Visiting Etosha National Park is one of Namibia's most exceptional adventures. This wildlife sanctuary of over 27,000 square kilometers has a protected status that stretches back over a hundred years. Etosha provides a new experience even for seasoned wildlife viewers, and unlike many other African parks, you can explore the vast expanses and numerous waterholes in your own vehicle at your own pace, enjoying a more personal experience with nature.
While the opportunities at Etosha are endless, here are five things we think are great ways to experience this amazing destination:
1. Join the Etosha "Night Life" at Okaukuejo Water Hole
Okaukuejo Camp (pronounced Oh-kah-KEW-yoh) is located just within the park's southernmost entrance, Andersson Gate, and serves as the park's administrative hub. Many visitors to Etosha choose to make use of Okaukuejo's rustic camp site or the chic bungalows for lodging, but the main attraction is the Okaukeujo waterhole. Throughout the day, animals dip in and out to quench their thirst. The big show begins at dusk when floodlights are turned on to transform the waterhole into one of Namibia's greatest stages. You can kick back on the benches that surround the waterhole with a Windhoek lager and watch as the wildlife - unphased by the light - slinks and strolls out of the darkness to the banks of the spring-fed pool. Towering giraffes perch precariously while jackals skittishly circle the perimeter. Rhinos emerge from the distance and tussle for turf throughout the night with heavy thuds. It's not uncommon to see large herds of elephants sharing the pool with lions. Okaukuejo is a must see if you're interested in knowing what Etosha's four-legged residents are up to when the sun goes down.
2. Cool Off at Halali
Etosha gets HOT during the day, and it's rare that you'll see too many creatures wandering around when the sun is high in the sky. They know the best thing to do is find shade and cool off. Follow their lead by visiting Halali Camp at lunch time. Halali is about 45 minutes from Okaukeujo and also offers overnight accommodation. When you arrive, check in at the Halali waterhole's elevated viewing stand. Pending no surprise arrivals, change into your bathing costume and take a dip in the cool waters of the swimming pool. You'll be able to beat the heat and relax amid the camp's quiet, Mopane tree-covered surroundings. Halali also has a restaurants and bar that can help you meet all your body's other needs while you escape the sun.
3. Discover the native Hai||Om Culture
For many thousands of years, the Hai||Om San (or Bushmen) inhabited the areas that now constitute the park. Their intricate society of hunters and gathers attained a rich understanding of local biodiversity - how plants could be used for medicine, and the patterns in animal behavior. In the 1950s, the local Hai||Om population were removed from Etosha, though their cultural identity still strongly remains attached to the area. As their numbers dwindle, the Xoms-|Omis Project has been working with the Hai||om to document the knowledge and skills passed down from generation to generation. Get a uniquely Hai||Om perspective on the plants, animals, history, and geography of Etosha by referencing these guides available to download for free from the Xoms-|Omis Project website.
4. Dance with Dust Devils
Driving through the backroads of Etosha, nature often crosses your path. Sometimes it's a pride of lions lazily moving to another shady spot. Occasionally tree limbs will find themselves strewn across the tarmac. But nothing is quite as unexpected as seeing a towering column of dust come whizzing past you. Dust devils are the fairweather cousins of tornados - generally harmless and appearing when it's warm and sunny. Hot air rising from the ground mixes with a pocket of cool air and causes the circulation that creates an upward spiral of motion that takes along dirt, sand, and whatever else is laying around. Etosha's flat geography and wide, open skies are the perfect conditions to stir up these ephemeral whirlwinds. Etosha's dust devils can reach 5 meters wide and spin up to 70km/h - though most are much weaker. These natural phenomena are generally innocuous - except for the dusty mess they can cause in your vehicle if your windows aren't rolled up quickly enough. One of the best places to see dust devils dance is the western side of the park near Ozonjuitji m'Bari water hole.
5. Take in the Expanse of the Etosha Pan
When you arrive at the Etosha Pan, it's easy to see why the name roughly translates into "great white space." This 120km-long dry lake bed dominates Etosha's geography. The dizzying experience of being the only vertical object on the horizon is exceptionally humbling. The salt that encrusts the parched mud gives off a startlingly white sheen, making it difficult to see where the pan stops and the sky begins. On rare occasions, rains that sweep across Etosha will leave a small film of water across the pan that lures greater flamingos.
Interested in visitng Etosha National Park? Contact National Wilderness Resorts to book accommodation or safaris.
Take a look at our featured tour packages that highlight Etosha.
Want to learn what other amazing wildlife adventures Namibia has to offer? Download our Namibia Wildlife Experience Planning Guide.