Covering more than 8,600 square miles, Etosha National Park in north-central Namibia is one of Africa’s largest parks and greatest wildlife viewing spots.
Created as a game reserve in 1907 and then declared a national park in 1967, Etosha is Namibia’s premiere wildlife destination covering a diverse range of landscapes including desert, semi-desert, and savanna. The park is named for and dominated by the Etosha Pan, a salt desert that is nearly completely barren in the dry winter months. While it is so large it can be seen from space, the Etosha Pan only makes up a third of the park itself. Perennial springs along the edges of the pan create natural waterholes that draw daily concentrations of wildlife and wildfowl. In addition to the saltpan, the park is covered by mopane scrubland as well as tall tree forests of the unique moringa or “ghost tree.” There are even wide expanses of grassland and the undulating reddish-brown landscape of dolomite in the west.
Part of Etosha’s charms lie in the fact that the animals are easy to find. Just park next to one of the many waterholes and a veritable host of animals including lions, elephants, springboks, gemsboks, giraffes, and more will come by the hundreds. At night, floodlights on the water holes illuminate the nocturnal doings of lions, cheetah, elephants, and rhinos. During summer, the rains turn the saltpan into a shallow lake that attracts thousands of migratory birds, most notably pelicans and flamingos.