Etosha, which comes from the Oshingonga world meaning “great white place” – is a celebrated wildlife reserve in a dreamy, desert like environment and is notably Namibia’s most famous National Park as well as one of Africa’s top 10. It covers an incredible span of almost 3 million hectares and is characterised by a saltpan the size of Holland which creates a setting and scenery so vastly different from any other reserve you will have visited. Move from waterhole to waterhole in search of the big 5.
Namibia’s largest National Park, Etosha, has 4 points of entry. Two of the gates are named after the European explorers, Francis Galton and Charles Andersson, who stumbled upon the salt pans in the 1850’s while trekking with copper traders. Third gate is named after the governor of German South West Africa, Dr Friedrich von Lindequist, who proclaimed it a reserve in 1907. It was made a reserve to protect the land and the seasonal migrations of animals that pass through.
A dazzling white pan dominates the central and eastern Etosha – the surrounding landscape is flat and blanched with salt dust. This is part of the Kalahari Basin and was formed over 60 million years ago. It was once a huge lake fed by the Kunene River but after a series of tectonic plates reshuffling, the Kunene River changed course and the lake dried up. Further to the north into the park, a little inland from the salt pan, the bush becomes denser. Best months for game viewing is in the dry winter months which is May through to November however in the summer wet months, it’s a whole different playground. Gone is the dry dust as the rains bring a whole new lease on life and there is water everywhere. The lake in particular becomes a bird’s paradise attracting flamingos and all types of wetland birds. The park is home to 114 mammals, 340 birds, 110 reptiles, and 16 amphibian species.
There are 2 private reserves that border Etosha. First one being Ongava Game reserve - this 30 000 hectare reserve is found on the southern boundary of Etosha. Unlike Etosha, night drives and guided walks are permitted with armed guides together with game drives. Second private reserve is Onguma Game Reserve. Little bigger than Ongava, at 33 994 hectares and bordering the eastern side of Etosha.