Covering 8,600 square miles in northwestern Namibia, Etosha National Park offers a premier wildlife viewing experience. The park’s diverse landscape ranges from dense woodlands and dolomite hills to vast plains, attracting a variety of wildlife.
Perhaps the park’s most famous feature is the shimmering salt flat of the Etosha Pan. Encompassing a quarter of the park’s land, the Etosha Pan is the remnant of an ancient lake. When it evaporated 3 million years ago, the lake left behind salts that turned the soil white. In fact, the name “Etosha” comes from a word in the local Oshindonga language that means “great white place.”
Nowadays, the Etosha Pan fills with water only after summer rains, when shallow saline waters attract large flocks of pelicans and colorful flamingos to this dramatic landscape.
Etosha is dry through most of the year, and no river runs through it to sustain wildlife. (Hwange in Zimbabwe is the only other African national park without a river in its boundaries.) Nonetheless, the park boasts some of the tallest elephants in Africa, as well as giraffes, rhinos, lions, leopards, caracals, brown and spotted hyenas, aardwolves, meerkats, plains and mountains zebras, and a wide variety of antelopes, from tiny Damara dik-diks to imposing oryxes.
Much of this diversity is thanks to natural springs and waterholes throughout the park that animals flock to during dry weather.
Overall, Etosha has 114 mammals, 110 reptiles, and more than 340 bird species. There’s a lot to see in this park!