Etosha National Park Namibia is most popular park for wildlife watching and is characterized by the vast, saline Etosha Pan. During the Dry season, the waterholes around the pan become crowded with large concentrations of animals. Four of the Big Five are present, with only buffalo absent. Etosha’s floodlit waterholes provide a rare opportunity for nighttime wildlife-viewing.
Wildlife viewing is outstanding in the Dry season (May to October) when animals congregate around the waterholes. Elephants are abundant. Big herds of blue wildebeest, zebra, springbok, and gemsbok are often seen drinking together; black rhinos are also commonly seen after dark. Giraffe and eland might join as well. Big cats are spotted at dawn and dusk and black-backed jackal is very common. There are, however, no buffalos, hippos, crocodiles, or monkeys. Etosha National Park Namibia
Wildlife viewing in Etosha is exceptionally good during the Dry season. The variety and a sheer number of animals are outstanding. Four of the Big Five are present in good numbers, the only buffalo is absent. A constant stream of herbivores is commonly seen at waterholes. They include elephant, blue wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, and several desert-adapted antelopes such as springbok and gemsbok.
Etosha has two near-endemic antelopes; the elegant black-faced impala, which can be found in breeding and bachelor herds, and the tiny Damara dik-dik, usually spotted in pairs. Dusk and dawn is the best time for spotting lion, leopard, and cheetah. Some of the less common predators are honey badger and bat-eared fox. The black rhino is a rare treat in the park, best spotted at night at one of the floodlit waterholes.
Etosha is a very seasonal park and, although it can be visited throughout the year, all the action happens during the dry months from May to October. At this time water supplies are restricted to a few waterholes and the grass is short, making wildlife-watching very easy. Animals disperse during the Wet season from November to April.
Translated as ‘Great White Place’, Etosha takes its name from the enormous Etosha Pan – a large silvery-white salt pan that acquires a thin layer of salted water after heavy rains. The water becomes deep enough for the pan to act as a breeding ground for a greater and lesser flamingo. It is the artificial waterholes and natural springs, among the grassy plains and mopane woodland that attract most of the wildlife. Etosha National Park Namibia
The semi-desert landscape of Etosha is almost bereft of rainfall during the Dry season (May to October). Temperatures can go as low as 7°C/45°F in the early morning for most of this season; only in September and October does the weather start to get hot. Etosha’s Wet season (November to April) is hot, with nighttime temperatures of around 17°C/63°F.
Etosha is hot and relatively dry. Like most semi-desert climates there is a large variation in temperature between night and day. Rain usually falls in the form of heavy thunderstorms. There is a Wet season, which coincides with the summer months of November to April. During the dry winter months, from May to October, rainfall is a rarity.
Rainfall is almost completely unheard of during the coolest months of the year. Conditions become drier as the winter season progresses. Water sources for wildlife become fewer and vegetation thins out.
May, June, July & August – It’s dry and sunny this time of year. Afternoon temperatures are pleasant, with an average high of 27°C/80°F. Cold morning temperatures of 10°C/50°F means coming prepared with warm winter clothing. This is the coolest time of year.
September & October – Temperatures rise rapidly during the day to an average of around 33°C/91°F. Morning temperatures are normally warmer too, averaging 15°C/60°F. Rains usually begin in late October or early November.
The Wet season coincides with the summer months, yet rainfall is scant and usually occurs in the afternoon. Days are typically hot. The bitter cold mornings of the winter months are gone and averages of 17°C/63°F at night are common. Etosha National Park Namibia
November & December – The rains usually start in November with the occasional thundershower. When the first rainfalls, it comes as a relief after a long dry winter. These are the hottest months and afternoon temperatures are around 33°C/91°F.
January, February & March – Although it remains mostly sunny, these are the wettest months with frequent afternoon showers. The rain cools everything down to an average temperature of around 30°C/86°F.
April – April sees a dramatic decrease in the rain. The temperature hovers around 30°C/86°F during the day as the Wet season comes to a close.
Animals congregate around Etosha’s centerpiece pan and waterholes in the Dry season (May to October). The plentiful wildlife and generally good weather mean the park gets quite crowded at this time. However, while wildlife viewing is more challenging in the wetter months, you’ll get away from the crowds and the scenery is lush.
About one-third of the 340 bird species recorded in the park are migratory; including a good number of waders attracted to the Etosha pan in the Wet season. The pan is an important breeding ground for lesser and greater flamingos. The desert habitat is excellent for seeing a wide variety of birds of prey – up to 35 species, including many hawks, vultures, eagles, and falcons. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
Etosha is a very seasonal park. Drier months (May to October) are better for wildlife viewing; while the wetter climate from November to April makes for more successful bird-watching, mainly due to the arrival of summer migrants. Most birds of prey are resident and can be seen throughout the year.
The best time to visit Etosha National Park is during the dry winter months from July to October. Less water is available during this time and the animals tend to gather around the few sources that are available. The Wet season (November to April) is less productive for spotting wildlife because the animals tend to scatter.
Etosha is located 435km/270mi north of Windhoek. It is easy to visit either independently (self-drive) or on a tour. The drive on paved roads takes about six hours. The roads in the eastern section of the park are accessible by 2WD car. There are no scheduled flights, but there are three airstrips inside the park for charter flights. Most of the upmarket lodges outside the park have private airstrips as well. Etosha National Park Namibia
Most people arrive in Namibia at Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH), located 40km/25mi east of Windhoek, and start their trip from there by 4×4 vehicle. Fly-in trips are also common, consisting of chartered flights taking travelers from park to park.
In our opinion, Namibia is one of the safest countries in Africa. But, we encourage you to form your own opinion by consulting other resources. Your government’s travel advice for Namibia would be a good place to start. Etosha National Park Namibia
The roads to Etosha, and inside the park, are generally in good condition and self-drive safaris are a popular option. There are long distances between settlements, so fill your petrol tank whenever you get the opportunity and always carry plenty of water with you.
Malaria is a concern in Etosha, especially in the wet months from October to April. It is recommended to take antimalarials and also take precautions such as covering up in the evening and applying mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective). It is recommended to visit a travel clinic before coming to Namibia. Etosha National Park Namibia
Several vaccinations are required and usually administered before your departure. You will also get advice on malaria.
Wildlife viewing always brings certain safety risks, but you’ll be fine if you listen to the instructions given by your guide. There are many elephants in the park and it is important not to drive between a herd or approach them too closely.