Our Namibia self-drive safari in Etosha National Park

In the north of Namibia you will find one of the country’s major highlights: Etosha National Park. We decided to fully enjoy this highlight and to spend here four days and three nights in the park for our Namibia self-drive safari. We should be able to spot elephants or a lion during those days, don’t you think? We kept a diary of our 4 days in Etosha National Park.

4 days in Etosha: our Namibia self-drive safari

The night before visiting Etosha, we sleep in Waterberg, a strategic and beautiful place between Windhoek and Etosha. So at the beginning of the afternoon we approach the Von Lindequist gate, the eastern entrance of the park, from the dusty C38. Sebastiaan hums the famous tune of Jurassic Park. The idea that to be driving around lions and leopards in our own car just behind this gate, really gives us a Jurassic Park feeling.

We register at the gate on the registration list that we will fill in again and again during our Namibia trip – the Namibians do love their paperwork – and drive with our papers to the Namutoni camp not far from the gate. Before entering the camp, we decide to take a quick first look at the area north of Namutoni. This decision turns out to be a good one! We are immediately rewarded with our first wildlife. We spot giraffes, many springboks and impalas, a group of ostriches, zebras and also the flamingos that are not seen in many parts of the park. The highlight of this afternoon are two playing zebras running behind each other, past the car, in front of the car, biting in each other’s buttocks. Such an amazing spectacle!

We end this round drive back at the camp. At the reception we pay for the park permit for three days (3x 24 hours) and we check in at the reception. Or check in? Our reservation for the campsite appears not to be in the system. Oops! It turns out that we booked all park campsites a day later than we actually arrive. Fortunately for us, it is low season. The campsites would be fully booked in high season, but now the campsite can change our booking without any problems. Pfiew!

We look for a good spot on the campsite and unfold our rooftop tent. We get a cold drink from the fridge and think back with a smile to all the wildlife we already saw that afternoon. We cook on our gas bottle, check around sunset if there’s wildlife at the waterhole next to the campsite – unfortunately not – and get into our tent early after sunset for a good night sleep.

We sleep late the next morning, as I unfortunately had a nasty migraine that night. Around 10AM the tent is packed and we leave the camp. We spot large herds of giraffes and many small springboks. January is baby time in Etosha, so we are treated to many baby animals. The little ‘springboks’ put their name on and jump over the fields. Very cute! Around lunchtime we already arrive at Halali, our next camp. The distances in Etosha are not very long. There we have lunch in the restaurant and relax for a bit at the swimming pool in the hot afternoon.

At the end of the afternoon we leave the kamp again, because when the temperatures drop, we have a greater chance of spotting game. We arrive at one of the most beautiful stops in Etosha, all the way on the edge of the Etosha salt pan after which the park. There is a small part where – unlike the rest of the park – you are allowed to get out of your car. It is very impressive to walk a few meters over the vast salt pan. That white background and clear blue sky, a stunning sight!

As we drive back in the direction of Halali, we are treated to another stunning sight. A park vehicle with a guide has stopped not far from the salt pan stop, because under a tree lies a male lion with a dead zebra. Unfortunately a bit too far to take a good photo with my 55mm lens, but with our binoculars we can take a good look at the lion. Such a cool sight! Back at the campsite we cook dinner on our gas bottle again, visit the waterhole of this campsite in the evening and spot hyenas there. Musquito repellent appears to be a must at the waterhole. After sunset we go to sleep early again.

Our third day we get up at 6 am, hoping to spot the best game during the cooler morning. We are the first to leave the camp when the gates are opened. And our effort is rewarded! After first enjoying all the jumpy baby springboks, we see a male lion next to the road. So close, wow!

Already amazed by this sight, we suddenly see two females walking almost past the car. And why is that park vehicle with the guide and his tourists standing over there? There are also two lion cubs! We drive closer and stop the car. We open the windows to be able to fully enjoy the two little ones tumbling over each other. We had not yet had breakfast and decide that this is the perfect time to make our sandwich. We eat our breakfast looking at the two cubs. The lions are hungry as well. As soon as we drive away, we see two other females hunting. Unfortunately they are not lucky, but for us it is a wonderful spectacle to watch them sneak and sprint to the game.

The rest of the morning we see many springboks, wildebeests, kudus, oryx and black-faced impalas around the many waterholes in the park. Unlike the regular impala, it has two black stripes on its head. It is a rare animal that is particularly common in Etosha. As we drive further, we wonder if we still have to join an organized “game drive” from the camp. Like the vehicle at the lion cubs that morning, we would then explore the park with a guide. We haven’t spotted an elephant or rhino ourselves. With a guide we of course have a better chance to see them. We are in doubt.

We have lunch at the next camp, main camp Okaukuejo, and cool off in the swimming pool. It is super hot, so the cooling water is more than welcome. Sunscreen is also a must with this strong summer sun. At the end of the afternoon we leave the camp again. BINGO! There are two large elephants under a large tree. Wow! While we look at the elephants with big eyes, two vehicles with guides pass by and gesture to us that we have to drive even further. More elephants?

We drive a few meters further and spot a lion nearby in the thick bushes. A few meters further on we see a male lion hovering under a tree. He has just completed a successful hunt, because next to him is a dead giraffe. Wow! The vultures are already hanging around the lion and its prey, but the lion drives them away. First he will eat, only then the rest of the animals. As this place is so close to the camp, we drive past it a few times that afternoon and the next morning as well. We therefore have the chance to see how the lion first eats the largest pieces of meat, hyenas put their teeth in the giraffe the next time and the birds have the last pieces of the giraffe the next day. The giraffe has almost disappeared in one day. Impressive!

During the rest of the afternoon, we mainly spot smaller animals. We drive back to the campsite, cook on our gas bottle and look for a bench again at sunset at the waterhole next to the campsite. When we checked in that afternoon we were told that rhinos were spotted the days before at the waterhole of Okaukuejo. And we are lucky too! A minute after we sit down on the bench, Sebastiaan spots a rhino from afar. And another one! And the enormous dust cloud behind it?

A herd of elephants with several small ones comes to drink at the waterhole just like the two rhinos just before our nose! Two rhinos and a herd of elephants? It turns out that there is no need for a game drive with a guide at all. For more than an hour we take photos, watch the drinking elephants and rhinos and enjoy the sunset. A number of elephants are getting so close to us! The benches are on a higher area and there is a kind of fence in front of them, so that the game cannot get there. But there are also some trees on that edge and two elephants appear to be very interested in those. So we get face to face with an elephant just a meter away. No words for that.

The next morning we wake up again early and we are already on the road around 7 am. We are now driving over the part of the park that lies to the west of Okaukuejo. On all roads of Etosha it is usually very quiet in low season and we mainly see other cars around the camps or the waterholes. But in this part in particular there is almost no one. We hardly see any other traffic. We spot many impalas, springboks and zebras. And then we are lucky again. We spot our eleventh lion.

A male lion is lying next to the road under a tree. While we look at him, he stands up and walks on lazily. Directly along the road. Next to our car. So close that we close our windows a bit more. We slowly drive along with the lion. This time there are no other vehicles in the area. Just us and the lion. Less than a meter away. With this moment in our minds, we leave Etosha at the end of the morning. Wow!

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