Etosha National Park
What makes Etosha National Park one of the most remarkable wildlife viewing destinations in the world is the fact that you’d never struggle to see most of the animals. Rather, they congregate at the park’s plentiful waterholes. All you need to do is park next to one, and the multitude of animals will come to you. These permanent waterholes attract lions, black and white rhinos, herds of elephants and wildebeest, springbok, gemsbok, zebra, and many others.
As one of Africa’s largest game parks, Etosha offers a magnificent variety of landscapes of woodlands, open grasslands and permanent waterholes, all of which are to the south of the shimmering silver Etosha saltpan that covers most of the park.
Best Time to Go
July – September
Average Safari Cost
$150 – $800 pp/day
Super rare white and black rhinos; Africa’s iconic big cats – lion, leopard and cheetah; large elephant herds; great for birdwatchers (Egyptian eagle); family-friendly
Pros and Cons
A real safari is an adventure. And as any adventure it brings some challenges. Have a look at our list of pros and cons before choosing your safari.
- Great wildlife viewing from May to October
- Very family-friendly
- Low crime rate in the country and very safe at parks, lodges and campsites
- Stunning landscape
- Budget and premium safaris available
- Busy from July to October; book in advance
- Between November and April, wildlife viewing isn’t very easy
Why Visit Etosha National Park?
Etosha is the best Namibia has on offer. The park is home to both the endangered black and white rhinos. In fact, Namibia has the largest black rhino population in the world, most of which lives in Etosha. White rhino numbers have also been on the rise thanks to successful breeding and conservation programmes. The best time to spot these shy animals is at night, and thanks to Etosha’s conveniently floodlit waterholes, this will be especially easy. Lions, leopards, cheetahs and other elusive animals are also easier to spot in the evenings, and early mornings.
The park is home to four of the Big Five, excluding buffalo. The park has excellent wildlife viewing from May to October (the Dry season); however, from November to April (Wet season) the animals are more dispersed and are a bit harder to spot. The park also provides the unique chance for night time wildlife viewing, as its permanent waterholes are floodlit.
There are a large number of grazing mammals that can be seen at the waterholes, including, but not limited to: giraffes, wildebeest, zebra, the black-faced impala, and desert-adapted animals such as springbok and gemsbok.
The heart of Etosha is the extensive Etosha Pan. For a few days each year, the rains transform this massive flat salt desert into a shallow lagoon swarmed by gracious flamingos and pelicans. Just south of the saltpan, between May and October, the grasslands, woodlands and the permanent waterholes tend to be crowded with the herds of wildlife.
Best Time to Visit
Namibia has cool, dry winters, and hot, wet and humid summers. During the winter months, from May until October, the land and the water sources gradually dry up. By August, the park will be mostly arid, forcing the wildlife to move to the permanent waterholes, where you can view them in abundance.
From November to April, the land turns lush and green, with lakes and rivers filling up. Due to the large amount of water sources, the animals are scattered and viewing them will be more challenging. However, there is the chance that you will see newborn animals and more predators.
Learn about the best time to visit Namibia by month here.
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Taste of Etosha
If you only have 3-4 days available, and would like to visit one of Africa’s biggest and best national parks and one of the main tourist attractions in Namibia, then our Taste of Etosha is the safari for you! The safari starts and ends in Windhoek. Etosha National Park is 22 912 km 2 in size of which the Etosha Pan, a shallow depression that only holds water after good rainy seasons, is 5000 km 2 in size. Etosha is known for its spectacular game viewing and the waterholes attract huge numbers of game in the dry season when all the open water has dried up. During the rainy season the park is transformed into a green oasis and this is the time you find young of various animal species in huge numbers. 114 Species of mammal are found in the park and it is the best place in the world to see Black Rhino. Other game include Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Hyena, Giraffe, Honey-Badger, Black-faced Impala, Kudu, Eland, Damara Dik-Dik, Warthog and big herds of Springbok, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest And Oryx. More than 300 species of birds are found here and it is brilliant for finding raptors.
Wildlife and Birds
In Etosha’s beautifully harsh desert landscape, you will be surprised to find a rich wildlife population. Elephants roam in large herds and the black rhino population is the largest in the world, while the white rhino population has been growing with successful breeding programmes.
The thriving big cat populations ensures that you will have the opportunity to spot lions, and the elusive leopards and cheetahs, although dusk and dawn visits would be the best time to sneak a peek at these beautiful predators.
Thousands of animals gather around the permanent waterholes from May until October, as other water sources gradually dry up, making wildlife viewing excellent at this time of the year. In Etosha, it’s easy to spot herbivores grazing in the grasslands, including wildebeest, zebra, hartebeest and the black-face impala.
- Black Rhino
- White Rhino
- White rhino
- Black rhino
- Black-faced impala
There are over
Endangered and Vulnerable birds:
- Secretary bird
- Egyptian Vulture
- White-headed Vulture
- Lappet-faced Vulture
- Hooded Vulture
- White-backed Vulture
- Cape Griffon
- Martial Eagle
- Ludwig’s Bustard
- Gray Crowned-Crane
- Blue Crane
- Wattled Crane
- Bare-cheeked Babbler
- Monteiro’s Hornbill
- Violet Wood-hoopoe
- White-tailed Shrike
- Black Rhino
- White Rhino
- White rhino
- Black rhino
- Black-faced impala
Getting There And Safety
The trip to Etosha would generally start with arrival at Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH), which is 40km (25miles) east of Windhoek. From there, it is roughly a six hour drive on paved roads, to Etosha, located 423km (270miles) north of Windhoek.
Alternatively, fly-in trips are possible (and fairly common), as chartered flights allow travellers to get from park to park much quicker. Many of the more high-class lodges have their own airstrips for this very reason, and tour operators are likely to include charter flights as part of their various tour packages.
For more information on flights, visas and safety visit our Namibia Safari - Complete Country Guide
During the dry winter months from May to October, Namibia will be dry, but cold, especially at night and in the desert and higher areas. Pack warmly as the nights will be cold, and so will early morning drives, and bring sunscreen and a hat, as skies will be clear, so the sun can still be a problem. Temperatures are still mild during the day at 68-75°F (20-24°C), but can drop to below 45°F (7°C) at night, and could be below freezing in desert areas at night.
During the summer months from November until April, the country will be wet, hot and humid. Sunscreen and a hat is needed for those days that can get up to 104°F (40°C), and a rain coat will be needed in case it rains while on a game drive. Long-sleeves are preferred this time of year (even though it will be hot), as well as insect repellent, because the humid weather will attract mosquitoes and flies.
No matter what time of the year you decide to visit, ensure that you stay hydrated. Always carry at least one bottle of water with you while on a safari.
For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List>.
There is a moderate risk for Malaria in Etosha, especially during the wet months from November to April. Ensure your immunizations are up-to-date, and keep your arms and legs covered at night, especially when staying at campsites. Bring along a powerful mosquito repellent.
For more information on malaria risk and vaccinations in Namibia see our Namibia Safari - Complete Country Guide>
Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Namibia. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.
Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.
Visa requirements vary depending on your country of residency and citizenship
For visitors from most countries visa will not be necessary, as they are issued with a 30-day entry permit upon arrival.
Check the list prior to booking your safari holiday and make all the necessary arrangements.