Etosha: the wildlife mecca

Etosha National Park is known as one of the world’s greatest wildlife-viewing venues. It’s got four out of the big five. Luckily, we’d already seen the one that they didn’t have, the buffalo, in Chobe National Park at the beginning of our trip.

There’s also this group of animals called the ugly five: hyena, vulture, warthog, marabou stork, and wildebeest. We saw four out of five of those in the park and with our many, many warthog sightings in the past, I can happily say that list is complete!

The name Etosha (originally Etotha) comes from a word meaning “Great White Place” in reference to its salt pan. This immense saline desert spans 5,000 sq km and roughly 130 km long and as wide as 50 km in places.

our first group photo on the salt pan

This uninhabitable area is surrounded by grasslands, which is heavily populated with 114 types of mammals, 340 types of bird species, 16 types of reptiles and amphibians, one type of fish, and countless types of insects. No chasing animals here. You’ll find them. Everywhere. In herds.

Kirsten, a fellow Dragoman traveler, visited Etosha 17 years ago. She booked this trip starting in Nairobi for a chance for another game drive at Etosha.

Not going to lie, I didn’t think her high expectations would hold up. But two hours in, it already lived up to its hype. It put every other game drive we’ve had to shame.

Samson is our driver and has done this tour for four years and told us we had the best game drive he’d ever been on.

To be fair, this time of year is ideal for sighting all these creatures. Watering holes are especially important in the dry winter months for the animals, and the best place for us to silently view wildlife come and go. Well as silently as we could in Imani, our beloved truck.

We all tracked the wildlife we saw, because otherwise we’d never remember it all.


  • Wildebeest
  • Springbok
  • Zebra
  • Common Eland
  • Spotted Hyena
  • Brown Hyena
  • Black-backed jackal
  • Orynx/gemsbok
  • Giraffe
  • Dik-dik
  • Honey badger
  • Impala
  • Elephants
  • Striped mongoose
  • Hartebeest
  • Leopard
  • Black rhino
  • Lion


  • Secretary bird
  • Kori bustard
  • Guinea owl
  • Marabou stork
  • Pigeons
  • Lilac breasted roller
  • Vulture
  • Crowned lapwing

The hidden gem about this park is actually at one of the campsites. Every campsite has a watering hole, but one in particular is legendary. Luck was on our side as it was at our campsite.

Floodlights allow tourists the chance to view wildlife in the dark. It is a truly magical moment, sitting in silence with a hundred other people watching giraffes, elephants, jackals, and even a rhino slink out of the blackness for a refreshing drink of water.

But this post isn’t really about telling. It’s all about showing. So enjoy these pictures!

One story I want to remember is the silly situation Sophie and I ended up dealing with that night.

Sophie is always cold at night, especially her feet. Pauline had recommended that she fill her metal water bottle with hot water and put it in the bottom of her sleeping bag. I’m sure you can guess where this is going.

Well, I came back from brushing my teeth that night, and Sophie looked up at me, all sad, saying she had a problem. The water bottle spilled everywhere. Her sleeping bag, the tent, and our pads were soaked. We went into problem solving mode, trying to figure out how we could stay warm that night.

We ended up finding a couple of blankets from some neighbors next door and snuggling up with my sleeping bag. It actually ended up working out, but it was definitely a moment to remember. And at the very least, it got me a chance to see a black rhino at the watering hole that I never would have seen without it. Sophie’s still mad she didn’t go with me to the watering hole.

One thought on “Etosha: the wildlife mecca

  1. Pingback: Etosha: the wildlife mecca — ticket for two |

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