Planning a trip to Etosha but not sure when to visit? We give you a run down of what you might expect depending on the season.
While the wetter, greener summer months make big game viewing a more tricky exercise, with animals easily hidden in the long summer grass, this season is clearly the season for bird lovers at Etosha National Park.
More than 340 species of bird can be found at the national park, both local and migratory. Most of these birds assemble in great numbers at the Etosha Pan for a little refreshment when the pan becomes filled with water during the summer season, which extends over the months between November and April. Aside from the Etosha Pan itself, many of the park’s waterholes and smaller pans are also full to the brim with water and teeming with birdlife at this time of year, and are all good places to sit with binoculars and long lens at the ready.
Among the birding highlights, more than a million flamingos have been counted in Etosha during particularly wet years. The Etosha Pan provides a breeding ground for the flamingos – one of only two areas in the entire Southern Africa region to do so.
The lush green summer vegetation and beautiful watery expanse of the pan offer great backdrops and make for fantastic landscape shots and bird images, and compared to the winter months, you won’t have to worry about so many other cars around at this time of year. Temperatures though, can get pretty hot and sticky. Overall, while big game viewing might be less rewarding in summer, bird watching is a winner, and the green landscapes and abundance of water make for wonderful scenery throughout your time in the park.
The cooler and drier winter months extend from May to September, with the air especially dry between July and September. This is well and truly the season for wildlife viewing.
A number of man-made and natural water holes decorate the arid landscape, and the areas around these waterholes are where many of the best sightings are to be experienced, with most of the park’s larger mammals often having to cover substantial distances across the open plains to find a place to quench their thirst. You might be lucky enough to see lion, elephant and rhino all drinking side by side at the water’s edge. Etosha in winter is perhaps the best place in Africa for viewing the notoriously shy and endangered black rhino.
The Etosha Pan is completely dried out at this time of year, and takes on a striking moon-like appearance, making for spectacular panoramic views and shots as a range of game moves across the horizon of the shimmering expanse. Meanwhile, most of the vegetation that proliferates during summer vanishes during the winter months, again making the wildlife much easier to spot at this time of year.
The cooler and less humid winter air also means the animals are less lethargic and more active, and so are you. The downside of all this is that the appeal of the wildlife sightings in winter brings with it a considerably higher number of tourists; many of the camps and lodges fill up weeks or months in advance during winter, especially during the school holidays.
The Final Scores:
Overall Etosha National Park is a place marked by extreme contrasts during the different seasons, with each season having plenty to offer depending on your preferences. In many ways then, the two seasonal experiences shouldn’t be compared. They are each in their own league, and are both worthy of their own title, as we are sure anyone lucky enough to have experienced both seasons in the park would be inclined to agree.
(Co-written by Joy Kiketha)