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Etosha Safari Tours & Holidays

4.5/5  –  130 Etosha Reviews

Etosha is easily Namibia’s premier safari destination. The salt pans can make the landscape feel like a hallucinatory void in the heat of the day, shimmering away into eternity, yet there is magic in the air close to sunset. Luxury lodges and camps surround the park, while busy and well-provisioned camping areas lie scattered from one end of the park to the other.

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8 Questions About Etosha Safaris

Answered by Anthony Ham

When is the best time to visit Etosha?

“As is so often the case throughout southern Africa, an Etosha safari is best enjoyed during the Dry season, from July to September. During these months – considered high season by safari operators, lodges and tented camps with prices to match – expect dry conditions, firm ‘road’ surfaces, good concentrations of wildlife and big safari crowds. Etosha safaris in May or June have many of these advantages without the crowds and with lower prices, while October sees animals draw near to waterholes in numbers, but what makes them do so (the extreme heat) also makes it an uncomfortable time to visit. The rainy season, while not as strong as elsewhere in southern Africa, begins in November (which is also when migrating birds begin arriving en masse), but really takes hold in March and April, making it less ideal for Etosha safari trips.”

More about the best time to visit Etosha 1

How big is the pan and can you walk across it?

“Etosha Pan runs for almost 120km (75mi) through the park and covers an estimated 4800 sq km (1853 sq mi). It is dry for most of the year, although it can have some shallow surface water after rain – the high rates of evaporation in these parts ensure that the water rarely remains for long. Left behind are salt deposits – the name Etosha translates as ‘Great White Place’ – that shimmer in the heat haze and seem to have no end. Walking across the surface, which is a combination of crusted salt, clay and mud, would be extremely uncomfortable, and probably suicidal, unless you were to try and do so during the cooler temperatures of night. Quite apart from the dangers of getting lost, the risks posed by wild animals, and the difficulties of carrying enough water, the real appeal of Etosha lies on the southern shore – cross from south to north and you'll likely reach the other side to discover there is nothing for it but to turn around and return to the south.”


Is Etosha good for a self-drive safari?

“Self-drive Etosha safari visitors rave about coming here. A good network of well-maintained trails crosses the park in every direction, and the camping areas are more like not-so-small villages, with a host of organized safari activities, swimming pools, restaurants, grocery stores and more. For some, the ease of reaching Etosha (paved roads connect Etosha to the rest of Namibia) and exploring the park once there means that it is not quite adventurous enough, but such is the appeal of its wildlife and rather special scenery that most are willing to make an exception to their need for hard-core adventure.”


What animals can I expect to see in Etosha?

“Elephants caked in the Etosha dust are a recurring Etosha image, as is a lion feeding by a waterhole while gazelle, giraffe, gemsbok and zebra watch nervously nearby; there are as many as 500 lions within Etosha, making it Namibia’s primary lion stronghold. Rhinos draw near to the floodlit waterholes alongside the rest camps after dark, while giraffe and wildebeest are also commonly seen – watching the former, legs splayed and drinking warily at a waterhole, is another memorable Etosha image. Two near-endemic species to watch out for are the elegant black-faced impala (only found here and in Angola), and the tiny Damara dik-dik, which mates for life and is never far from its partner. If you’re lucky, you might also encounter the honey badger and bat-eared fox. ”

More about the Wildlife of Etosha 4

How long is the drive to Etosha?

“It’s only around a four-hour drive (414km/257mi) from Windhoek to Etosha along a paved road, although only the most impatient travelers make the journey in one hit – there are so many fine places to stop along the way. If you’re heading east towards the Caprivi Strip or Khaudum National Park, count on a journey of around eight hours, most or perhaps even all of it on reasonable paved roads. If you’re heading west towards Damaraland or Kaokoland, the roads west of Etosha are rarely paved and often in terrible condition, which makes for slow going.”


What condition are the roads in within Etosha?

“An Etosha safari may be a staple on the Namibia safari circuit, and the number of vehicles to pass through here is higher than any other Namibian park or reserve, but even so, the roads inside the park are generally well maintained – they’re not paved, but graded regularly and easily navigated in an ordinary 2WD vehicle. This situation may change after the rains, when conditions can become slippery and even downright treacherous, but really heavy rains are rare out here. Beyond the park, roads to many other destinations in the country are paved and well maintained.”


What are the pros and cons of different accommodation types?

“Most of the luxury accommodation options on Etosha tours are found beyond the park boundaries, particularly to the south and east of the park. These lodges and tented camps are quiet, rarely crowded and well located for launching forays into the park. Etosha safari prices are generally quite expensive, but there are some good budget options as well. Inside the park, everyone should spend at least one night in one of the rest camps, not least because you’ll wake up right on the cusp of prime wildlife-watching terrain in the heart of the park. Even if the rest of your Namibia tour has been spent in more exclusive surroundings, the rest camps offer the chance to see black rhinos at the floodlit waterholes adjacent to the camps – you can even take a glass of wine to enjoy while you watch one of the great spectacles of Namibia safari lore. Unless you’re already camping, the campsites are too closely spaced at some of the rest camps, but there are simple motel-style rooms on offer as well.”


What lodges or camps would you recommend in Etosha?

“I’ve stayed at many Etosha boltholes and don’t really have a favorite. On my Etosha tours, I always try for a mixture of tented camp beyond the park (with the promise of a quieter, more intimate safari experience, and higher levels of comfort) and the good-natured bonhomie and utter lack of pretension in the rest camps, which also lie close to some of the best wildlife-watching locations. Perhaps it’s because I’ve explored many of the more popular areas of Etosha at length, but in recent times I’ve particularly enjoyed the quieter trails out in the recently opened west of the park, with Dolomite Camp and Olifantsrus Camp two excellent options.”


Etosha Safari Reviews

4.5/5 130 Reviews
Lizzie Williams  –  
South Africa ZA

Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Exceptionally good game-viewing in unusual environments

Etosha means ‘Great White Place’ in the Herero language after the giant, parched and dazzlingly white Etosha Pan. I find this the perfect environment for silhouetting the animals – a lone wildebeest or herd of handsome gemsbok can be...

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Mike Unwin  –  
United Kingdom UK

Mike is an award winning wildlife writer, editor of Travel Zambia magazine and author of the Bradt Guide to Southern African Wildlife.

White dust and waterholes

Etosha’s harsh landscape is not to everyone’s taste: the wilderness of dusty, rubble-strewn thorn scrub surrounding the vast, featureless salt pan is impressive rather than beautiful. The wildlife, however, is consistently outstanding...

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Leigh  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Aug 12, 2019
Happy to have been. An abundance of animals and viewing spots, barren landscape and bumpy roads.

I visited the Etosha National Park from a campsite outside the main gate. Even before reaching the first Lodge inside the park I had seen two lions. The roads were quite drivable, even in a two wheeled car. There were plenty of watering...

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dennis.zaebst  –  
United States US
Reviewed: Aug 11, 2019
Spectacular and exciting photographic tour site

When I visited Etosha NP in May and June 2017, the weather was beautiful; highs in the mid-70s (F), dry and pleasant, and there had been recent rains which brought the flowers evident in so many of my photographs. The large animals were...

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Javier Elías Guzmán Téllez  –  
Spain ES
Reviewed: Oct 24, 2018

It was not crowd, but some popular places remind you were not out totally out of civilization. The salf plan, salvadora plains and rocky areas are very scenic, but most of the park is very monotonus, specially large patches of mopane. I...

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Yvonne Katrin  –  
Germany DE
Reviewed: Apr 23, 2018
My first time I saw wild elephants, rhino & hyena!

I was in Etosha National Park in April 2017. It is end of the rainy season so there is enough water for the animals in the nature. That is maybe the reason why we had not so much good luck at waterholes. We had best sightings in the East...

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