Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is located in the Northern section of Namibia. This park is one of the few in Africa that has the Big 5 as well as countless other species of animals to see. The giant salt pan that the park is situated around creates a unique living situation for all animals that reside there. It is remnants of a wetter time, a dried lake that leaves a desolate and seemingly lifeless centerpiece to the park. Yet this feature provides vital nutrients to the creatures around the area. When it rains, water often collects in thin sheets and heavy amounts of salt.
Traveling to Etosha National Park, Namibia
There are two main entrances to the park, the south and the east. The South entrance is along the C38 and enters the official park about 17km before there is any rest stop. The first official stopping point you will reach will be Okaukuejo, which is the largest campsite in the park.
The East entrance is also along the C38 as the C38 runs the entirety of the park. Similarly, there is large campsite, Namutomi, about 12km from the official park boundary.
There is a third entrance to the park through the West side. Previously the west side of the park was exclusive to private tour operators. But recently there has been some changes and self drivers are also allowed. This road branches off of the C35, but remains an “Unnamed Road”, which exemplifies driving on Namibian roads.
Camping and Accommodation in Etosha National Park, Namibia
There are many options for overnight accommodation within the park. Here is a list of the NWR managed sites:
- There are chalets, basic camping, and double room lodges here. There are various sizes of chalets with different view options. The waterhole here is something out of a nature documentary!
- There is basic camping, double rooms lodges, and chalets here. We have stayed in the rustic sites all three times we have visited.
- There is both camping, double rooms lodges, and chalets here. There are two restaurants to choose from as well!
- Camping only. There are only 10 camping sites at this location, so be sure to book early!
- Located directly on the Etosha Pan, this site has only chalets available.
- This is a site in the West side of the park and has a limited amount of sites. There are 20 permanent luxury safari tents set. If you are going for the glamping vibe, this is a good option.
- Private Lodges
- There are several options for private game lodges. We will be focusing on the NWR run sites.
Halali is the site we are most well versed on. Some highlights of this campsite include the watering hole, the pool, and the central location within the park. Some downsides to this campsite were the camp store, the service, and the road system. Please see the section titled “The Truth about Etosha National Park, Namibia” for more details.
Game Viewing in Etosha National Park, Namibia
As mentioned above, the park has the Big 5. What game you will see of course depends on the season. The first time we went together, mid December, we saw no elephants. This time, mid November, we saw several groups of them. As with any game viewing situation, it is best to be patient.
One of the most striking animals within the park are the zebra. The bleached landscape allows large herds of zebra to congregate and feel relatively safe around a watering hole. This landscape also allows you to easily see their beautiful striped pattern. You will see hoards of zebra and wildebeest together as they have a symbiotic relationship.
The black faced impala are unique to Etosha and Angola. There are large herds of them here and ou will never go too long without seeing them in large quantities.
Etosha National Park is (supposedly) good for cheetah viewing. After spending a collective solid week in the park, we have never encountered them. We have seen plenty of lions, both male and female, in a variety of areas.
The giraffe travel in large groups here as well and have a lighter colored coat that allows them to better blend in with their surroundings. Similar to the impala, this is a sub species of the Angolan giraffe that is only found in the greater Etosha region.
For the Twitchers out there (bird watchers), there are plenty of special species of birds to see. Ostriches are always a highlight for us as they provide comedic relief. Secretary birds are frequent and if you are lucky, you may see one catch a snake! Kori bustards are plentiful and a great sighting if you can catch them with their throat pushed out. In contrast to the light landscape, lilac breasted rollers and many varieties of bee eaters give the area a much need pop of color.
You are able to see all of these animals on your own game drives, but we recommend also paying for a game drive. This past time we did a sunset game drive that allowed us to see mostly nocturnal animals that we would not otherwise see. The highlight of this drive was the striking amount of bat eared foxes that were roaming around!
The Truth about Etosha National Park, Namibia
We both have come to love Etosha because it was our first real African Safari and it will forever hold that space for us. That being said, between the year 2013 and 2017, the park only went downhill.
- On both of our previous trips, each campsite had a camp store stocked with everything you could need. This included basic camping supplies to fresh fruits/veggies as well as high quality frozen meat. (We ate lamb chops the first time) On this go around, the camp store at each site looked like there had been a hurricane the day before. The shelves were sparse and the freezer was quite literally empty. We, as a group, had put off grocery shopping because of our previous great experience with the stock.
- It was no coincidence that they were now only offering an all you could eat buffet. The restaurant no longer had a menu, but a pre fixed price of N$230 (in November 2017) per person. This was the most expensive meal on our entire trip even when we were in cities. The meal was completely lacking in uniqueness, quality, and there was terrible service. Overcooked game meat, steamed frozen vegetables, and canned mashed potatoes were the foods that have stuck with us.
- This was not just the case at Halali. The Okuakuejo camp store was also completely ransacked.
- The roads were not maintained and almost not drivable. As seen in the picture below, Halali sits about 8km off of the main road (C38). Though this map states that it will take about 9 minutes, in reality it took over 30 minutes each time, each way to get to the main road. We had to deflate the tires to excess, the lowest we were allowed to. This could only help so much as the washboards in the dirt roads were upwards of 3-4 inches deep.
- The facilities overall seemed unmaintained, run down, and poorly staffed. It appeared as if no maintenance had been performed in the 4 years in between our visits. All of the ablutions in the general park are in absolute disarray. They have not been cleaned or stocked with toilet paper in years. I would have rather risked getting attacked by an animal on the side of the road to use the restroom rather than use those facilities.
- Tour groups on tour buses are now the norm within Etosha. They book up the majority of campsites in large blocks much further in advance than the regular camper can. This consistent heavy machinery on the dirt roads is one of the main causes of the poor driving conditions. Be prepared to book way in advance and deal with loud, large tourist groups in the night.
Overall Thoughts on Etosha National Park
This park holds a special place for us and is still a great spot to see wildlife. Would we go back? No.
Relative to the size of the park and the amount of roads, there are too many people occupying the space.
This particular trip to Namibia was completed with our two friends, Courtney and Tyler. It was both of their first times in South Africa/Namibia so it was an obvious choice to do our 10 day trip with both of them!
This was night 6 & 7 of 9 nights on the itinerary. This day was Spitzkoppe to Etosha National Park.
Courtney is a blogger as well- check her website out: https://awanderingbroadabroad.wordpress.com/