Etosha National Park - The perfect introduction to the North

Etosha National Park - The perfect introduction to the North

01 July 2019 | Tourism

Frank Steffen & NWR

The Etosha pan has been designated as a World Wildlife Fund Ecoregion and it goes without saying that this game park would be the ideal entry point before- or alternatively it could be your final destination after you return from a visit to the so-called Northern Communal Areas - especially if you made a point of exploring the four O-Regions reported about in more detail in this magazine.

Readers may be reminded that the Etosha Pan was once inhabited by the San-people and for that matter later also by the various Oshivambo tribes found in the Omusati-, Oshana- and Oshikoto regions. Much of these cultures and their heritage is deeply imbibed with experiences and history relating to active wild life dating back centuries. The names of the water holes and various other viewpoints in Etosha thus invariably carry names, which relate to a specific happening or part of history.

The Etosha National Park is unique in Africa. Its Pan is a vast, bare and open expanse of shimmering green and white that covers around 4 800km² - almost a quarter of the beautiful Etosha National Park. At 130 kilometres in length and being up to 50 kilometres wide, it is comfortably the largest salt pan in Africa and is the park’s most distinctive and dramatic feature, visible even from space. The pan was originally a lake but over time the earth’s climate forced the rivers that once fed the lake, to change course and flow into the Atlantic Ocean (the Kunene River being the most substantial one). The dry baked alkaline clay marks along its borders gives you an indication of where the lake’s banks were once to be found.

In the language of the Oshivambo dialect, Etosha means “great white place”, a name passed on to the first Europeans, who came across this “immense hollow” as Sir Francis Galton and Charles Andersson called it back in 1851. The area was originally inhabited by the Heli/ Om-people, who were well known hunter gatherers and co-existed in harmony with huge herds of wildlife in the area. When the European explorers got to know the pan in 1851 they ultimately reached the cattle post Omutjamatunda, which is today called Namutoni.

Namutoni

The best-known camp is Namutoni, which was originally built as a German fort. Namutoni Camp has a unique atmosphere and within the fort you will find ample facilities and a variety of accommodation. From the walls of the fort you can enjoy an elevated view of the King Nehale Waterhole allowing for great game viewing without leaving the camp. Its original fortifications allow for excellent sundowners. The camp is accessible via the Von Lindequist Gate on the east side of the park. Namutoni was originally established as a control post against animal diseases during the BSE-epidemic of 1897 with the German Schutztruppe later building a fort in 1902/03, which was rebuilt in 1906 after the Ovambo destroyed the original building. Fort Namutoni was declared a national monument in 1950 and was opened to tourism in 1957.

Halali

In an otherwise flat area Halali Camp is perched between a few hills and kopjes. The prevalent thicker vegetation makes this area ideal for leopard, rhino and elephant. Situated halfway between Namutoni and Okaukuejo the Halali Rest Camp centrally located in close proximity of some of the most popular waterholes of the Etosha National Park. A short walk will take you to the camp’s floodlit waterhole with excellent day and night game viewing.

Okaukuejo

Famous for its floodlit waterhole, the Okaukuejo rest camp is also the administrative centre of Etosha. The waterhole is a hub of animal activity starting in the early hours of the morning. Especially during winter diversity of game congregate in close proximity to the camp to quench their thirst and regular visits by the endangered black rhino, elephants and lions are sure to delight visitors.

Similar to Namutoni this site formerly served as military outpost in 1901, while the lookout- tower was added in 1963. Located in the south of Etosha National Park, Okaukuejo is only 17 kilometres from Anderson Gate, which leads to Outjo. It offers a wide range of accommodation as well as all the necessities such as a petrol station and a shop. The restaurant and bar offer refreshments and delicious meals, while the swimming pool offers relief on hot days.

Dolomite Camp

Etosha’s new and exclusive Dolomite Camp opens up the restricted western side of the park to a limited number of visitors. Guests are accommodated in permanent luxury tents with an elevated view of the endless plains of Etosha National Park in Namibia. The wildlife has developed without human disturbance and rare species such as black rhino and black-faced impala have established themselves in the area. The area is rich in waterholes that attract elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, springbok, gemsbok and red hartebeest. The birdlife is prolific and the seasonal flowers of Dolomite Hill are a highlight for botanists. Game drives in the area allow for exclusive game viewings as the area is still restricted. Experienced and knowledgeable guides will take you through this pristine area and to the many waterholes, where game roams uninhibited. Dolomite’s guests have access to western Etosha through Galton Gate, which is found along the C35 road leading from Kamanjab to Ruacana.

Olifantsrus Camp

Olifantsrus is Etosha’s newest camp and the first accommodation option in the park to offer a camping only experience, allowing you to feel that little bit closer to the incredible African bush all around you. Situated in the more remote and previously less-utilized western section of the park, Olifantsrus is approximately 60kms from Galton Gate, 130kms from Okaukuejo and 50kms from Dolomite Camp. Rare and shy species such as black rhino and black-faced impala are well-established in this quieter part of the park, but elephant sightings are just as regular, hence the camp’s name.

Olifantsrus Camp consists of 10 camp sites with a maximum group of 8 people per site. The camp’s picturesque picnic facilities are also available to visitors coming for the day.

Onkoshi

This exclusive camp is perched on wooden structures well off the public self-drive routes. Onkoshi Camp sits right on the border of the parks characteristic salt pan. Views from the lodge reach far into the horizon and the sunrises and sunsets are simply incredible. Onkoshi is a low-impact camp that runs mainly on solar power. In the remote north-eastern section of the park Onkoshi offers the essential Etosha experience.

The huge salt pan of Etosha gives this national park its unique character. Onkoshi’s 15 free standing chalets face this enormous expanse that is arid in the dry season and attracts a cloud of flamingos when covered in water during the rain season. Morning and afternoon game drives offer exclusive access to the surrounding area and provide excellent photographic opportunities. At night the stars over the Etosha Pan shine incredibly bright enchanting not only the amateur astronomers. The restaurant offers delicious meals and a spacious swimming pool looks out onto the pan.

Guests are picked up from Namutoni Camp which is accessible through Von Lindequist Gate.

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