Proclaimed a game reserve in 1907, it now covers 22,912 sq km of which 23% is covered by a large salt pan. Etosha means ‘great white place’ and it couldn’t be more appropriately named. The saline pan draws in large quantities of game that are attracted by the salt that they are lacking otherwise, and the sight of animals crossing the pan through a heat haze makes for some spectacular photos as prey and predator call a truce as they search for water.
To the south of the pan there are open grasslands, woodland and permanent waterholes that act as a magnet for game.. In the dry season the game congregates in their thousands around the water sources, leading to some phenomenal game-viewing. On Etosha’s grassveld it is easy to find grazers, including Burchell’s zebra, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest and black-faced impala. Kudu are found on the margins of the woodland, whilst giraffe nibble the acacias and eland come to drink. Etosha’s cats are thriving with large populations of lion, leopard and cheetah. Elephant occur in hundred-strong herds whilst black and white rhino are found, particularly around Okaukuejo and Andersson's gate.
For much of the year the park experiences desert conditions and the scarce water resources mean that animals congregate around Etosha’s waterholes, the most famous of which is at Okaukuejo, that receives visits from black rhino almost daily. During the rainy season from November to the end of March the game viewing requires more patience, but the bird watching is rewarding with flamingos flocking to the salt pan which becomes a shallow alkaline lake, and the park is home to over 340 bird species and it is common to see ostrich and secretary birds on the open plains. There are over 35 species of raptor, including the yellow-billed kite, steppe eagle and pygmy falcon.
There are a series of reasonable if unspectacular rest camps in the park, managed by the park authority, with a range of chalets and camping. They are linked my a good road, and the waterholes are all easy to find on a network of tracks shown on maps, making self-driving easy. It does however reduce what people consider to be the authenticity of the true safari experience that is found in Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa's premier private reserves. However, it is possible to stay outside the park in the adjacent Onguma or Ongava reserves to guarantee a sense of authenticity, and self-driving into Etosha itself for game drives if you wish.
where to stay
From our many visits to Etosha, we have first-hand knowledge of many of the best places to stay and use them in our Namibia itineraries.
our favourites are, from east to west...
etosha safari lodge at andersson gate
etosha village AT ANDERSSON GATE
mountain lodge in etosha heights private reserve
safarihoek IN ETOSHA HEIGHTS PRIVATE RESERVE
andersson's camp in ongava private reserve
ongava lodge IN ongava PRIVATE RESERVE
mushara bush camp at van lindequist gate
mushara outpost AT VAN LINDEQUIST GATE
onguma bush camp AT VAN LINDEQUIST GATE
onguma tree top camp AT VAN LINDEQUIST GATE
There are four large rest camps with chalets inside the National Park, all managed by the park authorities. Whilst conveniently located, they are mass-market, zero intimacy places, with little emphasis on service. Of the three, we still include Okaukuejo in some itineraries due to the outstanding wildlife viewing at its waterhole.