Etosha National Park is one of Africa’s premier wildlife reserves: plenty of big game against the scenic backdrop of Etosha’s salt pans, pink with flamingos in the wet season.
Etosha National Park in the north of Namibia is one of the finest game parks in Southern Africa. It’s certainly one of Namibia’s most iconic destinations. Etosha means ‘Great White Place’ in Herero, an apt description of this huge park that encloses a vast saltpan. Dry and shimmering for most of the year, the pan fills with water after good rains. It forms an immense, shallow lake attracting great numbers of flamingos and other water birds. In the dry season the perennial springs and waterholes attract the wildlife as they are a much-needed water source.
During the dry season in Etosha (which is generally from late April to mid November), the flat open plains are home to tens of thousands of animals. Large herds of springbok, gemsbok, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and elephant gather around these waterholes. The ever-hungry predators follow them – particularly cheetah and lion. The diminutive Damara dik-dik is one of the rarer, but delightful, sightings in Etosha. Raptors such as the bateleur eagle, pale chanting goshawk and red-necked falcon are fairly common.
An Etosha safari can be undertaken using your rental car. Or you can stay at one of the private game lodges on the edge of Etosha and join their guided game drives.
Note that after the first summer rains (typically sometime in November), much of the game moves away from these waterholes and nearby plains, which have been eaten to almost nothing. They head for the open plains in the north of the reserve which will now have a fresh supply of new grass. Here you cannot follow, as there are no roads.
Thus game-viewing on an Etosha safari will be noticeably quieter during this time. It is still worth a visit as many plains species remain on the southern plains. Plus this is the time they give birth to the season’s young after the sporadic rains. But don’t expect vast herds of game, especially elephant.
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My 12 day trip to Namibia in January was an unbelievable experience for all my family. We drove all the way through the country from the south (Fish River Canyon) to the north (Etosha National Park) with my two boys in our double cab 4x4. This is the ideal vehicle for travelling with children – especially because of the distances.
The following are some highlights.
We visited the Fish River Canyon at 9:00am in the morning and were the only people at the second largest canyon in the world - unbelievable!! Here we stayed at Canon Lodge with rooms built into the boulders.
The towering dunes of Sossusvlei and climbing “Big Daddy” were also an experience that we will never forget. The children charge ahead whilst the adults puffed along behind! Sossusvlei is a paradise for the keen photographer as I took hundreds of photos of the towering dunes. Our stay at the Wilderness Safaris properties (Kulala Desert Lodge & Little Kulala) was exceptional and to be recommended.
Swakopmund was the next highlight and definitely the children’s favourite town as we all did the quad biking in the dunes, tried our hand at sandboarding and even went fishing at Henties Bay (about one hour north of Swakopmund). We stayed at the Hansa Hotel which is centrally located and near all the sites to visit.
Next we headed to Etosha National Park and had a fantastic stay at Ongava Lodge, situated just outside the southern boundary of Etosha, and at Onguma Bush Lodge on the eastern side. They have an active floodlit waterhole where we saw lion, giraffe, zebra, springbok and various other antelope. Etosha National Park itself was the best overall game experience I have ever had in a national park as there was such a variety of wildlife at every waterhole – just as those classic Etosha pictures would suggest!
We drove from Etosha to Windhoek for the last days of our trip and stayed at The Windhoek Country Club Resort which was also very popular with the kids. This is the most resort-like place on our stay as they have an outdoor water play area, an 18 hole golf course (which allows children to play) and lots of space to run around.
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