Etosha National Park - Namibia
Namibia's premier Game Park
Etosha National Park is one of Southern Africa's finest and most important Game Reserves. Etosha Game park was declared a National Park in 1907 and covering an area of 22 270 square km, it is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish. The Etosha Park is one of the first places on any itinerary designed for a holiday in Namibia.
Etosha, meaning "Great White Place", is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000 million years ago. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds.
A San legend about the formation of the Etosha Pan tells of how a village was raided and everyone but the women slaughtered. One woman was so upset about the death of her family she cried until her tears formed a massive lake. When the lake dried up nothing was left apart from a huge white pan.
The game viewing in Etosha National Park is excellent, the best time being from May to September - the cooler months in Namibia. Visitors to Etosha Game Reserve can expect to see many buck species, elephant, giraffe, rhino and lions. More fortunate visitors will see leopard and cheetah. There is a network of roads linking the five camps and subsidiary roads lead to various waterholes.
When it was originally proclaimed at the turn of the century the Etosha Park consisted of an area of 100,000 square kilometres. This was the largest reserve on earth but in the 1960's political pressure resulted in the Park being reduced to its current size.
Traditionally visitors to Etosha had a choice of three rest camps - Namutoni, Halali and Okaukuejo. Each camp has tourist facilities such as a restaurant, a shop (selling only basic goods), a motor garage for fuel and basic repairs, and a swimming pool, as well as various grades of accommodation and camping facilities. September 2008 heralded the opening of Onkoshi Camp a brand new lodge inside Etosha - this was the first development inside the park in several decades and offers an environmentally friendly luxury experience. Accommodation options inside the park where further increased with the opening of the Dolomite Camp in the previously restricted western Etosha.
Three of the five camps have floodlit waterholes, the exceptions being Dolomite and Onkoshi Camps. Of these three, two provide excellent night game viewing. Rhino and elephant are often seen at the waterhole at Okaukuejo. The waterhole at Halali has the reputation of attracting leopard and visitors who spend the whole night here will probably see one. However, Namutoni waterhole is rivalled by the artesian springs of Klein Namutoni and Koinachas, so fewer animals frequent it compared to Okaukuejo and Halali. Onkoshi Camp has unparalleled views over the eastern Etosha Pan which attract thousands of flamingoes and other waterbirds during the rainy season. Dolomite Camp boasts some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in the park, notably Hartmann's zebra which does not occur in the eastern section. Non-resident visitors to Etosha, i.e. those residing at one of the many private lodges and hotels around Etosha, can only visit Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni for rest, recreation, and refuelling. Facilities at Dolomite and Onkoshi Camps are for the exclusive use of their residents.
The dominant vegetation in Etosha is Mopane (Colophospermum mopane) or Omusati in a local language, and it is so widespread in the north-west of Namibia that a region in Owambo is named after it. The western areas of the park support mainly mopane scrub, whereas there are extensive woodlands of tall trees in the southern parts of the Halali area as well as in the camp. One of the most spectacular trees in the park is the African moringa, (Moringa ovalifolia) or ghost tree. There is a specially fenced off area, some 30km west of Okaukuejo, to help preserve this unique and to some, grotesquely shaped trees, known as the haunted forest . This is an unusual habitat for the moringa, as they normally occur on hillsides and they grow in a variety of weird shapes, and as many of the trees have several trunks emerging from a swollen base, they are often mistaken for baobabs, but are not related to them. The second most common species in Etosha is the red bushwillow, (Combretum apiculatum), and is known locally as Kudubusch (German) or koedoebos (Afrikaans), aptly named because kudu and other game species browse the nutritious leaves, whilst rhino consume entire branches and elephant prefer the bark.
Many guests choose to stay at lodges outside the park boundaries, there are several reason for this with one of the most compelling being that the quality of accommodation and service is generally higher here than at the camps within the park. Another popular option amongst visitors to this part of Namibia is to use a combination of the privately owned establishments along with a few nights inside the park - allowing them to experience the best of both worlds. Many of these privately owned establishments offer private game drives, either in their own game reserves or in Etosha Park itself.
The main entrance to the park is called the "Andersson Gate" situated near Okaukuejo in the south. The eastern entrance is called the "Von Lindequist Gate" and is near Namutoni. The new "Nehale lya Mpingana Gate" gate, (King Nehale Gate) was opened at the beginning of 2003 in the north-east. Self-drive visitors must note that entry to western Etosha at Galton's Gate is only permitted with previously booked accommodation for Dolomite Camp.
Visitors should note that the park is only open from sunrise to sunset. Outside of these hours, visitors either have to be in one of the camps, or completely outside the park - or sleep in their cars, surrounded by sharp-toothed prowlers and the sounds of bush at night!
In line with many other African game reserves, Etosha has its own morning, afternoon and night guided safaris. Other private lodges around the park offer daily game drives into Etosha. Another option is to join a scheduled guided safari to Etosha (usually starting in Windhoek), or a custom made private guided safari through the park.
A blend of African excitement & luxury are the order of the day at this new luxury lodge
Small mid-price lodge close to the park gate - situated of the private Fischer's pan reserve
Large lodge situated at the Namutoni entrance gate to Etosha. Excellent facilities but expect to share these with large group tours
The latest edition to the Mushara Collection offers mid-range tented accommodation
Good accommodation at a reasonable price, close to the park entrance
Small intimate tented camp built on raised platforms, good for privacy and a 'luxury outdoor' feel
Inside the park borders, built around Fort Namutoni. Recently upgraded to appeal to more 'up-market' visitors
Newly renovated, good mid market option for self-drive tourists
Luxury lodge built around a fort on Fischer's Pan. Easy access to the park
A tented camp just outside Etosha
Small exclusive camp, built on raised platforms
Brand new luxury camp inside the Etosha borders
Very exclusive private suites, all mod-cons and luxuries
A mid market lodge, situated on the Ongava Private Reserve, just south of the Andersson entrance to Etosha.
On a small hill on the extreme western side of Etosha - Dolomite is the newest (and fifth camp) to open within the park boundries. It is a small personal lodge as opposed to the traditional resort feel of the other camps within the park.
Value for money accommodation in a well designed tented camp
Traditional slightly formal up-market lodge. Situated on same property as Eagle Tented Camp
Budget accommodation, close to the Anderson Gate
Within 10km of the Etosha entrance this mid-range lodge offers an ideal base from which to explore the park
40 Room lodge only 4km from the park. Offers self catering units and a restaurant
Situated just north of the town of Outjo around 90km south of the Park
One of the five camps situated inside the park, generally less popular with visitors than Okaukuejo or Namutoni but has the advantage of a secluded quiet spot lit waterhole
Luxury accommodation, each unit with private pool, great place to spoil yourself. Guided tours on private nature reserve and inside Etosha Park
Value for money self drive option situated 32km from the park
Extremely busy accommodation inside the park with a good spot-lit waterhole, great choice if location is deciding factor on where to stay
Upmarket accommodation, situated on private game reserve with easy access to the National Park
On the same property as Ongava Lodge, but offering a more traditional tented safari style experience
A non-profit organisation aimed at conserving Namibia's cheetah population
Once called Etosha Gateway lodge this is a budget accommodation option which has recently been renovated.
Morning, afternoon & evening game drives are available from Okaukuejo, Halali & Namutoni