Etosha National Park Travel Guide
Etosha National Park is Namibia’s most famous and loved wildlife retreat. The area offers brilliant game viewing with springbok and zebra scattered across the landscape. Etosha’s many waterholes draw endangered black rhinoceros, elephant, lion, and large numbers of antelope, making for great spots to hang out at to experience authentic Africa. This gorgeous stretch of national park can be enjoyed on self-drive 4×4 trips, group overland trips, or even luxury African adventure getaways. No matter what your budget, the wildlife, scenery and Namibian hospitality won’t disappoint.
The name Etosha translates into ‘place of dry water’. The park’s location in arid Namibia means there are no prizes for guessing why the park acquired its name. Etosha National Park is not only home to stretches of wildlife and birdlife savannah, but is also home to an enormous 5 000km², flat calcrete pan. The pan is a salt pan and only contains water after a good dose of rain, which doesn’t happen often at all. The rain the pan does get is enough to promote the growth of blue-green algae that lures thousands of flamingos to the area.
Etosha National Park Highlights
• Water hole watching is excellent in winter
• Etosha salt pans are a stunning sight
• Large herds of elephants
• Heat mirages over the salt pans
• Thousands of flamingoes when the pans are full
• Black-faced impala spotting
• Gorgeous, colourful birdlife
• Oryx meandering across the salt pan
• Wet season brings yellow flowers and grazing animals
• Malaria-free game viewing
Etosha National Park is home to both rare and endemic wildlife including the endangered black rhino, cheetah, and black-faced impala, which are among the other 111 species of mammals. The park is extremely proud of its impressive resume of wildlife inhabitants. Two species of wildlife that are conspicuous by their absence, however, are the hippo and crocodile.
Etosha National Park invests bucket loads of effort into keeping its wildlife family safe from harm and ensuring that members of the family stay healthy and well looked after. The Etosha family portrait includes the mugs of the hyena, silver-backed jackal, lion, leopard, gemsbok, curly horned kudu, giraffe and elephant.
Etosha National Park birdlife is plentiful, and if you’re looking in the right place, you’re sure to see the type of bird you’re looking for. With a healthy 22,270 km² of a national park, a nudge in the right direction for where to spot specific birds helps a lot. The below guide should better help you track the birds you’re eager to see, or simply give you a taste of what to expect if you are heading to a specific area on a planned trip anyway.
Andoni Plains bird life: Red-capped Lark, Blue Crane, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Spike-heeled Lark, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Eastern Clapper Lark, Fawn-coloured Lark, Pink-billed Lark, Sabota Lark, Stark’s Lark and Burchell’s Sandgrouse.
Bloubokkie Draai bird life: Black-faced Babbler.
Etosha Lookout birdlife: Flamingo, Caspian Plover, Chestnut-banded Plover, Wattled Crane and Grey Crowned Crane.
Far western Etosha bird life: Rüppell’s Parrot, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Rockrunner, Monteiro’s Hornbill, White-tailed Shrike, Violet Wood-Hoopoe and Bare-cheeked Babbler.
Fisher’s Pan bird life: Black-necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, African Openbill, Lesser Flamingo, Yellow-billed Stork, Greater Flamingo and Saddle-billed Stork.
Halali Camp bird life: Violet Wood-Hoopoe, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Carp’s Tit and Southern White-faced Scops-Owl.
Namutoni Camp bird life: Greater Painted-snipe, Caspian Plover and Bradfield’s Hornbill.
Okaukuejo Camp bird life: Pygmy Falcon, Sociable Weaver, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Southern Pied Babbler, Red-headed Finch, Violet-eared Waxbill, Cut-throat Finch, Marsh Owl, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Barn Owl and Rufous-cheeked Nightjar.
Springfontein bird life: Temminck’s Courser, Double-banded Courser, Rufous-eared Warbler, Black-winged Pratincole, Pallid Harrier and Montagu’s Harrier.
Etosha National Park accommodation offers two main types of accommodation. You can either stay at a rest camp within the park or on the border of the park in one of the private lodges.
There are three rest camps within Etosha National Park are Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni.
Namutoni is made up of 20 bush chalets with 2 beds in each. There are also 24 double rooms available and camping facilities for those who wish to rough-it. If you’re not in the mood to cook around a campfire, then you have the option of eating at the African fusion restaurant or Steakhouse. There is a lovely rustic, African bush pub where you can enjoy an icy beverage after a day of game viewing at one of the 11 nearby watering holes.
Namutoni also has its own curio shop, jewellers and bookstore. A large crisp swimming pool awaits eager hot bodies and curious ground squirrels leap around the rest camp foraging for food.
When you’re not in the pool or in the curio shop you can pay a visit to the nearby historic fort, flood-lit waterhole, go on a guided morning, afternoon or night drives.
If you decide to stay at Halali you can expect accommodation options of family chalets with a braai area, bush chalets with braai facilities, as well as double rooms. If you’re the camping type, there is more than enough space to pitch your tent. The restaurant, bar, kiosk and shop provide as much refreshment as the glimmering swimming pool.
If you’re in the mood to explore in between siestas and swimming, pay a visit to the flood-lit waterhole or venture out on a guided night drive. Guided game drives can also be organised for early mornings when the possibility to spot nighttime predators feasting on their latest kill is of high probability. Afternoon game drives can also be enjoyed, exploring the park and perhaps the Etosha salt pan? Halali also offers great nature walks within the camp.
Much like Namutoni and Halai, Okaukuejo offers a variety of accommodation options which include family chalets with a braai area, as well as double rooms, bush chalets and grounds for camping. If you wish to be perfect right on the lip of a water hole, then one of the premier waterhole chalets or waterhole chalet double rooms may tickle your fancy.
Okaukuejo has its own restaurant, bar, kiosk, shop and swimming pool.
How to get to Etosha National Park
If you’re travelling by road it will take you about 6 hours to get to Etosha National Park from Windhoek. Thanks to Namibia’s infrastructure, you can enjoy a smooth ride to the park along a good tarmac road. Don’t forget to watch out for cattle and warthogs on the road.
From Windhoek, the easiest route will take you to the Von Lindquist entrance gate, passing Otjiwarongo and Tsumeb along the way. From the gate, continue about 11 km inside the park and you’ll reach Namutoni rest camp. A great place to kick off your Etosha National Park safari. Conveniently the road is tarred all the way. If you would like to kick start your safari from a different entrance, you can choose from the entrance gates below leading into Etosha National Park.
Entrance Gates for Etosha National Park
The entrance gate to the park in the east is called Andersson Gate in honour of the explorer Charles Andersson who teamed with Francis Galton to become the first Europeans to record the existence of Etosha Pan when they reached Namutoni in 1851.
Von Lindequist Gate is the eastern entrance to the park. The name is in honour of the Governor of the then German South West Africa who had the foresight to proclaim Etosha a game reserve on 22 March 1907.
Nehale Lya Mpingana Gate/King Nehale Gate: The gate is near Andoni Plains in the North East.
Anderson Gate: Main entrance in the South
Galton’s Gate: Entry to western Etosha. This entrance gate is only for travellers who have pre-booked accommodation at the Dolomite Camp.
Etosha National Park Traveller Reviews
As mentioned in other reviews the entrance road was 20 km and required a 4×4 to navigate during the “wet season”. Our efforts, however, were rewarded with multiple close encounters with the spectacular wildlife; including giraffes, zebras, kudu, guinea fowl, wildebeests, and warthogs. Since these were our first animal sightings, it added to the anticipation as we arrived at the lodge. Review Resource: Trip Advisor
Not to miss are the game drives. for the most of the trip we drove ourselves – what we forgot is that an early morning drive into the park with our guide – William – gives you access to the local guides’ radios and thereby ensures that you see the opportunities you might miss alone. Time spent with pride of thirteen well-fed lions was amazing. Review Resource: Trip Advisor
On our half day game drive, we wanted to see lions and rhino. Our guide made all of that happen! That was great. We would recommend doing a game drive at least once to see those animals which are hard to find. The guides communicate via phone/GPS and know at which times the animals usually are at which waterhole.
• Camping trip
• Chalet/dorm overland trip
• Luxury safari
Etosha National Park is a great destination for anyone who is interested in discovering what Namibia and its wildlife are all about. Whether you’re camping or spending the night in an exquisite chalet, the wildlife and scenic experience is as moving for everyone.
If you plan on starting your journey from another location, you might want to have a look at car rental South Africa for the best option to get you to these amazing locations.
If you want to travel the rough terrain in a bigger vehicle, consider 4×4 hire Namibia. The best way to travel definitely is with a 4×4, especially if you take into account the roads are mostly dirt.