The first trip on my five-week Africa adventure turned out to be an Etosha National Park Namibia adventure. From my research and talking to people, it seemed that Etosha was the easiest safari to pull off. It turned out to be a great choice.
Options galore when planning an Etosha National Park Namibia adventure
There are so many options when preparing for an Etosha National Park Namibia safari. One can self-drive, book a multi-day tour, one can camp inside the park or outside, one can choose to camp or do luxury lodges, or a combination of all the above. I ended up with the combination route. This Youtube video on Etosha I found very helpful for planning purposes, especially if a self-drive is of interest. The one problem about Etosha is there is no way to get there unless you have a car or take a guided tour, but once you get there, it is smooth city.
Flew into Windhoek and rented a car
My trip commenced in Johannesburg. I stayed one night near the airport then flew the next day to the Namibian capital of Windhoek. At the Windhoek Airport, I picked up my rental car from Avis. After picking up the car, I drove into town and stayed the night at Chameleon Backpackers. The next day, I took off for Etosha.
I stopped along the way at the town of Otjiwarongo and bought supplies. One does not need to buy supplies here or even in Windhoek. The town closest to the park, Ombika, has everything one needs. In fact, there is a gas station just south of the Anderson Gate that has a small grocery store. Okaukuejo has a store as well with meat, beer, and other camping needs. Surely it is a little more expensive at the last two stops, but I did not feel the prices were unreasonable.
Night one – Etosha Safari Lodge
I luxuriously started off the trip and stayed at the Etosha Sarari Lodge, which is just 10 kilometers south of the Anderson Gate. They had an amazing dinner and breakfast buffet. The next morning, I booked a half day safari with them. I got off to a good start on the Big Five seeing a few lions and a beautiful rhinoceros. The rhino was initially under a tree, but eventually moved out into the open savanna, which provided a great photo opportunity.
Night two – Okaukuejo Resort
Etosha has several camps inside the national park where you can camp or stay in chalets. The camps are surrounded by an electrical fence. Okaukuejo is the main camp and the largest. Besides camping and indoor lodging, Okaukuejo also boasts a store, restaurant, post office, swimming pool, and even a clinic. They also offer game drives in the morning and at night. I booked a night safari. At Okaukuejo, I slept in the medium priced chalets because the campsite spots were fully booked.
Floodlit watering holes
The best perk about staying in the park is the floodlit water holes. Okaukuejo, Halali, and Namutoni each have watering holes just outside the fence that can be viewed by visitors all day and all night. I saw rhinos, elephants, giraffes, owls, kudos, and many other birds and animals at these watering holes that were only a five minute walk from where I was sleeping.
The climate at Etosha is desert savanna, and it is very dry, especially in the dry season, which it was when I visited in late June. This means the water holes sprinkled throughout the park are a goldmine for wildlife viewing.
Night three – Halali
Halai is just east of Okaukuejo, and is about 70 kilometers on a bumpy dirt road. I left Okaukuejo around noon and drove the 70 kilometers on my own. I bought a map at Okaukuejo, which showed where the water holes were, and I stopped at every one on the way and stopped at every interesting bird and animal. The nice aspect of the self drive is you choose when to stop and for how long. You cannot get out of the car except at the camps and a few gated rest stops along the way.
I got to Halali around 5:30 p.m. The gate closes at 6 p.m., so you have to be aware of the time and distance when you are self-driving. There are many road signs with the distances on them, which helps you gauge and plan your arrival. The campsite at Halali was half filled when I arrived, so I had a decent choice of spots. They allowed you to pick any spot and it was not necessary to come back and let them know which camping spot you occupied. Once my camp was set up, I hit the water hole, and enjoyed two rhinos playfully fighting.
Night four – Namutoni
Namutoni is also 70 kilometers from Halali, so this day played out almost exactly like the day before. I self-drove taking my sweet time, stopping at water holes, and any interesting animal sightings. Then I set up camp and enjoyed the water hole. At Namutoni, a camp manager told you where to camp. At both campsites, I grilled meat I bought before entering the park, so I not only self-drove, but I also did a self-braai.
Namutoni game drive
On my last morning, I booked a morning safari with the park. On my two self drives, I had seen no lions or rhinos, so I fired myself as guide and let the park take over. What is nice about doing a safari with the park is it starts an hour before they open the gates. This really worked to our advantage as we saw a small pride of lions right next to the road, and we enjoyed them without another car. When we left, about five other cars had joined to watch, and the lions left and headed towards the bush.
Drove back to Windhoek,Trans Kalahari Inn, and return of the car
I drove back towards Windhoek and stayed at the Trans Kalahari Inn. I highly recommend this place as it is close to the airport and has a wonderful restaurant. If there is one thing I would do over is I would rent a different car. My car was a standard Toyota.
It is not necessary to have a 4X4 in Etosha; however, there are some rocky stretches, and I think having a car that sits a little higher up is preferable. I hit a rock, and I was concerned that I caused some damage. I got a car wash on the way back, in hopes they would not scrutinize the car too much. They barely looked at the car when I returned the keys, so everything turned out great.
Book lodging in advance
The park makes it super easy to book lodging in advance with a well laid out website. I booked two weeks before my trip. Only one chalet was left at Okaukuejo, and the campsite was fully booked, so I lucked out. There were plenty of openings at Halali and Namutoni. You can make your bookings here with NWR. I made my booking with Etosha Safari Lodge on Hotels.com. All the safari drives I booked when I got there.
Etosha National Park Namibia is an adventure of a lifetime
Etosha National Park lived up to the hype. I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure here. No matter how you choose to attack the safari here, you will have an amazing experience. I highly recommend staying inside the park for at least one night as bringing the beverage of your choice down to the water hole is an experience that cannot be beat and cannot be done outside the park.