Etosha National Park, Namibia
Adventure Travel Ideas Africa Namibia

A self-drive Namibia safari in Etosha National Park

Namibia holidays will deliver the Africa travel landscapes and wildlife of your dreams while at the same time challenging your imagination. And self drive Namibia travel is an amazing way to experience Etosha National Park.

Etosha is in northwestern Namibia and it’s 22,270 square kilometres in area, dominated by a 130 x 50 km saltpan, but also with desert, savannah and woodland landscapes. There are 114 mammal species present in the park and over 340 species of birds at different times of the year.

That’s the statistics but the best thing to know about Etosha is that it offers the best chance of seeing the Big Five on a Namibia safari, and maybe even highly-endangered African wild dogs. The safe waterhole viewing areas near Etosha’s luxury camping in Namibia are magical places to watch the sunset and experience breathtaking wildlife moments.

This African wildlife park is one where you don’t need to pay for a tour but can go on your own self-drive Namibia safari – in a hire car in my case. There are three campgrounds within Etosha that have swimming pools and waterholes where you can view wildlife in the evening, as well as a range of lodge accommodation. Check the visitors’ book for reports from recent visitors of the best places to see wildlife.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Spend two or three days going out for drives in the early morning and late afternoon. I visited picturesque waterholes scattered with pretty islands and elegant dead trees. I saw shedloads of springbok, beautiful zebra very close to the car, giraffes eating near the gate of the park and Black Faced Impala. There were quite a few young animals about also, always a bonus.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

Gemsbok or Oryx with their huge horns look like the Push-me-Pull-You from Doctor Dolittle when standing back to back. Solid Kudu, ostriches and whiskered warthogs join the fun at the waterhole. Giraffes rock up from the empty plain, spread their forelegs and bend low to drink. Suddenly the circus starts and quickly retreats. A lion approaches to drink and all wait for him to finish and move on before returning to their fun.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

On one drive a lion walked right across the road in front of the car. He had his eye on some distant giraffe as he padded away, stopping and scenting and looking again. On another day a big male lion settled down to rest after a successful hunt and a big feed. See the blood around his chops.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

At the end of the day the typical skyline is of trees silhouetted against a band of golden orange light in the sky. Orange that fades to gold, then to pale lavender, then to the dusky blue of an almost night sky. The colours finally melt away and the evening star appears. Then the rest of the constellations appear as faint pinpricks through a dark sheet. Leave the flysheet off your tent and enjoy the magnificent night sky of Africa. And the sound of jackals howling in the bushes.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

You can drive out onto the Etosha saltpan – I went about one kilometre into the saltpan and looked out into the khaki nothingness. My feet sank into the crazy-paving cracks of the slimy mud. The algae floating on the surface of patches of standing water threw delicate colours and reflections.

Etosha National Park, Namibia

It is difficult to choose but the most beautiful sunset was at Okaukuejo Camp. The waterhole with fenced off viewing area is right beside the camp and the flaming sky silhouetted a tree, the reflecting pool, a wooded skyline and great banks of clouds.Etosha National Park, Namibia

When to visit Etosha National Park

As with many places I’ve travelled, choosing the best time to go to Etosha National Park is a matter of weighing up personal comfort with scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities. The temperatures in this part of Namibia are going to be most pleasant, especially at night, from April to September. During this time the landscape of Etosha gets increasingly dry and while this may not be to everyone’s taste, it is the best for wildlife viewing. More and more animals gather to the shrinking waterholes, whereas in the wetter months they disappear into the vastness of Etosha. For bird watching the wetter summer months are best with migratory birds arriving to wade in the shallow waters of the Etosha salt pan.

Remote and starkly beautiful, Namibia travel offers a dramatically different experience to that found in its neighbouring countries, Botswana and South Africa. Which is why Namibia safaris are one of the most in-demand safari holidays in southern Africa.

By Natasha von Geldern

Have you been to Etosha National Park in Namibia? Where’s your favourite African safari destination?

Self drive safari in Etosha National Park Namibia

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  1. This looks beautiful! My father in law is trying to get me to go to Namibia! Your post helps his case 😉

  2. Sooo beautiful! I have a strange connection to Namibia, which I’ll tell you another time lol. But I’ve still never been!

  3. Incredible photos – I really want to get to Africa someday…if I had a bucket list that would be near the top.

  4. Those landscapes are awesome! Looks like you got super close to the animals as well!

  5. I spent five weeks in Namibia a while ago and absolutely loved it. I wouldn’t say it was the best African country for the wildlife, as there is so much desert, but the landscapes are breathtaking!

  6. These animals are incredible.

  7. Incredible photos! I have always felt nervous about travel in Africa… but seeing that other (female) travellers have done it, makes me feel a little better about it

    • Natasha von Geldern

      I wouldn’t travel solo as a female in Africa but with a friend (male or female) yes. I travelled through southern Africa independently for 3 months, camping in most places, and had no problems… until the last week in Cape Town when I went on a tour of the Cape Flats townships. The tour was held up and my camera stolen 🙁

  8. Some beautiful safari photos here – thanks for sharing!

  9. Hello,
    Loving all your posts on Namibia. I plan to visit this gorgeous country sometimes next year and I’m making notes based on your experiences. Can you please update your posts on how much did it cost to, say, rent the car, how to get there, lodging, food etc? That’d really help someone looking for specific information, like me 🙂

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