Etosha National Park is arguably the best wildlife reserve in Namibia and one of the finest along the southwest coast of Africa. It is also one of the largest and most diverse, embracing everything from forests to grasslands to deserts and most species in southern Africa native to these areas. Etosha is one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s success stories, with many animals recovered from the brink of extinction in the 19th century.
The area of what is now Etosha had an inauspicious beginning. In the 1880s, the German colonial government began to systematically slaughter local wildlife in order to protect cattle herds from disease. It wasn’t until 1907, when great damage was already done, that a game reserve was set up to protect the surviving animals. After the colonial era, Etosha was elevated to a Game Park in 1958 and a full-fledged national parjk in 1967. Since then, many of the species had made a remarkable recovery, though it was too late to save a few, notably the African Buffalo and African Wild Dog. The park is now home to the Etosha Ecological Institute.
While Etosha is larger than parks such as Kruger in South Africa, its animal population is much lower, albeit improving. A drought in the 1980s was a setback, and many animals were culled. Large numbers of herd animals are present, especially zebras and springboks. All the big cat species are represented, though jackals are among the most common predators found here.
Etosha National Park encompasses over 22,000 square km near the border with Angola, approximately 260 miles north of Windhoek. Although there is gated access to the park, it is largely open to the surrounding area. There are several lodges and rest camps on site. Etosha is open year-round, though some parts are seasonal. The cost of admission is NAD80.00. Web: www.etoshanationalpark.org (official website).