Etosha National Park - Namibia

Namibia's premier Game Park

Namibia safariEtosha National Park is one of Southern Africa's finest and most important Game Reserves.

Safari in NamibiaEtosha Game park was declared a National Park in 1907 and covering an area of 22 270 square km, it is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish. The Etosha Park is one of the first places on any itinerary designed for a holiday in Namibia.

Etosha, meaning "Great White Place", is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000 million years ago. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds.

A San legend about the formation of the Etosha Pan tells of how a village was raided and everyone but the women slaughtered. One woman was so upset about the death of her family she cried until her tears formed a massive lake. When the lake dried up nothing was left apart from a huge white pan.

The game viewing in Etosha National Park is excellent, the best time being from May to September - the cooler months in Namibia. Visitors to Etosha Game Reserve can expect to see many buck species, elephant, giraffe, rhino and lions. More fortunate visitors will see leopard and cheetah. There is a network of roads linking the three campsites and subsidiary roads lead to various waterholes.

When it was originally proclaimed at the turn of the century the Etosha Park consisted of an area of 100,000 square kilometres. This was the largest reserve on earth but in the 1960's political pressure resulted in the Park being reduced to its current size.

Traditionally visitors to Etosha have had a choice of three rest camps - Namutoni, Halali and Okaukuejo - that are operated by Namibia Wildlife Resorts. Each camp has tourist facilities such as a restaurant, a shop (selling only basic goods), a motor garage for fuel and basic repairs, and a swimming pool, as well as various grades of accommodation and camping facilities. September 2008 heralded the opening of Onkoshi Camp a brand new lodge inside Etosha - this is the first development inside the park in several decades and looks set to offer an environmentally friendly luxury experience

Non-resident visitors to Etosha, i.e. those residing at one of the many private lodges and hotels around Etosha, can stop off at these camps for rest, recreation, and refueling. All three camps have floodlit waterholes, two of which provide excellent night game viewing. Rhino and elephant are often seen at the waterhole at Okaukuejo, while the newer waterhole at Halali is fast attracting more wildlife. However, Namutoni waterhole is disappointing, probably because there are so many other waterholes in the vicinity.

Because the quality of accommodation and service is higher at the private establishments, which can be found outside the Etosha PArk, visitors often choose to stay in them rather than within the camps. Many of these establishments offer private game drives, either in their own game reserves or in Etosha Park itself.

The main entrance to the park is called the "Andersson Gate" situated near Okaukuejo in the south. The eastern entrance is called the "Von Lindequist Gate" and is near Namutoni. The new "Nehale lya Mpingana Gate" gate, (King Nehale Gate) was opened at the beginning of 2003 in the north-east.

Visitors should note that the park is only open from sunrise to sunset. Outside of these hours, visitors either have to be in one of the camps, or completely outside the park - or sleep in their cars, surrounded by sharp-toothed prowlers and the sounds of bush at night!

Unlike many other African game reserves, Etosha does not have its own guided safaris. For those wanting a guided experience the options are either staying at one of the private lodges around the park which offer daily game drives, joining a scheduled guided safari to Etosha (usually starting in Windhoek), or custom making a private guided safari through the park.

Photo: Picture-Alliance

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