Etosha is one of Africa’s great national parks and the game viewing here is on a par with South Africa’s Kruger, Zimbabwe’s Hwange, Kenya’s Masai Mara and Tanzania’s Serengeti. A visit to Etosha is deservedly one of the highlights of any visit to Namibia. Some 114 mammal species, 110 reptile species and more than 340 different bird species have been identified, and three well-appointed rest camps cater for the hundreds of daily visitors. Each rest camp has a floodlit watering hole, which offers overnight visitors the chance to see good numbers of game in an unusual environment. A large proportion of the park is either closed to the public or inaccessible by road, which has enabled conservationists to carry out important studies of wildlife.
The central feature of the park is the Etosha Pan, a huge depression that becomes a lake during summers of exceptional rainfall, although even then the water is rarely more than a few centimetres deep. Most of the time it is a blinding expanse of flat, white, cracked and dried mud that shimmers with mirages and is dotted with spiralling dust devils. Seeing animals pace across this surreal landscape is one of the sights that make Etosha so special. Indeed, the name Etosha is usually translated as ‘great white place’ or ‘place of emptiness’.