Southern Africa, Part VI – Etosha National Park, Namibia

We were once more up early after the failed attempt to go to the Etosha National Park the previous morning. Again we were awake at 5 p.m. and excited about going to see some animals. We were also nervous, would our guide really be feeling well enough today to go? Time went by and we were anxiously waiting for life signs from inside the main building. Eventually, around 10 minutes before our decided time of departure there were finally lights in the rooms. We were picked up by Neville just minutes later and we all three went to his car.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

An Interesting Drive

Driving before sunrise in Namibia is quite interesting. Unless you sleep, like Susann. There really is a lot more wildlife along the roads and you see small antelopes almost everywhere. Well, they are hard to really spot, which is a problem. There are just the eyes glowing along the road. I haven’t seen so many animals along the roads before, not even here in Sweden.

Seeing the sun rise during our two hour drive was a nice experience, even though it was a bit cloudy and a few droplets of rain fell. It didn’t take long from being completely dark until we were able to see the road stretching out into the distance.

Springbok, Etosha National Park, NamibiaMongoose, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is located in the Kunene region in Namibia. Its name comes from the Etosha pan that lays almost entirely within the park. The Etosha pan is a large salt pan that covers more than 20% of the 22.270 square kilometers that is the park. The Etosha pan is the part of the park that looks like a lake on most maps. One thing is for sure, it almost looks like a lake also in real life.

The Etosha National Park is home to several mammals, here is a short list of a few of them:

  • Caracal
  • Cheetah
  • Eland
  • Elephant
  • Gemsbok / Oryx
  • Giraffe
  • Hyena
  • Impala
  • Kudu
  • Leopard
  • Lion
  • Mongoose
  • Rhinoceros
  • Springbok
  • Warthog
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra

Read more about Etosha National Park on their homepage >>

Plains zebra, Etosha National Park, NamibiaAfrican bush elephant, Etosha National Park, NamibiaBlue wildebeest, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Arriving at Okaukuejo

We entered the Etosha National Park at the entrance in Ombika. From here it is just a short drive to one of the main camps, Okaukuejo. But even on that short drive we had our first encounters with the wild life. First we spotted a few springboks next to the road, they were followed by a giraffe in the distance. Then there were two representatives of our first animal of the Big Five. Two lions were relaxing just next to the road in the shades of the bushes. One male and one female who could not ignore us more than they did. The action this couple provided was limited to the female deciding to walk a few meters in one direction before lying down once more.

Not long after the lions there was the second animal of the Big Five. A rhino strolled far in the distance and seconds later its behind disappeared in the bushes.

The camp in Okaukuejo was a welcome sight because we longed to stretch our legs after the long drive from Otjiwarongo. Here we could walk to a viewing point that offered a nice view out over the landscape and one of the waterholes. There was not much activity going on at the waterhole; a zebra in the distance and a few antelopes taking the opportunity to drink some water in the early morning. So before continuing out into the park, we had a small bite of the breakfast that we got from the guest house.

Female African Lion, Etosha National Park, NamibiaFemale African Lion, Etosha National Park, NamibiaMale African Lion, Etosha National Park, Namibia

The First Waterholes

We were told before the tour that the reason to be there really early is to be able to see both hyenas and rhinos. Later on in the day this would not be as common. So, once we had seen the behind of the first rhino we really thought that that was it. Luckily we were wrong and we were greeted with the sight of a rhino directly at the first of all the waterholes. There it calmly stood and made sure to have the waterhole for itself. Not until it continued away from the waterhole did any other animal dare to get close to the water.

We saw zebras, ostriches, onyx, springbok, wildebeest and several other kinds of antelopes in large numbers both along the road as well as at the waterholes. It is an amazing sight to see all these animals interact around the few sources of water that they could find.

But how about the elephants? It sure did not take a long time for us to see the first small horde of elephants. Thus it was number three of the Big Five for us at the Etosha National Park. This first encounter was amazing at first. But as we found out later, this small group drinking water was rather dull in comparison with the other hordes we’d see.

Jackal, Etosha National Park, NamibiaOryx, Gemsbok, Etosha National Park, NamibiaSouthern white rhinoceros, Etosha National Park, NamibiaAfrican bush elephant, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Lunch in Halali and the Entry of the Elephants

After a few waterholes and a lot of animal sightings, we had probably spotted most of the species that we could possibly see before lunch. We drove to a camp named Halali for our lunch stop. However, before lunch we took a short walk to the viewing point in Halali. From here it was possible to see yet one more waterhole and here the show was just starting.

We had decided with our guide Neville that we would meet him again at around noon. So we were up watching out over the waterhole for about 30 minutes. It all started just minutes after our arrival with an horde of zebras and smaller antelopes arriving at the waterhole. They all wanted to drink as the temperature was still rising in the sun. The zebras were pushing each other to get to the water and the smaller antelopes were standing on the side waiting for their turn. Five to ten minutes later they all started to march out in what looked like a perfect line. And suddenly it was almost empty again around the waterhole. But the animals standing close by did not show any sign in wanting to get closer.

Then it all happened. A whole herd of elephants came marching in. The small waterhole was soon filled with elephants as the herd of more than ten animals all wanted to cool down and play in the water. We just stood there watching them for the next ten minutes before we had to get going. With favorable winds, this was not our last and not the most spectacular encounter with the elephants that day.

Lunch was calm in comparison. It was a nice buffet with a few different options. Nothing really fancy, but nice on a day like this. A squirrel decided to contribute with some entertainment to us and a bunch of French tourists.

Black-faced impala, Etosha National Park, NamibiaPlains zebras, Etosha National Park, NamibiaAfrican bush elephant, Etosha National Park, NamibiaAfrican bush elephant, Etosha National Park, NamibiaGreater kudu, Etosha National Park, NamibiaAfrican ground squirrel, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Seeing the Etosha Pan

It was not only the animals that made our day special. The landscape in Etosha National Park is something completely different to what we have ever seen before. Everything is white from the dust and the landscape looks like something from a different planet.

And it is especially the Etosha pan itself that looks amazing. As it’s very rarely filled with water, it looks dry while at the same time giving an illusion of actually being a lake. It is just hard to describe the sight.

Etosha National Park, NamibiaEtosha National Park, NamibiaEtosha National Park, NamibiaEtosha National Park, NamibiaEtosha Pan, Salt Pan, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Last Waterhole and Even More Elephants

We did make a second stop at the waterhole where we saw the elephants the first time. This time it was a lot more spectacular. More than 20 elephants were drinking water and playing around. They really gave us a last great show before we had to head back to the guest house.

Once more we left without seeing the fourth of the Big Five. The leopards did not want to be a part of the show this day. The last of the Big Five, the buffalo, is not a resident of the Etosha National Park.

Angolan giraffe, Etosha National Park, NamibiaAfrican bush elephants, Etosha National Park, NamibiaAfrican bush elephants, Etosha National Park, NamibiaAngolan giraffe, Etosha National Park, Namibia


This post belongs to a series about our trip to South Africa and Namibia. Read the previous parts by clicking on the links below:

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26 Comments

  1. Wow, this really does look like a truly special part of the world. Certainly, the variety of animals that you saw and the many more that it is possible to see really is reason enough to visit but the landscape really does look bleakly beautiful. You’ve got some really great shots here, can’t wait to read more

  2. Beautiful detailed post and your photos are simply amazing. Namibia looks like it can give Kenya and SA a run for their money in terms of safari. I’m glad you got to spot so many animals and finally managed to go on the safari in the first place.

    Just scrolled up and saw the photos again. Loved them!!

    1. Thank you 🙂
      Namibia might be smaller on the market when it comes to safaris. I haven’t been on a safari in either Kenya or South Africa, but it is hard to imagine that they would be able to offer something that Namibia could not. Next time I would like to go to the Caprivi strip in northern Namibia. Harder to get there, but what I have heard it should be worth the effort. 🙂

    1. Hello Jure, we will have a larger post later on with more information about how to in Namibia as well as South Africa. I will consider uppdating this post with the price we paid, thank you for your advice. 🙂

  3. Wonderful! Never really heard about the national park before. I don’t even know about some of the animal species you mentioned in the list at the beginning. Your photos are stunning, especially the ones up close. Spending the day in the wild is a special experience. I had mine at a national park in India called Kaziranga. Africa is a special place.

    1. I can only agree, there is something special with seeing the animals in the wild. 🙂
      I’m still working with all the photos I took that day. Over 1000 of them. These are unedited, so I’m hoping to get a few more where it is possible to get a close ups from. I would really like to be able to put some of them on my wall. 🙂

  4. Loved your comprehensive details about the place. There is indeed a lot of wildlife present. We always love to visit National Parks because of their closeness to nature. Your photos are lovely, everything is nicely captured, Cant wait to read more.

    1. Thank you 🙂
      There is for sure something special with national pars and especially with seeing the animals in the wild.
      We are currently working on all the posts about or visit of Namibia and South Africa, so more is to come. 🙂

  5. You’re killing me with all these incredible wildlife photo’s. I can’t wait for an opportunity to bring my kids on a safari, but I need to wait until they can keep quiet for a little while 🙂

  6. Wow. You got some really cool shots there. I am really jealous after reading this. I am a wildlife enthusiast and have always longed to go to Africa. I did not know about Etosha National Park until I hit click on this blog. Good job!

    1. It is indeed an amazing experience. My second time on a safari, the first being Fathala Wildlife Reserve in Senegal. I can really recommend to do it at least once, seeing the animals in the wild really put things into perspective. 🙂

  7. I’m not sure how I feel about national parks like this, not sure if I can support them. I get the idea behind them, as it would be amazing to see all those animals in the wild – but it always has me thinking *How would I feel if someone came into my house and started photographing me while I had a bath or did the laundry* I will have to do some extensive research on the tour companies and see if I could find an eco tours or something, if I decide to go one day.

  8. Your post was well worth the wait. With so many beautiful pictures of animals, we surely want to visit here. What will be a good time of the year to do so and what kind of food can we expect??

    1. I’m happy to hear that. 🙂
      Best time of the year? If we understood it correctly the best time was to go during the dry season. The animals starts the long walk further north once the rain comes around November. According to the official website the dry season is usually from May to October.
      Food? Plenty of food for sure. We were almost never able to finish what we were served. The dishes was what you can expect in Europe or the US, really diverse. A lot more meat than normal probably.

  9. Brown Gal Trekker

    I just came back recently from S. Africa and enjoyed the safari in Kruger. Namibia seems equally stunning. Would love to go and your post just makes we want to sooner than later. Awesome photos!

  10. I loved reading your blog especially since I have just returned from the same trip. You however are much more detailed and made me remember things that I had forgotten. Thanks for an awesome post!

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