Visiting Etosha National Park.

3 months road trip in Southern Africa, 
Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. 
October - December 2014   

Average exchange rate: 1 € =  13,75 N$

Etosha National Park is a big and famous game park in Namibia, famous for having the “big five”.
You can visit Etosha, as an independent traveller, without an organized tour, even with a sedan car, because even if the roads are gravel and some are bumpy, they are ok without a 4x4, at least in the dry season. So, you don´t need 4x4 vehicule.

In the park, you can see different landscapes. A huge and white flat land (pan) occupies most of the park (no roads there), just lookouts for the views.

The zone is Malaria-free.

Etosha is a really cheap Africa park to visit (fees, self-drive), but accommodation is expensive, even camping, this is the problem if you want to sleep inside the park.

We visited Etosha in October 2014 and we want to share information about our trip for other low-cost travellers.

Complete information about accommodation (rates, bookings, etc.) at  www.etoshanationalpark.org. You can also download maps, etc. 

Price - entrance fees to Etosha National Park. 80 N$/pp/day (24 h) + 10 N$/car, that means around 12 € for 2 people travelling in a private car.

You can pay by credit card. The fees aren´t paid at the gates, you have to pay at the camps (Namutoni or Okaukuejo). Even if we entered the park gate at 8:00 (the controller wrote the time) as we went to the camp and paid at 10:00, they gave us these 2 extra hours (so we stayed 26 hours, with one fee). The entrance paper is filled by hand… Weird control.

Etosha Gates:

The park has 4 gates. The main gates are east, Von Lindequist Gate (100 km north of Tsumeb) and south, Anderson Gate (100 km north of Outjo). 
Crossing the park, from gate to gate, including small detours is around 250 km. 
Also another gate, less used, in the northeast.

New: west Etosha was before used for private and organised tours, but there are just opening the area to everyone (we didn´t go). Now there´s a new western gate, Galton Gate (175 km from Okaukuejo) and a new campsite, Olifantsrus Camp, and 2 luxury camps.

Note:

Be carefull when you are arriving at Etosha, because on the road you don´t see signs with “Etosha National Park”, just “Namutoni” and ”Okaukuejo”, the camp names when driving from Tsumeb or Outjo.

Maximum speed: 60 km/h.
Open from “sunrise” til “sunset” (check the exact schedule in the website as they change every month). In october, from 6:30 to 19:00.
Rainy season is from november til april, with a maximum in december to february.
The weather is hot. In october, really hot. 

  How to visit Etosha ?  

Distances are big and if you plan to cross the park, from Namutoni to Okaukuejo, is around 250 km.

We did the visit in 2 days (24h fee), sleeping in the central camp. But our feeling was a bit disappointing because we saw most of the game near the gates and in the middle of the park it was really boring, only few animals. Even at the waterhole of the Halali Camp, in the evening after a very hot day, we saw only for a few minutes a small family of elephants, and 2 rhinos.

The local people say about the Etosha, that it is better to stay around the camps close to the gates, than crossing all the park. Maybe they are right and it was a bit our feeling.
But with the wild life you never know, it is always good or bad luck. We didn´t see so many big animals (rhinos, elephants) compared with other parks (Kruger or Imfolozi in South Africa). But we saw a hyena eating a dead elephant and a cheetah eating an impala !!!!

It´s posible to self-drive in Etosha, even with a normal sedan car.
Also many companies organise tours (overlander trucks, buses, vans) or you can book a safari game drive on a jeep at the camps (around 25 $/pp for a 3 hours drive). 

Crossing the central part of Etosha, in october at least, was boring as not many animals there and the distances are long.
We saw more animals near the entrance gate camps: a lot around Namutoni camp (east gate) and the close waterholes (Chudob and Kalkheuwel).  Near Okaukuejo camp (south gate), it was dryer but also animals around the waterholes (Nebrowni and Gembok).
Many tourists, buses, groups, near Okaukuejo, the most visited camp and area.

At the south gate (the most used) there´s a group of Himbas women selling crafts. Incredible tribe!

   TIPs to visit Etosha   

  • Try to sleep outside if you want to save money, in the camps close to the gates, it is cheaper.
  • A good plan for Etosha, instead of crossing the long roads and sometimes seeing nothing for many hours, can be just exploring for example Namutoni and its surrounds, stopping for a while at the waterholes and checking the small roads around. Many animals and not very crowded area.
  • Keep in mind that the entrance fee is valid 24 hours, so it can be interesting to enter the park around 10:00 to 12:00. You will have a complete afternoon and next day a complete morning. The camps also have opening and closing schedule (sunrise, sunset).
  • Don´t forget to check the spotting books at the camps, to see when the animals are.
  • Etosha is dry, no rivers, specially in the dry season. So the animals are usually around the “waterholes” (in october, end of the dry season, some were dry in the central part of the park… so not too many animals there). So if the waterhole has water and you see animals around, just wait for a while, as animals go and come. Many big herds of antilopes, this is top in Etosha.

Bad point in Etosha:

Lack of maintenance. Some gravel roads are very bumpy and full of potholes. Signs and indications are missing, often broken or no more paint left (near Okaukuejo they are repainting the signs).

The worst are the picnic areas: garbage, broken tables, dirty toilets… Bad! And the park is big and you need a break!

So the only real options for a nice break are the camps. As they are managed by a private concession, NWR (Namibia Wildlife Resorts) they are clean and maintened.


   Cheap accommodation in Etosha   

The accommodation in Etosha is not very cheap, inside the park and also at the sorrounds. The less expensive option is sleep in the camps with your own tent, and even camping is expensive.

The options to sleep in Etosha are:

  • Accommodation Inside Etosha national park:
They charged us 400 N$ (almost 30 €) for 2 people and one night, camping! 
The official prices were in 2014, 220 N$/site (til 8 people)+110 N$/pp, but they charged us a little less.
Complete information:  www.nwr.com.na   or  www.etoshanationalpark.org

During holidays or if you want a room (many groups around), it´s better to book in advance. For camping, usually no problem in low-season, no need to book, the campsites are really big. In October they were really empty.

Inside the park, the have 3  “normal” camps in Etosha (+ 2 “super luxuary” ones in the west) and a new campsite in the west area (just recently open to the public) Olifantsrus Camp (250 N$/pp), but is remote.

If you want to cross Etosha and do the visit in 2 parts, the central camp, Halali Camp, is the most convenient. Namutoni Camp (east) and Okaukuejo Camp (south) are close to the gates and sleeping outside the park can be cheaper and convenient too.

 Halali Camp, in Etosha National Park

All the normal camps are well maintened, renew, clean and good, similar offer. Campsite and different types of rooms. Restaurant, small shop, gas station, ATM. Big pool.
The campsites are well-equiped: hot showers, BBQ, electricity points.
We didn´t drink the tap water…not very sure about it…

The 3 normal camps have waterholes. Just wait, the animals will come. Nice at the sunset.
But we saw few animals during the sunset at Halali´s waterhole: impalas, elephants and 2 rhinos.

Note about Etosha´s camps:

No entry control, you don´t need to be a resident to go inside. So you can even maybe use the swimming pool to refresh yourself…
They didn´t give us a special paper to put in the car when camping there…
There are shops and restaurants, but quite expensive. If you are an a budget, it´s better to shop in Tsumeb or Outjo (supermarkets).

  • Accommodation Outside Etosha National park:
Cheap accommodation around Etosha´s east gate (Tsumeb access):

Closer to the gate, limited accommodation, specially if on a budget. The best place price/quality is:

- Sachsenheim Guestfarm (25 km from the gate, just near the access road to Etosha
   Price - camping is 130 N$/pp). 

- Leadwood Camp inside the Onguma Reserve (just 8 km from the gate)
   Price around 180 N$/pp for camping. 

In Tsumeb, different accommodation (campings, backpackers, etc.) but it´s around 100 km to the gate.
                                                             Camps near Etosha´s East Gate

Cheap accommodation around Etosha´s south gate  (Outjo access):
As it´s the most tourist access to the park, more options on the road to Outjo (100 km south of the gate).

- El Dorado Camp (10 km south from the gate)
   Price - camping is 120 N$/pp

- Etosha Safari Camp (12 km)
- Toshari (25 km)
- Modjila (30 km). 
                                                       Camps near Etosha´s South Gate

Cheap accommodation in Outjo


Small town with gas stations and a big OK Supermarket, good place to shop before Etosha.
Different accommodation, also campings and backpackers. Also a new tourist information office (in front of the supermarket).

Supermarket and Ombinda Camp, in Outjo

- Ombinda Camp (1 km south of Outjo, after the supermarket).
  Price - camping is 100 N$/pp.
  Nice place. Free wifi and pool.
  We stayed there.  OK!

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