Etosha National Park is one of the world's preeminent wildlife areas.
Etosha National Park was proclaimed as Namibia’s first conservation area in 1907. With subsequent additions it became the largest game reserve in the world, covering a vast area of 93,240 km². For political considerations its size was progressively diminished, until by 1975 it had been reduced to its present surface area of 22,270 km². It is still one of the largest game reserves in Africa!
A vast area on Namibia's central plateau, the park's focal point is the Etosha Pan - a flat saline desert, 130 km long by 50km at its widest in the eastern sector of the park.
The Pan itself is believed to have originated over 12 million years ago as a shallow lake fed by the Kunene River. Subsequent climatic and tectonic changes have since lowered the water level so that the pan only holds water for a brief period each year - it teems with flamingos and pelicans in the summer. The saline and mineral residues together with moisture from perennial springs attract an immense number and variety of game and birds from mid-March into November just before the new wet season starts.
Of the 114 mammals species found in the park, several are rare and endangered, such as black rhino, cheetah and black-faced impala. The latter is endemic to north-western Namibia and south-western Angola. Etosha’s current population of more than 600 black rhino represents one of the few growing populations of black rhino in the world.
Other large mammals in the park include giraffe, blue wildebeest, mountain and plains zebra, hyena and lion. Cheetah and leopard complete the trio of ‘big cats’. Antelope species range from kudu, gemsbok and the large and stately eland, to the diminutive Damara dik-dik. Smaller mammals include jackal, bat-eared fox, honey badger, warthog and the ubiquitous ground squirrel.
Around 340 bird species occur in Etosha National Park, about one third being migratory, including the European bee-eater and several species of waders. Larger birds include ostrich, kori bustard and greater and lesser flamingo, millions of which congregate on the pan to breed during a good rainy season. Ten of Etosha’s 35 raptor species are migratory. Those most commonly seen are lappet faced, white-backed and hooded vultures, while sightings of the Cape, Egyptian and Palmnut vultures have been recorded. There are eight species of owl, including pearlspotted and whitefaced, and four species of nightjar.
For the greater part of the year (the dry season) Etosha’s animals and birds are dependent on about 30 springs and waterholes. These provide excellent game viewing and photographic opportunities. During the rainy season, especially, the bird life at the main pan and Fisher’s pan is worth viewing.
Etosha’s vegetation varies from dwarf shrub savannah and grasslands, which occur around the pan, to thornbush and woodland savannah throughout the park. Eighty per cent of all Etosha’s trees are Mopane. West of Okaukuejo is the well-known Sprokieswoud, Phantom or Fairy Forest, the only location where the African Moringa tree, Moringa ovalifolia, grows in a flat area.
Etosha National Park is open throughout the year and is accessible by tarred roads via the Andersson Gate in the central southern section, the Galton Gate in the west and the Von Lindequist Gate in the east.
Etosha National Park can now also be entered from the north-central Owambo regions. The Nehale lya Mpingana Gate, located on the Andoni plains just north of the Andoni waterhole, was opened during 2001. Traffic in and out of the gate is managed on the same basis as at the Andersson, Galton and Von Lindequist gates, although the entry and exit times are different.
There are 5 rest camps within the park namely Dolomite, Okaukuejo, Halali, Onkoshi and Namutoni. An extensive network of roads link the camps with over 30 water holes in the central and eastern region. Each of the resorts has its own distinctive character and atmosphere. Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni have floodlit waterholes where wildlife can be viewed throughout the day and night.
Particular points of interest include:
- Andoni (the northern most waterhole) - excellent birds
- Namutoni - the former imperial German fort, a good view from the ramparts and tower
- Klein Namutoni waterhole - the best place to see black-faced impala
- Fischer's Pan (near Namutoni) - excellent birds, good for springbok and wildebeest
- Bloubokdraai road - good for Damara dik-dik (Africa's smallest antelope)
- Chudob waterhole (near Namutoni) - especially good for eland and giraffe
- Batia (between Halali and Namutoni - near Springbokfontein) - elephant, blue wildebeest and springbok
- Halali - well shaded camp site in an area of dolomite outcrops
- The Charitsaub, Salvadora/Sueda waterhole cluster (between Halali and Okaukuejo) - excellent for plains game
- Oliphantsbad (near Okaukuejo) - excellent for elephant
- Okaukuejo ("the place of the women") - site of the Etosha Research Station, a good place for black rhino under the floodlights at night, has a good view from the water tower across to the Ondundozonananandana Mountains
- The Haunted Forest (near Okaukuejo) - a forest of legendary Moringa trees (Moringa ovalifolia)
NOTE – Safari Etiquette:
Visitors to Etosha National Park should approach and depart from waterholes as slowly and as quietly as possible, so as not to disturb the game.
Loud conversation not only disturb the animals, but annoys serious game viewers. It is especially important not to disturb the peace and quiet of night game viewing at floodlit waterholes at the resorts.
The following are prohibited:
Open vehicles, motor-cycles, air-guns, catapults, unsealed fire-arms, disturbing of animals, leaving the road, getting out of the vehicle outside the rest-camp.
No pets are allowed.