Etosha National Park is one of the greatest game parks in Africa and one of the oldest is also Namibia’s number one tourist destination. Home to 114 large and small mammal species,more than 400 recorded bird species, scores of reptiles and even a fish species, Etosha is the country’s flagship park. The size of the park has been reduced considerably since it was first proclaimed in 1907, but its till remains larger than several European countries.
The Ondonga name for the pan was Etosha, meaning ‘the place where no plants grow’, but early European traders, unable to pronounce the name, called it ‘Etosha’. The pan was once part of the massive Lake Kunene fed by the Kunene River,which at sometime in the distant past dried up, leaving the current pan system. Newly excavated fossils belonging to marsh-dwelling antelopes such as sitatunga, lechwe and tsessebe, and a 90- cm long catfish, are testament to much wetter periods.
Etosha National Park is the second largest of Namibia's game reserves (after Namib-Naukluft National Park). It spans 20,000 km² in the Four-O region. The park surrounds the dry Etosha salt pan. The waterholes surrounding the pan attract animals, particularly in the drier winter months, because it is a source of water in a very dry land.
Etosha National Park is a national park in northwestern Namibia. The park is located in the Kunene region and shares boundaries with the regions of Oshana, Oshikoto and Otjozondjupa. It was proclaimed a game reserve in March 1907 in Ordinance 88 by the Governor of German South West Africa, Dr. Friedrich von Lindequist. It was designated as Wildschutzgebiet in 1958, and was elevated to the status of a national park in 1967 by an act of parliament of the Republic of South Africa. It spans an area of 22,270 km2 (8,600 sq mi) and gets its name from the large Etosha pan which is almost entirely within the park. The Etosha pan (4,760 km2 (1,840 sq mi)) covers 23% of the total area of the National Park. The park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species such as the black rhinoceros.
The salt pans are the most noticeable geological features in the Etosha national park. The main depression covers an area of about 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 sq mi), and is roughly 130 km (81 mi) long and as wide as 50 km (31 mi) places. The hypersaline conditions of the pan limit the species that can permanently inhabit the pan itself; occurrences of extremophile micro-organisms are present, which species can tolerate the hypersaline conditions. The salt pan is usually dry, but fills with water briefly in the summer, when it attracts pelicans and flamingos in particular. In the dry season, winds blowing across the salt pan pick up saline dust and carry it across the country and out over the southern Atlantic. This salt enrichment provides minerals to the soil downwind of the pan on which some wildlife depends, though the salinity also creates challenges to farming. The Etosha Pan was one of several sites throughout southern Africa in the Southern African Regional Science Initiative (SAFARI 2000).
Dolomite Hills: The dolomite hills on the southern border of the park near the Andersson entrance gate are called Ondundozonananandana, meaning the place where young boy herding cattle went to never return, probably implying a high density of predators like leopards in the hills, giving the mountains its English name of Leopard Hills. The Halali area is also home to dolomite hills within the park, with one hill inside the camp and the nearby Twee Koppies. Western Etosha is also dominated by dolomite hills which is the only place in the park that has mountain zebra.
The national park of Etosha has a Savannah desert climate. The annual mean average temperature is 24 °C (75 °F). In winter, the mean nighttime lows are around 10 °C (50 °F), while in summer temperatures often hover around 40 °C (104 °F). As it is a desert, there is a large variation between day and night. Rain almost never falls in the winter.
There is lots of wildlife here that is easy to see in Etosha National Park. Springbok, Black-faced Impala, Zebra, Giraffe, Warthog, and Wildebeest will be hard to miss even driving along the main roads. Elephant and Rhino are often seen in the bush and waterholes. There are a healthy populations of cheetah, lion and leopard for those with a keener eye on the shadows. There are around 100 other species of mammals in the park. Jackals, hyena, dik-dik, steinbok, to name but a few. There are no buffalo in the park, as there is simply insufficient water to sustain them.
What else to do then see the wildlife! From every hotel there are possibilities to do a game drive, be sure to bring your binoculars as some animals (like lions or cheetahs) can only be watched when distance is kept. Also when close to animals be very quiet, most animals will be scared by the slightest noise.
There are five designated rest camps for visitors, enclosed by walls and fences in Etosha National Park. Namutoni, Halali and Okaukejo have camping, and most offer petrol stations, pools and shops for those things you forgot. The gates for camps open at sunrise and close at sunset. You are not allowed outside of a camp during night. Bush camping is not permitted. All lodges and campsites inside of the park can be booked through Namibia Wildlife Resorts. There is other accommodation available near the park gates. This is often superior in quality and better value. You can take game drives into the park - but you should factor in the time taken to enter the park.
Onguma is a separate area to the east of the park, offering accommodation and wildlife of its own.
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