Sunset is a magical time to visit Etosha's waterholes.

Luxury Safaris in Etosha

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.

When to Go

Etosha has similar seasons to the rest of Namibia’s interior, which makes the cooler winter months the ideal time to plan your luxury Etosha safari. Watching wildlife at one of the waterholes dotted around the pan is an even more intense experience during these very dry months, as the animals and birds have no other options when it comes to quenching their thirst. Add in crisp mornings, cool evenings and majestic starlit skies, and it’s easy to see why winter is many people’s preferred time to visit Etosha.

Although less popular, Namibia’s summer can also be a rewarding time for a luxury Etosha safari. While the game disperses when more water is available, any rains that fall can cause magical transformations as water pools and green shoots emerge. Luxury Namibian safari lodges – many of which are quieter, and offer discounts during the summer months – have many tactics for helping you adapt to the heat, and air-conditioning and swimming pools help greatly. Even in the hottest months, mornings and evenings are pleasantly cool, fine for safaris.

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