Time of year
The best time to view game anywhere in Africa is during the dry season. When rain is scarce, wild animals are forced to stay close to any available sources of water and it is easier to predict their location. The bush is also less dense at this time and the animals are easier to see than when lush vegetation and tall grasses obscure them from sight.
If you are visiting Etosha during the rainy season, it is advisable to drive even slower than the recommended speed limit to increase your chances of detecting the fauna amongst the flora. During this time the animals are widely spread across the park and the elephants migrate north of the pan beyond the reach of the tourist roads.
Water is an important ingredient for survival and most animals will drink daily. So naturally, the best places to spot game is near sources of water. All the major waterholes in Etosha have areas for visitors to park their vehicles and watch the animals come down to drink and some of them are floodlit for 24-hour game viewing.
Find out more about the individual waterholes by following the links below:
The rest camps at Halali, Okaukuejo and Namutoni all have books where guests can record which animals they have spotted during the day and where they saw them. Consult these animal sightings books to get an idea of where you may look for those elusive creatures that you have not spotted yet.
Guides and parks board staff will be happy to advise you on the best places to go and your fellow guests will be excited to share their findings with you.
There are a few ways to make the most of waterholes:
- Peak drinking times for the plains game is from 9am to 3pm which means that opportunistic predators are likely to be in the vicinity too.
- Observe the behaviour of the animals. Giraffe, with their height advantage are often the first to spot lions and you will be able to tell if they are keeping an eye on something in the distance.
- Antelope will also keep a watchful eye out for danger and if they are gazing suspiciously at a cluster of bushes, there is a good chance that lion or other big cats may be lurking nearby.
- Watch the landscape around the waterhole for animals approaching to drink, or grazing nearby.
- Circling vultures are a dead give-away as they circle above a kill waiting for the pickings.
- Take your time. A few hours spent sitting quietly at a waterhole will yield more sightings than many hours spent driving around.
- Visiting a waterhole first thing in the morning, you could come across nocturnal creatures such as the bat-eared fox or predators slaking their thirst after a night of hunting.
Luck is a big factor but patience pays off. No one can tell you which is the best waterhole to visit as this changes almost hourly and wildlife may shy away from waterholes where there are too many vehicles waiting around.
Make the most of it
Don’t focus only on the big five during your game drive; there is much enjoyment to be had in observing the smaller and more common species going about their daily routines.
Drive slowly and stop at the water-holes for a while. Finding a good spot, turning off the engine and waiting quietly will provide far more satisfaction and success than any amount of racing from waterhole to waterhole and allow you to enjoy the stillness and beauty of Africa along with the excitement of ticking species off your list.