Etosha Game Park Namibia.
Etosha is one of the world’s great game parks, renown for its profusion of antelope and ease of seeing the Big five. It a must-do destination.
It is located 435km (Okaukuejo rest camp) north of Windhoek and connected to the capital by a fast sealed road. It is one of Africa’s largest parks extending over a 250km from east to west. The park is divided roughly in half by the western restricted zone not generally open to the visitor and the eastern half dominated by the Etosha salt pan with game drive access on its southern flanks, see Etosha map Fig1.
Visitors can enter the park through either the Von Lindequest gate near the Namutoi rest camp on the eastern side or through The Andersson gate near the Okaukuejo rest camp. Both gates close at sunset and visitors are confined inside the wire enclosed camps from sunset to sunrise.
Game viewing is restricted to the roads or defined tracks and the designated viewing areas at each waterhole. It is not permitted to leave the vehicle or to be outside the vehicle. As such there is no need for a 4WD vehicle and self-touring is quite adequate. There is also no access onto the salt pan itself. It is important to have air conditioning as it can get very hot and there is little cover to shade the vehicle particularly in the peak dry season when most trees have lost significant leaf cover.
The Uniqueness of Etosha.
At the end of the long dry (peak) season in September- October when temperatures are still moderate, the bush is highly stressed from lack of water, forcing the game to congregate in large numbers around the waterholes. At this time there is very little grass and many trees and bushes have shed significant leaf cover, providing excellent game viewing conditions. Also the dry conditions result in fine dust particles remaining airborne producing dramatic lighting conditions especially at sunrise and sunset. Etosha has abundant elephants, lions, hyenas, some rhino, a few leopard and many different types of plains animals.
The disadvantage of Etosha is that off-road driving for the visitor is not permitted.
♦ There are three rest camps,Okaukuejo, Halali, Namutoni, all with illuminated waterholes and the new 15 unit safari style camp, Onkoshi camp overlooking the eastern salt pan.
♦ For me Okaukuejo is the best rest camp and the best location to use as a home base. I stayed here 3 weeks in October 2002 in roundel no.11.
♦ Okaukuejo rest camp has a magnificent night time illuminated waterhole in close proximity to the accommodation. On one evening in October, I saw 22 elephants in the water, 3 giraffe, a rhino and her cub, a female lion and many plains animals all drinking at the same time.
♦ I have seen lion hunting (unsuccessfully) at the Okaukuejo waterhole during the day.
♦ At the waterhole visitors and wild animals are separated by a low waist high stone wall on the visitor side and by the land on the game side being lower by some metres. It is thus possible to stand at the wall and view the waterhole and the game without obstruction. In fact on one occasion a large bull elephant came right up to the wall with its trunk over the wall ( see fig4). You can’t get any closer than that.
♦ There is a range of accommodation from camping to 4 bedroom self-catering chalets. Compared to other safari camps the accommodation is very reasonably priced, and therefore highly sought after. Most accommodation is booked en block well in advance by the travel companies so it is essential to book when it first becomes available one year ahead.
♦ Booking can be done on the telephone directly through the Namibian Wildlife Resorts Ltd. Central Reservation office private bag 13378, Windhoek,www.nwr.com.na, Tel: +264 (61) 2857200 3 Fax: +264 (61) 224900, email: [email protected] .
♦ The accommodation map is provided in fig2. . The closest bungalow to the waterhole at a distance of 10m is the two bedroom thatched rondel number 11.
♦ Okaukuejo has a good buffet restaurant.
♦ The Okaukuejo gates leading out of the rest camp are opened just after sunrise, and are shut around sunset. There is a queue of cars formed at the gate just before it is opened. In some cases, such as to get a sunrise photo over two trees or a good position at Okendeka it is important to be first in the queue.
♦ Etosha can provide exquisite photographic wildlife images. The restrictions on access just reduce the probability or make it more difficult to capture the moment. Patience and long telephoto lenses of 400mm, 500mm with extenders are important to mitigate this tyranny of distance.
♦ My favorite waterholes for photographing game (not in order) were:
Olifantsbad and Aus for elephant herds, some lions gemsbok, zebra: Gaseb and Gemsbokvlate for elephants covered in dust and a few rhino: Kalkheuwel, for closeness to the game, lions a few leopard, small birds and plains animals: Okendeka for view over the salt plains, lions, giraffe, ostrich, and plains animals. Okerfontien has a different viewpoint as you look down towards the small spring on the edge of the pan. Not much game but good if a herd of zebras is present as they are likely to fight amongst themselves.