Northern Namibia’s Etosha National Park is so vast and varied, it’s hard to sum it up in just 10 points, but here are some fast-fact basics.
2. It opened its gates to tourists for the first time in 1955 but was only proclaimed a national park in
3. At 22 935 square kilometres it's one of the largest national parks in Africa.
4. It is also one of Africa’s best game reserves, its eastern territory dominated by a vast, shallow pan of silvery-white sand while the rest of the park is covered with sparse shrubs, grassy plains and hilly mopane woodlands.
5. The word Etosha means ‘place of dry water’, the ‘great white place’ or ‘place of emptiness’. The pan itself covers a staggering 4 800 square kilometres and is the largest of its kind in Africa.
6. There are 86 springs, fountains and waterholes, including a floodlit waterhole at each of the park’s main tourist camps. During the dry season from April to December, thousands of animals converge to drink at the waterholes – elephant, giraffe, zebra, rhino, lion, leopard, cheetah and much more.
7. The park is home to 114 large and small animals and 340 bird species. Your best chance of seeing them is to sit patiently at a waterhole. Some of my favourites are Leeubron, Gemsbokvlakte, Olifantsbad and Nebrownii near Okakuejo camp; Goas and Rietfontein near Halali, not to mention the fabulous Moringa waterhole in the camp itself; and Kalkheuwel, Chudop, Tsumcor and Two Palms near Namutoni.
8. Near the Rietfontein waterhole there is a plaque commemorating the Dorsland Trekkers – hardy pioneers who left South Africa in 1874 and through death, disease and all sorts of other calamities, made it to Rietfontein five years later. They rested here before setting off for southwestern Angola.
9. The rocks in the hills near Halali rest camp have revealed fossil life as old as 650 million years – a time before the world was carved into continents.
10. The most easterly rest camp at Namutoni centres on a Beau Geste-style fort that used to serve a tourist accommodation but now houses restaurants and shops. The original mud-and-daub fort at Namutoni was built in 1903 as a control post to stop the spread of the rinderpest. It was burnt to the ground in 1904 after 500 Owambo soldiers attacked the German troops there. It was rebuilt in 1905.
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