Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park, the ‘Great White Place of Dry Water’, takes in approximately 20, 000 sq km surrounding its namesake, the vast white and greenish-coloured Etosha Pan. This vast park protects 114 mammal species, as well as 340 bird species, 16 reptiles and amphibians, one fish species and countless insects.

The first Europeans in Etosha were traders and explorers John Andersson and Francis Galton, who arrived by wagon at Namutoni in 1851, but Etosha didn’t attract the interest of tourists or conservationists until after the turn of the 20th century, when the governor of German South-West Africa, Dr F von Lindequist, became concerned over diminishing animal numbers and founded a 99, 526-sq-km reserve. In subsequent years, the park boundaries were altered several times, and by 1970 Etosha had been pared down to its present 23, 175 sq km.

Only the eastern two-thirds of Etosha is open to the general public; the western third is reserved exclusively for tour operators. All roads in the eastern section are passable to 2WD vehicles and it’s in this area that you’ll find the rest camps. Each of the three rest camps has an information centre, and the staff and shops at either of the main gates sell maps and provide basic information.

Visitors must check in at Von Lindequist or Andersson and purchase a daily permit, which costs US$3.50/0.30 per adult/child and US$2.50 per vehicle. The permits must then be presented at your reserved rest camp, where you pay any outstanding camping or accommodation fees, which must be prebooked through a travel agency or the NWR in Windhoek.

Book well in advance for visits during Namibian or South African school holidays (normally mid-December to mid-January, around Easter, late July to early August, and for two weeks in mid-October). During this period you may be limited to three nights in each of the three camps, although exceptions can sometimes be made. Note that pets and firearms are prohibited in the park. Those booked into the rest camps must arrive before sunset and can only leave after sunrise; the daily times are posted on the gates.

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