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Etosha Self-Drive Safaris & Tours

4.4/5  –  142 Etosha Reviews

Etosha National Park in northern Namibia belongs among the elite of southern Africa’s wildlife destinations. The park consists of a series of hallucinatory salt pans that scorch blindingly white in the daytime but turn soft pastel-pink at sunrise and sunset. The salt pans and their arid surrounds provide fascinating habitat for an astonishing array of wildlife: you’ll most likely see elephants caked in the Etosha dust, rhinos gathering around waterholes after dark, and maybe even lions or cheetahs on the hunt while vast herds of impala and zebra mill around nervously nearby. And seeing all of this while on a self-drive safari in Etosha is one of the great safari experiences you can have in Namibia.

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1-20 of 23 self-drive tours, trips and holidays to Etosha National Park

8 Questions About Etosha Self-Drive Safaris


8 Questions About Etosha Self-Drive Safaris

Answered by Anthony Ham

What are the pros and cons of an Etosha self-drive safari?

“Going on a self-drive safari in Etosha is a really special way to explore this world-famous park. Not only do you get all of the benefits of a visit to this magnificent park, including amazing wildlife sightings and perspective-altering landscapes. You also get to be your own boss, and control where you go, how long you stay at each wildlife encounter and when to take a break. That’s true of any self-drive safari, of course. But it really does enhance your experience of Etosha because of the sheer size of the park. It’s entirely up to you whether you see as much of the park as you can, or zero in on an area and remain long after other vehicles have moved on. One disadvantage of the self-drive option is not having a guide to show you around. But if you do your research in advance and you’re willing to ask advice from park officials, guides and other vehicles, you’ll end up getting the best of both worlds: you won’t miss any important wildlife sightings, but you’re free to make all the choices.”


Is a self-drive trip in Etosha safe?

“As long as you drive carefully, follow national park rules and remain on the official tracks, an Etosha self-drive safari is, in our opinion, extremely safe. Take care when driving in areas where there are animals, especially elephants: never get too close and always approach any wildlife encounter with caution. You should also never leave your vehicle unless you are stopped in a designated area, such as a fenced campsite. And you should always drive in a manner that is suitable for the road conditions. That means keeping your speed down on all unpaved roads: 40km per hour (25mi per hour) should be your maximum speed. Apart from the dangers posed by wildlife that can cross suddenly, it’s also easier to lose control when braking and turning off-road if you’re driving too quickly. If you keep all of these things in mind (namely, drive carefully, stay in your vehicle and take care when driving near animals), you should have no trouble staying safe in Etosha.”


What is the condition of the roads in Etosha?

“Etosha’s roads are generally in excellent condition, although there are a number of variables to keep in mind. One of these is that the vast majority of Etosha’s roads are unpaved. Most of the sealed tarmac roads run right up to the park gate and no further. The other major consideration is the time of year. During the high season, which generally runs from July to October and falls during the Dry season, the tracks are well maintained and easy to drive on. It can get a little trickier after the rains, which are possible from November to April. If it has been raining, you will need to take extra care as some tracks can turn to mud. With such conditions comes the danger of getting stuck or, worse, losing control and sliding around. But these conditions are present for only a small part of the year. As long as you’re not visiting just after heavy rains, you should be fine.”


What is the best time of the year for a self-drive safari in Etosha?

“The simple answer is that the very best months for an Etosha 4x4 safari are during the Dry season, which runs from July to October. June can also be good and is usually quieter. More specifically, there are two major factors to consider when deciding on the best time. The first is, of course, the weather and its impact on road conditions: visiting after or during the rains (which are most likely to affect your visit between November and April) can make for difficult driving conditions. Secondly, is animal visibility. The drier months, especially from July to October, are when Etosha’s abundant animals are most likely to be easily found close to those areas and waterholes where there is standing water. When it rains, wildlife can be harder to track down as it disperses to find water throughout the park. And finally, it can get really busy, and the trails and campsites very crowded, around the Christmas and New Year period, as well as during the busiest holiday months of July and August.”


Do I need 4x4 driving experience for a self-drive trip in Etosha?

“Experience in driving a 4x4 is not essential for exploring Etosha National Park, because most of the tracks are usually in excellent condition. That said, you can never have too much experience when going on a self-drive safari in a 4x4 vehicle, whether that’s in Etosha or anywhere else. Such practical knowledge would be valuable if you’re visiting after the rains, when driving conditions are a little more perilous. The more experience you have, the more it also means you can explore beyond Etosha and across northern Namibia. However, for the most part you’ll have no trouble driving around Etosha, even if you’ve never driven a 4x4 before. When the tracks are dry, you could even get around most of the park in a 2x2 vehicle without much difficulty.”


How much does an Etosha self-drive safari cost?

“The cost of an Etosha self-drive safari starts at US$150 per person per day and can go up to US$500 per person per day, or even more. Variable costs include whether you are camping or staying in luxury accommodation, the type of vehicle you are renting, and the number of people in your traveling party. As a general rule, the more people there are in your group, the lower the per-person price will be.”


What should I do when I encounter animals?

“You should always take the utmost care when driving close to wildlife on your 4x4 safari in Etosha. There are no fences separating the roads and tracks from the rest of the park and animals can be unpredictable in their movements: they can cross without warning, and often do so at speed. If you drive slowly at all times, you reduce the risk to you and to the animals. You should also avoid getting too close to the animals while you’re in your vehicle. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve seen safari vehicles crowding the animals, which can cause stress to the animals and even result in a dangerous situation. You need to be especially careful around elephants: approach with caution, keep a safe distance away and never place yourself between different members of the herd. The latter is particularly true when it comes to adult elephants and their offspring.”


Will I have roadside assistance in case of a breakdown?

“If you’re in a rental vehicle and it breaks down while you’re driving through Etosha, your first call should be to the company you hired the vehicle from. Make sure you get a 24-hour emergency number (preferably a mobile or cell-phone number) from the company when you pick up your vehicle. The level of assistance they are able to provide will vary from one company to the next, but they are best placed to advise you what your next step should be. There is an Automobile Association of Namibia, but you need to join as a member before beginning your journey. Otherwise, the costs of a callout can be exorbitant, wait times in the area can take hours and even days, and they may be unwilling to enter the national park. Importantly, if you’re inside the park, remember to stay inside your vehicle while waiting for assistance. If you need to leave the vehicle, ask for help from another vehicle to take you where you need to go.”


Etosha Reviews

4.4/5 142 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, former 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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Graycha Levi  –  
United States US
Reviewed: May 12, 2023
It is breathtaking. Unique and beautiful place.I love everything the wildlife and the nature amazing

Etosha is home to a range of wonderful species, black rhinos, lions and elephants. The reserve is doing a excellent work protecting, rehabilitating the animals. The service was excellent respectful staff. Accommodation was amazing, the...

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Phil Atkinson  –  
United Kingdom UK
Reviewed: Oct 4, 2022

Just an amazing place teeming with wildlife but you had to make the effort too which added to the fun. Plenty of people but it was so big you never really noticed. Reasonable food, drink and accommodation to be had there too within the park...

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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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