The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Namibia is vast desert landscape. Now although this is mostly true, the one place that really would prove that Namibia has more to offer than just the Namib Desert is the Etosha National Park, the perfect place to experience a true African safari holiday.

Beauty on Display

Situated in the northern part of Namibia, the Etosha National Park was the world’s largest reserve up until 1960 when political pressure reduced the reserve from 100 000 square kilometres to its current size, an area that covers more than 22 000 square kilometres. But even after the tremendous downsize it’s still a very popular African National Park.

Apart from the amazing scenery and the beautiful nature on display in Etosha the park also has an excellent infrastructure that makes a daytrip so much more exciting. Its three rest camps, Halali, Namutoni and Okaukuejo, are connected by well-maintained gravel roads and have restaurants, stores, swimming pools, as well as chalets, camping sites and hotels available.

The pan

Etosha means “Great White Place”. Its name is derived from the massive endorheic salt pan that covers around 25% of the park and spreads over a surface of around 120 square kilometres, its only source of water being the Ekuma River.

Thousands of years ago the Etosha pan was a lake fed by the Kunene River, but the river’s course changed and consequently the lake dried up, leaving a large depression of salt and dusty clay. The Etosha pan is an image of scorched earth and seems completely devoid of any life except for the water on its outskirts.

This unique area’s characteristic white and greenish surface serves as a breeding ground for flamingos during the rainy season, when the Etosha pan becomes a shallow lake with a depth of approximately 10 cm. The rare sight of thousands of flamingos covering the pan like a pink blanket attracts many tourists and photographers every year.

The wildlife

Game viewing in the Etosha Park really is terrific. With so many watering holes on the outskirts of the Etosha pan, chances are good that you’ll see more than flamingos. The Etosha pan provides plenty of water for wildlife in the park, which includes elephants, giraffes, rhinos, lions and many buck species to name just a few. For the more blessed visitors there might also be a chance of getting a glimpse at the shy cheetahs and leopards.

More than game

Although the saying “rules are meant to broken” sounds very provocative, a cautionary note would be that the Etosha National Park absolutely forbids any visitors to leave their vehicle once outside the fenced-in camps. Though this is the norm at any national park, the price paid for ignoring this rule could very likely be a hefty one.

There are two very good reasons for this. The first reason is for your own protection, because animals get frightened by people but not by their vehicles. A frightened animal is an unpredictable animal and therefore a dangerous animal.

The second reason is for the protections of Africa’s endangered species. The government is trying to prevent poaching. The park is a mere one hundred kilometres away from the Namibian borders, and the South African Defence Force performs training in the park in the hope of deterring or capturing poachers. Therefore anybody not in their vehicles could be mistaken for a poacher and be shot on sight. Now although this might seem drastic and even hard to believe, it has had a considerable affect, reducing poaching incidents in this area, a reason good enough to continue with this practice. Not only to save our wildlife but also to keep visitors from breaking the rule for their own protection.

Now although you might be asking yourself why you would want to go on an African safari where there is a chance of your life being in danger, you can rest at ease, the actual chances of this happening are very small. The park has gone to extreme measures to prevent any harm to any visitor and since poaching happens mostly at night there is no need for alarm.

An African safari holiday

The only thing that you would have to concern yourself with is spotting the exciting game and animal interactions that take place on a safari drive, and whether you have enough sun cream!

On the back of a Land Rover 4×4 you will drive through the beauty that is the Etosha Park. From bushy green areas to the scorched Etosha Pan, the Etosha National Park is all that and more for the ideal African Safari.