Namibia

Etosha National Park holidays

Zebra at waterhole, Etosha National Park
© RTH Sigurdsson

The wildlife jewel of Namibia, Etosha National Park is one of the best game reserves in Africa. Etosha is huge; at 22,270 square kilometres it covers an area larger than Wales and is home to over 100 species of mammals, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibians and 1 species of fish!

Etosha is dominated by a huge mineral pan, which covers a quarter of the park and was once a lake the size of Holland. Nowadays, it fills rarely when the rains are heavy, attracting thousands of wading birds including flamingos which is truly a sight to behold. Surrounding the pan is a variety of grass and woodlands amongst which live a wonderful variety of animals, birds, insects and reptiles.

Etosha's highlight are the waterholes; there are dozens of them, some natural while others are artificially fed from boreholes. During the dry season, staking out a position at a waterhole viewpoint is a rewarding way to watch game without moving from one spot. The most famous waterhole in Etosha is Okaukuejo. It is floodlit at night, allowing guests at the adjacent lodge to watch a procession of animals arrive after dark to drink.

The most numerous antelope species in Etosha is springbok, which can sometimes be seen herding in their thousands. Other common herbivores are giraffe, zebra, eland, wildebeest, kudu and oryx. Black rhinos are more rare but still regularly sighted. Herds of fifty elephants are not unusual and often walk right down the middle of the road giving people in cars an incredibly close and thrilling encounter. When it comes to predators, lion, of which there are thought to be over 1000 inside the reserve, are the most visible. For birders there is a large variety of birds including ground hornbill, lilac-breasted roller, eagles and vultures.

You can self-drive around Etosha or explore the park on a guided game drive. There are four gates into the park, which open from sunrise to sunset; Galton (west), Andersson (south), von Lindequist (east) and King Nehale (north). Most people will enter through one, drive through the park and out of another. Western Etosha was not accessible for many years, but was opened to the public in 2014.

The best time to visit Etosha is during the dry season (June-October), when animals are easier to spot as they congregate around waterholes. By the end of the dry season, extraordinary numbers of giraffes, elephants and zebras can be seen at waterholes. During the rainy season (December-March) wildlife spotting can be more challenging as lush vegetation hides the animals, and they scatter further afield as they no longer need to stay close to waterholes. However, as many animals give birth during this time and predators take advantage of the inexperienced young animals, it is the ideal time to witness predator/prey interaction.

Located close to the Andersson Gate and von Londequist Gate are two excellent private reserves; Ongava in the south and Onguma in the east. These reserves have several good quality lodges on them with waterholes and underground hides for superb wildlife encounters. It is also possible to do game drives and walks on these reserves, as well as providing easy access into Etosha itself.


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