Home to around 114 mammal, 340 species of bird, 110 reptiles, 16 amphibians and one species of fish (believe it or not) and vast at over 20,000km2, Etosha National Park is one of the largest reserves in the world. It It is famous for the two million year-old Etosha Pan, a 5000m2 shallow depression visible from space, and its surrounding bushveld, savannah and perennial springs that attract numerous animal species, especially in the drier months. The interaction between species which gather at these precious water sources is something special to behold.
The great white expanse of the Etosha Pan, covering 25% of the Etosha National Park, was originally a shallow lake fed by the Kunene River. Tectonic movements led to the river’s diversion northwards and so the lake dried to the salt and clay ‘saline desert’ found today. As it is devoid of water and plant life, animals tend to stay clear of the pan itself and instead spend time in the surrounding mopane-dominated bushveld and around the waterholes south of the pan. However, the occasional zebra or wildebeest can be found standing silhouetted against the shimmering mirage of the pan in the heat of the day and, after heavy rain, the pan may hold water for a time. The subsequent algal bloom attracts millions of flamingos which come there to breed – a special sight indeed.
The vegetated areas and numerous waterholes of eastern Etosha usually produce the most abundant wildlife viewing and great birding. The central-south offers endless vistas over the Etosha Pan and has some very productive waterholes frequented by elephants, rhinos, giraffe, gemsbok (oryx) and other game. Western Etosha, relatively recently opened to tourists, is probably the most scenic area and characterised by hilly terrain and dolomite outcrops, karstveldt and mopane vegetation. Game viewing is less intense than further east nearer Etosha Pan, but is still very good with the chance to see both black and white rhino, Hartmann’s mountain zebra (only found in the west of the reserve), sable antelope, black faced impala, as well as the other animals found elsewhere in Etosha.
There are four government-run camps located inside Etosha National Park (Namutoni and Halali in the east, Okaukeujo in the central-south, and Dolomite Camp in the west). Several private lodges are located just outside Etosha which can offer guided safaris inside the National Park (as well as on their own private reserves). Okaukeujo rest camp offers guests the unique opportunity to take guided night drives inside the park to spot nocturnal wildlife.