Plan a Memorable African Wild Animal Safari in Namibia
People dreaming about going on an African safari should plan to visit Etosha National Park in Namibia. It is safe, has great views and has comfortable accommodations.
Etosha National Park in northern Namibia is one of the largest wild game preserves on the African continent. A fence encompasses 67,300 square kilometers (26,000 square miles), of which one-fourth of the area is the large salt pan of an ancient dried lake bed.
When the park was established in 1907, it was the largest game park in the world. But political pressures over time have reduced it to a quarter of its original size.
A variety of velds, savannas, bushlands and desert are home for 114 mammal species (both Burchell’s and Hartmann’s zebras, giraffes, lions, leopards, cheetahs, black rhinoceros, red hartebeests, blue wildebeests, hyenas, elands, kudus, springboks, gemsboks, black-faced impalas and many other types of antelope) as well as 340 bird species, 110 reptile species and 16 amphibian species.
Getting Around Etosha National Park
There are three gates through which to access Etosha. They are located at the southern border and two are in the northeast corner of the park.
A network of gravel roads traverse the park making it possible to watch and photograph a wide variety of animals in their natural habitats. Man-made and real watering holes are the best places to observe. The watering holes adjacent to the rest camps have spotlights to watch the nocturnal animals come for a drink.
The roads are safe and a four-wheel drive vehicle might only be necessary during the rainy season of summer (November through February). One of the dangers of driving is the thorns, which can pierce tires and cause flats. Changing a tire on the open road is not recommended.
Since people are the bottom of the food chain in this park, hiking is forbidden. Visitors must stay inside their car or truck. There are picnic areas where a vehicle may be pulled inside a gated enclosure so travelers may safely get out and stretch their legs.
The park is only open from sunrise to sunset. Outside of these hours, visitors must be in one of the camps or completely outside the park. Sleeping is permitted in recreational vehicles, but keep in mind that lions and leopards will be prowling at night.
Viewing giraffes stalking majestically across grasslands, seeing Damara dik-diks (half-meter-tall antelopes), and watching a herd of wildebeests while springboks literally bounce across the savannas are sights to be photographed, video-recorded and remembered forever.
Safaris or Self-Drive Tours
The park does not offer tours or safaris, however, tours can be obtained from some of the private lodges outside of Etosha, or in Windhoek, which is 500 km (310 miles) south of the park. It is possible to fly into Windhoek, rent a car, and drive to and through Etosha.
The advantage of a tour or safari is that guides will identify animals and explain how they survive in the harsh ecosystems of Namibia.
The advantage of a visitor driving their own vehicle is that they can stop and go as they please where many of the tours are on a tighter schedule. Drivers must drive on the left side of the road in Namibia, where English is the official language. The speed limit is 60 km/h (37 mph) to keep dust from damaging the environment inside the park.
Sleeping and Dining Accommodations
Visitors to Etosha may stop at three rest camps – Namutoni, Hilali, Okaukuejo, and the newly opened Onkoshi Camp. Each camp has a restaurant, a shop (selling only basic goods), a service station for fuel and minor repairs, a swimming pool, and various grades of accommodations and camping facilities. There are more luxurious lodges located outside the park.
Costs associated with entry fees and accommodations can be reviewed here.
The best time to visit the park is during the dry season from May through September. This is when the animals will need to visit watering holes, which have parking lots to observe animals from vehicles.
A visitor should plan to spend a minimum two days inside the park. A single day is simply not long enough to cover the vast area and stop for long periods of time to observe wildlife. The longer the stay, the more there will be to see.
Etosha is in a malaria zone, so precautions should be taken if traveling during the rainy season. Visitors should take cameras, long lenses, videorecorders, binoculars, maps, identification books, food and water – and should not feed the animals.