Half the size of Switzerland, Etosha National Park is one of Africa’s largest nature reserves. It is located in the beautiful and desolate north-western reaches of Namibia in the Kunene region.
The Etosha Park occupies an area of 22 270km², 4 590km² of which is taken up by the Etosha pan. Apart from the excellent African experiences, which can be enjoyed here, Etosha’s unique climate, unusual geography and interesting history add to the appeal.
Etosha is named for its ashen appearance – ‘Etosha’ means ‘Great White Place’ in the Oshindonga language. The Hai||om bushman refer to the pan as ‘Khubus’ meaning “totally bare, white place with lots of dust” and also as ‘Chums’ referring to the sound made by feet walking across the pan. It is also sometimes referred to as the ‘place of dry water’.
The pan itself is a dusty depression of glaring white mineral salts for most of the year, transformed briefly into a temporary lake during the rainy season. Together with the perennial springs located on the outskirts of the pan, the lake attracts thousands of living creatures to this hostile place, most notably huge flocks of flamingos and other wading birds. Fischer’s pan, an eastward extension of the main pan, holds water for most of the year and the remainder of the park is covered with mopane woodlands flanked by grassy plains, ideal conditions for a wide variety of game species.
As a result, The Etosha Park is one of the best places to view almost all of Africa’s wildlife. During the dry season, the available water sources attract animals and birds in their tens of thousands, making it easy to pinpoint their whereabouts. Visitors can expect to spot elephant, giraffe, eland, kudu, springbok, wildebeest, gemsbok (oryx), zebra, red hartebeest, impala, warthog, lion and possibly leopard and cheetah as they converge on these oases to drink in the early morning and at dusk. The rainy season is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Hundreds of migratory birds from all over the world are attracted to this vast water wonderland and scores of flamingos arrive to feast on the abundant supply of blue-green algae in the water.
Etosha has been carefully planned with the tourist in mind. The roads are good, well signposted and accessible by ordinary sedan car. There are numerous strategically placed lookout points and several accommodation options to choose from – from camping to the ultimate in luxury. Various game drives are possible and the waterholes at Namutoni, Halali and Okaukuejo are illuminated at night enabling guests to enjoy sightings of seldom seen nocturnal creatures.
All these factors make the Etosha Park a unique, must-see safari destination and account for its overwhelming popularity amongst local and international visitors alike. Book well in advance to avoid disappointment and plan your route in the park carefully, to make the most of your time there.