Etosha National Park spans over 22,270 km2 and is criss-crossed by a network of roads that you can drive on to visit the park’s various watering holes which number more than 30. With a network this vast and with over 114 mammal, 340 bird, and 110 reptile species to see you will need a game plan, and this post is all about helping you figure that out. Follow this link to see what we found using the easy steps in this guide!
Begin planning your adventure now!
Getting to Etosha from Windhoek is very simple, it is a six hour drive along well surfaced roads that is easy to do. And if you want to break up the journey then why not try find a suitable rest camp to stay at to split your journey over two days while soaking up as much of Namibia as possible.
How you drive to Etosha will depend on which gate you will want to use to access the park. Traditionally there have always been three gates: The Anderson Gate in the South of the park, the Von Lindequist Gate in the East, and the King Nehale gate on the Northern border. In June 2011 the park opened a new gate called the Galton Gate and this is now a fourth entry point into the park.
Map of Etosha.
(courtesy of Mappery)
Depending on where you are driving from, and depending on which camp you want to stay at in the park you will have to select the appropriate gate to enter park through.
Once in the park and through the gate you have chosen you will have to check in at Okaukuejo or Namutoni and from there you can head out into the park or go straight to your rest camp to put your belongings in the your room.
First things first, if you plan on staying more than one day in the park then you will need to find somewhere to overnight. Finding a place to stay inside the park is actually very easy and there are four camps run by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts that you can choose from.
Okaukuejo in the south
Halali in the centre of the park
Namutoni in the east
Dolomite rest camp in the previously restricted western part of the park.
Each rest camp has its own spot lit watering hole that allows guests to do some night time game viewing as all the creatures of Etosha come out on their nightly routines.
Once you've checked in at Namutoni or Okaukeujo, take your time to get to your rest camp, turning your journey into a mini-safari.
Namutoni- rest camp and administrative centre for the park.
There are also several accommodation options just outside the park and these range in price and proximity to the park. So visit the pages below, see which one suits your plans best.
Onguma is a luxurious private game reserve right on the border of the national park
Here you can find several accomodation options.
And here is another list of lodges near the park.
A giraffe and an oryx making a speedy getaway, but from what...?
So now that you have settled into your camp you can begin to plan out how you are going to go about exploring the park.
In your own car you can spend as long as you like, wherever you like!
Wherever you drive in the park you will have to observe certain rules and protocols to avoid making a nuisance of yourself or at worst, endangering yourself and others.
Take it easy!
The slower you go the more likely you'll cross paths with the wildlife.
Plan your route thoroughly and make sure you have enough petrol. You can fill up with fuel at Okaukuejo so it is very easy to keep your car running once in the park.
Always return back to your camp before sunset, the roads are mostly gravel so be sure to take this into account when you are planning how long your drive will be.
Drive on the left, just like any other road in Namibia.
Make sure you have water in your car to avoid getting dehydrated while on your long safari.
Don't drive quickly or recklessly. Driving slowly will minimize your chance of getting punctures and more importantly will increase your chance of seeing some of the amazing animals in the park.
Don't ever leave your car unless you are in the appropriate area, these areas are very clearly marked.
Driving at night is strictly prohibited and penalties will be enforced if you drive after sunset and before sunrise.
Don't feed or interact with any of the animals from your car.
The roads of Etosha are easy to drive on, but care is required when using them.
It is always best to go to Etosha in an off-road vehicle, but it is possible to do the park in smaller city-dwelling cars as well- you may just have to go even slower to avoid causing damage to your vehicle.
Having the freedom to do what you want in your own time
is one of the best parts of visiting Etosha.
First things first, you should pick up a map from the kiosk at Okaukuejo. This is not only a map of the entire park, but it also gives you information about each of the watering holes in the park. The maps are available in German and English.
The Kiosk at Namutoni- here you can find all the information you will need.
Which animals go to which watering hole is explained on the map, and this can be a boon to anyone who is looking for a specific animal. The map also has checklist so you can mark off which of Etosha's residents you have seen on your safari.
You can also buy an illustrated animal identification book from the same kiosk and this will help you to identify the various mammals, birds and reptiles that you might spot whilst exploring the park.
Can you identify the antelope in this picture?
So now you have your map, and you are in your car, and you are about to go on your self-drive safari.
Your best chance of seeing wildlife in Etosha is by doing things slowly, and being observant. The watering holes are good for catching animals in their natural state, and if you spend significant time at these venues you have an excellent chance of spotting some of Namibia’s unique critters.
Two lions hiding from the sun in the shade of a tree.
Here are some tips and tricks we have picked up over the years from other travellers who have explored Etosha extensively.
If you see other cars stopped on the side of the road, slow down; maybe they have seen something and you can share in their sighting.
Take a pair of binoculars.
Be patient and be quiet.
Keep a look out under trees. Many animals will seek shelter from the hot Namibian sun and often wildlife can be spotted resting in under a tree in its shade.
Ask at your accomodations about the best parts of the park to visit. Animals move and migrate around the park so it does change.
Always leave your camera on and make sure it's battery is charged every night (you'll be using it a lot!)
A herd of elephants make their way to a nearby waterhole
Most are very fortunate when it comes to spotting wildlife in the park becuase there is such an abundance, from the big five to the smallest antelope, Etosha has it all. Check out our blog on what we found when we visited this astonishing place.
Oryx and Warthog: An Etosha story...
Coming soon to a theater near you!