Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is the parading ground of the beasts; a kaleidoscope of creatures of all characters and varieties. For those new to Africa; expect to see wildlife within the first 3 minutes of entering the park. And from there the experience just grows.

Etosha National Park is nearly 500km (311 miles) north of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. There is a network of roads linking camps and subsidiary roads lead to various waterholes. This makes it a great self-drive safari destination with many guided tours available too.

Centred around the vast Etosha Pan; the park is a sanctuary to the largest population of the western subspecies of the black and white rhino; in addition to large herds of elephants, the striking black-faced impala, lions and a profusion of other animals and birds.

Etosha safari

Etosha Pan is a giant (about 5000km2) clay salt pan; forming a shallow depression that allows amazing views of the wildlife. For most of the year, it is a silvery-white shimmer of baked mud with perennial springs along the edge. These are rich in mineral salts and attract a variety of birds and animals. When there is a lot of rain, the whole pan fills with water; leading to spectacular game viewing and bird watching. The Etosha Pan covers about 25% of the park and creates an amazing opportunity for photographic safaris.

Etosha National Park Safari

Home to four of the Big 5 (only buffalo is absent); safari-goers to Etosha Game Reserve can expect to see many buck species, elephants, giraffes, rhinos and lions. More fortunate visitors will see leopards and cheetahs.

A pair of cheetah at Etosha
A pair of cheetah at Etosha National Park

The Etosha National Park is approximately 22 275km2 and is Namibia’s premier wildlife destination. Game viewing along with the numerous springs and waterholes; often reveals lion, leopard, elephant, southern giraffe, red hartebeest, rare black-faced impala, and endangered black rhino; as well as more common plains game such as blue wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra, desert-adapted gemsbok and springbok in their hundreds. The comical ground squirrels, with their bushy parasol-like tails, are also a highlight.

Etosha fighting lions
Etosha fighting lions

Etosha Birding Safari

With over 407 species recorded; birdlife in Etosha is prolific, and includes several of Namibia’s 14 endemics. Sociable weavers and their enormous communal nests, pugnacious pygmy falcons and the brilliantly coloured Crimson-breasted shrike are common highlights. Namaqua sandgrouse, double-banded courser, northern black korhaan and many lark species such as; spike-heeled, pink-billed, Sabota and Stark’s; occupy the plains. The acacia thickets harbour Pririt batis and Acacia pied barbet. Birds like red-headed finch and lark-like bunting also commonly flock around waterholes; where predatory red-necked falcons often look for a meal.

Etosha African bee-eater
Etosha birding – African bee-eater

Best time to visit Etosha National Park

The best time to visit Etosha National Park is from May to September/October; the cooler & dryer months (winter) in Namibia. The wildlife is drawn to the last remaining waterholes; because other sources have dried up due to there being no rain. Additionally; the grass is low thus allowing for better game viewing.

The pan is often completely dry at this time making the landscape ideal for photography. This is the busiest time in the park for visitors so you will need to book well in advance.

From November to April (rainy season); the days get very hot (up to 40 degrees Celcius) and Etosha transforms from a dry, dusty white landscape; to a lush green paradise. Birdlife is amazing with birds migrating south to Etosha; the pan turns into a lake that attracts wetland birds and flamingos. To escape the rain; elephants and other larger mammals head north.