The “white ghosts” of Etosha are something that any explorer of Namibia's national park should try and catch a glimpse of. Namibian photographer and elephant lover, Anja Denker, is here to tell you what it is like spending time with these gentle giants and how you can observe and photograph these magnificent creatures.
The Ghosts of Etosha
Photos and words
The great white place
The word Etosha literally means “great white place” as the pan in the middle of the park is a vast expanse of white, salt-laced earth. This soil supports very little plant life except for the blue-green algae that gives Etosha its characteristic coloring.
In the areas where the soil does get wet elephants can be found wallowing, covering their bodies in the mud that forms. This mud then dries into a light (usually) white coat.
The ‘white ghosts’ of Etosha, as I like to call them, can be observed frequenting the Nebrownii waterhole, where the dry white clay dusts their skin and coats the entire elephant in white – often brilliantly offset against the bright blue sky.
It is also a treat to photograph elephants at the Goas waterhole, due to the fact that it is so vast and open and very green especially in the rainy season. Here you can get a fantastic contrast between the blue sky, green vegetation and gentle grey giants.
The startling contrasts of color make for a visual, photographic feast, especially when it comes to the elephants that love to wallow in the water and the distinctly coloured mud. It is not uncommon when visiting Etosha to see these giant animals caked in the dried white mud of the pan.
It wasn’t until October last year that I came across my first ‘green’ elephant. This particular elephant coating himself with the green algae slick of the pan and gaining a distinctly ‘mouldy’ appearance in the process!
Being so used to seeing the typical “white” elephants, this green specimen came as a complete surprise. The lone elephant bull was standing in a patch of blue-green algae at the Springbokfontein waterhole, a contact spring at the edge of the pan.
He was obviously having great fun splashing in the mud and coating himself with the green stuff he had found. His new dye-job really made him stand out in the vastness of the pan, and when a few zebra and blue wildebeest joined him it made for truly unique photo opportunity.
Photography on the pan
There are quite a few challenges when photographing on the Etosha Pan, the most obvious being the harsh light and predominant white background, which poses some real exposure problems. Strangely enough I find that I need to overexpose the shot sometimes, say for instance at midday at a waterhole when the background is bright and the animals are too dark. Of course it is advisable to use the “golden hours “ to full advantage, those being first light early in the morning and then in the late afternoon.
I have managed to get some very decent shots in not so favourable light conditions as well and you'd do well to remember that any challenge forces you to grow. Cloud cover is also great as it softens the light considerably, being a wonderful natural filter.
I like to shoot at eye-level and up but this is not very often possible on the pan due to the animals being lower than the photographer. Except, of course, in the case of an elephant when it is close enough or when you get an animal on a rise and you can shoot against the horizon.
Dust is also a very big challenge in the sense that you really have to protect your gear carefully – it creeps in anywhere!
For the love of elephants
Elephants have always held a fascination for me, not only because of their impressive size, but also for their remarkable intelligence and emotional capacity. They demonstarte these almost human-like traits with their communication habits, mourning rituals, deep sense of family ties and fierce protection of their offspring.
I can remember I was with my daughter in Etosha and a small breeding herd of Elephants approached us from the front. There was plenty of space to move for the elephants so we stayed in our parked car and waited for the approach. The herd moved past our left side where my daughter sat – so close that their skin nearly touched the side of the car. As the herd made its way past us the matriarch lifted the tip of her trunk and briefly touched our side mirror as if in silent acknowledgement of our presence.
You can follow Anja on Facebook or visit her profile here.
Marina Cano is an award winning Spanish photographer who recently spent some time in Namibia. She took several amazing shots of the Land of the Brave and its creatures. We tracked her down and got her to share some of her wisdom and a few of her favourite shots from her trip.
Tell us about your most unforgettable moment while shooting in Namibia.
There were many incredible moments in Namibia, it’s difficult to choose just one. But early one morning we were tracking a young female cheetah, Jacomina. She had been introduced to the wild for just three months. I went with the rangers who were taking care of her while she got used to her new habitat. When we arrived there, she was alone.
Then Jacomina started calling for her cubs. After a few minutes, the ranger's became anxious because the cubs did not come. She continued to call them while moving around the area. We were on foot and followed her cautiously in the distance almost without breathing. After what felt like an eternity, two adorable cubs came running towards her. I could see a big smile and relief on all faces. Everything seemed to be much more beautiful even more sunny. At sunset the same day we found them relaxing in the bush- all three of them were lit up by the last rays of the sun. The mixture of shadows and light spilling onto them was just awesome.*
*This picture appears below so keep on reading!
Every destination has its challenges and rewards; how does Namibia compare to other places you’ve photographed?
Traveling in the winter, I had many opportunities to witness and observe a diversity of animals in large numbers at the many different waterholes. Sunsets were those magical moments that all photographers dream about. Every evening was a gift (sometimes it felt like I was having a romantic date with elephants, giraffes, rhinos, birds…) Simply put, it is nature at its best.
I felt comfortable, safe and also fulfilled with the spirit of adventure in Namibia.
The challenge is to make sure that you are at the waterholes close to the lodges in Etosha when the light starts to become precious in the golden hours of the day. Everyday you need to have a very specific schedule because the distances from the lodges in the parks are far. The Namibian landscape is unique and spectacular, it does not matter where you are; you recognize an image taken in Namibia as soon as you see it.
Which 3 photos shot in Namibia are you most proud of and why?
1. Okaukuejo waterhole at Etosha.
After sunset with giraffes and rhinos drinking, the sky turned into a swirl of reds, oranges and blues... In this picture you can only see the silhouettes in the reflection. I turned the picture upside down, so the sky remained in the bottom, and the silhouettes are in the upright position. The result is ethereal and mysterious.
2. Erindi Private Game Reserve
The curious baby leopard. It was just a miracle that we discovered a leopard cub by chance. The cub was about one month old. After spending over an hour with it, the cub became inquisitive and more confident and allowed us close enough to photograph it. The cubs curious beautiful blue eyes curious looked straight into the camera resulting in this delightful image.
3. Cheetah family in the bushveld
The cold blue environment contrasted with the warm light surrounding their bodies created a magical atmosphere, almost surreal. They came across as very relaxed and at the same time very aware of us. They all looked straight into the camera. I love the baby cheetahs’ faces, looking mildly upset and curious, but feeling very safe close to their mum.
When going on a Namibian photographic expedition, what is your equipment of choice? And what do you never leave home without?
This was my first time in Namibia, I was there for one month exploring and discovering the beauty of this corner of Africa. My equipment: Canon EOS 1DX, Canon EOS MARK IV, Canon 600mm f/4, Canon 300mm 2.8, Canon 100-400mm, Canon 16-35mm, Canon 85mm. Manfrotto tripod.
For this trip, Canon Spain lent me the EOS 1DX camera and the fabulous 600mm lens. All I can say is that I felt extremely lucky because I was able to get very close to the animals when I most needed it. I recommend that you bring two camera bodies so you don't have to change lenses due to there being so much dust in the air.
A photographer friend is desperate to capture the best of Namibia. What top 3 tips would you give them?
1. Winter in Etosha offers a lot of activity at the most waterholes. The best waterholes in my experience are the ones at the lodges, so you don't have to rush up and down when it gets darker. Find a comfortable seating position and be ready to take the most exciting pictures. The weather is wonderful, not too hot in the days and evenings, but for sunrise shots wear warm clothes.
2. Erindi Game Reserve will offer you exciting and different approaches to wildlife photos. You can drive off-road and have really close encounters with the wild. The sunsets are endless, and some of the most beautiful I've ever seen.
3. Book well in advance for Etosha because during high season it gets very busy at the lodges. Spend as much time as you can in the park, every single day is to be treasured. Every minute is magic and you might not want to ever leave. Anyone who wants to join me for my photo safari is very welcome.
You can visit Marina’s website here or check out her Facebook page for more of her work.
Marina Cano is an award winning Spanish photographer who has published two books and is regularly featured in the National Geographic. She has exhibited her work in Korea, South Africa, Cuba, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. When not taking photographs Marina lectures around the globe.
More Photographer Tips
This part of a series of blog post interviews with professional photographers on how to Capture Namibia. Every week we'll be posting tips, tricks and amazing photographs from these impressive photographers.
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So, you want to visit Etosha National Park? Of course you do. It is one of the most highly regarded national parks in Africa. The park has an enormous amount and variety of wildlife and guests are frequently treated to sightings of several rare and endangered animals. If you are going to visit Etosha, you will need a place to over night. This blog will give you the low down on where to stay while you explore this national treasure.
A dazzle of zebra at a waterhole in Etosha.
Staying Inside the Park
Most people start by looking for accommodation inside the park itself. There are only five camps you can stay at that are situated inside the boundaries of the park and they are all run by Namibia Wildlife Resorts. Below is a table of all five of these camps; if you want more info on the camp then simply click the picture next to the description.
Click here for a larger version of this map.
(Map via ENP)
Image via ENP
Closest gate: Either Anderson or Von Lindequist
This camp can be found right smack in the middle of the park. It is surrounded by shade-providing Mopane trees and has a nearby waterhole that allows guests to unobtrusively view game. Rhinos, lions and all manner of creatures frequent the viewing spot- so be sure to bring your camera! Halali has chalets and camping facilities, a bar, swimming pool and a restaurant.
Image via ENP
Closest Gate: Von Lindequist
The building that makes up the bulk of this complex is an old German fort and is the first port of call for most visitors who want to secure driving permits within Etosha. There are also several chalets and double rooms at which guests can stay. An African fusion restaurant, fully stocked bar as well as a flood-lit waterhole should provide enough reason to stay at this camp!
Image via ENP
Closest gate: Anderson Gate
This camp has a wide variety of accommodation options from luxury bush chalets over looking the flood-lit waterhole to family chalets and double rooms. There are also camping facilities as well as a swimming pool, bar and restaurant. The camp is very close to the Anderson Gate and is easy to get to if you use that gate to get into the park. It is the administrative hub of Etosha.
Image via ENP
Closest gate: Galton Gate
Up until recently the western portion of Etosha was closed off to the public. It has just been reopened and so too has the Dolomite Camp (the camp gets its name from the geology surrounding it). This part of Etosha has seen increases in the numbers of black-faced impalas and black rhinos, so be sure to be on the look out for these two large mammals. Beyond this, awesome views and beautiful vegetation make visiting this camp a treat.
Image via ENP
Closest gate: King Nehale
With space for just thirty people this camp is the smallest and most intimate of the five NWR camps in Etosha. Onkoshi is also off all of the major routes and feels more secluded and private than most areas of the park. Each chalet in the camp offers a view of the Pan itself- this should convince you to try book a spot here. Each of the fifteen chalets are double rooms and there is a pool, restaurant and bar.
Staying Outside the Park
If none of the five options within the park really suit your tastes then there is always the option of staying just outside Etosha as there are many different establishments that specialise in providing guests with a springboard into Etosha National Park.
One of the advantages of staying outside of the park is that you are spoiled for choice. From self-catering camping lodges, to luxury lodges with spa’s, we’re sure you will find somewhere that’s perfect for you.
Below we have collected a few options to demonstrate to you how diverse the lodges and camps around Etosha are. If you want more information on any of the camps just click on the picture next to the description.
Etosha Safari Camp
Close to Etosha’s Anderson Gate this unique and quirky lodge is a must for visitors looking for something a little bit different. One of a kind décor and the serene surrounds make this camp the perfect place for young and old alike. It is reasonably priced with both double and single rooms available.
Mondjila Safari Camp
Situated 30km south of the Anderson Gate this camp is well within driving distance of the famous national park. The camp has a laundry service, internet and a beautiful deck for watching the sun set behind the famous Namibian horizon.
Etosha Aoba Lodge
Etosha Aoba Lodge can be found on the Onguma Private Game Reserve. Onguma used to be part of Etosha National Park but it is now privately owned and managed. The Aoba Lodge boasts eleven chalets that are all extremely private. Onguma, and Aoba, can be found on the eastern side of Etosha.
The name of the game at Etosha Village is good value and friendly service. The Village focuses on giving animal lovers easy access to one of the world’s most renowned national parks and is only two kilometres from the Anderson Gate. Game drives through the park can be organised as well.
This lodge is a short four-minute drive from Etosha’s Von Lindequist Gate. The lodge hosts large groups of visitors from around the globe, so look forward to being able to share some stories round the camp fire with your fellow travellers. This lodge is situated on a nature reserve that shares on the border of Etosha.
This lodge is a situated very near the Von Lindequist Gate and is perfectly suited to explorers who are looking for a relaxed, tasteful and serene place to stay. The lodge has a library, a well-stocked wine cellar and a great collection of modern and traditional Namibian and African art.
Eldorado B&B and Camping
This well-priced establishment can be found jminutes from the Anderson Gate. The area is famed for its birdlife and many interesting species have been spotted in and around the camp. Run by the same family for over 60 years Eldorado's focus is on good value and good service.
Epacha Game Lodge and Spa
This lodge is situated a little further from Etosha than the others on this list. However, it is still within an hour’s drive of the massive national park. Epacha boasts a spa and luxury chalets; so if you are looking for wellness and wilderness while visiting Etosha then Epacha is the perfect place for you.
There are only three units at Little Ongava, making it one of the most private and sought-after camps in the whole of Namibia. Be sure to book long in advance if you want to get a spot here. The camp itself is perched on a rocky outcrop that is extremely close Etosha’s Anderson Gate.
For more places to stay outside of Etosha click here.
An Important Reminder
Whether you are staying in the park or outside the park you need to know that you cannot drive around the park in your private vehicle after dark or before sunrise.
Be sure to check what time the day begins and ends before setting off an adventure through Namibia’s largest game park. Always allow enough time to get back to the gate you arrived in at and never, EVER leave your vehicle.
Every animal in Etosha is a wild animal- be safe and enjoy!
Check out some of our other blogs on Etosha National Park:
Open Africa is an organisation that prides itself on promoting sustainable tourism ventures in countries like Namibia. Recently at last week’s Namibian Tourism Expo, Open Africa, in conjunction with the Namibian Tourism Board and the Millennium Challenge Account Namibia, launched three new self-drive routes through Namibia.
Each self-drive route has been carefully planned out to highlight aspects of Namibia that are a little bit less well known to both local and international tourists. This blog post will provide you with an overview of all the experiences you can have on each route (for a detailed itinerary visit our page here or click any of the names of the experiences below).
The Omulunga Palm Route
What you can expect on the Omulunga Palm Route
There are several notable cultural experiences to be had on this tour as many of the local tribes along of this route have a proud history. The Owambo homesteads along the way are reminders of Namibia’s hard-fought liberation struggles as well as its promising future.
Many of the local communities along the route manage conservancies that aim to provide locals with the opportunity to share their traditions, culture and wildlife with visitors.
An Owambo homestead.
Regions the Omulunga Palm Route will take you through
The route takes you on a journey from the arid northwest of the country to the fertile and verdant northeast. It should also be noted that this route also takes travellers down to the world famous Etosha National Park.
Visitors getting close to some game at Etosha.
Experiences on the Omulunga Palm Route
The Roof of Namibia experience is 467km long and roughly runs parallel to the Angolan border in Namibia’s north. The journey traces the Kunene River from the Ruacana Falls across to the Okavango River. The trip takes travellers past several pans and flooded channels. These watery ecosystems are home to a massive amount of birdlife on offer.
The Ruacana Falls.
(Image by Tom Jakobi via Wikicommons)
This part of the Omulunga Palm Route is not just about rural wildlife as there are several urban settlements along the way with attractions such as the Outapi War Museum, Ombalantu Baobab Museum and the Eenhana Shrine.
The mighty Ombalantu Baobab.
(Image via Wikimedia)
This experience is a 641km trail through the culturally rich and unique towns of Oshakati, Ongwediva and Ondangwa. There are also several rural villages that surround these larger towns, so be sure to be on the look out for those!
The major attractions on the King Nehale Experience are the Omugulugwombashe National Monument, Uukwaluudhi Royal Homestead, Uukwambi Kings Monument, Oshakati Open Market, Ongula Traditional Homestead, Nakambale Museum and Lake Oponono. This part of the route also takes you through Etosha National Park. Exploring this world-class National Park is a must-do activity when visiting the Land of the Brave.
A Blue Crane at Lake Oponono.
(Image by Alastair Rae via Wikimedia)
The Arid Eden Route
What you can expect on the Arid Eden Route
This route is a dream come true for travel photographers. As you head away from Swakopmund the arid desert landscapes and the crystal clear skies offer up some of the best photography opportunities in Namibia.
There are several unique locations along this route ranging from ancient rock paintings to modern cultural experiences in the heartland of the Himba people.
A Himba woman looks on.
(Image courtesy of Expert Africa)
Regions the Arid Eden Route will take you through
The Arid Eden Route begins in the coastal town of Swakopmund and runs all the way up to northern border with Angola. Something that makes this route quite special is that it winds through the previously restricted western part of Etosha National Park.
The beach at Swakopmund.
Experiences on the Arid Eden Route
The Welwitchia Experience is 860km long and allows travellers to experience all the excitement of Swakopmund as well as the awe-inspiring Etosha National Park. The route, which is mostly gravelled roads, is well maintained and any car with sufficient ground clearance and sturdy enough axel will be able to navigate it.
A typical gravel road in Namibia.
(Photo by Andreas Seehase via Foto Community)
The Windhoek to Galton Experience is the experience that gives adventurers access to the previously mentioned western part of Etosha via the Galton Gate. The route is 520km in length and as you drive from the capital city to the Galton Gate be sure to keep an eye out for wildlife on the verge of the road.
Explore the western parts of Etosha.
German delicatessens, coffee shops and local butcheries with locally sourced game and beef are also dotted along the route. So be sure to take a bit of time out and pop in to one of these establishments.
If you have time (and are properly prepared!) don’t forget to get off the beaten track and explore some of the landscapes that the route traverses. Massive mountain peaks, unique geological formations, desert-adapted wildlife and never ending horizons abound in these parts of the Land of the Brave.
There is wildlife aplenty on this route!
This trail is for those who seek a bit more adrenaline coursing through their veins. The main attractions on this part of the route are surely the Spitzkoppe and Mount Erongo. These mountains are favourites among both mountain bikers and rock climbers and offer several routes up and down their slopes and faces.
Explorers taking in the Spitzkoppe.
The North West Trail also takes travellers past Namibia’s highest mountain, Brandberg. The area around the huge mountain has over 2000 recorded rock art sites and there are professionally run tours that take tourists to the major sites. Such a tour is a must for anyone interested in the ancient history of Namibia.
An example of some of the rock art you can find in the area.
The foothills of the Brandberg are also home to some of Namibia’s desert-adapted elephants. The region is easily accessible and it is thus it one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of these mighty and rare large mammals.
A young desert-adapted elephant near the Brandberg.
(Image courtesy of the Cardboard Box Travel Shop)
Twyfelfontein (or ǀUi-ǁAis) is another attraction on the North West Trail. It is an official World heritage Site thanks to its numerous petroglyphs and the naturally formed geological wonders like the Organ Pipes and many petrified trees. If you want to explore Twyfelfontein then using the small town of Khorixas is a good idea as it is the last convenient place to stock up with supplies before heading out in the arid northwest.
A unique rock formation near Twyfelfontein.
The Arid Eden Route, as mentioned above, will take you through the heartland of the Himba people of northern Namibia. The Himba Cultural Experience focuses on these unique people and the suggested 443km goes through several homesteads in the area.
The remote Himba settlement at Puros is particularly unique as its massive camel thorn trees provide shelter for all from the unrelenting sun. At Puros there is a supply store where locals and travellers can stock up on essentials like sugar, cooking oil and soap. There is also a billiard table at the store where you can share a conversation and friendly game with some of the Himba people.
A group of Himba cutting loose.
The Four Rivers Route
What you can expect on the Four Rivers Route
The route focuses on getting travellers off the beaten path and the meandering course it takes through the riverine landscape encourages exploration and discovery.
As with the other two routes discussed there are a variety of culturally diverse experiences along the Four Rivers Route. The people of the Zambezi are particularly culturally distinct from the rest of Namibia and this makes this route particularly worthwhile for travellers who have been to Namibia before.
A local homestead in the Zambezi region.
Regions the Four Rivers Route will take you through
This route starts in the northeast at Nkurenkuru and going through the lush Zambezi (formerly Caprivi) region and on to the world-famous Victoria Falls. The regions along this route are crisscrossed with rivers and their tributaries and as such this part of Namibia is verdant and teeming with birdlife, wildlife and surprises.
Experiences on the Four Rivers Route
This part of the Four Rivers Route traces 383km through the lush regions along the Kavango River. Starting at Nkurunkuru in the west and ending at the eastern border post of Mohembo the route allows travellers to experience the birds, people and wildlife of the region up close.
The banks of Kavango River are particularly picturesque.
(Image courtesy of Dr Klaus Dierks)
This route opens up an area for travellers that has only been explored since the nineteenth century and is thus the perfect place for those of you who have the need to explore this lesser seen side of Namibia. The Mahango and Khaudum National Parks on the border of Botswana are also magnificent and are well worth the visit.
Other notable attractions that form part of the Kavango Open Africa Experience include the Mbunza Living Museum, Khaudum National Park, Nyangana Mission, Andara Mission, the Okavango River System and Popa Falls as well as the Mahango National Park.
(Image courtesy of Dr Klaus Dierks)
This experience takes you on an incredible 430km trip through some of the most diverse landscapes and unexpected ecosystems in the Land of the Brave.
One of the most unique parks in the world, Bwabwata National Park, just north of the Okavango Delta is part of this experience. Within in this park there are 5000 residents who live side-by-side with the free-roaming animals in the park.
A hippo at Bwabwata National Park.
(Image via Cardboard Travel Box)
The residents living on this land, thanks to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Namibia, help run and conserve the ecosystem. The local people then derive financial benefits from the tourists visiting the area in what is one of the most innovative and community-orientated conservation programs in the world.
Locals fishing on the Kavango.
The area surrounding the Kwando River is not only famous for it’s free-roaming elephants but it is also one of the best places to go birding in Namibia. The region is home to over 400 species of birds that live in habitats ranging from acacia woodlands and mopane forests, to floodplains filled with plant and animal.
The river banks in this region are full of varied flora and fauna.
The Four Corners Experience is different from all the other experiences on the three routes we have described as it actually takes you out of Namibia and into two of its neighbouring countries, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Your journey will begin at the Ngoma border post and the trip will take you through the Chobe National Park in Botswana. The route will then lead you to where the mighty Zambezi and Chobe rivers merge. The area where these two great rivers converge is famed for its wildlife and luxury lodges.
The Chobe/Zambezi confluence seen from the air.
(Image via Springbok Classic Air)
The final experience on the Four Corner Route will also take you to one of Africa’s truly great wonders: The Victoria Falls on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The awesome Victoria Falls.
(Photo via Wikimedia)
These are just three routes through the vast expanse of Namibia. Remember, you can always create your adventure. If you feel like putting together your very own roadtrip then why not have a look at our other blog posts on self-drive adventures through the Land of the Brave:
Driving Through Etosha
Motorbiking through Namibia
If you want an authentic safari adventure in Namibia then few places are better to visit than Etosha National Park. We have a guide on travelling through the park and today we will be looking at how you can organise your very own camping adventure within, or nearby, the world-renowned park.
First, you need to decide which part of the park you want to be based in or nearby. There are three gates that you can use to enter Etosha: The King Nehale gate in the north, the Von Lindequist gate to the east, and finally the Andersson gate in the south.
Which gate you choose to use to enter the park with is up to you and will probably depend on which part of the country you are travelling to the park from.
Note the gates to the North, East and South.
(Map source Map of Namibia)
Camping in Etosha
This camp’s main reception area was once an old German fort and has since been developed into the primary reception for visitors entering the park. Over the years a fully functioning restaurant and lodge have been added, and more recently Namutoni has also upgraded its camping facilities.
Shade and rest areas are all part of the camping experience at Namutoni.
(Image source Find Trip Info)
The campsite is geared towards self-catering and there is space for you to braai (BBQ) on one of the many communal fire pits. The site also has a good number of toilets and showers so that campers can freshen up after a day’s worth of safari adventures. There are also plug points if you need to charge any gear you may have brought with you.
The campsite is grassy and comfortable.
(Image source Bjusterbaarlik)
One of the best things about camping at Namutoni is that you will have unfettered access to a nearby floodlit watering hole. This enables visitors and keen photographers the chance to catch a glimpse of the park’s nocturnal inhabitants.
You can book by clicking here now.
Halali is located in the middle of the park and may be more attractive to guests looking to remove themselves from the hustle and bustle of the busier camps in Etosha.
The watering hole at Halali is more secluded than the one at Namutoni and feels more private and away from the crowds. It is, like the one at Namutoni, floodlit at night so that you do not miss out on any game viewing opportunities.
Elephants relaxing at the Halali watering hole.
(Image source John van der Woude)
The campsite’s facilities have been highly rated by campers over the years and a nice feature of the site is that there are several Mopane trees that provide shade for campers looking to relax. Shade can be invaluable when the mercury begins to rise in the summer months.
This campsite also has all the amenities one would expect including ablutions, electricity and cooking areas.
You can book by clicking here now.
Camping outside the park
There are a few camping sites a short distance outside of the Etosha’s boundaries. These camps are close enough to the national park to make visiting the famous game reserve extremely easy. Many travellers also remark that these camps, because they are removed from Etosha, are usually a bit quieter and more peaceful than the often busy safari park.
(10 km’s from the Von Lindequist gate)
Onguma is actually a separate game reserve right next to Etosha. This means that guests can choose to explore Onguma’s 34 000 hectres of private game reserve, or go on guided safari drives through the neighbouring Etosha with employees from Onguma.
Rhinos and more await within the park.
(Image source Onguma Game Reserve)
The campsite at Onguma is focussed on striking a balance between comfort and allowing you to feel like you are truly camping in the wilderness. As such each campsite has electricity, toilets and showers.
Running water and electricity are always good things.
(Image source Onguma Game Reserve)
You can also choose to eat at the lodge’s restaurant if you are not interested in cooking for yourself. However, self-catering is encouraged as meals have to be booked in advance if you wish to eat at the restaurant. Note that you will have to bring your own food with you as there are no shops in Onguma, so come prepared.
It's easy to unwind in a setting like this.
(Image source Onguma Game Reserve)
You can book by clicking here now.
(9km’s away from the Andersson gate)
The Etosha Safari Camp is another lodge near Etosha that offers visitors the option of bringing their owns tents and setting up camp for a few nights. The campsite is exceptionally well appointed with power points all over the site, as well as sinks, showers, toilets and braai (BBQ) facilities for those who wish to self-cater.
The camping is easy, and the scenery is beautiful.
(Image source Gondwana Collection Namibia)
If you don’t feel like cooking your own grub then guests at the campsite are more than welcome to eat at the main lodge’s restaurant. Campers are also invited to make use of the other facilities at the lodge like the pool area and the bar.
Every camper needs a dip in a pool at some point.
(Image source Gondwana Collection Namibia)
Since the camp is so close to Etosha it is a breeze checking in and out of the national park for game drives.
You can book by clicking here now.
(8km from the Andersson gate)
Eldorado Farm is run by Adri Pienaar who is the third generation of his family to run the guest farm. On the farm itself there are several antelope, ostriches and wildebeest and given that it is only 8km away from Etosha’s Andersson gate you will find it very easy to get your fill of game while staying here.
Welcome to Eldorado!
(Image source Eldorado)
There is a lodge on the farm but Eldorado’s campsite is becoming more and more popular with outdoor enthusiasts and as a result booking in advance is essential if you want to secure a place at their campsite. The Campsite at Eldorado has electricity, running water, ablutions and self-catering facilities.
The campsite is very spacious.
(Image source Johan Groenewald)
Camping is good for you
If you enjoy the outdoors and safari then camping in or around Etosha is just the thing for you. All the camps mentioned above give you the option to either be totally self-sufficient or partly self-sufficient. With a wide selection of restaurants and amenities there’s no reason why camping cannot be both rugged and comfortable.
In June last year we announced that the lucky winner of our Landscape Escape competition was one Kevin Read from Canada. Kevin won a once in a lifetime trip around Namibia and decided to document what he and his wife Ruth discovered on their journey through the land of the brave.
Ruth and Kevin- winners!
Kevin and Ruth enjoyed their stay so much that they compiled a list of reasons why they think you should take the plunge and explore this vast and beautiful country as soon as possible.
10 Reasons You Should Visit Namibia
We spent the months of November and December 2013 exploring the country of Namibia. Over the course of almost eight weeks, we drove approximately 10,000 kms (6,200 miles) all over the country. We experienced the many different cultures and saw so many natural wonders.
But one of the things that we didn't see was North American tourists.
People from Canada and the U.S. who come to Africa seem to be attracted to Kenya, Botswana, or South Africa all of which have more highly developed tourism infrastructure. As a result, they tend to have more "luxury" travel options. Namibia is a little more wild, and still has a lot of areas that may be considered early development when it comes to tourism.
Here's why we think North Americans should visit Namibia...
1. They speak English in Namibia
We find that a lot of North Americans are unsure about visiting a country where they will have a difficult time being understood. You won't have a problem in Namibia. Despite the fact that there are approximately eight other popular languages (Afrikaans, German, and many local languages) English is the official language. All road signs are in English, and although you may meet some rural people who only speak their local language, there will always be someone close by who can translate.
All road, traffic, and tourism signs are in English.
We've never been much into birds. Namibia may have changed that a little bit! There are around 700 species of birds in Namibia! It seemed like every day that we were in Namibia we would see some kind of different bird. And of course many are so colorful, and with long bright feathers. Oh, and owls! We have never seen so many different owls.
An owl in Namibia.
3. You can go camping!
The easiest and most popular way to tour Namibia is with your own vehicle. The local public transportation system isn't the easiest, but if you have your own vehicle you can go anywhere. It's also common, and a great idea, to do a self drive camping tour of Namibia, and there are a LOT of campgrounds in Namibia, In fact, we were surprised at the number of beautiful campgrounds.
Our camping vehicle from Namibia Car Rental.
4. The desert is truly beautiful
I've never been much of a desert person. I typically like trees and greenery, but Namibia gave us a whole different perspective on the desert and the different landscapes that the desert presents to you. While there certainly are some long boring sections of desert scenery, there is also very stunning scenery that makes you wonder how it can possibly occur naturally.
The dunes at Sossusvlei.
5. Protection of the environment
If you are an ethical traveler, you may be interested to know that Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution. The Government of Namibia has reinforced this by giving its rural communities the right to manage their wildlife through communal conservancies. These conservancies are clearly defined tracts of land, registered with government, where local communities manage their natural resources through a democratically elected committee and approved management plans.
Many private lodges in Namibia also have their own environmental conservancies.
6. It is a safe and politically stable country
The country is very safe, and the people are friendly. There are only two million people in the whole country, and 40% of all reported crime occurs in the capital city of Windhoek. We never once felt unsafe.
Ruth, visiting with the locals.
7. The wildlife
We spent a total of seven days exploring Namibia's Etosha National Park. But even though Etosha is a world class wildlife park, we found that you don't really need to be in a National Park to experience wildlife. Yes, you'll see everything in Etosha...lions, elephants, rhinos. But you'll also see animals simply wandering near the side of the road outside of parks. The Caprivi region of Namibia gave us our best animal viewing outside of Etosha. Plan on at least four days to properly explore Etosha National Park.
Animals of Etosha National Park.
8. The different cultures
Namibia has people who you will not find anywhere else in the world. People who continue living with ancient traditions and lifestyles without the pressures and conveniences experienced in most of the world. One of the highlights of our trip was the couple of hours we spent with the Himba people in the northwestern region of the country.
Probably not known by many, but Namibia has a lot of premier hiking trails. November and December aren't really the best time of year to hike in Namibia because it's summer and it's often too hot to go hiking. The best time of year to visit for that type of outdoor activity is from April through October. Fish River Canyon offers the most well known hiking opportunity, a five day excursion along the riverbed at the bottom of the canyon.
Kevin, at Fish River Canyon.
9. Namibia is still relatively unknown
One of the main reasons we wanted to go there! We like going to places that are a little more off the beaten path when it comes to tourism, and we're glad that we came to a place that is really only just starting out in the tourism world when you compare it to most other countries.
The ghost town of Kolmanskop.
10. Namibia has the best beer in Africa!
Of course the most important reason to visit any country is the quality of it's beer! Namibian beer is brewed to the highest German standards and Namibians are passionate about their beer!
Namibian beers are very good.
If you want to read more about some of Kevin and Ruth's other globe trotting adventures then head on over to their blog by clicking here.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest so that you can keep track of any news or competitions and you too could find yourself on the African adventure of a life time.
Namibia is home to 676 of Southern Africa's 887 species and the whole country is littered with endemic and interesting birds. There are many great spots for bird watching in Namibia - here are just three of them to give you a glimpse into birding paradise.
The Zambezi (formally Caprivi) Region
The Zambezi or Caprivi Strip can be found in the extreme north east of Namibia and this region alone is home to over 425 species of birds. The network of rivers and deltas formed by the confluence of the Kwando, Zambezi and Chobe rivers create an ideal space for avid bird watchers to catch a glimpse of some of the unique birdlife on offer in Namibia.
Here are just some of the species you can find there:
The African Pygmy Goose
(image courtesy of Adrian Binns via 10000 Birds)
The African Marsh Harrier in flight.
(image courtesy of Trevor Hardaker)
Pel’s Fishing Owl
(image courtesy of the Internet Bird Collection)
African Wood Owls
(image courtesy of Bird Forum)
For places to stay in the Zambezi / Caprivi Region click here. Or if you'd like to find out more about the region, click here.
Etosha National Park
Usually, when people think of Etosha they think of spotting big game, and while that is fair enough (as you will discover by clicking here) there are other attractions at the massive national park. The bird life is fantastic and varied in the park and depending on whether or not it is a dry season you can find different species of birds making their homes in the park.
During the drier times two of the best places to go birding are near the rest camps of Okaukuejo and Halali. Not only do these two camps offer wonderful accommodation and facilities but they also will give you the chance to see some of Namibia’s 13 endemic bird species.
Okaukuejo Camp is renowned for its resident Southern Pied Babblers and Crimson-Breasted Shrikes. And if you are staying at Halali you may catch a glimpse of the Bare-Cheeked Babbler or even a Violet Wood Hoopoe. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Kori Bustard - its quite something to watch the heaviest living animal capable of flight launch into the air.
Southern Pied Babbler
(image courtesy of the Internet Bird Collection)
Crimson-Breasted Shrike - commonly referred to as "The German Flag" by the locals
(image courtesy of Outdoor Photo)
(image courtesy of Rock Jumper Birding)
(image courtesy of the Flacks)
(image courtesy of Wilkinson’s World)
The park really comes alive for bird enthusiasts after good rains because as the Etosha Pan starts to fill up with water thousands of birds make their way to the newly formed water source. You can expect to see Flamingos, Pelicans and maybe even some rare Blue Cranes following rain in the region.
Flamingos on the pan.
(image courtesy of Kruger 2 Kalahari)
(image courtesy of Doug Breakwell via Flickr)
Rare Blue Cranes
(image courtesy of Frank Will via Flickr)
For a listing of the various places to stay in Etosha click on this link to read our comprehensive “how-to” guide for a visit to Etosha National Park.
The Waterberg plateau has an amazing array of birdlife and is just stunning in so many different ways. Have a look at our blog post on it and you will get a sense of the beauty that awaits at this location. The area is home to over 200 different species and is home to the only breeding colony of the critically endangered Cape Vulture.
Cape Vulture in flight.
Click here to find out more about REST, a Namibian organisation trying
to help these majestic creatures back from the brink of extinction.
(image courtesy of Avian Leisure)
(image courtesy of Brian Scott via Flickr)
African grey Hornbill
(image courtesy of Biodiversity Explorer)
If you want to stay overnight at the Waterberg Plateau park then click this link and read all about the different accomodation options available.
Go Namibia, Go Birding!
So there it is! A list of just three top birding spots in Namibia, where you can stay and what you can expect to find. While we haven't come close to describing all of the hundreds of species of birds you can find in Namibia (you can download a Namibia birding checklist for that) we hope its given you a taste of what's in store. One thing is for sure though, if you come to Namibia and want to do some bird watching, you will not leave disappointed.
What interesting bird species have you spotted in Namibia? Share them with us!
More on Birding in Namibia
Etosha National Park spans over 22,270 km2 and is criss-crossed by a network of roads that you can drive on to visit the park’s various watering holes which number more than 30. With a network this vast and with over 114 mammal, 340 bird, and 110 reptile species to see you will need a game plan, and this post is all about helping you figure that out. Follow this link to see what we found using the easy steps in this guide!
Begin planning your adventure now!
How to get to Etosha
Getting to Etosha from Windhoek is very simple, it is a six hour drive along well surfaced roads that is easy to do. And if you want to break up the journey then why not try find a suitable rest camp to stay at to split your journey over two days while soaking up as much of Namibia as possible.
How you drive to Etosha will depend on which gate you will want to use to access the park. Traditionally there have always been three gates: The Anderson Gate in the South of the park, the Von Lindequist Gate in the East, and the King Nehale gate on the Northern border. In June 2011 the park opened a new gate called the Galton Gate and this is now a fourth entry point into the park.
Map of Etosha.
(courtesy of Mappery)
Depending on where you are driving from, and depending on which camp you want to stay at in the park you will have to select the appropriate gate to enter park through.
Once in the park and through the gate you have chosen you will have to check in at Okaukuejo or Namutoni and from there you can head out into the park or go straight to your rest camp to put your belongings in the your room.
Where to stay
In the park
First things first, if you plan on staying more than one day in the park then you will need to find somewhere to overnight. Finding a place to stay inside the park is actually very easy and there are four camps run by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts that you can choose from.
Each rest camp has its own spot lit watering hole that allows guests to do some night time game viewing as all the creatures of Etosha come out on their nightly routines.
Once you've checked in at Namutoni or Okaukeujo, take your time to get to your rest camp, turning your journey into a mini-safari.
Namutoni- rest camp and administrative centre for the park.
Outside the park
There are also several accommodation options just outside the park and these range in price and proximity to the park. So visit the pages below, see which one suits your plans best.
A giraffe and an oryx making a speedy getaway, but from what...?
Driving on your own safari adventure
So now that you have settled into your camp you can begin to plan out how you are going to go about exploring the park.
In your own car you can spend as long as you like, wherever you like!
Wherever you drive in the park you will have to observe certain rules and protocols to avoid making a nuisance of yourself or at worst, endangering yourself and others.
Take it easy!
The slower you go the more likely you'll cross paths with the wildlife.
Some driving “Do’s”
Plan your route thoroughly and make sure you have enough petrol. You can fill up with fuel at Okaukuejo so it is very easy to keep your car running once in the park.
Always return back to your camp before sunset, the roads are mostly gravel so be sure to take this into account when you are planning how long your drive will be.
Drive on the left, just like any other road in Namibia.
Make sure you have water in your car to avoid getting dehydrated while on your long safari.
Some driving “Don’ts”
Don't drive quickly or recklessly. Driving slowly will minimize your chance of getting punctures and more importantly will increase your chance of seeing some of the amazing animals in the park.
Don't ever leave your car unless you are in the appropriate area, these areas are very clearly marked.
Driving at night is strictly prohibited and penalties will be enforced if you drive after sunset and before sunrise.
Don't feed or interact with any of the animals from your car.
The roads of Etosha are easy to drive on, but care is required when using them.
It is always best to go to Etosha in an off-road vehicle, but it is possible to do the park in smaller city-dwelling cars as well- you may just have to go even slower to avoid causing damage to your vehicle.
Having the freedom to do what you want in your own time
is one of the best parts of visiting Etosha.
Where to go for the best chance of seeing wildlife
First things first, you should pick up a map from the kiosk at Okaukuejo. This is not only a map of the entire park, but it also gives you information about each of the watering holes in the park. The maps are available in German and English.
The Kiosk at Namutoni- here you can find all the information you will need.
Which animals go to which watering hole is explained on the map, and this can be a boon to anyone who is looking for a specific animal. The map also has checklist so you can mark off which of Etosha's residents you have seen on your safari.
You can also buy an illustrated animal identification book from the same kiosk and this will help you to identify the various mammals, birds and reptiles that you might spot whilst exploring the park.
Can you identify the antelope in this picture?
Top tips for spotting wildlife in the park
So now you have your map, and you are in your car, and you are about to go on your self-drive safari.
Your best chance of seeing wildlife in Etosha is by doing things slowly, and being observant. The watering holes are good for catching animals in their natural state, and if you spend significant time at these venues you have an excellent chance of spotting some of Namibia’s unique critters.
Two lions hiding from the sun in the shade of a tree.
Here are some tips and tricks we have picked up over the years from other travellers who have explored Etosha extensively.
If you see other cars stopped on the side of the road, slow down; maybe they have seen something and you can share in their sighting.
Take a pair of binoculars.
Be patient and be quiet.
Keep a look out under trees. Many animals will seek shelter from the hot Namibian sun and often wildlife can be spotted resting in under a tree in its shade.
Ask at your accomodations about the best parts of the park to visit. Animals move and migrate around the park so it does change.
Always leave your camera on and make sure it's battery is charged every night (you'll be using it a lot!)
A herd of elephants make their way to a nearby waterhole
Most are very fortunate when it comes to spotting wildlife in the park becuase there is such an abundance, from the big five to the smallest antelope, Etosha has it all. Check out our blog on what we found when we visited this astonishing place.
Oryx and Warthog: An Etosha story...
Coming soon to a theater near you!
Namibia’s Etosha national park is located in the northwest of the country and is the largest safari park in Namibia. Self-drive safaris, unique locations and amazing scenery make this park and absolute must for adventure seekers and photographers.
An impala in the bushes, seen from the road.
This post will show you what kinds of things you can expect from a visit to Etosha, and later this week we will share our exclusive ‘how to’ guide giving you pointers on how to make the most of your time at this astonishing place.
Some fast facts about Etosha
The park was established in 1907 and since then it has become home to several different large mammals, reptiles and birds. The park itself is named after a large salt pan that takes up almost 23% of the area of the land designated as a national park. The pan lends a quiet and isolated atmosphere to parts of the park.
The sun-drenched saltpan.
Elephants, rhinos, and several big cats had all previously been driven from this area, but since the establishment of the site as an official national park in the 1970’s these species have been recuperated and can all be found in within the park’s borders.
There are giraffes and zebras galore, as well as numerous types of antelope, so there is always something amazing to see when driving through the park’s dirt roads.
Encountering a family of giraffes like this is not uncommon at Etosha.
After turning the car off and observing the giraffes for sometime we eventually
caught this one having a delicious mouthful of leaves and thorns.
Three giraffes in the distance, seen from the road.
The Watering Holes of Etosha
Etosha has several watering holes and you can locate them on the park's map. These watering holes are a hotbed of animal activity and if you are lucky, and patient, they can be an excellent way to watch a lot of different wildlife. You may even get to see how the various animals interact with their surroundings and each other.
Elephants are frequent visitors to the watering holes in Etosha.
A young elephant splashing about.
Somme gutsy Kudus tried to muscle in on the Elephants' spot,
but the giant mammals were not prepared to share and chased the antelope away.
Up close and personal!
An adolescent elephant eye-balling us from afar.
At the last watering hole we stopped at on our way home
we were lucky enough to catch this spotted hyena.
The Halali Watering Hole
If you want to you can stay at one of the rest camps in the park itself. These camps have the advantage of being within the park's boundaries, and thus afford you the chance to easily get in your car and drive around the park.
At the Halali Rest Camp you will not only get all the benefits of staying in the park, but you will also be able to walk to its dedicated watering hole where you can sit in a special amphitheatre and look out over it as the sun sets.
The Halai watering hole + rhino.
Many different animals are attracted to these watering holes and just as dusk was settling in we were lucky enough to witness the arrival of some rhino. And as dark fell on the watering hole more and more surprises were revealed.
A rhino basking in the last rays of sun...
Dusk at Halali watering hole
...the last rays of the sun.
Our rhino friend returned shortly after sunset for an early evening drink.
A lioness and rhino sharing the watering hole.
Why you should go to Etosha
Etosha is a beautiful place, and everyone has a different experience whenever they go, the above photos are by no means and exhaustive tour of the park. Should you go you will find that being able to drive yourself around the park allows you to explore at your own pace and leisure.
The watering hole at Halali makes staying at the camp a definite must, and it is highly recommend it for anyone thinking of spending a few nights in Etosha.
Most people have not seen even one of the hundreds of animals you can find at Etosha, and anyone coming to Namibia must make an effort to get to this famous park.
A tree overlooking Halali's watering hole.
Namibia is a very, very big country and driving from each location to amazing location can take hours. As a result of this, many intrepid locals have set up small rest camps along the national roads where travellers can break their long drives and rejuvinate. These lodge-style establishments can be found all over Namibia, and in this post we’re going to tell you what you can expect from a rest camp and where you can find a few of them.
Rest camps are character filled and unique and each one has something different to offer explorers. Above is a picture of Roy's Rest Camp where we spent a night
Our rest camp experience
After travelling up to Etosha for some game viewing, we were next going to visit Rundu. We decided we would rather break our long drive with a stay at a rest camp. After looking at the map and the available rest camps along the B8 we eventually settled on a place called Roy’s Rest Camp.
The entrance to Roy's Rest Camp
The accommodation at your typical rest camp is simple and clean and Roy’s is no exception, but each rest camp in Namibia also has its own character and vibe. Roy’s Rest Camp, for example, has been painstakingly decorated by its owners.
Derelict classic cars and all manner of Namibian inspired homemade décor can be found hanging in the trees, at the restaurant and in the rooms.
We found this old car just by the camp's reception.
Our stay at Roy's was very typical of a rest camp in Namibia. The staff are friendly and interested in your stories and always have time to sit around and chat about what's going on around the camp and the country as a whole. Places like this afford you an opportunity to swap notes with other travellers and get some ideas on what to do while you are in Namibia.
What you can expect from a rest camp
These small camps are unpretentious and unassuming and the people who run them are almost always friendly, welcoming people. Rest camps can also be excellent place to meet up with fellow travellers and maybe make a few new friends by sitting round the fire or poolside.
Rooms are typically simple, clean and comfortable
Some of the rest camps have other unique features such as farm tours and bird walks, or even game viewing, and so it is always a good idea to ask at the camp's reception if there are any recommended activites for visitors to experience while staying at a particular rest camp.
Another beautifully rusted out car at Roy's Rest Camp
Some of the camps are self-catering and others have a more typical travel lodge setup. The whole point of a rest camp is to allow a weary traveller to lay down their head for a good night’s rest so that in the morning they can carry on with their journey refreshed and impressed.
Many of the rest camps you will find in Namibia will give you the option of either staying in built chalets, or camping in your own tent. Roy's Rest camp is one such place that offers both, but it is not the only one. So, if you and your travel buddies are up for some outdoor camping then a rest camp may make even more sense for you as you travel through the vast countryside of Namibia.
A short list of rest camps in Namibia
Below is a list of several rest camps situated around the country. As already mentioned, rest camps can be found all over Namibia, so when you are planning your trip consider breaking up some of the long distances and travel days.
Roy's Rest Camp
Roy’s Camp is perfectly situated on the B8 main road from Grootfontein to Rundu, 55 km north of Grootfontein. At ideal stop over to Northern Namibia, Zambezi (formerly known as Caprivi) and Bushman land.
Brandberg Rest Camp
Located in Damaraland, the Brandberg rest camp has a restaurant, bar, pool and internet facilities.
The camp also offers guests some climbing, exploring and hiking activities.
Ombo Rest Camp
70km North of Windhoek on the Hochfeld road, Ombo Rest Camp has a restaurant but has self-catering chalets as well.
This camp is unique in that it has a wateringhole on its property for game and sunset viewing.
Kamanjab Rest Camp
3km from the village of Kamanjab this quirky camp has a restaurant, bar and can be reached via a nearby landing strip for private planes.
This camp has unique game watching oppurtunities and is home to several friendly giraffes.
Quiver Tree Forest Camp
13km Northeast of Keetmanshoop the Quiver Tree Forest Camp has a swimming pool, a choice between either self-catering or you can use the a la carte restaurant.
Near the camp are incredible geological formations, birdlife and a veritable forest of quiver trees.
Khorixas Rest Camp
Situated nearby the Damaraland capital of Khorixas this camp has everything you need to relax when you are halfway thorugh a long journey.
The surrounds in this part of Damaraland are famed for unusual geological formations and ancient rock engravings.
As mentioned above this is not a complete list of rest camps in Namibia and no matter where you are travelling in this wide open country you should be able to find a rest camp where you can split up your journey and have an extra mini-adventure.
Each little place that you find in Namibia has something unique and interesting about it and these small establishments give you a chance to experience some of that first hand.