Etosha National Park is without a doubt one of the best value safaris in Southern Africa. The park offers some of the best game viewings in Southern Africa. However, it does come at a price as barren Etosha is far from the most beautiful national park. Despite this, the Etosha National Park is considered one of the best places to go on Safari in Southern Africa and for good reason.
The lack of water in the area is also its saving grace as animals are concentrated at watering holes. The quality of roads, lack of huge crowds, and general ease of traveling Namibia are big pluses as well.
With a small selection of lodges, Etosha never gets too crowded. Even with our best animal sighting we only saw three other cars, and that was a lion kill with hyenas, jackals, and vultures circling around waiting to get some dinner. In neighboring South Africa and in Kruger there could be 50 cars.
Our Etosha National Park Guide
Etosha National Park Fees
All of the parks in Namibia have the same pricing structure. The parks are also the cheapest we found in all of Africa for foreigners and are fairly well maintained. All park fees are payable at the gate at time of entrance. Park fees are valid for 24 hours.
- Foreign Adults: N$80 Per Day
- SADC Adults: N$60 Per Day
- Resident Adults: N$30 Per Day
- Children Under 16: Free Of Charge
- Private Vehicle: N$10 Per Day
NWR regulates all national parks in Namibia.
Etosha National Park Gate Times
Opening times for the park vary based on the sunrise and sunset. It is a safe assumption to plan on a half-hour before sunset or sunrise for both entering and exiting.
When entering the park all gates have the exact opening and closing times displayed. Of course, asking when entering certainly won’t hurt. Exiting out of National Parks will generally results in some heavy fines and a strong talking to by the rangers.
Etosha National Park Gates
There are four entrance gates to Etosha. The two main gates to the park are Anderson’s Gate and Von Lindequest Gate. However, there are four gates visitors can enter into Etosha National Park.
Here are the four gates:
- Anderson Gate – Southern Gate – This is the main entrance into Etosha and there are a number of safari camps near the entrance for those not looking to stay in the park. The C38 a good paved road leads to the gate.
- Von Lindequest Gate – Eastern Gate – This is the second-largest gate to Etosha connected by a main road (the B1).
- Galton Gate – Western Gate -This is the most remote entrance to the park and is great for those traveling from Damaraland or the Skeleton Coast.
- King Nehale Lya Mpingana Gate – Northern Gate – Not far from the main town of Ondangwa.
The Landscape in Etosha National Park
The word Etosha is taken from the indigenous language of Ovambo means great white place, referring the salt pan that dominates the park. Due to alkalinity and aridness of the pan almost no plants grow here, aside from a few kinds of grasses and trees.
The majority of the landscape in the national park is Savannah Woodland. Mopane is the main tree and it is estimated that it makes up 80% of the forested area in Etosha. Other trees that can be found are the acacia and tamboti.
The salt pan is the largest in Africa and covers nearly a quarter of the total park size. At 4,800km² of land, the pan is even visible from space.
The Wildlife in Etosha National Park
The park has a large population of wildlife and has around 114 different mammals that visitors have a chance to spot on their safari. It is also home to four of the big five animals, only excluding the African Buffalo.
Water is scarce in the park. However, there are a large number of water holes both natural and manmade that provide water for the wildlife. These concentrated sources of water create great game density as animals all come to the sources of water.
The water holes bring in large herds of elephant, springbok, oryx, zebra, eland, kudu, and even lonely black rhinos. Smaller wildlife that can be found around Etosha include jackals, honey badgers, mongoose, and the bat-eared fox.
Transportation in Etosha National Park
The road network in Etosha is a series of graded gravel roads. The network in Etosha does a good job at connecting to the main waterholes in the park and can even be driven with a sedan, although that is not advised.
There are two recommended ways to experience Etosha. The most common is a game drive provided by a lodge, safari operator, or the parks department from one of their many camps in the park. This is the best option for most. Packaged game drives come with a knowledgeable guide who is well connected to the bush network and usually shares information with other guides on the ground. When one guide spots a lion kill he can then radio or call his buddies so they can take their guests to the sighting as well.
The next option is to self-drive in a high suspension vehicle. Given the prevalence and popularity of road trips in Namibia a self-drive is a great option. The roads are well marked, easy to navigate, and well maintained making Etosha one of the easiest parks in Africa to overland yourself.
The Best Water Holes In Etosha National Park
This can vary a lot depending on the season, time of day, and even the year. Remember, the wild animals are wild, so therefore unpredictable.
Okaukuejo is always a hit with visitors with its proximity to the rest camp. The watering hole is lit by floodlights throughout the night which provides visitors a chance to watch nocturnal animals come for a drink of water. Some of Africa’s most famous scenes have unfurled here including lion, elephants, hyenas, and rhinos squaring off as they compete for water. Other great viewing success can be had at Homob, Kelin Namutoni, Okundeka, Chudop, and Rietfontein.
One of the best ways to view wildlife in Etosha is to simply sit at a watering hole and wait patiently. Due to the scarcity of water the animals will end up coming to drink.
The Best Time To Visit Etosha National Park
The best time to visit Etosha is in the dry season. The temperatures are cooler and the animals are more densely populated. This allows for the best wildlife viewing.
The dry season is from May to October and is winter in Namibia. Popular camps and lodges are often fully booked up during this time, so book in advance or go with a tour operator who already has spots on hold.
Summer (or the rainy season) can be a scorcher. When we were there in November temperatures were 40C+ and they average around 35C. However, once the rains reach the pan and the park everything is transformed to green. A dry dusty environment turns lush and bountiful. The pan can also gather a small amount of water and turn into a shimmering lake that attracts wetland birds including flamingos. It is estimated that almost one million flamingos can arrive in Etosha in order to breed in the pan.
When packing for the park it’s a good idea to have a nice mix of safari clothes. The temperature can vary greatly going from freezing cold in the morning to scorching hot in the afternoon and then back down at night.
Etosha National Park Accommodation
There is a wide, but limited range of accommodation around Etosha National Park. There are a number of high-end lodges with private concessions outside of the park. We found many great accommodation options in the south near the Anderson Gate and to the East at the Von Lindequest Gate.
We stayed at Gondwana’s Etosha Safari Camp and Lodge. We had a fantastic time at both lodges in Northern Namibia and find them to be a great value, plus they have some awesome food!
Etosha National Park Camping
There is a nice selection of camps to explore Etosha National Park. The selection may not be as vast The Kruger in South Africa, however, the main camps within the park are all regulated by the parks department.
They have pools, good facilities, watering holes for night viewing, and okay restaurants. We were a little disappointed by the parks department facilities, but they’re up to par for anyone looking for a more budget-friendly option, and wanting to stay in the park.
We can recommend three camps outside of Etosha. The first being Gondwana Collection’s Etosha Safari Camp that is located to the south near the Anderson Gate. The second being Onguma’s Tamboti Luxury Campsite which still ranks as the best campsite we’ve stayed in all of Africa. The third is Hobias Campsite in Damaraland to the west of the park.
Etosha National Park Map
I’ve collected this map of Etosha from the NWR site that should help put the park into perspective. We always like to pick up a map at the gates of the national parks upon arrival.
Tours To Etosha National Park
With Namibia’s growing popularity many travelers are making it their first trip to Africa. While the country is easy enough to navigate it is a vast desert country with gravel roads and sometimes limited facilities. Tours around Namibia and to Etosha National Park are super easy to plan and book.
Tours to Etosha and Namibia also come in at all price points. You have budget overland tours and budget safaris that will drive guests around, provide meals, book campsites, and provide a guide.
Personally, we love to do stuff on our own and found Namibia to be the easiest country to travel in Southern Africa outside of South Africa. It is, as one local told us, “Africa light.”
We think Tour Radar is a great way to compare and book tours anywhere in the world. You can explore some tours that include Etosha National Park in their itinerary here.
Malaria Around Etosha
Personally, and a lot of Africans will back us up on this, people take malaria a little too drastically sometimes. Etosha is mostly a desert environment and dominated by a salt pan. We did not take antimalarials when around Etosha, but if you are a worrier we would recommend putting your mind at ease and taking doxycycline.
That being said at the onset of the rainy season mosquitos may be present. The best defense to malaria is to simply not get bitten. That means wearing insect repellant and long sleeves at night when the mosquitos carrying malaria can bite.
Book A Safari in Namibia
Traditionally if you wanted to book a safari you’d have to go to a travel agent and have them book your safari for you. They made suggestions for camps and lodges then presented you with a large bill. Most of the industry still operates in this fashion.
However, Timbuktu is a new platform that allows you to select the lodges you’d like and see the pricing per day that way you can select the best itinerary for yourself. They will then contact the lodges and help you through booking your safari. With experts on staff, they can also provide suggestions and arrange the little details much like a travel agent.
Check Out Some Lodges in Namibia
Wolwedans Dune Lodge
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge features ten chalets mostly constructed out of wood instead of canvas tents. Each room opens up to the east, offering incredible views of the sunrise every morning. We slept with the canvas tents rolled up and could gaze at the stars all night. We felt at one with nature while still having an extremely comfortable sleep.
Wolwedans Dunes Lodge has a massive pool attached to the pharmacy (or the “bar”) and continues to spill into one grand lobby area. This is where Cameron and I spent most of our day – basking in the intense Namibian sun surrounded by cool water and a good book.
Chobe Water Villas
Chobe Water Villas sits on the wildlife-filled Chobe River. It’s also the most modern accommodation we have seen in Africa. Walking into the main area transports you into a varying array of time zones and locations. The interior was decorated in chic white and gray décor and stark shapes.
Exploring the architecture and decoration of the hotel leads to sources of inspiration from around Namibia. From the skeleton of a whale, to the seasonal rains that bring life.
Gondwana Canyon Village
The Gondwana Canyon Village was set up in the form of a small village lost in the desert. Turning off the main road you wind 3km down a sandy track before arriving at the main lodge a low stone building with a massive thatched roof.
We arrived early in the day eager to explore the area. After checking in we wasted no time and took advantage of the cloud coverage before the sun was in full swing.
What to Pack For Namibia?
Overland Tour in Africa
Traveling Africa on your own can be daunting to many travelers. However, there is no need to fear with overland tour companies who will show the ropes and a great time. You can check out some of them here to compare the different companies and possibly score a discount.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Africa so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere. The tap water in Tanzania is generally not safe to drink, but a water purifier, like the Grayl waterbottle, works well!
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Chances are you’ll want a camera for your trip to Africa. Our favorite pocket-sized point and shoot camera for quick trips are the Sony RX100V. It takes fantastic photos and video and is the size of your palm.
For more professional photographs we use our Fuji XT-3, and LOVE IT.
Lightweight pants that are made from synthetic material are tremendous to have in your pack. It’s what we wear most days when traveling around Africa as they’re comfortable, antibacterial, and protect our legs from mosquitos (malaria).
We recommend neutral colored pants as they’re great at hiding dirt and can match most shirt colors. What’s great is they’re useful beyond Africa as they are a travel staple and we pack a pair everywhere we travel.
I like two pairs, one pair is made by prAna and rolls into capris and the other are convertible pants. For men, prAna makes the Stretch Zion Pant, a tremendous pair of hiking pants for a reasonable price.
If you’re wondering what necessities to bring to Africa then sturdy shoes are perhaps the most important thing you will need before you get to Africa.
I cannot stress a good pair of shoes enough because if you land anywhere outside of South Africa a quality pair of hiking shoes will be hard to come by. If you plan to walk around a lot get thick rubber soled shoes as acacia thorns are prone to stab through thin shoes. Cameron learned the hard way one day when he pulled a thorn out of his foot that went straight through his thin rubber sandals.
I love my buff. I usually wear it for keeping my hair back, but it’s also served its purpose as a scarf and wet rag too. Buffs last for years and aren’t only helpful in Africa. I actually wear mine every day when I’m snowboarding in the mountains. It’s been one of my top travel accessory investments ever!
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around Africa. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
We highly recommend getting an eco friendly sun cream that does not contain harmful chemicals.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand our dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
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