Etosha National Park is one of the most visited places in Namibia and for good reason. This was the second stop on our two week Namibia roadtrip. There’s nothing like it. Etosha is filled with all the animals in a safari dream: zebras, giraffes, elephants, antelopes, wildebeests, and even the rare lions, leopards and cheetahs. It is also one of the rare opportunities to go on a self drive safari. When you enter Etosha National Park you are provided a map with dozens of waterholes (see map below). During dry season, animal sightings at the watering holes are a sure thing. Even without a guide (or any tracking skills) we were able to see dozens of wild animals by simply driving to watering holes around the park.
We arrived to Etosha National Park the afternoon on December 5, 2017 during dry season. Animals were swarming to the waterholes that week as there had not been rain for several days. Click here to view a video of our 3 days in Etosha on our Facebook page. It is one of our favorite places we have been during our 6 months of travel thus far!
- Driving Distance (Okonjimo to Etosha): 250 Km/140 miles
- Driving Time: 3-3.5 hours
- Road Conditions – Paved Road – Gravel Road Inside The Park
When to Go & Where to Go in the Park
Visiting Etosha National Park is all about seeing the animals. Therefore, we strongly recommend going during the dry season, which typically runs from June to the end of October. Dry season is also when temperatures are the most mild. During dry season, the waterholes at Etosha are the few places within the park where the animals can get water. On a daily basis you will see swarms of animals at the waterholes. See picture below of a morning visit to one of the waterholes:
Additionally, during the dry season the grass is lower or non existent allowing easier access to view the animals.
During our first day we saw lots of animals at the waterholes. However, it rained the second night and we noticed far fewer animals at all the waterholes the next day.
If you are in Etosha during late dry season, almost all the waterholes to the East of Halali are dry. We spent about a day going from dry waterhole to dry waterhole, without viewing much wildlife. So we would not recommend going East of Halali during dry season.
The map below is of Etosha National Park showing all the waterholes:
What to Bring
If you are camping, we would recommend bringing food and supplies. We provide a detailed list in our two week Namibia roadtrip post. If you are coming from Windhoek, you can get all these items in the town of Outjo located 60 miles/100 km from the park’s entrance.
We would also recommend the following:
- Bring Cash There are no ATM’s in Etosha, although everywhere takes credit cards. One one of our days the internet was down and all payments were cash only.
- Fill up Your Car With Gas – There are actually gas stations at the campsites, but it’s more expensive than the stations outside of Etosha.
- Bring The Water for Your Trip (4 Liters/day/person): The campsites all have shops that sell water but again its pricier inside Etosha. Campsites sell wine and beer as well – price comparable here as they keep the beer cold for you in their fridge!
- Bring the Food you Plan to Cook: There is food available to purchase at the campsites. We found the produce very lacking and overall better choices in the supermarkets in Outjo. There are a restaurants at the campsites, dinners are about $25USD and are typically buffets.
- Bring a Headlamp/Flashlight: Whether camping or staying in one of the lodges, the walk to the waterhole is dark. Night time at the water hole is the BEST time!!
Where to Stay
STAY INSIDE THE PARK AND RESERVE BEFORE YOU GO!!!
If you’re visiting Etosha National Park, we can not recommend more strongly staying inside the park. This is because the gates to Etosha close at sundown even though the animals are most active and visit the waterholes primarily during the cooler nighttime and early mornings. During the daytime, many animals sleep in the shade, usually hard to see from the road.
Each of the campsites/lodges have waterholes with spot lights on them throughout the night. Anyone staying at the campsites/lodges can bring a drink and spend their evenings at the campsite’s waterholes. There is simply nothing like it. We had heard that of the Big 5 African Animals (Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant and Rhino), the rhino is the most difficult to locate; however, during our 3 nights in Etosha we saw at least 2 rhinos each night visiting the waterholes next to our campgrounds.
How Long to Stay? Answer: 2-3 nights
Unless you’re an animal fanatic that can view wildlife for days on end, we would recommend 2-3 nights in Etosha. We found that after the first night we wanted to see more. After the 2nd night we still craved more although not as much as the first night. But after the 3rd night, we were ready to see other places in Namibia.
Where to Stay and How to Book Accommodations
Booking Accommodations: To book accommodations in Etosha be sure to book in advance, we would recommend a month or more if you can. You can reserve campsites/lodges at the NWR Website.
Where to Stay:
Etosha has 3 locations with lodges and 1 additional location that is just a campsite (which we didn’t visit and can not comment on). We camped our first and third night at Okaukuejo and the third at Halali.
Prices for the campsites are around 270 Namibian ($25 USD) per night per person. For the lodges the price ranges from 1000 Namibian ($77 USD ) to 2100 Namibian ($160 USD) per night.
Advice on the campsites are below:
To Reserve a Campsite at Okaukejo, Click Here, then scroll down to Halal and Click “View Rooms.”
Okaukuejo is one of the most popular accommodations in all of Namibia. Though you risk crowds during high season, we recommend staying at least 1 and possibly 2 nights . It has very nice facilities with a large and clean pool. The animals are usually sleeping in the heat of the afternoon, so a pool to cool off is crucial! It’s located 15 minutes from the Southern park entrance making it a great choice for a first and/or last night stay in the park. This is one of the most popular campsites in all of Namibia so be sure to reserve in advance.
The best reason to stay in Okaukuejo is that it has one of the biggest waterholes in the park. The waterhole is the theatre of Etosha, you will be captivated and won’t be able to tear yourself away! We sat by the waterhole with drinks for several hours, it was our Must See TV!
When you arrive at Okaukuejo you will be assigned a campsite randomly. If you see your campsite and don’t like it, simply go back to the office and ask for the one you like. As we found throughout Namibia, working with the staff at campgrounds to make these changes was never a problem.
To Reserve a Campsite at Halali, Click Here, then scroll down to Halali and Click “View Rooms.”
Halali is located in the center of Etosha about 1.5 hours drive from Okaukuejo. It has older facilities and a smaller waterhole than Okaukeujo, but the waterhole does have a lot of charm. There is a pool and a restaurant as well. We found it a good change of pace, although the waterhole was not as large or as active as Okaukuejo. If you’re staying 3 nights in Etosha we would recommend staying 1 night here.
Picking your campsite is First come First serve, so after you finish your morning wildlife viewing we recommend heading to Halali and placing a table at the campsite you want to reserve.
To Reserve a Campsite at Namutoni, Click Here, then scroll down to Namutoni and Click “View Rooms” – we recommend not staying at Namutoni during dry season.
Namutoni is located on the far eastern section of the park. built into an old German Fort. It has decent facilities comparable to Halali. Namutoni has a steakhouse which has a reputation as being the best restaurant in the park. That along with the fort (which we found underwhelming) and its history (you can read more about the history on NWR’s website here) attract people to this campsite. But remember that the waterholes dry up east of Halali during dry season, so if you are visiting during that period we would NOT recommend staying here.
Planning your Days in Etosha National Park
Here’s our advice of how to spend your days in Etosha National Park.
We separated the time of the days in Etosha into 4 Times:
- Sunrise to Late Morning
- Mid Day
- Late Afternoon to Sunset
1- Sunrise to Late Morning
Early morning is perhaps the best time to see the diverse wildlife in Etosha. The gates in and out of the campground open at sunrise (times are posted on the gates each day). We strongly recommend getting up very early, seeing the animal activity at your campground waterhole and if there are not many animals, go to a different waterhole. Continue spending the morning visiting waterholes around the park until lunch.
2- Mid Day
The animals are least active during this time of the day. Not to mention, Mid Day in Etosha is very hot. We brought lunch with us in the car and either cooked it at our campsite or one of the designated eating locations in Etosha. These designated lunch locations are shown in the map that you are provided when you enter the park. This is also the time to go to your campsite and secure the campsite you want for the night. Its also a good time to take a dip in the pool at your campground (all the campgrounds have pools), take a nap or just relax.
An alternative during this time is heading to the pan in the middle of the park. It’s a 75 mile/120 km long Salt flat where almost no animals go to and it makes for an amazing landscape, this is one area where it was OK to get out of the car and take some pictures:
3 – Late Afternoon to Sunset
You will likely arrive to Etosha in the afternoon so this will be your first experience at Etosha. The wildlife viewing is not as good as the early morning but the cooler temperatures do bring out some animals. Our advice is to leave 3 hours before the gates to your campground close, and return right before they close. We had heard that if the gates to the campground close before you arrive, you can pay a fine to get back in. But we didn’t want to test if this was really true.
4 – Evening
The evenings are what make Etosha the most memorable. Have a quick dinner. Bring a bottle of wine. And spend several hours watching animals come and go from the waterhole, which is walking distance from your campground. We advise going earlier than later, even though good seats were not hard to come by, it’s always best to be able to choose your seats. The evenings at the waterholes in Etosha are some of our favorite times of our entire Shabbatical thus far as you can see from some of the pictures below:
Thinking about seeing more of Nambia? This is our two week Namibia itinerary: