuskers are very rare. Often large family groups are seen trooping down to waterholes to drink, wallow and bathe. The park’s population has been under scientific scrutiny for the infrasonic noises (below the range of human hearing) which they make. It is thought that groups communicate over long distances in this way.

Among the rarer species, black rhino continue to thrive here, and the floodlit waterholes at Okaukuejo and Halali provide two of the continent’s best chances to observe this aggressive and secretive species. In recent years, about a dozen white rhino have been introduced. Your best chance of seeing these is in the east of the park, around Aus, Springbokfontein, Batia or Okerfontein, either early or late in the day.

Black-faced impala are restricted to Namibia and southern Angola, occurring here as well as in parts of the Kunene region to the west. With only isolated populations, numbering under a thousand or so, they are one of the rarest animals in the region. The Damara dik-dik is the park’s smallest antelope. Endemic to Namibia, it is common here in areas of dense bush.
Roan antelope and red hartebeest occur all over the subcontinent, though they are common nowhere. This is definitely one of the better parks in which to look for roan, especially in the mopane areas around Aus and Olifantsbad.
Predators in Etosha
All of the larger felines are found in Etosha, with good numbers of lion, leopard, cheetah and caracal. The lion tend to prey mainly upon zebra and wildebeest, whilst the cheetah rely largely upon springbok. The seldom-seen leopard take a varied diet, including antelope and small mammals, whilst the equally elusive caracal go for similar but smaller prey.

There have been several attempts to introduce wild dog here, but so far no success. The usual problem has been that the dogs don’t know to avoid lion, which have subsequently killed them for no apparent reason.

Also found in the park are both spotted and brown hyenas, together with silver jackal (or cape fox), and the more common black-backed jackal – many of which can be seen in the late evening, skulking around the camps in search of scraps of food.

Birds of Etosha

Some 340 species of birds have been recorded in Etosha, including many uncommon members of the hawk and vulture families.

Amongst the birds of prey, bateleur, martial, tawny and Wahlberg’s eagles are fairly common, as are black-breasted and brown snake eagles. Pale chanting goshawks are more often seen than the similar Gabar or the smaller little banded goshawk. The list of harriers, falcons and kestrels occurring here is even longer, and worthy of special mention are the very common rock kestrels, and the unusual red-necked and particularly cute pygmy falcons, which are less readily seen. The impressive peregrine falcon and Montagu’s harrier are two of the rarer summer migrants.

Lappet-faced and white-backed vultures are common here, outnumbering the odd pair of white-headed or hooded vultures. Palmnut vultures are occasionally seen in the east of the park.

The number of large birds stalking around the plains can strike visitors as unusual; invariably during the day you will see groups of ostriches or pairs of secretary birds. Equally, it is easy to drive within metres of many kori bustards and black korhaans, which will just sit by the roadside and watch the vehicles pass. In the wet season, blue cranes, both beautiful and endangered, are common here: Etosha is worth visiting in January and February for them alone. Other specialities of the park include violet wood hoopoe, white-tailed shrike, bare-cheeked and black-faced babblers, short-toed rock thrush, and a pale race of the pink-bellied lark.

History of Etosha National Park

The early European explorers and traders discovered the Etosha area in the 1850s when Charles Andersson and Francis Galton visited it. Relentless hunting of the area’s game ensued until 1907 when Dr von Lindequist, then the governor of German South West Africa, proclaimed three reserves to protect the land and seasonal migrations. These boundaries held until the 1960s when Etosha National Park was shrunk to its present size.

In recent years, there has been persistent and increasing talk of developing a “people’s park” – designed to link Etosha with the Skeleton Coast. If this were to come to fruition, it would cross the concessions currently held by Hobatere, Etendeka and Palmwag, creating a 20km-wide corridor to allow free movement of wildlife between the two national parks.

Landscape of Etosha

The defining feature of Etosha National Park is the huge Etosha Pan, which appears to be the remnant of a large inland lake that was fed by rivers from the north and east. One of these was probably the Kunene, which flowed southeast from the Angolan highlands and into the pan. However, some 12 million years ago continental uplift changed the slope of the land and the course of these tributaries. The Kunene now flows west from the Ruacana Falls and into the Atlantic. Thus deprived, the lake slowly vanished in the scorching sun, leaving behind only a salty residue. Few plants can grow on this and so wind erosion is easy, allowing the pan to be gradually hollowed out.

The pan has probably changed little over time. It is roughly 110km from east to west and 60km from north to south, covering an area of 6,133km2 (around a quarter of the park’s surface) with flat, silvery sand and shimmering heat. If the rains to the north and east have been good, then the pan will hold water for a few months at the start of the year, thanks mainly to the Ekuma River and the Omuramba Ovambo. Only very rarely does it fill completely.

In the rest of the national park, beyond the pan, the terrain is generally flat with a variety of habitats ranging from mopane woodland to wide, open, virtually treeless plains. In the east, around Namutoni, the attractive makalani palms, Hyphaene ventricosa, are found, often in picturesque groups around waterholes. The small, round fruit of these palms, a favourite food of elephants, is sometimes called vegetable ivory because of its hard white kernel. In the west, one of the more unusual areas is the Haunted Forest, Sprokieswoud in Afrikaans, where the contorted forms of strange moringa trees, Moringa ovalifolia, form a weird woodland scene. Further west still, the environment becomes hillier, with mopane woodlands dotting the open savannah: very pretty but with few obvious centres for the game to congregate.

Where to stay in Etosha

Our suggestions for safari camps in Etosha National Park


Okaukuejo Camp

Okaukuejo Camp

Set within Etosha National Park, Okaukuejo Resort is a large camp with a productive, floodlit waterhole.


83% (654 reviews)
Halali Camp

Halali Camp

The smallest of Etosha's erstwhile restcamps, overlooking its own floodlit waterhole, Halali has a superb location near the centre of Etosha Pan.


79% (323 reviews)
Mushara Bush Camp

Mushara Bush Camp

The family-friendly Mushara Bush Camp offers great value and is an excellent base from which to explore Etosha National Park.


94% (247 reviews)
Ongava Lodge

Ongava Lodge

Ongava is a smart lodge with fantastic views that offers a range of driving and walking safaris on its own reserve, and guided drives in Etosha.


92% (148 reviews)
Ongava Tented Camp

Ongava Tented Camp

Set around a waterhole on a private reserve, the small Ongava Tented Camp combines understated comfort with activities that include walks and night drives.


93% (147 reviews)
Dolomite Camp

Dolomite Camp

Opened in 2011, Dolomite Camp allows visitors access to the far west side of Etosha National Park, which was previously off limits to most visitors.


86% (95 reviews)
Mushara Lodge

Mushara Lodge

Close to the eastern entrance to Etosha, the comfortable Mushara Lodge is well-placed for exploring the park in your own vehicle or on a guided drive.


92% (86 reviews)
Onguma Tented Camp

Onguma Tented Camp

Onguma Tented Camp is a lovely, little tented camp which centres around an attractive waterhole a short drive from the Von Lindequist Gate to eastern Etosha.


92% (85 reviews)
Namutoni Camp

Namutoni Camp

Centred on an old fort, the government run Namutoni Camp is located just inside Etosha National Park, close to Fisher's Pan.


82% (83 reviews)
Onguma Bush Camp

Onguma Bush Camp

For great wildlife viewing without breaking the bank, the affordable and understated luxury of Onguma Bush Camp could be perfect.


94% (80 reviews)
Hobatere Lodge

Hobatere Lodge

To the west of Etosha National Park, on the edge of Damaraland, Hobatere Lodge offers good game-viewing on its own reserve.


89% (70 reviews)
Mushara Outpost

Mushara Outpost

Mushara Outpost is a comfortable, stylish lodge, and a good base from which to explore nearby Etosha National Park on your own or with a guided safari.


94% (56 reviews)
Onguma Tree Top Camp

Onguma Tree Top Camp

For a bird’s eye view across African bush, the stilted rooms at Onguma Tree Top are truly special.


97% (42 reviews)
Onguma The Fort

Onguma The Fort

The Fort is the jewel in the crown of the Onguma lodges, and arguably the whole of eastern Etosha.


95% (38 reviews)
Onguma Etosha Aoba

Onguma Etosha Aoba

From its woodland setting on the Onguma Reserve, Etosha Aoba is within easy striking distance of Namibia’s flagship national park.


90% (33 reviews)
Safarihoek Lodge

Safarihoek Lodge

At the heart of the private Etosha Heights Reserve, Safarihoek Lodge offers comfortable accommodation and excellent game-viewing.


96% (28 reviews)
Taleni Etosha Village

Taleni Etosha Village

Only 4km from Etosha's southern entrance, Taleni Etosha Village is an affordable base from which to explore the park.


93% (26 reviews)
Etosha Safari Lodge

Etosha Safari Lodge

A short drive from Etosha National Park's southern entrance, Etosha Safari Lodge is a convenient base from which to explore the park.


84% (24 reviews)
Etosha Safari Camp

Etosha Safari Camp

Funky, low-key and very original, Etosha Safari Camp is well placed for visiting Etosha National Park on a self-drive or guided safari.


87% (23 reviews)
Little Ongava

Little Ongava

The beautifully located and luxurious Little Ongava is a stunning place to stay in order to explore Etosha National Park and the private Ongava Reserve.


97% (23 reviews)
Mokuti Etosha Lodge

Mokuti Etosha Lodge

With 106 rooms, child-friendly Mokuti Etosha Lodge is more like a hotel than a lodge. Facilities to include a gym, spa, tennis courts and even a snake park.


92% (10 reviews)
Mountain Lodge

Mountain Lodge

In the heart of the private Etosha Heights Reserve, the family-friendly Mountain Lodge offers game drives and bush walks within an exclusive environment.


97% (7 reviews)
Andersson's at Ongava

Andersson's at Ongava

With game drives on both its private reserve and in Etosha, Andersson's at Ongava also offers access to the Ongava Research Centre.


100% (6 reviews)
Vreugde Guest Farm

Vreugde Guest Farm

Vreugde Guest Farm is a delightful owner-run and working sheep farm where you can expect a warm welcome and charming hospitality.


95% (4 reviews)
Etosha Garden Hotel

Etosha Garden Hotel

Safari in Etosha National Park Namibia, whilst based at the nearby Etosha Garden Lodge.


60% (4 reviews)
Villa Mushara

Villa Mushara

Offering luxury on a peaceful and isolated private reserve, Villa Mushara is a great choice for honeymooners & those wishing to indulge themselves.


93% (3 reviews)
Toshari Lodge

Toshari Lodge

Safari in Etosha National Park Namibia, whilst based at Etosha Gateway Lodge.


80% (1 review)
Etosha Oberland Lodge

Etosha Oberland Lodge

A short drive from Etosha National Park's southern entrance, Etosha Oberland Lodge promises a convenient base from which to explore the park.


100% (1 review)
Safari House

Safari House

The private Safari House on the Etosha Heights reserve is a great option families or friends travelling together.


100% (1 review)
Onkoshi Camp

Onkoshi Camp

Onkoshi Camp is owned and run by Namibia Wildlife Resorts. Built on elevated wooden platforms it overlooks Etosha Pan.


No reviews yet
Etosha King Nehale

Etosha King Nehale

A short drive from the national park's northern entrance, Etosha King Nehale Lodge is an interesting and comfortable base from which to explore the park.


No reviews yet

Our travellers’ wildlife sightings in Etosha

This is their success for sightings in Etosha National Park.
Click on a species for more detail. How we work this out.


Oryx

95% success

Zebra

94% success

Giraffe

93% success

Wildebeest

89% success

Elephant

85% success

Lion

73% success

Black Rhino

64% success

Eland

48% success

White Rhino

46% success

Spotted Hyena

32% success

Cheetah

21% success

Sable antelope

19% success

Roan antelope

18% success

Brown Hyena

15% success

Leopard

15% success

Pangolin

1% success

Aardvark

0% success

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