What not to miss on safari in Etosha National Park
The must see things to do in Etosha
05 Apr 2018
29 Jan 2021
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If you are planning a Namibia safari holiday, then you will definitely want to visit Etosha National Park. Unlike some other safari destinations, Etosha is great for self-driving, allowing you to explore at your own pace with an excellent road system that is often tarmacked. You don’t even need a 4x4 to do it! The malaria-free national park is an impressive 27,000 km², named after the giant shimmering silver salt pan in its midst, with vast plains, waterholes, woodlands and grasslands just waiting to be explored.
So what shouldn’t you miss on your Etosha safari?
Catch the evening show at Okaukuejo Water Hole
During the dry season between May and October the waterholes on the southern edge of Etosha are a hotspot for wildlife. One of the best is at Okaukuejo Camp just inside the park entrance. For the best experience come at dusk when the waterhole is floodlit and watch a spectacular wildlife show whilst sipping on a cool beer. Giraffes slurp warily, rhinos jostle for space and elephants are even drinking companions with lions. Black rhinos (photo, below) are seen here almost every day, and if you’re lucky you may even spot a leopard.
Watch the dust devils dance
Etosha is famous for its dust devils, towering columns of dust powering past in whirlwinds up to 5m wide. They’re rather like tornados but prefer warm and sunny weather, and the vast plains and open skies of Etosha are the ideal location for them to come out to play. The dust devils can travel up to 70km per hour but are usually fairly harmless. Just make sure you roll up your windows if you see one! If you fancy yourself as a bit of a storm chaser, the best place to see the dance of the dust devils is near the Ozonjuitji m’Bari water hole over on the western edge of Etosha.
Get in amongst the action on the grasslands
Wildlife in Namibia is prolific, and nowhere more so than on the grasslands in the south of Etosha National Park. You’ll be tripping over the plains grazers because there are so many of them, with everything from red hartebeest and blue wildebeest to Burchell’s zebra and the endemic black-faced impala. Kudu and giraffe chomp away at the edge of the woodlands and watch out for the enormous elands, the size of which you can’t quite appreciate until you see them in person. All this tasty game means the big cats are never far behind, and it’s a great place to watch lions, leopards and even cheetahs doing their thing. If that isn’t enough excitement, then there are also white and black rhino to be found, as well as hundred-strong herds of elephants roaming the park.
Witness the crossing of the giant white pan
The name ‘Etosha’ means ‘great white place’ which is rather fitting for this vast salty expanse. Animals are attracted to the saline earth here as they can’t find sodium very easily elsewhere, and to see both predator and prey trundling together across the pan in search of water makes for some rather unusual and memorable wildlife viewing.
Strap on your binoculars for some serious birdwatching
There are over 340 species of bird in Etosha, from secretary birds and ostriches out on the plains to the crimson breasted shrike flitting around clusters of small trees. If you like raptors then you’re in luck too as there are over 35 different types in the park, including the pygmy falcon and steppe eagle. Whilst game viewing is more difficult during the wet season, this is an ideal time to come bird watching, particularly to witness the flamingos flocking around the salt pan which thanks to the rains becomes a shallow alkaline lake. Quite a spectacle.
When to go to Etosha
Whilst Namibia is one of those countries with year-round appeal, Etosha is best visited during the dry season between July and October if you want to be in with a chance of seeing much wildlife. After October the extreme heat can become oppressive and the rains begin, so it’s best to avoid this period up until March.
Where to stay
There’s a decent amount of choice when it comes to accommodation, from rest camps inside the park such as Halali Rest Camp which is close to some of the busiest waterholes, to private game reserves and more upmarket lodges just outside the perimeter like the intimate Ongaya Tented Camp. If you’re staying in a private reserve it’s worth combining this with a visit inside the park itself because more of the larger species are found here as the private reserves are too small to support vast numbers.