For more than 20 years Kathryn Haylett, Founder of Your Safari, has been organising tailor-made Namibia safari tours. These include self-drive, large and small group guided, and specialist photographic tours. Here she advises on what can be seen on a safari tour of Namibia and the best places to visit in Etosha National Park.
Where to go in Namibia for a Safari Tour
People often ask us why we have chosen Namibia as our top photography tour destination.
There are many reasons, not least because the country is diverse and beautiful, with friendly people, fabulous weather and phenomenal wildlife. It is also a large country that is sparsely populated with only 2.5 million inhabitants. So if you enjoy wide-open spaces then you will love it here. And, in safari terms, there are many options for a tailor-made tour to suit any circumstances and budget.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Lion, Central Etosha, Namibia
Namibia Safari Types
Namibia is one of the few African nations where a self-drive safari is possible as it has an excellent road system and a wide choice of accommodation to suit all budgets. This gives travellers the opportunity to choose their own companions, their own itinerary and their own pace of travel. Be warned, though, that 90% of the roads are gravel and some are in better repair than others. All are perfectly driveable but actual distances are irrelevant and Google Maps often underestimates travelling times, so make sure you ask an expert.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Namib Rand
In addition to self-drive adventures, guided tours are available and can cater for large or small groups, and private tours and photographic tours are becoming increasingly popular.
Wildlife Hotspots in Namibia
The wildlife hotspots in Namibia are widespread and varied, with Etosha National Park being the jewel in the crown.
The southern deserted areas are a landscape photographer’s dream as there are huge sand dunes, deep canyons and adapted wildlife. There are excellent opportunities on a safari tour in this area of Namibia to see Gemsbok, Springbok and Ostrich in some numbers, along with more unusual animals such as Bat-eared Foxes, Cape Foxes, Meerkats, Honey Badgers and a true Namibian endemic – the Dune Lark.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia
The South Atlantic side of Namibia includes the Skeleton Coast. At over 975km long, this stretch of coastline borders some of the richest seas in the world dominated by the cold Benguela current. Here, the rarely seen Benguela or Heaviside Dolphin can be found and 850,000 Cape Fur Seals have made these waters their home. The elusive Brown Hyena or Strand Loper is the main land-based carnivore and Black-Backed Jackals can be seen on almost all the beaches.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Black Backed Jackal, Skeleton Coast, Namibia
The desert wildlife is spectacular, too, and a safari out into the Namib with a local expert will give you opportunities to experience some of the rare species that live here.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Namaqua Chameleon, Namib Desert
The area around Walvis Bay is a world-renowned birding hotspot with over 150 species recorded and large flocks of Lesser and Greater Flamingos, which are often found in the lagoon.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Flamingos, Walvis Bay Lagoon, Namibia
Up towards the Angolan border in the North West is the remote and beautiful Damaraland, home to Namibia’s fabled desert-adapted elephant, lion and Black Rhino. This is a wildlife-rich area of free roaming animals including most of Namibia’s mammal species and some rarities such as the Black Mongoose.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Springbok, Damaraland, Namibia
Further east you’ll find Etosha National Park. Half the size of Switzerland with a giant salt pan dominating two thirds of the park. Etosha is unique as a wildlife destination in having no rivers or lakes so the animals rely totally on the spring-fed waterholes to survive. This gives excellent opportunities for people to sit quietly, watch and wait for the wildlife to come to them.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Elephants, Klein Namutoni, Namibia
The Best Places to Visit in Etosha National Park
There are three main camps in the park, two satellite camps and over 65 waterholes for public viewing. The road system is very good and well signposted so if you are on a self-drive safari Etosha is a perfect destination.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Giraffe, Etosha, Namibia
The western half of the park, dominated by dolomite hills and wide-open plains, is the only area of the park where you can see baboons, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra and Klipspringers along with all Etosha’s other species.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Cheetah, Western Etosha, Namibia
The central area around Okaukuejo has both vast grass plains and mopane woodlands and the camp’s floodlit waterhole is world famous with almost nightly visits by large herds of elephants and Black Rhinos.
Okaukuejo Area Highlights
The camp’s own floodlit waterhole can be rewarding all day and some people choose to just stay in camp as there is a constant parade of animals coming to drink. The whole area is dominated by vast open plains where large herds of herbivores graze. The Okondeka waterhole on the pan’s edge is often frequented by one of the largest lion prides in the area. To the east of the camp are three further productive waterholes known for elephants, lion, Leopard, Spotted and Brown Hyena, zebra, Gemsbok, Springbok, Wildebeest, Ostrich and, occasionally, Aardwolf. The open plains are also good for the larger birds of prey such as some species of vultures, several eagle species and Peregrine Falcons.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Elephants, Okaukuejo Waterhole, Namibia
Halali is the camp that sits in the middle of the centrally wooded area of the park. This diverse sector has both mopane woodland and dry savannah that rolls down to the very edge of the giant salt pan. The floodlit waterhole is a real highlight of this camp with Black Rhino and huge herds of elephants often seen along with Porcupines, Honey Badgers and even the elusive Leopard.
Halali Area Highlights
The camp’s own floodlit waterhole is another real highlight. The viewing area looks down on the pool, giving a real sense of theatre as animals come to drink. Halali sits amongst mopane woodland and there are several waterholes near the camp that are surrounded by trees and frequented by woodland species such as Red Hartebeests, Black-faced Impala, Kudu and Eland, as well as elephant, lion, leopard, zebra, Oryx and giraffe. On the pan’s edge there are several key waterholes that are home to large herds of zebra and Springbok who are preyed on by several lion prides and Cheetah.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Leopard, Etosha, Namibia
Further east lies Namutoni Camp and the wildlife rich acacia woodland around Fischer’s Pan. Not only is this area home to some of Etosha’s largest lion prides, but leopard sightings here are also frequent. This area is also home to the majority of the park’s giraffe and it is one of the best places in Africa to see the world’s smallest antelope, the diminutive Damara Dik-Dik. Cheetah are also often seen here hunting around the edges of the pan.
Namutoni Area Highlights
Within a few kilometres from camp there are several excellent waterholes and two in particular are productive all day. There is a very large hyena clan near Chudop waterhole and the members are often seen returning to their den early in the morning. All the main carnivores can be spotted in this area and Cheetah are often seen hunting around Fischer’s Pan. Good area for lion, hyena, Leopard, Cheetah, elephants, Black Rhino, Damara Dik-dik, all plains game, Warthogs and Mongooses. Flamingos and Pelicans can be seen in Fischer’s Pan after the rains.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Lions, Eastern Etosha, Namibia
Leaving Etosha (which is always hard) you can head north and east to the Caprivi Strip to discover a very different Namibia. This thin strip of land is between Angola in the north and Botswana in the south. It is green and lush, full of rivers and broad-leafed woodland and home to some of Africa’s more water-dependent wildlife including Hippos, buffalo, crocodiles, Red Lechwe and a recorded 425 bird species. This is also one of the best places to go on a safari tour to see wild dogs in Namibia, which is a rare privilege.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Wild Dogs, Mahango, Namibia
In conclusion I would say that Namibia is a vast, sparsely populated country that boasts a wealth of amazing wildlife living wild and free in diverse and stunningly beautiful landscapes. A safari in Namibia, whether on your own or in a group, watching wildlife, birdwatching or taking photographs, will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Photo credit: Your Safari, Hyena and Lions, Etosha, Namibia
Are you interested in a Namibia Safari Tour?
For more information on Namibia Safari Tours, contact Kathryn Haylett at Your Safari.
Originally Published: 28 May 2020