Our Travel Guide to Etosha National Park

We spent three of our days in Etosha, which is Namibia’s most famous national park. Here’s our extensive review of the park, including our ultimate list of animal sightings at more than 35 water holes!

General Advice for Etosha

  • NEVER (!) get out of the car outside of the fenced campsites and picnic stops. There are too many predators around, and many of them are extremely well camouflaged.
  • If you see a safari vehicle stopping, turning, and driving into the other direction with high speed, they’re probably driving towards a really cool animal.
  • Lots of tourist cars on the side of the road  = lion, leopard, or cheetah nearby.
  • You can find a book with animal sightings at the office buildings of the campsites and the gates.
  • Leopards and cheetahs are most difficult to spot. 

Game Drive Safari in Etosha

Before we entered Etosha, we stayed a night at Toshari Lodge, which is located 40km South of the park entrance. The apartments and the main building with the bar, the pool, and the dinner hall are tastefully designed with African Chic. The barbeque dinner also perfectly catered to the taste of luxury tourism, with a wide meat selection to chose from and a really cool dance performance by the staff. Nonetheless, we felt a little bit more at home on the campsites than in the luxury environment of the lodge.

Our first activity in the morning was a half-day game drive organized by the Lodge. This is how a game drive in Etosha works: You sit in an open vehicle, either alone or with a larger group. You start early in the morning (for us at 7:00) and basically drive from water hole to water hole (while staying on the normal roads). Your friendly and knowledgeable guide explains a bit about the different animals, and is also in contact with the other safari guides to find out which animal is at which water hole. You spend lots of time at each of the water holes to ensure that really everyone in your group has taken enough photos of the animals.

Our conclusion is that we wouldn’t book a game drive in Etosha again. You can easily just drive from water hole to water hole on your own, and then you can set your own pace. You only need to know where to find which animals… but hey, if you’re actually planning to go to Etosha, today is your lucky day! We took notes of all the water holes; so if you follow our list, you’ll find all the animals you want to see.

Our guide to Etosha’s water holes

Life in Etosha is centered around the water holes. Especially near the end of the dry season in September and October, most animals stay close to the water holes. Elephants, zebras, lions, antelopes, giraffes… We were blown away by the number and variety of animals we encountered at the water holes. Here’s our ultimate list of animal sightings at Etosha’s waterholes:

Etosha Water Holes South-East of Okaukuejo

  • Ombika Water Hole
    • (Oct. 6, 2018, early morning): zebras, springboks, guinea fowls (safari guide: “The road runners of Africa”)
    • (Oct 6, 2018, noon): zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, springboks
  • Anderson Drive (Oct. 6, 2018, early morning): giraffes, zebras, springboks, ostriches, eagles
Eagles at Etosha National Park
Eagles at Anderson Drive, a 6km detour from the main road.
  • Nebrowni Water Hole
    • (Oct. 6, 2018, morning): single elephant, zebras, ostriches, oryx, springboks, giraffes
    • (Oct 6. 2018, afternoon): single elephant, zebras, ostriches, oryx, springboks, jackal
    • The lions that we saw at Gemsbokvlakte frequently show up at Nebrowni as well
Animals at Nebrowni Waterhole in Etosha
All the other animals had lots of respect for the elephant. Righly so! If they came to close, the elephant chased them away with a targeted water jet from its nozzle.
  • Gemsbokvlakte Water Hole (Oct. 6, 2018, morning): 4 lions eating a zebra, zebras, jackals, springboks, impalas, vultures. The lioness has three cubs that usually hide in the bushes.
Lions eating a Zebra at Etosha, Namibia
Zebra snack for the lions that live between Nebrowni and Gemsbokvlakte.
Etosha Zebras
These zebras had more luck than their companion.
  • Olifantsbad Water Hole (Oct. 6, 2018, morning): kudus, oryx, zebras, springboks, impalas, secretary bird. As the name suggests, this water hole is frequently used by elephants as well. There’s a picnic site with a functioning toilet near the water hole.
Secretary Bird in Etosha, Namibia
The secretary bird is one of the most bad-ass birds in Africa. It preys on snakes and lizards and stuns them by stomping on them with its large legs.
  • Aus Water Hole (Oct 6., 2018, noon): orys, kudus, springboks, impalas. If you’re lucky, you can also see a leopard that lives in the bushes around the waterhole.
Kudu Antelopes at Etosha, Namibia
Kudu antelopes at the Aus waterhole. No leopard around = lucky kudus.
  • Okaukuejo Water Hole (Oct. 6, 2018, noon): elephant, zebras, springboks. We also saw an elephant herd on the way to the waterhole in the morning.
Elephant herd crossing the road in Etosha, Namibia
The elephant herd crossing the road was the highlight of our game drive.
Elephant herd in Etosha
  • Ondongab Water Hole (Oct. 6, 2018, afternoon): dried out
Etosha Bustard
The bustard is the largest flying bird in Africa.
  • Kapupuhedi Water Hole (Oct 6, 2018, afternoon): dried out, bustard
  • Homob Water Hole (Oct 6, 2018, afternoon): no animals. Road (4km) is in bad condition.
  • Gonob Water Hole: Can’t be reached from the road

Etosha Water Holes North of Okaukuejo

  • Wolfsnes Water Hole (Oct. 6, 2018, noon): dried out, springboks
  • Okondeka Water Hole (Oct. 6, 2018, noon): wildebeests, ostriches, vultures, springboks
Etosha Wildebeest
Wildebeests doing their thing. The white area in the background is the Etosha Pan.
  • Adamax Water Hole (Oct. 6, 2018, noon): dried out, springboks
  • Natco Water Hole (Oct. 6, 2018, noon): dried out, springboks
  • Leeubron Water Hole (Oct 6, 2018, noon): dried out

Water Holes in East Etosha

We didn’t visit East Etosha. Any comments about sightings warmly welcomed.

Etosha Water Holes around Halali Camp

  • Sueda, Charitshaub, Salvadora Water Holes (Oct. 6, 2018, afternoon): 4 lions sleeping under a tree at Charitshaub, another large male lion drinking from the waterhole. Road in terrible condition, but more than worth it. Large elephant herd on the way to the waterhole. Lots of game in the area around the three waterholes (wildebeests, zebras, springboks, ostriches).
Etosha Lioness
The lioness was lying under a tree less than 5 meters away from us.
Etosha lions
Lions sleep more than 20 hours a day.
Etosha Lion
What a beautiful lion!
The king of Charitshaub water hole.
  • Rietfontein Water Hole (Oct 6, 2018, late afternoon): kudus, giraffes, marabous
  • Moringa Water Hole (Halali)
    • (Oct. 6, 2018, late evening): elephant herd, giraffe, jackal, rabbit, owl. After the elephants left, 3 hyenas showed up.
    • (Oct. 7, 2018, morning): zebras, impalas, kudus, guinea fowls
Guinea Fowls at a Waterhole in Etosha
Guinea fowls = African road runners
  • Helio Water Hole (Oct. 7, morning): dried out
  • Nuamses Water Hole (Oct. 7, morning): dried out
  • Etosha Lookout (Oct 7., noon): wildebeest, ostriches. Great view of the Etosha Pan.
  • Noniams Water Hole (Oct. 7, noon): zebra, impala.
Impalas at Etosha, Namibia
A male and a female impala antelope.
  • Goas Water Hole (Oct. 7, noon): Wow, what a cool water hole! A leopard was sitting on a tree on the drive between the two ponds. On the water hole, we saw a large elephant herd, jackals, ducks, an eagle, and impalas.
Leopard at Etosha National Park, Namibia
What a beautiful cat!
Etosha Elephants
Aren’t they cute?
Eagle at Etosha Waterhole
Eagles are thirsty, too.
  • Springbokfontein Water Hole (Oct. 7, afternoon): giraffe, single elephant, zebras, wildebeest, springbok, kudu, impalas, oryx. 
    The toilet near Springbokfontein is out of work because the fences were destroyed by elephants (i.e. it’s not safe to get out of the car).
  • Okerfontein Water Hole (Oct. 7, afternoon): Single elephant, ostriches. The toilet near Okerfontein is also out of work.
Giraffe Namibia
Svenja’s favorite African animal

Etosha Water Holes near Namutomi Camp

  • Kalkheuwel (Oct. 7, afternoon): Male lion, zebras, impalas
Lion at Kalkheuwel Waterhole, Etosha
The lion at Kalkheuwel Waterhole.
  • Koinachas Water Hole (Oct 7., afternoon): Zebras, giraffe
Zebras at Koinachas Waterhole
Zebras at Koinachas Waterhole
Giraffe at Etosha, Namibia
Can you spot the giraffe? 🙂
  • Chudob Water Hole (Oct. 7, late afternoon): zebras, kudus, oryx, springbok, impala
Ostriches
An ostrich family with chicks, spotted between Koinachas and Namutoni
  • King Nehale Water Hole (Namutoni)
    • (Oct. 7, evening – 8:30PM): Elephant herd munching on the reed, bats
    • (Oct 8, morning): No animals
Elephants at the King Nehale Water Hole.
  • Klein Namutoni Water Hole + Dik Dik Drive
    • (Oct. 7, afternoon): Giraffes, zebra, springbok, oryx, impala, jackal
    • (Oct 8, afternoon): Leopard, giraffes, zebra, springbok, vultures, marabou, jackal
    • The leopard can frequently be observed at the waterhole. It usually sits in a tree approx. 100-200m into the Dik Dik drive. Just watch out for a large crowd of cars… 😉 
Klein Namutoni has the highest density of giraffes in the park.
Unlikely friends: Vultures and a marabou .
Etosha Jackal
Jackals often scavenge the kills of other predators. If you see a jackal, there might be lions or leopards around.
  • Klein Okevi Water Hole
    • Oct. 7, late afternoon: Pale chanting goshawk
    • Oct. 8, morning: No animals
    • You can often see cheetahs in the area between Namutoni and Klein Okevi
The hawk was probably also looking for cheetahs, just like us.
  • Groot Okevi Water Hole
    • Oct. 7, late afternoon: springboks
    • Oct. 8, morning: warthogs, guinea fowls
Etosha Warthogs
The only warthogs we saw in Etosha (except of one more on the Pan’s Edge Drive). We later saw lots of warthogs at the Waterberg Plateau, though.
  • Pan’s Edge Drive (Oct. 8, morning): Giraffes, snake, warthog, springboks, impalas, oryx, ostriches. Possibly good for cheetahs as well.
  • Tsumcor (Oct. 7, late afternoon): Giraffes, zebras
Giraffes at Tsumcor Waterhole, Namibia
Hello giraffes!
  • Aroe Water Hole (Oct. 8, noon): dried out
  • Twee Palms Water Hole (Oct. 8, noon): springbok. Other tourists have spotted a leopard here before.
  • Fischer’s Pan Drive (Oct. 8, noon): Lions, 4 cheetahs!, giraffes, kudu, impala, ostriches, wildebeest, zebra, springboks
Cheetahs at Etosha, Namibia
The cheetah mother with her 3 teenage cubs was sitting under a tree approx. 800m before Namutoni camp.
Cheetahs at Etosha, Namibia
Apparently, the cheetahs love this tree: Another tourist spotted them in the same place several days before.
Cheetahs at Etosha, Namibia
Andreas’ favorite African animals
Cheetahs at Etosha, Namibia
Cheetah siblings

Rhinos in Etosha National Park

You might have noticed that we didn’t report any rhino sightings. In fact we saw rhinos at 5 different occasions, but the park asks everyone NOT to report rhino sightings. Even within the well-guarded perimeters of the park, rhinos are a main target for poachers. So please don’t help the poachers: If you post a rhino photo online, don’t specify where exactly you saw it. 

Etosha Rhino
The 1,750 black rhinos at Etosha National Park make up one third of the world’s black rhino population.

You can read more about Etosha’s anti poaching measures here: Scorpion Hill Puts A Sting in Etosha’s Poaching Pandemic

If you want to support rhino conservation and anti poaching in Namibia, Save the Rhino Trust Namibia is grateful for your donation. SRT has been working to save Namibia’s rhinos since 1982, and will use your donation to fund field patrols, research, and education for local communities to acknowledge the unique value of the Namibian rhinos.

This rhino really enjoyed the fresh water. <3

Camping in Etosha National Park

There are several campsites in Etosha. Both Dolomite Resort and Olifantsrus in Western Etosha were booked out already 3 months before we went to Namibia. Okaukuejo, Halali, and Namutoni are the most frequented campsites, and each have their “own” waterhole that can be visited by foot from the campsite compound. We stayed at Halali and Namutoni. We strongly recommend booking the campsites early in advance.

Halali Camp is located in the center of the Etosha National Park. We found it to be a nice, relatively large campsite. Lots of squirrels run around on the camp ground and fight for the breadcrumbs of the visitors. The campsite has a nice pool and you can buy wi-fi vouchers at the reception.

The waterhole is spectacular. In the evening, we watched an elephant herd drink. It’s awesome to see how well they take care of their young ones – there are always other elephants close-by that clearly take turns to watch the young ones. After the elephants left, a group of hyenas came to drink; and after the hyenas left, a poor giraffe that had been waiting for more than 30 minutes finally got to drink as well.

A banded mongoose at Namutoni camp.

Namutoni was once a fortified army station of the German Schutztruppe. On the campsite’s premises, you can still see “Fort Namutoni” and a history museum that educates about the park and the history of the fort.

Namutoni campsite is a little bit smaller than Halali. Instead of squirrels, it has a large population of banded mongoose (mungo) that are really entertaining to watch.

Fort Namutoni
Fort Namutoni can be visited free of charge

OUR TRAVEL ROUTE FOR THE ENTIRE TRIP

Etosha was clearly our favorite station in 2.5 weeks of Namibia. If you want to learn what else we experienced in Namibia, check out our travel route for the entire trip – including reviews of the most exciting places!

If you also spotted some cool animals in Etosha, feel free to post them in the comment section! Please don’t post any rhino sightings, though. I’ll try to keep the list updated.

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