Etosha National Park Safari

Our Path through Etosha National Park

We spent 3 days exploring Etosha National Park. The first night we spent in a camp just outside the Anderson Entrance Gate and we were able to do an evening safari drive between the Anderson entrance gate and the SW Etosha Pan lookout point near Okaukuejo. Then the second day we went on all day safari and then spent the night at Halali Camp. Day three was another all day safari and then we spent the night at Namutoni Camp and exited the park on day four through the Von Lindequist Gate and then to B1.

Etosha National Park Accommodation

Our Etosha National Park accommodation was the best on the night we stayed outside of the park. The camp there had a nice dinner and the location of the camp was great for entering the park on the first day and getting accustomed to the area. They have good maps available inside the park and you can pick one up when you pay your Etosha National Park entrance fees. Some of the camps inside the park have watering holes for night viewing. We found this very lack luster. There are much better wildlife viewing opportunities outside the camps.

Introduction to Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park covers an area of 22,270 sq kilometers and the most prominent feature is the Etosha Pan which covers about 4760 sq kilometers or about 25% of the entire park. In the native language Etosha means “great white space”.

Etosha Pan

Photo Etosha Pan at Etosha National Park

The great white space at Etosha Pan characterizes Etosha National park. Etosha pan is also characterized by large amounts of salt as compared to the clay deposits at Sossusvlei.

As I mentioned in the Sossusvlei post, the Etosha Pan is a true salt pan and the Sossusvlei is a clay pan. There is a copious amount of salt in the soil that makes up the Etosha Pan and surrounding area. The area is characterized by strong winds which blow the salt for large distances away from the pan itself.

This is a mixed blessing, because it does provide nutrients for animals living in the surrounding areas. However, it can create problems for the local farmers due to the infertility of salt in their fields.

History of Etosha Pan

Other sources of erosion in the Etosha pan throughout history include a large contribution from the Gondwana Ice Ages about 300 million years ago. Tremendous amounts of snowfall began to fall and glaciers formed in the mountains of Southern Angola and then moved south into the present day Etosha area. The ice ages lasted about 20 million years and did a great deal to shape the landscape in Etosha National Park.

Water, of course also characterizes the Etosha Pan, and the pan does still fill with a thin layer of water after heavy rainfall. However, the pan does remain dry for most of the year. There used to be much more abundant flows of water into Etosha Pan. Due to tectonic shifting about 35,000 years ago, the Kunene River was redirected. It then ceased to flow into the Etosha Pan. Instead, it now runs along the border with Angola and drains into the Atlantic Ocean.

Fresh Water Springs at Etosha National Park

The wildlife that visits Etosha National Park is drawn to the fresh water springs that are present around the edges of the Etosha Pan. Especially during the dry season, these springs are the only source of water in the area. This makes for fantastic opportunities to view wildlife. Our visit was during the dry season and we were very fortunate to see an abundance of diverse wildlife.

Photo wildebeest drinking on edge of Etosha Pan at Etosha National Park

Two wildebeest drink water at one of the watering holes that dot the edge of the Etosha Pan at Etosha National Park.

Predators at Etosha National Park

Some of the most exciting wildlife viewing opportunities really just take a little patience and a lot of luck. I am referring to viewing the large predators, especially the lions. We were extremely fortunate in this regard. The night before we arrived a group of lions had killed an adult giraffe. The kill location was situated just off the side of the main road that runs between the Anderson Gate and the Okaukuejo Camp. So we basically stumbled right into it within one hour after we entered the gate on our first day!!

Photographing Lions At Etosha National Park

There were only a few other vehicles there so I was able to get some good angles, in good light for some photos. This was not my first safari and I knew how fortunate we. So we took advantage of the situation and snapped many photos and observed the lions for as long as possible.

It is actually amazing how well they are able to blend into the grass. In the photos there appears to be only a few of them but in reality there were at least 10 of them. They would stand up and move back and forth around the kill. Otherwise, they would have been completely invisible to the untrained eye. This would not be a good place to have to change a flat tire – that is for sure!

Photo lion kill Etosha National Park

Large female lions at Etosha National Park continue to feed on their kill from the night before.

Photo lion kill Etosha National Park

The lion pride at Etosha National park could blend in surprising well with the tall grass and natural landscape.

Western Etosha National Park

Lions in Etosha National Park number about 750 and the lions in the western section of the park are considered the most ferocious. These lions were spotted in this general area. Although this was the western edge of our Etosha safari and we moved eastward from here. The western end of Etosha has until only recently been closed to safari tours. It recently has become accessible if you choose to explore the area.

The Elephants at Etosha National Park

We also had some very inspiring encounters with Etosha elephants. The elephants of Etosha number about 2500 and they are separated into 2 general types of groupings. The breeding groups number about 50 and are made up of the females, young males and the calves. The bachelor groups number between 2-8 males and they are generally found in different areas than the breeding groups. The elephants tend to visit the water holes in larger numbers at night. Although, we did have some nice encounters with them during the day time.

Photo Elephant Etosha National Park

Here is a breeding group that we came across at Etosha National Park. This is a photo of the matriarch, she was being rather defensive due to the young elephant calves in the area. You can see one of them walking behind her in the distant background.

Photo Elephants with calf Etosha National Park

Additional photo of one of the elephant breeding groups that we encountered in Etosha National Park.

Photo male Elephants Etosha National Park

Photo of large male elephant bachelor group that we found mingling near a water hole during the day time at Etosha National Park. The adult males tend to form small groups of 3-8 animals and do not cohabitate with the much larger breeding groups. Their pale skin coloration is not their natural skin color, but rather reflects the type of mud they had recently bathed in.

A Large Variety of Animals at Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park also has some very interesting creatures at the other end of the food chain. Such as these young black faced impala (see below). These are a sub species of the common impala and they are native to NW Namibia. The primary difference in the species is the black facial characteristics displayed by the black faced impala compared to its cousin the common impala. They are not endemic to this specific area of Namibia and were first introduced into Etosha National Park in the 1970s.

Photo Black Faced Impala - Etosha National Park

Photo of pair of young black faced impala at Etosha National park.

The black-backed jackal

The black-backed jackal is a long time resident of Namibia. Ancient fossil evidence of their existence dates back between 2-3 million years. They have 2 primary habitats, one in Southern Africa including Namibia and also in East Africa. They are also commonly sighted at the infamous Skeleton Coast National Park in Namibia. These jackals are not picky eaters. They will eat insects, carrion, rodents, plant matter and even human refuse.

Photo Black-Backed Jackal Etosha National Park

Black-backed jackals at Etosha National Park seem to have spotted something in the distance. They are normally monogamous animals and it is not an uncommon sight in Namibia to see 2 black-backed jackals keeping each other company.

Photo Elephant at Twee Palms - Etosha National Park

Here is a lone elephant having a drink of water at the Twee Palms water hole on the far eastern edge of Etosha National Park.

Photo Burchell's Zebra and Giraffes at Goas Waterhole - Etosha National Park

A small group of burchell’s zebra have a drink at the Goas Waterhole in Etosha National Park. 3 giraffes keep a look out for any prowling lions. The zebras stripes are effective camouflage as they help individuals blend in with the group. This can make it more difficult for predators to launch an attack by singling one of them out. Another less common species of zebra is the Hartmann’s zebra that we had encountered previously at Namib-Naukluft National Park.

Conclusion

Etosha National Park was an overall great experience especially because it is a self tour safari opportunity that is easy to navigate and the wildlife is relatively easy to spot during the dry season due to the heavy and consistent usage of the parks watering holes. These watering holes are also a great place to see predators as that is where they tend to find the prey that they are looking for.

 

Article Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etosha_pan
http://www.etoshanamibia.info/what-to-spot/wildlife/elephant/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-backed_jackal

Namibia – Fascination of Geology
A Travel Handbook
Nicole Grunert