Famous for the massive salt pan at its centre, Etosha National Park has many names: ‘Place of Mirages,’ ‘Land of Dry Water’ and the ‘Great White Place.’
All appropriate monikers, this seemingly inhospitable tract of saline desert looks to be entirely devoid of vegetation. And yet it offers some of the most rewarding game viewing opportunities in Namibia.
Wildlife sightings are practically guaranteed in Etosha, which makes it unlike any other game park in Africa. Almost all the animals that call this gruelling landscape home can be found along the edge of the pan, where a necklace of waterholes attracts an ever-changing cast of characters to their life-giving shores. Lion, elephant, springbok, gemsbok, zebra, hyena and others come by the hundreds to drink deeply at the water’s edge.
Namibia is a land of contrasts, and Etosha is no exception. Transformed by rain for a few days each year, the pan becomes a shallow lagoon teeming with pelicans and flamingos. In contrast, the end of the dry season brings with it a white chalk dust, loosened from the pan by passing vehicles and carried on the wind to cover everything in Etosha, from the elephants to the grasslands, in a bleached aura.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Etosha is during the dry season (May to October) when many animals are concentrated around waterholes, and the low grass makes wildlife easier to spot.
Combine Etosha with:
Some of Etosha’s waterholes are floodlit at night, allowing for unique game viewing opportunities.
Etosha Pan is visible from space, measuring about 130 km (80 miles) from east to west, 68 km (42 miles) from north to south, and covering an area of about 5,000 sq km (1,930 sq miles).
This is the only known mass breeding ground for flamingos in Namibia, with as many 1 million flamingos counted in the pan at one time.
While the best waterholes to visit can change on a daily and even hourly basis, wildlife sightings can often come down to a combination of luck and patience.
Wildlife: the unexpected abundance of game in Etosha National Park means that some of the most common, and rare, wildlife species can be spotted here, including four of the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant and black rhino.
Birdlife: more than 340 bird species have been recorded in Etosha National Park, including the migratory European bee-eater and kori bustard.
Okaukuejo Waterhole: this waterhole is considered by many to be the best place to view the endangered black rhino.
Okondeka Waterhole: famous for lion sightings, this waterhole is a natural fountain and is situated on the western edge of the salt pan.
Etosha on the Map
TOP TRAVEL TIP: Rewarding game viewing in Etosha often comes down to three behaviours: be silent, be patient and be ready with the right camera lens.