Etosha National Park is located in northern Namibia, approximately 435km (270mi) from the capital, Windhoek. Proclaimed in 1967, the park encompasses 22,270 km2 (8,600 sq mi). The word Etosha means 'the place where no plants grow', a fitting name for this harsh desert environment that is ranked as Namibia's most popular park. Much of the park's area comprises a vast salt pan, and the mineral salts it contains ensures highly nutritious fodder for the park's abundant wildlife, with water provided by a network of artificial waterholes. Four of the Big 5 can be viewed here (lion, leopard, elephant and rhinoceros), along with unusual species like the gemsbok. The desert habitat also offers bird watchers some unusual sightings.

Essential Traveller Information

The drive to Etosha from Windhoek takes about 6 hours.  If staying within the park, remember that the gates close between sunrise and sunset, so factor this into your travel plans.  There are numerous gravel roads within the park, most of them south of the Etosha Pan, and good maps are available.  Given the vast size, you will need a minimum of two nights to appreciate the park properly, and it is always a good idea to spend time at waterholes, especially in the dry season.  The terrain is flat, with pockets of acacia and mopane woodland interrupting expansive grasslands.

Situated in the remote desert flats of northern Namibia, a visit to the renowned Etosha National Park is well worth the effort to get there. Overseas visitors typically arrive at the Hosea Kutako International Airport near Windhoek and can then either rent and drive or fly the scenic 435km (270mi) to the park.

A Rugged Yet Hospitable Desert Experience

To fully appreciate the park, a minimum of two nights to experience the beauty of this 22,270 sq. km (8,600 sq mi) wildlife haven is required. For self-drive, a 4×4 vehicle is recommended. The road network is extensive in the eastern section of the park. The park’s western section is more sparsely served but worth the trip. Numerous companies offer professional guided safaris, and it is worthwhile using them for their local knowledge.

The park’s infrastructure is equipped to accommodate guests with a network of roads, five government camps and services like shops and filling stations. However, some visitors prefer accommodation outside the park, where more accommodation options are on offer and only enter for game viewing. There is a nice selection of lodges to choose from in the vicinity, and Africa’s Eden Travel will gladly assist in pairing you with accommodation that fits your requirements.

Wet or Dry, the Wildlife Wins the Day

Given the desert environment, water is key; for the survival of wildlife and for chances of spotting it. Take advantage of this by visiting water holes and waiting for the wildlife to arrive. Note that not all water holes have water all the time, so ask around. The wildlife is well-habituated (but still wild!), allowing for sightings in close proximity.

Except for buffalo, sightings of other members of the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant and rhinoceros) are good. The water holes adjacent to the camps are illuminated, making it possible to view these and other species coming to slake their thirst at night. Etosha has a good reputation for sightings of black rhinos, while lion and elephant sightings are commonplace. Leopards and cheetahs are rare but known. Spotted hyenas are found occasionally, while smaller predators like honey badgers and bat-eared foxes also occur throughout the region.

General game species are well represented. Of the large herbivores, elephants are the most common. Giraffes are often seen browsing on the odd acacia tree, while blue wildebeest and zebra are abundant in the grasslands. Desert specialists, like gemsbok and springbok, are a frequent sighting, while species unique to the area include the black-faced impala and the Damara dik-dik.

Four hundred-seven species of birds have been recorded, many of them Summer migrants. Sightings of lesser flamingos are a treat when there is water in the Etosha Pan, and the park is home to various desert-adapted species not commonly seen elsewhere.

Game viewing is best between May and October. When the scarcity of water forces game to congregate at water holes. When the rain falls (November-April), the wildlife is more dispersed and harder to view; however, some prefer this time with fewer human visitors to the park.


Visitors to Etosha can visit in 2WD vehicles, but 4WD is recommended. There is a good tar road all the way from Windhoek to the entrance at Andersson’s Gate, after which roads are all gravel. Many visitors arrive in Namibia at Hosea Kutako International Airport and rent a 4×4 vehicle (essential if you’d like to explore the Western section of the park). Distances are vast, and services along the way are sparse, so good planning is essential.
Alternatively, book a fly-in safari, taking a chartered flight from Windhoek to one of three airstrips in the park.

The best (and most popular time) to visit Etosha is from July – October; the Winter Dry Season. With no rain, the roads are easily passable.. Wildlife congregates at water holes, whereas it disperses after the rains.  Daytime temperatures are warm to hot but pleasant.  However, nighttime temperatures are cold, so warm clothing is essential.  The Summer Wet Season, from November to April, although very hot, is the time when the vegetation is green, migrant birds are present, and baby animals are plentiful.  Most camps have spotlit water holes so that you can view wildlife in cooler conditions.

Etosha National Park


MAP OF Etosha National Park

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