Etosha National Park
Regarded by safari aficionados as one of Africa’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries, Etosha National Park – dominated by its enormous shimmering salt pan – is an area of wild savannah and open woodland, and is home to a fantastic array of animals.
Despite its arid appearance, the park is packed with an eclectic mix of familiar faces such as elephant, giraffe, lion, leopard and zebra as well as the desert specialists like springbok and the handsome gemsbok.
It’s also one of the best places in southern Africa to spot the endangered cheetah and black rhino not to mention rare antelope species like black-faced impala, Damara dik dik and roan antelope, plus there’s a bird count of 340 species (an interesting blend of savannah, wetland and semi-desert birds).
For such a large wildlife destination Etosha is easy to visit. The main public lodges in the park – Namutoni and Okaukuejo resorts – offer reasonable accommodation and camping but the superb upmarket lodges just outside the park borders offer a far more exclusive and intimate experience.
What to do
It’s a great place for photography; one’s first impression of the park is of a vast expanse of dazzling white pans which, in the harsh light of midday, are painful to look at without sunglasses.
But in the early morning and late afternoons, the pans, through tricks of refracted light, glow and shimmer as they go through an astonishing range of colour changes, from orange through pink and purple to inky, deep blue.
And as for wildlife photography, it’s hard to beat Etosha. Not only are there plenty of animals in the park but the lodges have brilliantly designed rows of seating that overlook waterholes which attract jostling crowds of zebra, gemsbok, wildebeest and impala, scattering before herds of impatient elephants or lurking prides of lions.
Head for a waterhole, get comfortable and let the action unfold.
The vast, white pan (seasonal lake) was once the biggest lake in the world, until climate changes dried up the feeder channels and transformed the vegetation from lush forest into the yellow grasslands of today.
In years of good rains, the pans fill with a food-rich, soupy water that attracts tens of thousands of wading birds, including huge flocks of flamingos, covering the strongly alkaline water like a deep pink blanket in the mornings and evenings.