Visiting Etosha National Park
It spans an area of 22,270 km2 (8,600 sq mi), and is the sixth largest National Park in Africa. Etosha National Park gets its name from the large Etosha pan which is almost entirely within the park. The Etosha pan covers 23% of the total area of the National Park.
Can I get out of my car in Etosha National Park?
You are only allowed out of your car inside the rest camps and at designated toilet and picnic spots. So the rest of the time you must stay in your vehicle. This is one of the Park rules, so you are breaking the law if you disobey it. It’s also for your own safety, and so you don’t disturb the animals as they are only used to vehicles, not people out of vehicles.
The Okaukuejo waterhole is one of the best in the central area of Etosha for the numbers of different species visiting it. It is well worth visiting at least once every time you drive into the Park. In order to visit the floodlit waterhole after dark though, you have to stay overnight in Okaukuejo rest-camp. The same goes for the floodlit waterholes at Halali and Namutoni. No-one is allowed to drive around the Park after sunset or before sunrise, even if you are staying in the park’s rest camps.
Seeing wildlife in Etosha
The most commonly seen large and medium-sized mammals are:
- Burchell’s plains zebra
- gemsbok oryx
- black-faced impala
- black-backed jackal
- blue wildebeest
- red hartebeest
- occasionally black rhino
You are also likely to see large birds such as
- northern black-bellied korhaan
- Kori bustard
- and southern pale chanting goshawk
- as well as the smaller, brightly-coloured lilac-breasted roller.
The nocturnal, more night-active, and scarcer animals are harder to see. This includes the cheetah, leopard, spotted hyena, and white rhino.
No, if you stay in your car and behave sensibly, then there is no need to be afraid of the animals in Etosha. They are all very much used to vehicles, and will usually not be affected by vehicles driving close by. Just use your common sense when driving near the larger animals, such as rhinos and elephants. Give them space. If they are ignoring you – as is usually the case – then they are not bothered by your presence. If, however, they are paying you as much attention as you are to them, then you are disturbing them, and you should back off. Do not stop your vehicle across elephant-paths, and don’t stop too close to elephants with very small babies.
Game viewing is easiest in the dry season (June-October), when vegetation is not as dense and the animals are frequently visiting the waterholes. In the rainy season (December-April), by contrast, there can be water in puddles and pans all over the park, so the animals are more spread out. Elephants are also rarely seen in the rainy months, as they move away from the central tourist areas once water availability is no longer restricted. The plains animals make small mini-migrations to the best grazing areas in the mid-summer (January-March) and can be found in their thousands on certain grass-plains at this time of year. Most antelope species also give birth at the beginning of the year. Ask your hosts for tips for the time of year you are visiting Etosha National Park. Find out more in our blog on Namibia seasons.