Luxury safari in Etosha

Even high-end guests sometimes choose self-drive safaris in Namibia, all the better to watch the flat landscapes unfurl to the growl of a motor. This is a country made for road trips. For those to whom time is the most precious thing, however, flying will be preferable. Small charter flights are available, and the top lodges will have (or share) airstrips. There is of course the added bonus of seeing the enormity of Namibia from the air; even the capital Windhoek is a mere blip of humanity quickly swallowed by red, white and khaki expanses of nothingness. With luck, you’ll see the 4,730km2 Etosha Pan from the air, shivering white upon the plains like a luminescent jellyfish.

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Although justifiably billed as a top safari experience, Etosha might not tick all the boxes for first time safari goers. Its differences are its charms: the eerie stark pans in winter, the arid landscape with animals that have adapted to its cycles of rain and drought, and the ability to see to the horizon much of the time. It is a unique biome and deserves its accolades, but it is a busy place with ample tourists of all kinds; enormous, but fenced in; wild, but studded with the manmade waterholes that allow life to exist. Visitors who accept these contradictions will appreciate it most. Even if staying outside the park, do take trips into Etosha itself for the amazing landscapes; worth the bother of a bit of extra company. Those who want to explore the vistas through a lens may wish to look into a specialised, guided photographic safari, and expert birding safaris are highly recommended for avid twitchers. Photographers will prefer the ghostly hues of winter; birders will endure high temperatures in summer to see wetland birds and migrants.

Unless drawn to the in-park amenities, finer accommodations will be found outside the park. The best are very good, although the most famous names in the Botswana and East Africa safari world are not represented. While any grumps tend to be about food or service, most guests appear to come away more than content with game sightings and lodgings. It’s advised to pick a large reserve with representatives of the Big Five to keep you company: one or two of these reserves have excellent conservation reputations and will offer exciting activities such as rhino tracking and guided walks, plus sunset and night drives. Sightings may not be as bountiful as in Etosha itself (which all lodges offer game drives to), but there will be the bonus of exclusivity: no unwanted, loud companions arriving just as the lions you’ve seen are slinking onto their bellies for a hunt. Guides are generally very good, and will do their best to find the more antisocial but desirable beasts.

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Specialised, tailor-made private guided tours to the area, with guests booked in at appropriate lodgings for as much time as suits them, are the other alternative. Other mobile, guided small group tours are advertised, and some are deluxe, but be aware that there is no wild camping allowed in Etosha National Park itself, so nightjar cries through (quality) canvas are harder to come by. Your best bet for a romantic, tent-and-lantern experience is likely to be a fine, permanent tented camp in an adjoining large private reserve.

Travel tips

  • Try and book at a reserve with as many Big Five species as possible for that extra thrill.
  • Rates seldom approach the highs seen at Botswana’s top lodges, so the most luxurious lodges available should seem reasonable. Booking ahead where possible is recommended to avoid disappointment.
  • Both fly-in and mobile safaris often have baggage limitations of 20kg, to be packed in soft suitcases that can be squashed into tiny planes.

Our Recommended Itinerary

Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)

day 1

Stunning Sossusvlei
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)

day 2

Sand, sand and more sand

day 3

Eco-friendly Damaraland stay
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)

day 4

Unique desert wildlife

day 5

Hanging with the Himba
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)
  • Namibia’s Sossusvlei, Damaraland and Kunene Luxury Safari (7 days)

day 6

Quad-bike through the desert

day 7

See you next time

View Full Itinerary

You might also like

Etosha in May

The land is drying out and long, warm sunny days will start turning the bush a million shades of brown. Average high temperatures are a delicious 29° Centigrade, with lows of 11°C. As things dry out, waterholes become the place to be once again, making it possible to pull up near one and see all sorts of action. By the end of this month, elephants are likely to be heading back to the…

Etosha National Park wildlife

African elephants that have become accustomed to the relentless cycles of drought in Etosha and map its water sources in their memories. From just 26 in 1954, their numbers have swelled to over 2,500. It was in Etosha that a study proved that elephant can communicate using infrasonic sounds; they literally ‘bounce’ these off a thermal inversion layer in the atmosphere. This allows…

Solo travel in Etosha

Namibia is a marvellous country for solo travellers, safe, accustomed to tourist needs and with excellent transport and communications infrastructure. This takes care of a lot of the anxiety about travelling to Etosha for many. One can easily take to the open road alone in a hire vehicle, and proceed to explore the park – but not all wish to. Besides the fact that striking out into a…

Etosha in December

The rains should have arrived, and the game will be moving east to browse in the Namutoni area and further north, beyond the road network. The central waterholes quieten down and will no longer be visited much by elephant; rhino, too, may take some seeking out. Baby animals are born and shiver into action, able to walk in no time, but vulnerable for the first few days after birth.…

Etosha in February

The peak of the rainy season. Vegetation will be as lush as it gets in Etosha for the next month or two – which makes game viewing more challenging. If the rains have been good, there will be water in the pan itself (and migrant waterbirds); Fisher’s Pan near Namutoni could have turned pink with flamingos. All the details mentioned for January still apply in terms of the…

Etosha in March

There still a chance of rain and the bush is thick and green and grasses tall… all very lovely, but it does make spotting animals that little bit more difficult! Not many people around, but as per February, not as much big game either, or not lolling around the waterholes waiting to be photographed. Our travel experts say this is a time for more seasoned travellers, rather than those…

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