Our guide to your self-drive safari in Etosha National Park in Namibia

Exploring Etosha National Park in your vehicle is undoubtably a highlight of a trip to Namibia, and maybe even the number one reason for your holiday.  Etosha, meaning “Great White Place”, is dominated by a  mineral pan so enormous it can be seen from space.   The pan covers about 25% of the national park which, in total, is half the size of Switzerland so there’s plenty to see.  Emma has put together a few of her tips for a great day wildlife spotting in Etosha.

Namibia Holidays - Etosha

What you might see…

You have the possibility to see lion, elephant, black rhino, white rhino, Hartmann’s and Burchell’s zebra, jackal, blue wildebeest, giraffe, leopard (if you’re incredibly lucky), warthog, pangolin, red hartebeest, porcupine, kudu, dik dik, springbok, eland, bat eared foxes and more in Etosha.

Start preparing the day before…

Have you got enough fuel for a day of driving?  You could cover a couple of hundred kilometres over the day and it’s not a place to get caught short. Make sure you top up en-route to Etosha, or take cash to buy fuel at one of the rest camps inside the park.

Namibia Holidays - Etosha National Park

On the morning of your visit…

Take plenty of water and cool drinks, binoculars, camera with zoom lense if you have one, mammal guide book, sunglasses, snacks, cash and sunblock.  You can buy lunch and visit the toilet at the rest camps inside the park, there are pools here too so take your swimmers and towel.  Plastic bags aren’t allowed into the park so make sure you don’t take any of these with you.

The park gates open at sunrise and close at sunset – check with your lodge / campsite for the exact times.  Early risers will be rewarded with the best wildlife sightings as game, sensibly, tends to snooze behind or under bushes in the heat of the day.  Don’t be late to leave the park as substantial fines are enforced, and don’t buy meat inside the park to take out as this is prohibited for disease control.

Namibia Holidays - Etosha National Park

When you arrive…

You’ll pick up a ticket as you enter the park then need to pay the entrance fee of £14.00 per person per day and £3.00 per vehicle (cannot be purchased in advance) when you get to the first rest camp.  The speed limit within the park is 60km but the key is to drive slowly so you see more. Remember, the wildlife doesn’t have any road sense and there could, literally, be a herd of elephants around the next corner!

When paying your entrance fee, check the boards and sighting books to see which waterholes game have been spotted visiting over the last couple of days…it might be worth planning your day around these.

Namibia Holidays - Etosha National Park

Waterhole etiquette…

One of the best ways to spend time in Etosha is sitting at a waterhole, watching, or waiting for, animals coming to drink.  You can’t get out of your vehicle in the park so stay put inside!  One of the best moments during Emma’s last visit to Etosha was being the only vehicle watching a watering hole and spotting an elephant browsing in the bushes, mostly hidden, at the far end of the clearing.  Patience over the next hour was rewarded by the whole herd of around 11 elephants, with several juveniles and infants, coming to the waterhole to drink and cool themselves off with a trunk wash. They were incredible private moments spent with these wonderful creatures.

Namibia Holidays - Etosha National Park

You’ll want to visit a few water holes during the day and you’ll be given a map when you enter the park.  You’ll see the waterholes are mainly located to the south of the pan.  Remember to approach waterholes slowly and to keep quiet while you’re watching, with arms inside the vehicle.  Game can be skittish around waterholes, especially when they are alone, as they feel vulnerable to prey.  They may be unable to find water away from the holes so being able to drink undisturbed is vital. Giraffe, in particular, have to do a fair amount of delicate and intricate leg manoeuvring to drink so being disrupted can make for a long afternoon trying to get to the bar!

Namibia Holidays - Etosha National Park

A special note about rhino…

If you’re lucky enough to see rhino, a golden rule is not to put this on social media…this is to keep their location safe from the poachers who hunt them relentlessly.

Guided game drives…

Rather than drive yourself, you might like to spend time with an experienced and knowledgeable guide.  Game drives are best booked in advance during busy times and are very rewarding.  Your guides visit the park daily and have an intimate knowledge of the animals habits and behaviour.  You’ll be rewarded both with seeing more animals, and with learning more about wildlife in Namibia.  It’s possible to do guided night time game drives through Etosha, and in some of the surrounding concessions, so let us know if this is of interest.

Namibia Holidays - Etosha National Park

Find out more…

We’ve put together four itineraries, carefully crafted to give you the best possible holiday experience in Namibia; but everything can be tailored to your interests and needs.   To start planning your Namibia holiday call our destination specialists Emma or Susanne on  01768 721020.