Overview – Etosha NP
Etosha is Namibia’s best park for wildlife watching and is characterized by the vast, saline Etosha Pan. During the Dry season the waterholes around the pan become crowded with large concentrations of animals. Four of the Big Five are present, with only buffalo absent. During the Wet season, the animals are dispersed and wildlife viewing isn't as productive. Etosha’s floodlit waterholes provide a rare opportunity for nighttime wildlife-watching.
Pros & Cons
- Exceptional wildlife viewing during the Dry season
- Unique opportunity to view animals at night at floodlit waterholes
- Easy self-drive destination
- Several accommodation options catering to different budgets
- Wildlife viewing is more difficult during the Wet season
- Rest camps catering to self-drive visitors make it less exclusive
- Very hot climate
Wildlife viewing is outstanding in the Dry season (May to October) when animals congregate around the waterholes. Elephants are abundant. Big herds of blue wildebeest, zebra, springbok and gemsbok are often seen drinking together at a waterhole; black rhinos are also commonly seen at the waterholes after dark. Giraffe and eland might join as well. Big cats are spotted at dawn and dusk and black-backed jackal is very common. There are, however, no buffalos, hippos, crocodiles or monkeys.
Translated as 'Great White Place', Etosha takes its name from the enormous Etosha Pan – a large silvery-white salt pan that acquires a thin layer of salted water after heavy rains. The water becomes deep enough for the pan to act as a breeding ground for greater and lesser flamingo. It is the artificial waterholes and natural springs, among the grassy plains and mopane woodland that attract most of the wildlife.
Weather & Climate
The semi-desert landscape of Etosha is almost bereft of rainfall during the Dry season (May to October). Temperatures can go as low as 7°C/45°F in the early morning for most of this season; only in September and October does the weather start to get hot. Etosha’s Wet season (November to April) continues with the heat, with nighttime temperatures of around 17°C/63°F.
Best Time to Visit
Animals congregate around Etosha’s centerpiece pan and waterholes in the Dry season (May to October). The plentiful wildlife and generally good weather means the park gets quite crowded at this time, which is reflected in the prices that apply to visitors. However, while wildlife watching is more challenging in the wetter months, there’s far less dust and haziness, and you have the chance to see the results of recent breeding.
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Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
A photographer’s favourite
The centrepiece of this immense park is Etosha Pan, a 5,000 sq km flat dustbowl, denuded of vegetation, than transforms into a vast shallow lake during the rainy season. The park is at its best, however, in the dry season, when the pan...
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