The internationally renowned Etosha National Park â€“ undoubtedly Namibiaâ€™s most popular tourist attraction â€“ is the heart of the north-central region. The park serves as the ultimate stopover before heading for the arid northwest, the water-rich northeast, or the largely unexplored culturally rich Land of the Owambo People. Due to the constant maintenance of the infrastructure â€“ including the completion of the tarred road between Rundu in the Kavango Region and Elundu in Ohangwena â€“ the region is easy to navigate and allows travellers a glimpse of rural roadside life. Slowly opening up to tourism, the northernmost region of Namibia plays host to our largest population group, the Owambo.
ETOSHA NATIONAL PARK
Etosha owes its unique landscape to the Etosha Pan, a vast, shallow chalky white depression of approximately
5 000 kmÂ² that forms the heart of the park. Once a large inland lake fed by rivers from the north and east, it dried up 120 million years ago as continental drift changed the slope of the land and the course of the tributaries. A series of waterholes along the southern edge of the pan guarantee rewarding and often spectacular game viewing. In good rain years the pan fills with water draining southwards from Angola via a delta-like system of shallow rivers and oshanas, drying out in the winter to become an austere expanse of white cracked mud, shimmering with mirages and upwardspiralling dust devils.
What we call Etosha today was proclaimed as Game Reserve No 2 in 1907 by the then German Governor Friedrich von Lindequist. With subsequent additions it became the largest game reserve in the world, covering a vast area of Â±80 000 kmÂ². For political considerations its size was progressively diminished, until by 1975 it had been reduced by 77 per cent to its present surface area of 22 912 kmÂ². Nevertheless, it is still one of the largest game reserves in Africa.
Of the 114 mammals species found in the park, several are rare and endangered, such as black rhino and cheetah, and the lesser-known blackfaced impala, which is endemic to northwestern Namibia and southwestern Angola. Etoshaâ€™s current population of black rhino represents one of the largest populations of black rhino in the world.
Other large mammals in the park include elephant, giraffe, blue wildebeest, mountain and plains zebra, hyaena and lion. Cheetah and leopard complete the trio of â€˜big catsâ€™. Antelope species range from kudu, gemsbok and the large and stately eland, to the diminutive Damara dik-dik. Smaller mammals include jackal, bat-eared fox, honey badger, warthog and the ubiquitous ground squirrel. For the greater part of the year (the dry season) Etoshaâ€™s animals and birds are dependent on about 30 springs and waterholes. These provide excellent game viewing and photographic opportunities. A good policy before setting out is to enquire from camp officials what the current game movements are. During the rainy season, the bird life at the main pan and Fischerâ€™s Pan is well worth viewing. Etoshaâ€™s vegetation varies from dwarf shrub savannah and grasslands, which occur around the pan, to thorn-bush and woodland savannah throughout the park. Eighty per cent of all of Etosha’s trees are mopane. West of Okaukuejo is the well-known Sprokieswoud â€“ Fairy, Phantom or Haunted Forest â€“ the only location where the African moringa tree, Moringa ovalifolia, grows in a flat area. Etosha is open throughout the year and is accessible by tarred roads via the Andersson Gate on the C38 from Outjo, the Von Lindequist Gate in the east from Tsumeb on the B1, the Galton Gate in the west from Kowares on the C35 and the King Nehale Gate located on the Andoni plains just north of the Andoni waterhole, which provides access from the north-central Owambo regions on the B1 from Onyati.
Birding in Etosha
About 340 bird species occur in Etosha, about one third being migratory, including the European Bee-eater and several species of wader. Larger birds include Ostrich, Kori bustard and Greater and Lesser Flamingo, of which tens of thousands congregate on the pan to breed during a good rainy season. Ten of Etoshaâ€™s 35 raptor species are migratory. Those most commonly seen are Lappet-faced, White-backed and Hooded Vultures, while sightings of the Cape, Egyptian and Palm-nut Vultures have been recorded. There are eight species of owl, including the Pearl-spotted Owlet and Southern White-faced Scops-owl, and four species of nightjar.