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 caan 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.