A self-driving safari in Etosha National Park in Namibia is a perfect way to experience huge herds of wildlife. Going on safari in Etosha National Park was one of our favorite things to do and is a thing you simply must do when in Namibia. This massive 20.000 square kilometer park is home to 4 of the big 5 – including endangered rhinos, 340 species of birds, and 114 species of mammals. Enormous numbers of wildlife stroll the plains during the wet season, while the water holes attract them during the dry seasons. In this incredible park, you will find some of the best safari viewings in the world. Here is our complete guide to a self-driving safari in Etosha National Park
Everything you need to know for a visit to Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park in Namibia Is a huge park. There is so much to be aware of as it is one of the most popular places to visit on a road trip around Namibia. Therefore, we have gathered all the information we found useful for our visit to this amazing national park. Below you will find everything you need to know for a visit to Etosha National Park.
Getting to Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is located about 415 kilometers north of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. According to Google Maps, the route takes about 4 hours, but we found that you should set aside at least 6 hours for this drive, if not more. Therefore, we would recommend you plan your road trip in Namibia with a stop before Etosha National Park. Okonjima Nature Reserve is the perfect layover with the opportunity to experience leopards. Take a look at our 2-week travel itinerary for more information about the ideal route through Namibia.
The roads from Windhoek to Etosha are paved and in very good condition. The drive is therefore very comfortable, compared to what you will experience inside the national park. If you instead arrive from the east side of Namibia, your drive will be on gravel roads.
Depending on which side you arrive from, you should set your GPS for one of the 4 gates, as these are the only places you are allowed through. In the south you will find Andersson Gate, Galton Gate is found in the west, Nehale Gate is in the north, and lastly, Namutoni Gate is found in the east of Etosha National Park.
The gates to Etosha National Park are open every day of the week from sunrise to sunset. You must arrive inside the guarded areas (campsites, lodges, etc.) before the gates close, or else you will get a fine.
When you arrive at Etosha National Park you are required to pay an entrance fee at your (first) accommodation. We paid 700 NAD for 2 people for 2 days – however the price changes depending on the number of people and days in the national park.
The prices at Etosha National Park are as follows:
|Type of fee||Prices|
|Entrance fee per person||100 NAD|
|Conservation fee per person||50 NAD|
|Entrance fee per car||30 NAD|
|Conversation fee per car||20 NAD|
Strict rules for entering Etosha National Park
Due to Etosha National Park being government-owned there are a few strict rules that you have to obey upon your arrival at the park. This means that you are not allowed to bring red meat inside Etosha National Park due to the risk of foot and mouth disease. Additionally, you are not allowed to bring plastic bags inside the park. We had a few smaller ones with food inside, which were okay. We found that it was probably the plastic bags from grocery stores that aren’t allowed inside the park. When you leave the park, your car will be thoroughly checked. Therefore, it is of course a good idea to adhere to the rules.
The perfect number of days in Etosha National Park
What is the perfect number of days in Etosha National Park? This is a question we found that a lot of people ask themselves (and the internet) when they have decided on Etosha as a stop on their road trip itinerary.
As mentioned earlier, Etosha National Park is massive. Therefore, it is not possible to experience every corner of the park in just 1 day. We would recommend you spend at least 2 nights in Etosha for you to get the true safari experience. However, if your time isn’t limited, 3 nights and 2 days is the perfect number of days in Etosha National Park. This number of days is the most ideal for a perfect self-driving safari in Etosha.
Splitting your days between two camps inside Etosha
Because Etosha is so huge it is a good idea to split your days between 2 camps inside the park. By sleeping inside the park, you are able to drive out as soon as the gates open at sunrise. We would recommend you stay 1 night on the west side of the park and 1 night on the east side. We did so and found it to be a perfect way to explore the national park. On our first day (when we arrived at the park) we stayed at Okaukuejo Camp and had the opportunity to drive around the east side of Etosha. On our second night, we slept at Olifantsrus Camp on the west side. The day was therefore used to drive from one camp to another. It ended up being a perfect way to explore Etosha as there were a lot of water holes on the route, and therefore huge herds of wildlife. It was simply incredible to watch. The drive took us about 9 hours, but we did not feel stressed and stopped every time we wanted to.
Splitting your days in Etosha between two camps makes it possible to roam around a bigger part of the national park, without having to return and drive back the same way.
When to visit Etosha National Park in Namibia
Etosha National Park in Namibia has 2 seasons: the wet season and the dry season. The wet season runs from November to May, whereas the dry season is from June to October. During the wet season, you will find that the land is lush and green, with thick vegetation, and often muddy and flooded roads. Because of the lushness, all the animals tend to spread out on the wide plains and disappear into the thicket – making it more difficult to spot wildlife.
In contrast, the dry season leaves the landscape barren, which forces the animals to gather around water holes. This creates opportunities for some incredible wildlife viewings. A downside of this is of course, that the dry season has become peak season due to these magnificent sightings. This often means more tourists, that booking accommodation can be more difficult, and prices may rise. However, with such good opportunities for wildlife spotting, this is all worth it.
The best time to visit Etosha National Park is therefore in the dry season. Especially around late August, September, and October, you will find the conditions for wildlife viewing to be most optimal.
Driving in Etosha National Park
Apart from a few roads around the entrance gates most of the roads in Etosha National Park are gravel. Luckily, these are actually quite easy to navigate making most of the drives bearable. However, there may be some areas where roads get rutted, which makes for a bouncier drive. Nonetheless, driving in Etosha National Park isn’t anything that should worry you.
Finding your way inside the park
One of the things we were most worried about for our trip to Etosha National Park was finding our way inside the park. Fortunately, this was not something to worry about. There aren’t any maps inside the park, but they can easily be accessed right here. With a combination of the maps and good road signs, it is actually very easy finding your way in Etosha National Park.
OBS: You are not allowed to drive down roads with signs saying “No entry” or “Staff only”.
Is a 4X4 necessary in Etosha National Park?
No, a 4X4 is not necessary in Etosha National Park. However, we would recommend you have one for your trip to Etosha. Most of the roads are gravel and therefore uneven, making for some bumpy rides. It is therefore necessary that your car can stand these bumps. We saw a few people who drove in normal cars, but we would not recommend that. Instead, a pickup truck or an SUV with good clearance would be more suitable – it makes driving more comfortable and views a bit better.
Speed limits in Etosha National Park
The speed limit in Etosha National Park is 60 km/h. This is somewhat achievable on the gravel roads of the park, but it is not a very good idea to drive so fast when spotting wildlife. You might miss some amazing things. Take your time and keep a slow pace – this will make it easier for you to spot the animals.
The distances are huge
We have already said it a few times, but Etosha National Park is enormous, which makes the distances massive as well. Therefore, it is a good idea to split your days between two areas of the park. Like we mentioned with the 2 camps. This makes it easier to experience the huge park without stressing.
Another thing to keep in mind is that due to the huge distances you may not be able to spot wildlife every minute. Sometimes you must drive for a while before encountering some of the animals inside the park. However, when you find some of the massive herds it will all be worth it.
Where to see animals on an Etosha self-drive safari
Even though the park is so massive there are still some places where most people tend to be successful when self-driving. For a great safari experience in Etosha National Park, we would recommend you swing by these water holes during your drives
- Ozonjuitji m’Bari
- Chudob, Groot Okevi
- Charitsaub, Rietfontein
We found the Ozonjuitji m’Bari water hole and Teespoed waterhole to be most rewarding with big herds of antelopes, wildebeest, and zebras, as well as elephants, rhinos, and ostriches.
Game drives in Etosha National Park
If you are not comfortable driving on your own in Etosha National Park, it is also possible to go on arranged game drives. These take place in Okaukuejo camp, Halali Camp, and Namutoni camp and can be booked at the reception of each of the camps. The drives take place in the morning starting at 6:30 AM, in the afternoon starting at 3:00 PM, and at night at 7:00 PM. The guided game drives take around 3 hours and cost 650 NAD for a morning or afternoon drive, and 750 NAD for a night game drive.
OBS: Children under 6 years are not allowed on arranged game drives.
Best time of the day to see animals in Etosha National Park in Namibia
In most safari parks around the world, the best time to spot wildlife is in the early morning or late afternoon. This is when the temperatures are cooler, and the animals tend to wander more around than hide in the shadows. This also applies to Etosha National Park. Therefore, it is always a good idea to go inside the park as early as possible.
In Etosha, the dry season makes it possible for some incredible wildlife viewings during the midday heat, as the animals gather around the water holes within the park. Etosha is therefore more like an all-day safari experience.