Etosha National Park is a national park in northwestern Namibia. The national park in Namibia was proclaimed a game reserve on March 22, 1907 in Ordinance 88 by the Governor of German South West Africa, Dr. Friedrich von Lindequist.
It was designated as Wildschutzgebiet Nr. 2 which means Game Reserve Number 2, in numerical order after West Caprivi (Game Reserve No. 1) and preceding Namib Game Reserve (No. 3).
In 1958, Game Reserve No. 2 became Etosha Game Park and was elevated to status of National Park in 1967 by an act of parliament of the Republic of South Africa which administered South-West Africa during that time.
Etosha National Park – Size of Southern Africa’s Finest
Etosha National Park is one of Southern Africa’s finest and most important Game Reserves. Etosha Game park coversan area of 22 270 square km, it is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish. The Etosha Park is one of the first places on any itinerary designed for a holiday in Namibia.
Etosha National Park History
Etosha, means “Great White Place” ‘Place of Mirages’ or ‘Land of Dry Water’. This Namibia National Park is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000 million years ago.
Explorers Charles John Andersson and Francis Galton were the first Europeans to record the existence of the Etosha pan on 29 May 1851. The explorers were traveling with Ovambo copper ore traders when they arrived at Omutjamatunda (now known as Namutoni).
The Etosha pan was discovered when they traveled north upon leaving Namutoni.
Relentless Hunting in Etosha National Park
Relentless hunting of the area’s game ensued until 1907. This is when Dr von Lindequist, then the governor of German South West Africa proclaimed three reserves to protect the land and seasonal migrations.
Change in Size of Etosha National Park
The present-day Etosha National Park has had many major and minor boundary changes since its inception in 1907. The major boundary changes since 1907 were because of Ordinance 18 of 1958 and Ordinance 21 of 1970.
When the Etosha area was proclaimed as Game Reserve 2 by Ordinance 88 of 1907, the park stretched from the mouths of the Kunene river and Hoarusib river on the Skeleton Coast to Namutoni in the east.
The original area was estimated to be 99,526 square kilometers (38,427 sq mi), an estimate that has been corrected to about 80,000 square kilometres (31,000 sq mi).
Ordinance 18 of 1958 changed the western park boundaries to exclude the area between the Kunene river and the Hoarusib river and instead include the area between Hoanib river and Uchab river, thus reducing the park’s area to 55,000 square kilometres (21,000 sq mi).
The Odendaal Commission’s (1963) decision resulted in the demarcation of the present-day park boundary in 1970.
In recent years, there has been persistent and increasing talk of developing a ‘people’s park’ – designed to link Etosha with the Skeleton Coast. If this were to come to fruition, it would cross the concessions currently held by Hobatere, Etendeka and Palmwag, creating a 20km-wide corridor to allow free movement of wildlife between the two national parks.
What to See in Etosha National Park
The game and birds found here are typical of the savanna plains of the main African wildlife safari areas in Namibia, but include several species endemic to this western side of the continent, adjacent to the Namib Desert.
Etosha National Park’s Fauna
The park has about 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and 1 species of fish (up to 49 species of fish during floods).
By 1881, large game mammals like elephants, rhinoceroses and lions had been nearly exterminated in the region. The proclamation of the game reserve helped some of the animals recover, but some species like buffalo and wild dogs have been extinct since the middle of the 20th century.
Prof. P. Schoemann, a writer from Otjiwarango, was appointed game warden in 1951 and he considered the grasslands to be severely overgrazed. A bone meal plant was constructed near Rietfontein and culling of zebras and wildebeests began in 1952.
Official records indicate 293 zebras and 122 wildebeest were processed at the plant, but conservationists claimed thousands had been culled and successfully forced the plant’s closure during the same year.
The drought that began in the year 1980 resulted in the largest capture and culling operation in the history of the park. 2235 mountain zebras and 450 plains zebras were captured, culled or sold. 525 elephants were culled and processed at a temporary abattoir near Olifantsrus.
What is Currently at Etosha National park
The more common herbivores include elephant, giraffe, eland, blue wildebeest, kudu, gemsbok, springbok, impala, steenbok and zebra.
The most numerous of these are the springbok which can often be seen in herds numbering thousands, spread out over the most barren of plains. These finely marked antelope have a marvelous habit of pronking, either (it appears) for fun or to avoid predators.
It has been suggested that pronking is intended to put predators off in the first place by showing the animal’s strength and stamina; the weakest pronkers are the ones predators are seen to go for.
Elephant are very common, though digging for water below the sand wears down their tusks, so big tuskers are very rare. Often large family groups are seen trooping down to waterholes to drink, wallow and bathe.
The park’s population has been under scientific scrutiny for the infrasonic noises (below the range of human hearing) which they make. It is thought that groups communicate over long distances in this way.
Among the rarer species, black rhino continue to thrive here, and the floodlit waterholes at Okaukuejo and Halali provide two of the continent’s best chances to observe this aggressive and secretive species.
In recent years, about a dozen white rhino have been introduced. Your best chance of seeing these is in the east of the park, around Aus, Springbokfontein, Batia or Okerfontein, either early or late in the day.
Black-faced impala are restricted to Namibia and southern Angola, occurring here as well as in parts of the Kunene region to the west. With only isolated populations, numbering under a thousand or so, they are one of the rarest animals in the region.
The Damara dik-dik is the park’s smallest antelope. Endemic to Namibia, it is common here in areas of dense bush.
Roan antelope and red hartebeest occur all over the subcontinent, though they are common nowhere. This is definitely one of the better parks in which to look for roan, especially in the mopane areas around Aus and Olifantsbad.
Predators in Etosha
All of the larger felines are found in Etosha, with good numbers of lion, leopard, cheetah and caracal. The lion tends to prey mainly upon zebra and wildebeest, whilst the cheetah rely largely upon springbok.
The seldom-seen leopard, take a varied diet, including antelope and small mammals, whilst the equally elusive caracal go for similar but smaller prey.
There have been several attempts to introduce wild dog here, but so far no success. The usual problem has been that the dogs don’t know how to avoid lion, which have subsequently killed.
Also found in the park are both spotted and brown hyenas, together with silver jackal (or cape fox), and the more common black-backed jackal .
Many of which can be seen in the late evening, skulking around the camps in search of scraps of food.
Birds of Etosha National Park
Some 340 species of birds have been recorded in Etosha, including many uncommon members of the hawk and vulture families.
Amongst the birds of prey, bateleur, martial, tawny and Wahlberg’s eagles are fairly common, as are black-breasted and brown snake eagles.
Pale chanting goshawks are more often seen than the similar Gabar or the smaller little banded goshawk.
The list of harriers, falcons and kestrels occurring here is even longer, and worthy of a special mention are the very common rock kestrels. The unusual red-necked and particularly cute pygmy falcons, which are less readily seen.
The impressive peregrine falcon and Montagu’s harrier are two of the rarer summer migrants.
Lappet-faced and white-backed vultures are common here, outnumbering the odd pair of white-headed or hooded vultures. Palmnut vultures are occasionally seen in the east of the park.
The number of large birds stalking around the plains can strike visitors as unusual: invariably during the day you will see groups of ostriches or pairs of secretary birds.
Equally, it is easy to drive within metres of many kori bustards and black korhaans, which will just sit by the roadside and watch the vehicles pass. In the wet season, blue cranes, both beautiful and endangered, are common here.
Etosha is worth visiting in January and February for them alone. Other specialities of the park include violet wood hoopoe, white-tailed shrike, bare-cheeked and black-faced babblers, short-toed rock thrush, and a pale race of the pink-bellied lark.
The Etosha Pan
The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However, the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up.
The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time.
This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds.
A San legend about the formation of the Etosha Pan tells of how a village was raided and everyone but the women slaughtered. One woman was so upset about the death of her family she cried until her tears formed a massive lake. When the lake dried up nothing was left apart from a huge white pan.
The game viewing while on Namibia safari tour in Etosha National Park is excellent, the best time being from May to September – the cooler months in Namibia.
Visitors to Etosha Game Reserve can expect to see many buck species, elephant, giraffe, rhino and lions. More fortunate visitors will see leopard and cheetah. There is a network of roads linking the five camps and subsidiary roads lead to various waterholes.
|Languages spoken||English, German, Afrikaan|
|Currency used||Namibian Dollar (NAD)|
|Area (km2)||22,270 SQ. KM|