A popular place for a Namibia safari, Etosha National Park is in the north of Namibia and is known as the gateway to Namibia from the north. Etosha means “The Great White area” in Ovambo language, which refers to the biggest salt pan in Africa, covering about 5000 square kilometres. The pan is impressive on its own but becomes even more impressive when it rains and the pan fills up with water which attracts hundreds of flamingos!
Etosha is a wildlife sanctuary for many animals. The main camps are unique in that they have waterholes that have floodlights, some even have hides, making it a nature lover’s heaven. The plant life in the park is sparse making game viewing easier.
The area that is today Etosha National Park was first discovered in 1851 by European explorers Charles Andersson and Francis Galton when they accompanied Ovambo traders into this wild region. By 1876 European trade routes opened up to the East and the West of the pan. For the next thirty years, the area was flooded by European game hunters. It was only after the country fell under German rule in 1907 that the area was proclaimed a game reserve. Although it was much larger then, in 1970 the park was reduced to 20 000km2. The animals suffered again in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s because of a severe drought in the area and also because of the border war. Remnants of the German influence and also the border war are still visible and add to the allure of Etosha.
Etosha National Park is a very seasonal park and is best visited in the winter months from May to October. This is because water is only in restricted areas and so game flock to those areas, which makes game viewing very easy. With the exception of buffalo, the Big Five can be seen at Etosha in their numbers. There is also an abundance of herbivores in the park. These animals are unique as they have all adapted to survive in the harsh desert conditions.
Two near-endemic antelope are found in Etosha. One is the Black-Faced Impala which can be seen in breeding and bachelor groups and also the tiny Damara Dik-Dik. If it’s lion and Leopard you after, they are best spotted at dusk or dawn. The floodlit water holes are the best place to spot nocturnal animals such as a Honey Badger or Bat-eared Fox. Although there are Black Rhino, White Rhino and Cheetah in the park they are a very rare sighting. There are about 340 bird species known to Etosha but most of them are migratory, only seen in the wet season. During the wet season, the greater and lesser flamingos gather at the pan in their hundreds to breed. Up to 35 species of birds of prey can be seen in the park, these include hawks, vultures, eagles and flacons.