What is Etosha National Park?
Put simply, Etosha is a huge a national park in northern Namibia.
It’s an epic wildlife spotting reserve thought to be one of the best in Southern Africa and offers the chance to see the Big 5 as well as a huge amount of other animals.
Set in the desert – in what is essentially the floor of an ancient evaporated lake that dried up millions of years ago – Etosha landscape is barren, mostly comprised of thorny scrub, dried mud flats, salt pans, sandy slopes and dried clay beds.
Spotting animals in this low foliage landscape is therefore easy, as camouflage is thin on the ground and the limited watering holes in this arid region make for a concentrated wildlife haven.
Why Visit Etosha National Park?
You should visit Etosha National Park for the concentration of animals and birdlife as well as the lunar-like landscape, which is totally different to almost any other game reserve on the continent.
The uniqueness of Etosha makes it very special, as does its gigantic size.
You can honestly spend 2 days driving solidly across Etosha and not reach the other side.. it’s that big!
Barren and remote, camping in Etosha is another great experience, with fenced sites within the park providing the opportunity to spot wildlife just a few metres from your tent and to star gaze in one of the least light polluted places I’ve ever been.
Etosha National Park combines the vast scenic spectacle of the desert with the richness of the African wilderness – in fact, it’s very name translates as “great white place”.
When is the Best Time to Visit Etosha National Park?
The best time to visit Etosha is during the dry season, when the further limitations of this arid area are upped to the max.
What this time of year does is send animals flocking to the few remaining waterholes, meaning the chance of spotting a huge amount of wildlife is even higher.
Etosha’s dry season is in keeping with that of its surrounding geography and Namibia’s dry season runs from September to December.
While I visited Etosha in February, technically the “wet season” aka summer, and still saw a huge array of animals, the best time to visit Etosha National Park is probably October – when the rains are still scarce but the climate is not yet too hot
Where is Etosha National Park?
Situated in the north of Namibia, not so far from the Angolan border, the nearest sizeable towns to Etosha National Park are Grootfontein, Ondangwa and Tsumeb, which all have small airstrips and supermarkets for supplies as well as ATM facilities.
Trains and buses also pass through these towns from Windhoek / Swakopmund, as well as the usual spattering of local minivans.
If you’re approaching Etosha from the south, then you’ll likely access the park via the town of Outjo, which is about 100km from the park entrance and offers the opportunity to stock up on supplies too.
How to Get To Etosha?
Almost everyone reaches Etosha National Park via land – having driven from other destinations in Namibia, Angola or Botswana.
Because of the remoteness of the park, hiring a vehicle to drive here or taking a land-based tour, are by far the 2 most popular options.
I suppose you could fly into one of the nearby airstrips and from there make your way to Etosha, but I’ve never met anyone whose done this and have no information about such a feat – I imagine it’s expensive and difficult.
Overland tours covering Namibia almost all make a stop at Etosha for 2-3 nights, otherwise travelling north from the cities of Windhoek or Swakopmund, or west from Botswana’s Okavango Delta, are good options.
I visited Etosha National Park as part of an overland tour, but many other companies ply the route either as part of a Namibia-only overland experience or as part of a longer Southern Africa adventure.
For the best range of tours that cover Etosha National Park and the fantastic ability to compare and contrast them in terms of price, length and level of luxury, check TourRadar.
If you want to see Etosha independently, then probably your best options would be to fly to Windhoek, where you can hire a 4wd to drive yourself to and around the area.
Things to Do in Etosha National Park
The number one thing to do in Etosha National Park is to experience some epic game drives.
Littered with wildlife, just driving across the park (via the many tracks that connect the various waterholes) is bound to bring you into contact with a massive amount of wildlife.
Games drives will also allow you to take in the landscape and the vastness of this dry, flat, hot and baked land and can be taken during the day or at night (no self-drive wildlife watching allowed at night).
The sense of remoteness, off-grid, detachment from the busy world of connection and distraction are also palpable here and provide the sense of a true escape to the wild.
Wildlife in Etosha
In case I hadn’t mentioned it enough already, Etosha National Park offers a huge array of wildlife!
For starters, I saw more rhinos here than anywhere else in Africa, including several of the highly endangered black rhinos.
If you’re longing to see a rhino in Africa, go to Etosha!
Other wildlife I spotted included lions, elephants, wildebeest, white rhinos, genet cats, jackals, zebra, giraffe, ostrich, dik diks, gemsboks, impala, mongoose, elands, kudu, flamingos and an incredible array of birds, including owls and eagles.
I didn’t manage to see any hyenas, leopards or cheetahs in Etosha, but they are around!
Are you ready?
Here’s the stats: Etosha has 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 16 amphibian / reptile species and 1 fish species!
What to Take to Etosha National Park
If I’ve not made it clear enough already, then I’ll spell it out now – Etosha is extremely remote, hot and dry.
There are very limited shops or supplies in the park and I would highly advise taking everything you need with you.
- Toilet paper
- Wet wipes
- Strong insect repellent
- Small first aid kit
- Good camera, lens, tripod and cleaning kit
- Neutral-coloured, thin, light clothing you can layer
- Camping gear including sleeping bag / silk liner
You’ll also need to take all the food and water you will require – and lots of it!
I’d suggest at least 5 litres of water per day per person.
There are almost no facilities in the park if you’re camping, outside of toilets, showers and firepits, so bring all cooking facilities with you.
A guidebook would also be good to give you some background info.
As it’s very hot in the daytime here, but can be cold at night, bringing neutral coloured clothing you can layer is ideal, especially as mosquitoes are prevalent and malaria a risk.
How Much Does it Cost?
Unless you’re part of an organised tour, where entrance and gamed drives are often included in the overall price (although do sure to check this), you’ll have to pay both visitor and vehicle fees to enter Etosha National Park.
At the time of going to press, it costs $80 NAD per person per day to experience Etosha, plus $10 NAD per vehicle.
You can enter the park between sunrise and sunset only.