Namibia: Etosha National Park

by | Jun 27, 2019 | International Travel, Travel

Note: this post contains a small number of the photos from our three days in Etosha – to see more check our gallery page.

Wednesday morning we hit the road by 8:45a and were at the Van Anderson gate by 10:30am. There was no line and we were asked to fill out some paperwork — which apparently I was doing too slowly because the woman impatiently sighed and printed out a sheet with my basic details on it before I was even a quarter of the way done with the form she had handed me. Meanwhile another guard was surveying Eric on our nationalities and how many cameras we had with us. You don’t pay at that gate so we continued another 15 minutes to the Okaukuejo camp and stopped at reception to pay for our three-day stay in the park. The per person per day entrance fee is for 24 hours and they give you two hour grace period from when you enter the park, so as long as we left the gate by noonish on Saturday we were good! The total cost was 510N$ (~$36USD), quite reasonable.

view of Okaukuejo gate from the tower

From Okaukuejo we started the 75km drive to Halali – stopping at several waterholes including Nebrowni, Rietfontein, and Nuamses (which was picturesque but alas, no animals were there in mid-afternoon).

zebra and oryx @ Nebrowni waterhole

springbok and a black-backed jackal @ Nebrowni waterhole

a giraffe crossed the road in front of us

Wildebeest @ Rietfontein waterhole

We checked into the Halali Lodge and ended up with the ‘Lion’ honeymoon suite. While spacious, the bathroom doesn’t have a private toilet and the feature of our room — a hot tub in the private yard — wasn’t working. Also, the skylight is directly over the bed, letting in a lot of light. Overall, it was rather disappointing.

our honeymoon chalet - Lion

our 'honeymoon' suite (Lion) @ Halali Camp   open concept bathroom at the Halali Camp

However, we were really in Halali for the Moringa water hole, and it did not disappoint! Our first visit was at 5pm where we saw numerous elephants and a pair of sleeping lions.

viewing platform for Moringa waterhole

elephants @ Moringa waterhole

enjoying the sunset

We took a break for dinner – a buffet with kudu, pork chops, or beef steak grilled to order, plus rolls, salads and a few sides like rice and veggies. The price was 280N$ pp ($20USD) and we ordered a bottle of the Tall Horse sauvignon blanc to celebrate Eric’s birthday. They also had a lovely sheet cake that we enjoyed for dessert.

Eric's birthday dinner!

oh look, Eric got a birthday cake!

When it came time to pay the only thing listed on our check was the bottle of wine. When asked, the waitress said dinner had been prepaid which was news to us. We double-checked our reservations and credit card statement when we got home but found no mention of a prepaid meal with our room type. I guess we got a free meal for Eric’s birthday!

After dinner we went back to the waterhole. Now floodlit, we saw even more elephants plus one rhino (who looks small in comparison). After most of the elephants left a hyena showed up, but then things died down and we decided to call it a night.

Moringa waterhole after dinner (all the elephants! and 1 rhino!)

The next morning we arrived at the Moringa waterhole around 7:15am, and while nothing was going on animal-wise, we did enjoy a lovely sunrise.

Moringa waterhole @ sunrise (no animals)

We had the buffet breakfast (definitely included in the room rate) which was fine – once again eggs cooked to order along with some pastries, meats and coffee / juice. Upon check-out we asked to speak to a manager about the hot tub problems and settled on a free bottle of wine to take with us as compensation – another bottle of the Tall Horse sauvignon blanc we liked from the night before.

Our first stop on the way back to the Okaukuejo camp was the Helio waterhole but it was dried up with no wildlife. We had more luck along the road and at the next stop, Rietfontein, where we saw lions parked under trees and a whole host of animals.

Etosha traffic jam

lions enjoying the shade @ Rietfontein waterhole

Kori Bustard

We then took a detour road to visit three waterholes: Salvadora (a TON of blue wildebeest); Charitsaub (wet but no wildlife) and Sueda (dry but with nice views of a small canyon). We were going to drive up to Homob but a couple coming out said there was water but no wildlife that time of day so we skipped it.

Wildebeest @ Salvadora waterhole

After a few rough road detours we decided to head back to Nebrowni where we had seen a good variety of wildlife the day before, and again the waterhole was teeming with ostrich, zebra, jackals, springbok and oryx.

so many animals @ Nebrowni waterhole

We enjoyed the animal watching there for about 45 minutes before heading to Okaukuejo Camp to check into our waterhole chalet (#5).

our waterhole chalet #5

our waterhole chalet (#5) @ Okaukuejo Camp

the wall below separates humans from the waterhole!

patio view from our waterhole chalet

Nothing was going on for most of the afternoon, so we took a break from the sun and rough roads and then went back to the Nebrowni waterhole around 4:45pm. Jackpot. A traffic jam had formed on the main road due to two relaxing lions.

resting lions = very few animals at the waterhole

We took a few photos then parked right in front of the waterhole which was empty (of cars and animals) except for another sleeping lioness nearby. After about 20 minutes I noticed two elephants approaching! The two males strolled over to the waterhole forcing the lioness to move to a new position.

two elephants and a lioness

elephants arriving @ Nebrowni waterhole

elephant @ Nebrowni waterhole

Another twenty minutes went by watching the elephants drink and bathe, and then nine more lions showed up – including several cubs!

a pride of lions elephant @ Nebrowni waterhole

mom and her cubs

There was a bit of a power play for water access by the smaller elephant before everyone settled down. It was the highlight of the day – absolutely amazing.

elephant wins the better drinking position

lions having a drink

We were all alone for several minutes and by simply staying put we had the best view of this whole drama. Trucks and game drive vehicles jockeyed for position all around us and we finally had to request one truck back up to let us leave so we could make it back to the camp by the 6:30pm gate closure. As a bonus we noticed a giraffe and her calf in the distance on our way out.

We decided to skip dinner at the lodge in favor of peanut butter sandwiches, grilled meat potato chips and cappuccino cookies along with some wine in front of our chalet.

After dinner Eric wandered to the waterhole and when he didn’t come back right away I joined him to see a lone giraffe under the lights.

one giraffe @ Okaukuejo waterhole (7:45pm)

Sleeping mere steps from a flood-lit waterhole is pretty amazing. I went back at 9:30pm, then again just after midnight, taking advantage of our close proximity to the waterhole to wander over and have a look. Wow! Several rhinos (including juveniles) and three more giraffes over two trips!

rhinos @ Okaukuejo waterhole (12:15am)

Eric visited the waterhole at 6am this morning and nothing! Clearly water is not a priority for the large game animals first thing in the morning.

The buffet breakfast was just okay, but at least they had granola and yogurt this time and the omelet chef found me a hard-boiled egg upon request. On our way out of the camp, we stopped by reception to let them know our sink was leaking onto the floor pretty badly. The entire faucet had been replaced when we returned to the room, so at least it was fixable!

We headed northwest out of the camp to the Sprokieswoud area – the fairy tale forest—to get some photos of these unique African Moringa trees. It was a mixed bag however because in order to protect the trees from hungry elephants (they enjoy the roots) most of the plot is now surrounded by an electric fence.

African Moringa trees protected from elephants by an electric fence (Sprookieswoud)

African Moringa tree

We didn’t see an obvious way to get into the protected area and the road was pretty rough so we turned around. Thankfully there were a few intact trees on the way so we still got to see them in person.

Along the road the landscape changed from rock, to dry brush, to leafy trees… where we saw several giraffes as well.

an Angolan giraffe having a snack

The road was in pretty good shape so we continued on past the Charl Marais dam to the Ozonjuitji m’Bari waterhole, and suddenly the weather totally changed. The wind picked up and we found ourselves surrounded by dust. The blue skies had changed to white and visibility plummeted. So, even though there were a few animals at the waterhole, it was nigh impossible to see them.

oryx in the dust @ Ozonjuitji m’Bari waterhole

Lappet-faced Vulture

We turned around and near the camp the dust was less noticeable, so we decided to check out the Gaseb, Gemsbokvlakte, and Olifantsbad waterholes. So glad we did! The Gaseb hole was empty of visible water and wildlife but the Gemsbokvlakte was a hit. We saw a rhino (our first daylight viewing!), two giraffe, warthogs, ostrich and a herd of springbok (of course), plus two male elephants just off the road on the way. We think they were the same two from the Nebrowni tableau the evening before.

rhino, giraffe, and springbok @ Gemsbokvlakte waterhole

rhino and giraffes rhino, giraffe, and springbok @ Gemsbokvlakte waterhole

springbok @ Gemsbokvlakte waterhole

At the Olifantsbad waterhole we spied a large warthog happily munching on something green and slimy, presumably algae, plus several male kudu nearby. We also think we saw some (endangered) black-faced impala along the treeline but it was hard to get a good photo.

kudu @ Olifantsbad waterhole

warthog @ Olifantsbad waterhole

When we returned to the camp around 2pm there was a bit of a buzz in the air so we wandered to the waterhole in time to see two elephants bathing.

elephant @ Okaukuejo waterhole

Okaukuejo waterhole

After some relaxing we returned the short distance to the Nebrowni waterhole – our last visit of the trip. Although last night had more drama, we still got to see a prowling lioness, the same two elephants and a rhinoceros, plus some sleeping wildebeest and antsy springbok.

rhino and elephant @ Nebrowni waterhole

a patient lioness waiting her turn

rhino @ Nebrowni waterhole

We decided again to forgo the dinner buffet so I picked up some game salami sticks (30N$) at the small grocery store and made Eric a sandwich using the last of our crunchy peanut butter. We also finished the free bottle of Tall Horse from the other camp.

Staying in the park was wonderful for the ease of getting around and having a petrol station on-site that accepts credit cards. However, the meals are overpriced for the quality of food / service and the rooms are expensive with little issues (leaking sink, broken jacuzzi) marring an otherwise fine stay.

We also had considering the option of going for a game drive through the parks but the pricing was high (650-750N$/pp about $52pp) and after all we had seen already, I wasn’t sure a guided trip was going to improve our experience. The night drive may have been nice but it’s nearly impossible to get decent photos after dark.

Our Itinerary

2024 Trips

San Diego, CA (Jan)
Sarasota, FL (Feb)
Madrid, Spain (Mar)
Valencia, Spain (Mar+Apr)
Palma, Mallorca (Apr)
Croatia (May)
Faroe Islands (Aug)
London, UK (Sept)
Bari, Italy (Sept)
Rome, Italy (Oct)
Frankfurt, Germany (Oct)

2022 Trips

Florida (Feb)
NC Mountains (Apr)
Washington DC (Apr)
Valencia, Spain (May)
Hilton Head, SC (May)
Pacific NW (Jun)
Long Island (Jul)
Florida (Sept)
Chicago (Sept)
Poland (Sept)
NC Mountains (Nov)
Euro Xmas Markets (Dec)