Etosha National Park

35 Lion - one of the big five animals of AfricaNamibia’s Etosha National Park, a land of extremes, is a high point of Namibian travel. For nearly a century, this game preserve in the country’s northwest has protected giraffes, lions, zebras and other animals while also conserving precious salt reserves, savannah, and bushland. In 1907, when Namibia was under German rule, the colonial administration declared Etosha a game reserve. It initially spanned 100,000 square kilometers and was the world’s largest game preserve. Since then, political demands have reduced Etosha to a “mere” 22,000 square miles. Its center is defined by a vast salt pan, the remnants of an enormous ancient lake that sometimes refills slightly in the summer. Fertile grasslands radiate outward from the dry salt pan and give way to arid forests in the east and bushland in the west. Today the park is home to an estimated 250 lions, 300 rhinoceroses, 2,000 or more elephants, 2,500 giraffes, 6,000 zebras, and 20,000 gazelles.

Cheetahs, flamingos, impalas, jackals, and hundreds of other mammal and bird species also make Etosha their home. Etosha’s rainy season begins in November and sometimes lasts through April. Many animals give birth in January and February, which sparks activity among predators. January through March are the wettest and hottest months, and July through September are the driest. April, May, and June as well as September and October are especially temperate.

The Namibian government keeps Etosha well-maintained. Gravel roads lead to fifty waterholes and other ideal viewing spots. Additionally, the park infrastructure includes four rest camps: Halali, Namutoni, Okaukuejo, and Onkoshi. Onkoshi is Etosha’s newest and most upscale rest camp. Additionally, the park features chalets, resorts, basic stores, restaurants, and public swimming pools. Etosha National Park can be accessed via four entrances. Andersson Gate, the main entrance, is at the southern border of the park near Okaukuejo. The eastern gate is called the Von Lindequist Gate and the northeastern gate is known as the King Nehale Gate. To the far west, the Otjovasandu Gate leads to a less traveled area with fewer safari services.