If you love animals and you are passionate about wildlife, visiting Etosha National Park in Namibia is something you will never forget. Many might say this is not the most beautiful national park, but everybody agrees it is one of the best place to go on an epic safari or just a short trip to observe the amazing life of wild animals.
To have a memorable visit to this stunning South African park, you should read this guide before you start planning your visit. Unlike a regular break in a European city, for instance, a trip to a place like the Etosha National Park might come with a bigger list of things to do and, of course, not to do. So, if you want to have an ultimate escape in a world-famous national park, where you can easily observe the intriguing life of wild animals, check out this guide to visiting Etosha National Park in Namibia.
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Best Time to Visit Etosha National Park
Before you start planning and packing you should know when is the best time to go to Etosha National Park. You want to visit this park, not only for the landscapes but for its wildlife, and the best time to have this experience is during the cold and dry season. In winter, from May until August, you will find the majority of animals gathering around the many water sources.
The hot and dry season (from August until September) is not bad either, but the high temperatures make the experience less enjoyable for many visitors. You can visit Etosha from September onwards (this is when the hot and wet season begins, so unexpected weather might hit you) too, especially if you are interested in bird watching.
Just keep in mind that due to the park’s popularity the good campsites are often fully booked far in advance, especially during winter, so you need to make reservations as early as you possibly can.
Related Article: Namibia Travel Guide
How to Get There
Getting to Etosha and entering the huge park depends on where you are coming come from since there is more than just one entrance. There are actually four access gates: the King Nehale gate in the North, The Anderson Gate in the South, the Von Lindequist Gate in the East and Galton Gate in the western end of the park.
The best way to reach the park is to book a flight to Hosea Kutako International Airport, located 40 kilometers from Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek. At the airport, rent a 4X4 vehicle to drive yourself to Etosha. There are 435 kilometers between Windhoek and the park so you’ll be driving for around six hours. In this case, you will enter Etosha through the Anderson’s Gate and have Okaukuejo as the closest camp. If self-driving is not your idea of a fun vacation then you can join one of the many organized tours.
Where to Stay
There are many people who come to Etosha for just one day, but if you want a really memorable experience, staying more than a single day is strongly advisable. In this case, you need to find a comfortable place to sleep. You can choose to stay in the park itself or find accommodation just outside the park’s borders.
Namibia Wildlife Resorts offer visitors the chance to sleep in one of their six camps. The main locations, Okaukuejo resort as well as Halali resort are perfect for enjoying the park during the night as there are lit waterholes and a protected area where you can relax and wait for the animals to arrive.
If you want a luxurious camp experience with fewer tourists around, check out the accommodations at Dolomite. Romantic travelers who want to add admiring beautiful sunsets and sunrises to their wildlife watching experience should make reservations at Onkoshi resort. While bird lovers can have a fantastic stay at Namutoni. And if you want to “meet” an impressive number of local elephants, staying at the remote Olifantsrus camp is your best bet.
Travelers who would rather sleep outside the park can choose between several available options. A good, budget-friendly place is Mokuti Etosha Lodge. Located only a few minutes away from the park’s eastern gate, the charming lodge offers a variety of cozy rooms. The standard and the family rooms are well-equipped and beautifully decorated offering guests all the comfort they should need.
If you’re looking to splurge on your vacation, combining a wild adventure with lavish accommodation might be a great idea for you. In this case, you should check out the high-end rooms at Mokuti Etosha Lodge or the rooms available at Onguma, a more expensive, but truly unique game reserve, located right next to the park. This reserve offers you the chance to choose from staying in luxury tents, bush suites, treetop camps, and more!
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What to Expect During your Visit
Amazing and Unique Landscapes
Visiting the beautiful Etosha Park will not only give you the chance to admire its rich wildlife but also explore its stunning landscape, which mainly consists of Savannah Woodland. The park is also known for hosting the largest salt pan in Africa. It’s so big that it is visible from space!
You will see a variety of trees, but you will mostly encounter the mopane, a tree with bright green, butterfly-shaped leaves. Driving around the park to explore the park’s various landscapes is pretty easy since it is usually not too crowded and the roads are in a good condition.
Amazing Game Viewing
Besides hosting four of the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, and rhinoceros), Etosha gives you the chance to spot its 114 other mammals. One visit will most likely not be enough to see them all, but if you’re lucky, well-equipped, have a good guide and you pay attention, you can see more than you might imagine.
The most common animals spotted are lions, zebras, and elephants but expect to see the endangered black rhinos, giraffes, kudus, and many more!
Our top recommended tours that include Etosha National Park:
- G Adventures Cape and Dunes Overland
- G Adventures Wonders of Namibia
- G Adventures Wildlife and Wonders of Southern Africa
Make the Most of Your Etosha National Park Experience
Essential Items to Bring
As already stated, visiting a National Park like Etosha is totally different to most other vacation such as a city break. Make sure to remember this when packing your luggage. So, to feel comfortable pack the right type of clothing. A good mix of clothing is necessary due the varying temperatures. It can be extremely hot during the day, but at night and in the early morning, the temperatures can get pretty low.
In addition, make sure you pack sunblock and a sun hat. You really do need to protect your skin from the African sun. We shouldn’t need to mention this item, but do not forget your camera! If you’re a photographer of some sort, a zoom lens will be required to take the best photos of the animals, which at times, will be at quite a distance.
Tips for Spotting and Identifying Wildlife
To spot and identify the animals, it’s best to use binoculars and a map of the park. Both can be provided by your guide, some accommodations or at the kiosks inside the park. A map will help you explore the park accurately and will be a great source of useful information about the nearest/best waterholes and the animals that gather around them. Those of you with limited wildlife knowledge should consider buying an illustrated animal book which can be useful to help to identify the animals you have never seen before.
As mentioned, waterholes are a great bet for spotting large numbers of animals and their natural behavior, but looking carefully under the trees is also recommended, especially in the middle of the day, since many animals will be seeking for shade for cover from the heat of the sun. Remember, be patient, be quiet, drive slowly, and if you see many cars gathered in one place it might be a good idea to join them to see what they’ve spotted!
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Watching Wildlife Southern Africa (Travel Guide)
Important Safety Tips
When visiting destinations like the Etosha National Park in Nambia, you have to do everything you can to keep yourself safe. After all, you’re going to surrounded by wild and dangerous animals.
Firstly, returning to camp before the sun sets is crucial. Not only is driving at night dangerous, but it is also prohibited. Drive slowly, not only to see the game but also to keep yourself and the other passengers safe. Make sure you have plenty of water with you at all times and if you are self-driving, enter the park with a full tank of gas. You do not want to be running out of gas where there are hungry lions roaming freely. Though, at some point, you might feel the need to get out of the car, don’t! Always follow your guides guidance or wait until you arrive at an area where exiting your car is permitted.
Last, but definitely not least, under no circumstances should you try to interact with the animals. Do not feed them and do not pet or play with them. Doing so would be extremely stupid, even if you feel safe inside your car. In addition to these safety tips, before embarking on this amazing adventure, you are strongly advised to read the regulations and guidelines available on the Etosha National Park website.
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Resources for Planning Your Trip to Africa
Recommended Guide Books For Africa:
- Lonely Planet Africa (Travel Guide)
- Lonely Planet South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland (Travel Guide)
- Lonely Planet Watching Wildlife East Africa (Travel Guide)
- Lonely Planet Watching Wildlife Southern Africa (Travel Guide)
- Fodor’s the Complete Guide to African Safaris: with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, & Rwanda (Full-color Travel Guide)
- Fodor’s Essential South Africa: with The Best Safari Destinations (Travel Guide)
Africa Travel Map:
- South Africa (National Geographic Adventure Map)
- Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi (National Geographic Adventure Map)
- Kenya (National Geographic Adventure Map)
- Botswana (National Geographic Adventure Map)
- Namibia (National Geographic Adventure Map)
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Search for Tours and Trips in Africa we recommend:
- G Adventures Ultimate Africa– Spanning nine countries, this journey is full of diverse cultures, abundant wildlife, spectacular landscapes, stunning beaches, and loads of adventure. Track the “big five” across open savannah, explore the Okavango Delta in a dugout mokoro canoe, encounter gorillas deep in the Ugandan wilderness — do it all on this ultimate 55-day adventure and get a real feel for how large Africa truly is. Travel comfortably aboard our overland adventure vehicle, the Lando, and enjoy wilderness camping that will bring you closer to the region’s wildlife. Encounter rare wildlife and real people on this unique and cost-effective journey through the stunning scenery of Southern and East Africa.
- G Adventures Cape Town to the Serengeti– Marvel at the world’s highest sand dunes, float through the Okavango in a dugout “mokoro” canoe, and meet the San Bushmen in the blazing Kalahari Desert on this epic overland adventure. Journey across nearly half of the African continent — from the southern tip of Africa to Kenya — and soak up the vibrant colors, culture, and scenery of eight countries. Our Landos (overland adventure vehicles) are an adventurous and affordable way to enjoy the region’s intriguing combination of wilderness and rural villages while camping under Africa’s big sky will provide a unique perspective. Take the road less traveled and come away with jaw-dropping photographs and a deeper understanding of this incredible continent.
- G Adventures Highlights of Southern Africa– When you put the word “highlights” in the name of a trip, you better be confident that it lives up to the hype. This trip does. Across 30 epic days, you’ll go round-trip to Cape Town via Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia — a new spin on one of our most popular routes — taking comfortable touring vehicles as well as staying in a mix of hotels and campsites for a well-rounded experience. Wildlife sightings and cultural moments come standard here — everything from searching for the “big five” in national parks to enjoying meals with local families. You’ve got memories made for a lifetime.
- G Adventures Serengeti, Falls and Cape Town– Marvel at some of the world’s highest sand dunes, float through the Okavango Delta, and meet the San Bushmen in the blazing Kalahari Desert on this epic overland adventure. Explore eight countries all in one 40-day trip, beginning in Kenya and moving down towards Africa’s southernmost tip. Our Landos (overland adventure vehicles) are an adventurous and inexpensive way to enjoy the region’s intriguing combination of wilderness and rural villages, while camping under Africa’s big sky will provide a unique perspective. Take the road less traveled and come away with jaw-dropping photographs and a deeper understanding of this incredible continent.