On our tour of Southern Africa (overview here), Etosha National Park was one of my favorite stops and the one destination, I’d be most likely to send my parents to: Why, you might ask, when there were so many amazing destinations on that trip? Not only do you get so see amazing wildlife, it is one of the easiest and most comfortable places to do so! Instead of going on game drives, like in most other safari areas, you can see a lot of wildlife at the waterholes in this very dry area, making you independent of the quality of your guide or driver and giving you a chance to see lots of animals easily!
We arrived at Etosha overland from Swakopmund, but you can also reach it from Namibia’s capital Windhoek by car (approx. 6h) or by plane. In addition to the many tour options, you can visit Etosha on your own – the streets and infrastructure are some of the best we found in Namibia!
We stayed at the Okaukuejo Camp – it is in the South of the park, is the oldest camp at a former military outpost from 1901 and current administrative headquarter. You will recognize it by the big stone tower at its center, with a great view! What makes this camp so popular is the floodlit watering hole right next to it, giving you a chance to take a seat, relax and watch the neverending coming and going of animals to the water hole. You are less than 50 meters away from the animals, separated by some natural barriers, and can watch the animals drink safely and comfortably. It’s such a wonderful and relaxed experience, being able to just stay in one, peaceful place, it’s hard to tear yourself away. It is stunning to see some of the animals drink together, yet making room for others that might threaten them, following the natural order of things… Movement among the animals at the water hole and their slow departure is a sure sign of new arrivals in the distance, taking their turn… We saw giraffes and zebras, elephants and rhinos, ostrich and lions, all within a very short stay. While on most safaris, you have to be prepared to drive around without seeing anything, the animals are depending on the watering holes and your chances are very, very good! If you just love the thrill of finding wildlife during game drives – don’t worry. You can still go on game drives from the lodge during the day and see animals at more remote water holes or in the open, making for a complete safari experience.
While we stayed in tents at the camp site at Okaukuejo, there are more luxurious options available as well. The best and my recommendation for an independent visit are the Premium Waterhole Chalets: They are two-story chalets with direct views of the water hole. Being able to relax on your own balcony, having your camera set up or a drink in hand, watching the amazing wildlife right in front of your very eyes, makes for an incredible experience! Whether you stay in a tent or the private chalet, the price is much less than what you pay in other safari destinations, making this a dream destination for any budget. You can find out more in my review of the Okaukuejo Camp (coming soon).
Etosha National Park is not as commercialized as African wildlife watching in South Africa or Kenya, yet it is accessible without a price tag that remote destinations in Africa often carry. The unique set-up with many natural or man made water holes make for a very special experience, even if you have been on safari elsewhere. Even after having incredible safaris in the Masai Mara of Kenya and Kruger National Park in South Africa, I would recommend it wholeheartedly for your bucket list!