Etosha is a place where words may fail you, although I think the Ovambo tribespeople of northern Namibia summed it up best: in their language, Etosha means the ‘great white place’.
It’s essentially a giant salt pan that’s almost entirely contained within Etosha National Park. For much of the year, the main pan is dry, with the cracked mud resembling a roughly tiled floor. During the summer, it fills briefly with rainwater, attracting flocks of flamingo and pelican.
Despite the prevailing hot-and-dry conditions, a luxury Etosha safari offers some of the best game viewing in Namibia. A series of waterholes along the pan’s edge provides an essential lifeline to surprisingly large populations of plains game. Predators, too, are drawn to these waterholes in the hope of springing successful ambushes.
An ideal safari day in Etosha would involve a combination of early morning and late afternoon game drives, with spending time ‘waterhole hopping’. That is, pausing at different waterholes and waiting to see which animals and birds come down to drink. The Etosha waterholes rejoice in such wonderful names as Okaukuejo, Okondeka, Halali and Goas and Sueda and Salvadora.
Of course, the greater Etosha ecosystem extends beyond the boundaries of the national park, especially into adjoining private reserves such as Onguma and Ongava, and you can watch wildlife from a hide in both. These are wonderful examples of Namibia’s approach to sustainable ecotourism in collaboration with local communities, and showcase important conservation initiatives, such as the reintroduction of rhino.