Etosha National Park (Namibia)
Etosha National Park is a photographer’s dream. The Park envelopes the Etosha Pan, 4,800km2 of clay and dust that used to be a giant lake ('Etosha' is a term given by the local Ovambo Tribe, meaning ‘great white place’). Consequently, when animals - think elephants, lions, giraffes and rhinos - cross the dusty white pan to access waterholes, they often appear a white, ghost-like colour. And with the lack of vegetation around, they are easily visible from the safety of your 4WD.
Where is Etosha?There’s a few entry gates, the most popular being Okaukuejo which is approximately 430kms north-north-west of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. Your author prefers to do things a little differently, so we drove our 4WD (supplied by the good folks at The Campervan Village Windhoek) about 500kms from Windhoek to the far-eastern entry gate, Von Lindequist Gate, to begin our Etosha adventure.
If you're interested in Safari Parks and the thrill of observing Africa's beautiful beasts in the wild, then Etosha National Park is a must-see. There's a few entry gates, the most popular being Okaukuejo which is approximately 430kms north-north-west of Namibia's capital, Windhoek. Your author prefers to do things a little differently, so we drove our 4WD (supplied by the good folks at The Campervan Village Windhoek) about 500kms from Windhoek to the far-eastern entry gate, Von Lindequist Gate, to begin our Etosha adventure. As we drove towards the gate (and the last of the sealed roads for the next 400kms or so!), an ominous sign had presented itself in the form of a dead adult warthog, sprawled across the road. As tragic as it is to see another creature fall victim to the African roads, it was hard to mask our excitement at the prospect of seeing some of Africa's fabled weird and wonderful beasts in their natural environment.
We'd just come from Tsumeb, where we picked up vital supplies at the local grocery store and had a bite to eat before making the final dash to the entry gate before it's closure at 5:30pm.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by the friendly faces at the gate whom we had to pay NAD80 Per Adult (about US$6) and NAD10 Per Vehicle. Finally, we needed to make our way to the first camp, Namutoni, before the sun set.Camping within the park isn't too expensive (considering the extreme price of some resorts scattered across Namibia!) and cost us about NAD620 (about US$50) for a camp site per night. The camp sites in Etosha National Park are extremely well maintained with power-points, camp fire pits, tables & chairs, hot showers and clean bathrooms. Each camp has a bar & restaurant (a bit pricey though!), souvenir shop and small general store with essential supplies. As you would expect, food and drinks are expensive in the Park, so it pays to stock up at a grocery store before entering. Namutoni Camp is an old German Fort with a unique atmosphere. Like every camp in Etosha National Parl, there's a waterhole viewing area - perfect at sunset when the animals creep in for a drink. It can get a little cold at night, depending when you visit Etosha, so be sure to pack plenty of warm clothes and blankets. After a pleasant night under the starry African night sky, we awoke and hit the road. The road from this point onwards is unsealed and the speed limit is capped at 50kms per hour (there are patrols in the park). It's bumpy, like all sealed roads, but well-maintained throughout Etosha Park, so while a 4WD Vehicle is preferable, a 2WD will easily do the job as well. Just check the weather though, rain can make this road a mud-pit (which spells trouble for 2WD's!). Namibia certainly isn't famous for its wet weather, but in the event that heavy rains do fall, be prepared to wait around as Road Closures will ensue. Our first sighting happened after 10 minutes of bumpy cruising - a Wildebeest, grazing lazily and covered in dust from the clay pan nearby. After a short drive, we reached the Etosha Pan. It's immense and infinite, it really looks like it extends forever past the horizon. There's no vegetation, just clay across a 270-degree panorama. It feels like a barren wasteland until, strolling across the horizon you see signs of life, giant African Elephants.
The speed limit is 50kms an hour, but we stopped so many times along the way for wildlife that it took us just over 5 hours to reach Halali.Such is the nature of Safari Parks, a certain degree of patience is required if you want to see everything. Lions and rhinos are elusive and rare across Africa, and the case is no different in Etosha. We didn't manage to see these beautiful beasts on this occasion, however a short image search on google will prove to all sceptics that they are indeed scattered all over Etosha. You just need to be patient. Again, our camping experience at Halali was pleasant and we were able to rest easily in the rooftop tent on top of our 4WD Hire Vehicle. Hitting the road the next day, we started off towards Okaukuejo Camp, located about 70kms from Halali. There's 2 roads leading to Okaukuejo, we decided to stay close to the Etosha Pan, hoping desperately to capture an iconic image of Africa's wildlife as they made their way across the giant lake of white dust. And we were rewarded for our patience as a small group of giraffes inquisitively approached our 4WD. Covered in white dust, they appear mythical and ghost-like, as if they have just manifested from the waves of heat that line the white horizons of Etosha. It was an overwhelming experience and one that I think even the most travelled nature enthusiast would never forget. As we made our way to Okaukuejo Camp for the night, our last evening in Etosha, we reflected on how immense the Park is and indeed how full of life it appears to be, despite it’s incredible sparsity. Our adventures through Namibia were only just beginning and already we were in love. Next Stop, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay!
Etosha National Park, like most of Southern Africa, has seasonal tourist seasons. The Dry Season between May and December is often thought to be the best time to view wildlife, however it can be more expensive during these months due to popularity...
Seasons:Wet Season December - March/April
Cheaper to travel during the West Season.
Wildlife is scattered as water is more abundant.
Dry Season May - December
Greater chance of predator sightings (lions!). Less rain and intense heat on the clay pan means the animals wander to Etosha’s waterholes more frequently.
Can be expensive and booking ahead is essential during this period for vehicle hire & accommodation.
Other Information:Park Opening Hours:
7 Days a Week from Sunset to Sunrise. It is illegal to drive in the park outside these hours. Be sure to plan your days to ensure you make it to camp before sunset. Roads in the Park
All roads in Etosha National Park are Unsealed. A 4WD or AWD Vehicle is best. Some roads may be closed after significant rainfall.
Park Prices:Entry Fees:
Adults N$80 per day.
Children U/16 years Free.
Vehicles with 10 seats or less are N$10 per vehicle per day
There’s 4 Camp Sites in Etosha National Park. Camping is not permitted outside of these camps. From N$280 per site ( Max 8 People ) + N$170 per person. Powered Camping Sites with Hot Showers and Clean Bathrooms.
Did You Know?Campervan Village in Windhoek has a fleet of AWD & 4WD Campervans for hire, perfect for exploring Etosha National Park! We've got 4 great locations across Southern Africa, so give us a call and book your campervan today: +27 87 80 83 960.