Etosha National Park is Namibia’s premier wildlife destination. At almost 9000 square miles, it is also one of Africa’s largest national parks. The park is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish. Etosha, meaning "Great White Place", is dominated by a massive mineral pan (the Etosha pan) that covers more than 5000 square miles and covers 25% of the park. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000 million years ago. During the drier months, between June and November, water points exert a magnetic pull on the big game herds, and the concentration of game around waterholes can be an incredible sight, including everything from elephant, giraffe and zebra to rare and endangered species such as the black rhino, black-faced impala, tssesebe and gemsbok.

Roads (road, really) throughout Etosha are paved, which can make it feel a bit tame. At the same time, though, this makes the park great for self-drive safari-goers, a popular option in Namibia.

We always advocate that clients take advantage of the private conservancies around the national park (particularly Onguma and Ongava). They provide a more wild and exclusive game-viewing experience while still offering full access to the national park itself. This is particularly important in July and August when Etosha can be crowded.

We also recommend staying on both the Eastern and Western sides of the park in private reserves, as well as spending a day or a day and night driving through the center of the park.

Our favorite properties near Etosha includeLittle Ongava, Onguma Tree Top and Mushara Outpost. Okaukuejo is our recommendation for clients spending a night while driving through the park.

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Elizabeth Gordon