Etosha National Park is Namibia’s eminent safari destination and is home to an astonishing collection of wildlife. Etosha translates to “place of dry water” and is undeniably one of southern Africa’s best loved and most easily accessible wildlife sanctuaries. Spanning 22 270km², it is also one of the world’s largest national parks with more than 114 mammal species and some 340 bird species to be seen.
The Ondonga name for it was ‘Etotha’ which means, ‘A place where no plant grows’ but the early European traders struggled to pronounce it, so they called it Etosha. When Etosha National Park was first established in 1907, the total area of the park came to a staggering 100,000km², making it comfortably the largest game reserve in the world. Subsequent political issues over land saw the park reduced to approximately a quarter of its original size at 22,000km². Nevertheless, Etosha remains amongst Africa’s favourite game reserves, and what it may have lost in size it more than makes up for in scenery. Water holes scattered around the park attract wildlife like a magnet and it is easy to spend the best part of a day driving between the observation points. Waterholes during the dry season provide the best game viewing opportunities. There are more than 40 waterholes throughout the park to explore, excluding the salt pan. Etosha is a magical place with more than 100 animal and 300 bird species. Four of the Big Five can be found in the park, with buffalo being the only exemption. There are great opportunities to see the critically endangered and solitary black rhino, which is in fact the true claimant amongst the rhino family to inclusion in the prestigious Big Five. There are also countless elephants, giraffes, impala, zebra, eland, wildebeest, honey badgers, warthogs and more.
The best time to visit Etosha is during the months of July to October (winter, dry season). For big game, the best sightings are to be had in the bone dry winter months, when the animals are all drawn to the numerous man-made and natural watering holes that punctuate the scorched landscape.
Visitors will usually fly to either Windhoek or Walvis Bay from Cape Town or Johannesburg. From then on, visitors will catch a light aircraft charter flight to an airstrip on the outdoor of the park. Charter flights are typically utilized when visitors are accommodated in one of the private game reserves that border the park, like Ongava or Onguma.
On a private overland safari, guests will also fly to Windhoek or Walvis Bay from Johannesburg or Cape Town, but afterwards travel by road in a hardy 4×4 vehicle led by tourAfrika guide. From Windhoek, the road trip takes around four and half hours, while Walvis Bay to Etosha is approximately five and a half hours’ drive.
There are various accommodation choices in Etosha National Park are well set up 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. Located deeper in the park are the more exclusive camps (Dolomite and Onkoshi) that offer a safari experience for discerning travellers.
Mosquitoes are not widespread in Namibia a, however malaria is a risk from Okahandja northwards. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention therefore recommends anti-malarial prophylactics for visitors to Etosha. Besides that, verify that your customary vaccinations are in order. Should you be susceptible to allergies and inflammation, make sure that you pack the suitable remedial medication, as in winter months Etosha turns out to be dusty.
HEALTH & SAFETY
You will be staying in the wilderness of a national park, crime is not a question. Nonetheless safeguard that you are discrete with your valuables, to avoid petty theft. Do not feed animals under any circumstances – baboons and monkeys become remarkably antagonistic when they learn to be acquainted to people with food. Do not exit your vehicle unless you are in a designated area where it is safe to do so, or in the company of an armed ranger.
When on game drives, remain in your vehicle at all times
Obey all the traffic signs in the park
Only persons with a valid driver’s licence are permitted to drive in the park
No wildlife or plants may be removed from the park
The following are not allowed:
The choice for your transport is dependent on whether you are like a guided overland safari at one of Etosha’s rest camps or a luxury fly-in safari at Onguma or Ongava. For our guided overland safaris, we make use of hardy, closed four-wheel rental vehicles, with air conditioning and well-heeled interiors. Namibia’s roads cover drawn-out distances in a severe desert environment, so a vehicle designed to cope with the worst terrain found in Africa is a must.
Should you be staying at one of the private game reserves that border the park, you will enjoy game drives in adapted open 4×4 vehicles particularly purposely built for game viewing.
Can I be harmed by wild animals?
If you observe the non-feeding animals or strolling around the park on your own, you need not to be troubled about being wounded by animals. Always pay attention to the advice of your ranger or guide.
Is there fresh water to drink?
Bottled mineral water is instantly accessible at all the rest camps in the park and at all the private lodges. While the tap water is safe to drink, it is not very pleasurable.
Do I need take malaria medication?
Anti-malarial prophylactics are recommended for visitors to Etosha.
Will I have mobile reception and access to the internet?
While the rest camps and lodges have adequate mobile reception, you will typically be off the network whilst on safari. Internet services are obtainable at some establishments, but it is generally slow.
Are bush walks available?
You can only enjoy a guided bush walk if you are staying at one of the private game reserves like Onguma or Ongava.
Can I view animals at night?
Regrettably, night drives are not offered in the park itself. At the rest camps, you can view animals at the floodlit waterholes at night. Should you be booked in one of the private game reserves, your late afternoon game drives will encroach into the night.
Are there any species that are unique to Etosha?
At Etosha, you may come across black-faced impala, the Damara dik-dik and the Hartmann’s mountain zebra – animals that are very scarce or non-existent in other wilderness areas.
Are my valuables safe at the lodges & camps?
Petty crime is generally very low in wilderness areas. However, should you have prized valuables, you can ask reception to keep them away in a lock safe for the period of your stay.
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