Etosha stretches across northwestern Namibia, centring on the Etosha National Park but including a number of superb private reserves. It’s in this diverse landscape, which varies from salt pans to grasslands and dolomite hills, that you can have the richest safari experience in Namibia, spotting significant numbers of African elephant, Angolan giraffe, Southwest African lion, and leopard. White rhino have been reintroduced, and black rhino numbers are steady.
Etosha National Park has been a protected game reserve for more than 100 years. Its landscape is dominated by the Etosha Pan, the vast salt pan which forms part of the Kalahari Basin. Big game hunting in the 19th century killed off many of the larger species, and a drought in the 1980s had a similarly catastrophic effect, but thankfully in the intervening years the park has largely recovered, and today it is a superb place for wildlife watching. There are very large numbers of zebra, jackal, fox, hyena, and aardwolf, and it is also a great location for spotting the ever entertaining meerkat. Many of these species have evolved special physical characteristics to help them survive in arid climatic conditions, and your knowledgeable safari guide will go to great lengths to explain how they differ from similar subspecies elsewhere.
Bordering the national park are a number of excellent private reserves, and it is here that you can have some of the most exclusive wildlife encounters. The Onguma Game Reserve is one of our favourites; it stretches for 34,000 hectares and is especially good for families travelling with young children. You can stay at Onguma Bush Camp, a children’s dream come true, where the kids can climb up a ladder into the loft to sleep. It’s the only fenced camp in the reserve, so a very safe place to stay. Families get their own vehicle for game drives, and the guides also lead short interpretive walks around the camp so children can learn to identify birds, plants, insects, and animal tracks.
Safarihoek is in the midst of the Namibian savannah, a place of endless space and unobstructed views. Trees are scarce, but that makes it easier to spot the animals. Stay in one of the 11 stylist chalets and you’ll be able to wildlife watch straight from the deck. It’s a particularly good place to stay if you’re hoping for a close up encounter with one of the black or white rhino. The Ongava Game Reserve is similarly inspiring. It is one of the few places you can track rhino on foot, and as the Etosha National Park is just next door, you can easily take game drives there as well. The lion population here is thriving, and you have a choice of two luxury lodges or a gorgeous tented camp.