Etosha trip reports and accommodation advice

Baby elephants at Rietfontein watering hole (October 2020)

For us, the best thing about visiting Etosha is that each trip is different. It’s like one of those “Choose You Own Adventure” books playing out in real time. It’s fascinating, fun, and thrilling. But different climates and seasons result in different animal behaviors and can impact what you are able to see.

My last blog post was all about tips for making the most of your trip to Etosha. Trip reports and some advice on picking accommodation below!

When: Late December (summer)
Stayed: Gondwana Safari Lodge (because we didn’t know better)
Saw: Some lions snoozing under trees along the road driving to the main drag from Gemsbokvlakte, and lots of zebra/antelope. No elephant or rhino. Went on a Gondwana game drive and saw a lion with a zebra kill.
Over-all impressions: If you stay outside of the park, it’s harder to get in as the gates open (there is a line) and you have to be careful to ensure you leave before the gates close. There was a good amount of rain by this point so the watering holes were less populated. 

This dude had the meat sweats
Hazy skies and grass during the rainy season

When: Mid-July (winter)
Stayed: Okaukuejo
Saw:  At the Okaukuejo watering hole: lots of elephant, rhino, and lions nightly. Driving around: lots of fat and happy zebra/antelope and secretary birds, several hyena at dusk/dawn around Nebrowni, one elephant and two rhino. Monitor lizard on the Salvadora/Sueda loop.
Over-all impressions: After a solid rainy season ending in April/May, the grass is too tall to easily spot snoozing predators or anything else low-lying. Watering holes started to become populated around mid-day.

Plain zebra and tall grass in the afternoon sun
Springbok!
We saw so many secretary birds on this trip

When: Mid-October (spring)
Stayed: Okaukuejo and Namutoni
Saw: Rhino, elephants, zebra, giraffe, bustards, and antelope galore. Lions in the morning near Nebrowni, a leopard resting in the cave at Ngobib. Spotted hyenas by Nebrowni, Klein Namutoni and Chudop. All the herbivores congregate at watering holes. Snakes and banded mongooses at Namutoni watering hole.
Over-all impressions: Best animal sightings yet. Literally hundreds of elephants at watering holes. Amazing sightings took almost zero effort on our part. Watering hole at Namutoni is nothing special.

OMG
Watering hole buddies
Animals galore: elephant, giraffe, zebra, and springbok

There is a glut of accommodation around Etosha, and it can be hard to decide where to stay. To make a choice, first you have to pick your #1 priority. The table below will help you to work through your options.

If your #1 goal is to……Then you should…… Keeping in mind that…
Have a fancy, indulgent lodging experienceStay outside the parkThe NWR lodging in the park doesn’t suck. It’s just not fancy and the food isn’t amazing.
See Etosha on a shoe-string budgetCamp outside the parkCampsites outside the park are probably less expensive than those in the park.
See all the animalsStay inside the parkThrough NWR you can book night and early morning game drives, plus there’s the watering holes at night at the rest camps.
Have fancy lodging and still see all the animals including big cats (and you have an unlimited budget)Stay at OngumaWe haven’t been there but it’s supposedly the best place to stay in/near Etosha.
Have a pleasant camping experienceCamp outside the parkJust about any campsite outside of the park gates will be a better experience than camping at the NWR facilities.
Save some money and still see animalsCamp inside the parkCamping inside the park can be crowded, noisy, and messy.
Go to Etosha during the high season at the last minuteStay outside the park, or camp inside the parkChances are NWR facilities will be fully booked unless you want to camp

From Windhoek, the closest gate is the Andersson Gate, which is about a 4-hour drive. Okaukuejo is the closest rest camp to Andersson, which is convenient since the watering hole is amazing and we can arrive on a Friday afternoon and still have time for a short game drive before the gates close. For these reasons Okaukuejo is also the busiest rest camp and is most likely to be fully booked. The vibe there is much more frenetic than at Namutoni, for instance.

We are heading back to Etosha again next month, and I’m already so excited! You never know what lies ahead, and that is the best part.

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