Ranking as one of the world’s great wildlife-viewing venues, a visit to the Etosha National Park is one of the highlights of any trip to Namibia.
Declared a game reserve by the German colonial administration back in 1907, Etosha covers an area of more than 22,000 square kilometers.
Its unique nature is encapsulated by the vast Etosha pan – an immense, flat, saline desert that, for a few days each year, is converted by the rains into a shallow lagoon teeming with flamingos and pelicans. This is in stark contrast to the surrounding bush and grasslands, which provide habitat for Etosha’s diverse wildlife.
Although often can you think the landscape of Etosha is quite barren, it is home to 114 mammal species as well as 340 bird species, 16 reptile/amphibian species, and one fish species (so don’t come here trying to spot fish I guess 🙂 ).
Based on an animal count done by aircraft in 2005, there are about :
- 250 lions
- 300 rhinos
- 3,000 giraffes
- 12,000 zebras
- 4,000 wildebeests
- 5,500 Oryx antelopes
- 2,500 elephants
These may sound like large numbers, but the expanse of Etosha means that it can be quite difficult to seek them out depending on the time of year you visit. Once the rainy season starts (November to April) the animals disperse into the landscape hidden away from the gravel road network within Etosha.
So the best time to visit Etosha is during the dry season, which typically runs from May to October. The lack of water supply means that the animals never stray too far from any source of water, and Etosha has numerous waterholes where you can literally just park and wait for the animals to come to you.
I visited in December after a wonderful two nights of bush camping at Okonjima Nature Reserve. The rains had just started but luckily not enough to deter the animals from visiting the waterholes. There’s are numerous complexes within the park offering protected camping as well as your more upmarket accommodation, I stayed at Namutoni and Okaukuejo.
Okaukuejo was quite an amazing place, as here the waterhole offered some superb game viewing at dusk and dawn. It was a bit of a surreal experience, sitting on benches encircling half the waterhole, beer in hand, and just waiting for the animals to arrive in the fading light.
The landscape is flat so you can see movement from far far away without actually being able to identify what is heading your way. This experience becomes even more magnified when it gets dark, the waterhole is floodlit so suddenly out of the nothingness an elephant may appear 50m away from you ! It’s also simply stunning at sunset.
The Okaukuejo waterhole was the highlight of my Etosha visit until we were on our way out of the park. Myself and the group I was with where a little disappointed that we hadn’t seen more elephants, of all the large mammals, elephants had been the most elusive. They had obviously planned a big send off for us, for just 20 minutes later we were surrounded by them on the main road out of Etosha.
There must have been 6-8 family groups, including young calves that I imagine had been born that year. It was a wonderful experience, they paid little attention to us, came right up close and just wondered around the vehicles for a good 40 minutes.
This was one of those times when you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing and experiencing, and you never want it to end. Obviously I was taking lots of photos, but there came a point where I decided to stop looking at this through a viewfinder, and instead just relax and soak up the whole experience.
I thought I needed long telephoto lenses for the Safari experience, but here I wish I’d got a wide-angle, I was quite expecting that !
I couldn’t have wished for a better way to conclude my Etosha experience, it was the perfect memory to depart with and obviously a memory that will never leave me. I’ve included below a couple of black and white shots which I think I prefer to the colour ones, I’d be interested to know what you think…
We continued out of Etosha National Park and made our way to Kamanjab to visit a Himba tribe community.
You’re welcome to ‘Like’ or add a comment if you enjoyed this blog post. If you’d like to be notified of any new content, why not sign up by clicking the ‘Follow’ button.
If you’re interested in using any of my photography or articles please get in touch. I’m also available for any freelance work worldwide, my duffel bag is always packed ready to go…