When visiting Namibia, you shuold ABSOLUTELY plan to visit Etosha.
Etosha, is the second largest national wildlife park in Namibia. It covers an impressive area of more than 22 square kilometers and it is slightly smaller than the whole of Belgium.
It is a natural paradise where you will enjoy majestic sunrises and sunsets on top of amazing wildlife.
As you get ready for your adventure, you might want to check this blog post to discover our recommendations, tips and tricks to make your visit unforgettable.
We will tell you about:
- Etosha – key info about the park
- How to plan your visit
- Where to stay in the park
- Etosha Stories – some of the key shots of our photo adventure in the park
You can start checking the map below to discover the itinerary we took inside the park. However, it is also fair to say that this is a standard track because vehicles and visitors are not free to roam in the park but they need to stay on designated tracks for (animal) security reasons.
We also recommend that you check the Google map list that we have created to find the detailed reviews of the key attractions and places we visited. You can find it at this link.
Etosha – Key Info About the Park
Etosha is the second largest natural wildlife park in Namibia.
Etosha means “Great White Place” in local language.
The name actually derives by the white color of the salty dried pan which caractherizes a very large portion of the park. In fact, a pretty large portion of Etosha is made by a flat salt pan. As you can see from the map published above the pan is clearly identifiable.
The pan is a water basin that is flooded by the rivers the Ekuma River, the Oshigambo River and the Omurambo Ovambo River in some specific seasons of the year. However, the pan is mostly dried given the severe draughts affecting Namibia recently.
When the lake dries out, the salt is left on the pan giving an amazing desertic white look to the pan. In recent times, it is not very easy to find water in the basin and it is much more common to see the pan in its charchteristic white color.
The white pan and the white color is a true feature of Etosha. Also the elephants in Etosha tend to be white rather than pure grey because they use the white powder from the pan to refresh themselves – hence getting a white color.
Beyond the salt, the pan is also very rich in minerals of various kind also including Antrax. While being almost harmelss for humans (because its concentration is quite low), antrax in Etosha is one of the key killers of Etosha elephants. They breathe it when they inhale the white powder they put on their skin to refresh and when the antrax concentration is too high they get poisoned and die.
It is absolutely worth to have a little break on the pan itslef where you can park your car and take a little walk on the pan (see panorama picture above). If you look on the horizon you will have the impression that there is a thin water layer covering the pan. However, that is just an optical illusion given by the heat going up from the ground which creates a water effect on Etosha pan surface.
How To Plan Your Visit
Given the impressive size of the park it is highly recommended to spend in Etosha at least 3 or 4 days.
We stayed in the park for a total of 4 days.
Depending on what your photographic objectives are you may want to even extend your stay.
In planning your visit, you need to think about the following:
- Etosha has a massive extension. It is almost as large as Belgium
- Animals in the park are completely wild and free to roam. This means they tend to be scared of visitors and they are not easy to approach or get close to. It is not so easy to spot them especially if you go for the Big 5.
- The park only opens from dusk to dawn. Even if you sleep inside the park (as we recommend you do) you will not be allowed to go out from your lodge before the sun is up in the sky and you will not be allowed to come back in the lodge after the sun has set. These are measures defined for anti-poaching purposes. If you fail at complying with these rules (especially with returning to lodge before the sun has set) you will be fined and will likely be expelled by the park – so do your very best to respect this. One day, i got really scared because i came back too late and found all gates of our lodge closed and only managed to sneak inside again thanks to a back door…
- Visitors are required to drive on pre-identified tracks. You are not allowed to roam around with your vehicles and you need to stay on the tracks. There is one main track cutting Eotsha through its width (as you can see from the map posted into this article). You can leave the tracks only to go visiting the watering hole that are marked on the main track. However, this is to say that you can only spot animals in the watering holes or on the main tracks. This is not impossible but it also increases the challenges of spotting wildlife – hence why more days may be required. If you do not comply with this rule (mostly set for anti-poaching and also to respect the wildlife environment) you may incur fines and also be expelled from the park.
Where To Stay
Etosha hosts 4 key camps that are located right inside the park.
They are run by the NWR (i.e. the governmental park authority) and they are located in different parts of the park. As such if you plan your trip with night stays in each of the different internal lodges you can conveniently cover the whole park and take enough time to visit the different sections.
These are the lodges inside Etosha:
- Dolomite Camp – located on the western part of the park close to Galton Gate of the park
- Okaukuejo – situated in the central western part of the park to the top left corner of the pan
- Halali – situated in the central eastern part of the park almost in the middle of the pan length
- Namutoni – situated in the eastern part of the park close to Namutoni gate of the park
We slept in Dolomite Camp and Okaukuejo and can provide a detailed review for those. We know Halali is on the same level of Dolomite Camp and Okaukuejo.
However, based on the feedbacks collected and also having stopped at Namutoni for refuelling and a bit of shoppng, we can say that Namutoni is quite below average and we do not recommend you to sleep there.
Around Namutoni, just outside the Namutoni gate of Etosha, there is a good variety of private Game Reserves. They offer very good accommodations at different level of comfort and luxury together with natural reserves where you can also experience some additional wildlife.
We stayed at Onguma Game Reserve in the Bush Camp. Click here to go to the review of the Bush Camp.
Despite we do not recommend to sleep at Namutoni, we anyway suggest you to visit the lodge because it contains a very nice museum about Eotsha and also the elephants in Etosha with a lot of stories and other facts around them.
Dolomite Camp Review
Dolomite Camp is a nice lodge inside the Etosha national park. It is run by the Park Authority NWR. Overall it is good value for money. Its location is very peculiar because the lodge is at the top of a granite hill. Considering that Etosha is as flat as a pancake, the resort offers a fantastic 360 view all around – hence why it is called Dolomite (hill and granite). The rooms of the resort look like mountain/safari hut. They are overall well equipped and very spacious. The rooms are only double rooms – so if you travel with your family you will have to split across multiple rooms. The rooms themselves, although being well equipped would deserve a good maintenance intervention to be modernized and fixed in some parts. The restaurant is quite good and aligned to the level of the resort. The bar and swimming pool area are also quite cool. The only inconvenience is that the rooms are quite far from the restaurant and reception area. It is quite of a walk unless you want to wait for the reception golf cart to drive you around. It is theoretically forbidden to walk around the resort overnight because the rangers say that leopards are used to sleep on the hill at night. However we did not (unfortunately) had any encounter. It is recommended to ask for the rooms overlooking the watering hole.
Okaukuejo Camp is located in the very middle of Etosha. The lodge is run by the NWR i.e. the national park authority. The camp is quite big and it counts numerous lodging units of different size. The overall level of maintenance of the camp is quite good and also the rooms are quite nice. We stayed into a family villa which was composed of two separate bedrooms with related toilet, kitchen, living room and ample garden with barbecue. The camp is also located to a very nice watering hole which is lit at night. Although the lights are not very strong to take pictures. The restaurant of the lodge is quite basic but very good. Inside the resort there is also a shop and mini super market which is good to buy goods of first necessity.
Onguma Bush Camp
Onguma Bush camp is a very high level accommodation. It is just outside of etosha and it allows safari in etosha with minimal drive. They also have their own game reserve. The lodges are very premium with all comforts and very spacious. The restaurant is also great with a very good level of service. The staff is very friendly and there is a very good WiFi cover. The bush camp also features a water hole but I must admit there is not a huge variety of animals coming to it. My suggestion would be not to go for the guided tour of the reserve itself but just drive over to etosha (even if the guides into the reserve are very well prepared). If you plan to visit etosha this is a great place to stay.
I had the pleasure of whitnessing the moment in which the lioness returned to her pride after the night hunt. This was early in the morning around a watering hole. Lionesses hunt at night and they leave their cubs with other cubs and mums from the same pride. When the sun rises, the hunting lioness returns to her pride and before she is completely welcomed by her cubs she gets “inspected” by the caring lionesses that stayed with the pride the whole night. only in this way the pride is sure that the right lioness is welcomed back. This process is very important because lionesses and lions in general can also kill other cubs from other prides with the intent of showing off their territorial superiority and expand their empires. As such, verifying that the returning lioness is the right one is a fundamental process to the survival of the pride. Here is a series of images depicting the moment of the returning lioness into the pride.
The evening before, I spotted the same pride in a nearby area where the cubs were playing and training to become the future kings of the pride.
I was very lucky with lions. On another day, I managed to be very close to a group of three lions (one male and two females) hunting. You could see them smelling the air to identify where preys were located. It was another magic moment as I could feel their heart beating. Here is a series of pictures from the moment.
One encounter I was also very pleased with was the Black Rhino. This is a very endangered specie. They risk extinction very seriously because of poachers and they are not very easy to spot. Just underneath the Dolomite Camp there were few of them and – despite being very shy – i managed to get couple of decent shots.
Finally, Etosha is home of a lot of wildlife which is also amazing to spot. This is a small selection of other shots taken inside the park.