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Etosha National Park
In Etosha you’ll find the country’s best all round wildlife viewing options. It doesn’t quite compare with southern Africa’s traditional safari offerings in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia but for self-drive and do-it-yourself safaris, the roads are safe, it’s inexpensive, easy to arrange and especially productive if done outside of the busy regional holiday period during July and August.
The country’s premier wildlife reserve is a haven for 114 mammal and 340 bird species. This semi-arid savannah grassland and thorny scrub expanse surrounding the calcrete Etosha Pan is the size of Switzerland. The pan itself is a flat saline desert 130 km long by 50km at its widest in the eastern sector of the park.
The park is transformed briefly each rainy season and then turns back into a sea of mirages in the notoriously dry months from May to November. It teems with flamingos and pelicans and birding is generally excellent in December, January and February. It’s a classic dry season safari destination when saline and mineral residues together with moisture from perennial springs attract game and birds from July to October.
Etosha Pan is best done on a flying safari or self-drive basis
Known for its endemic black faced impala. Also its elephants, belonging to a group resident in the country’s north-west and southern Angola. They’re the tallest on the continent, measuring up to 4m at the shoulder but mineral deficiencies and their habit of digging for water results in short tusks.
The park is also one of the last wild sanctuaries of the endangered black rhino whose range extends beyond the western park boundary. Resident giraffe belong to a subspecies only found here and in the country’s north-western.
Despite its massive size, only the southern edge of Etosha National Park is accessible to casual visitors.
Etosha National Park is safari central!
The name Etosha can be translated to ‘Place of Mirages’, ‘Land of Dry Water’ or ‘Great White Place’.
Wildlife encounters in Etosha
Largest land animals on earth, the African elephant used to range widely through sub-Saharan Africa. Despite being threatened by habitat loss and ivory poaching African elephants have healthy populations in east and southern Africa. Best places to see elephants include Mana Pools and Hwange, Chobe and Linyanti, the Luangwa Valley, Selous, Katavi and Amboseli.
Once roaming widely across sub-Saharan Africa rhinos are now rapidly nearing extinction. The black rhino survives in remote pockets of arid wilderness and some protected reserves. It differs from the white rhino with its smaller size and a prehensile upper lip. This solitary browser feeds at night and wallows or hides under shade during the day. They’re particularly bad tempered.
Celebrated in history for their courage and strength when they roamed most of Africa, parts of Asia and Europe. Nowadays the best places to see lions on safari are the Zambezi, Hwange, Okavango and Linyanti - ideally May to November; Queen Elizabeth NP’s Ishasha area for tree-climbing lions; Katavi’s Kapapa River in September to November; Kidepo Valley