by Matthew Sterne
on July 3, 2013
4 min read

Etosha – The Great Public v Private Debate

After visiting the spectacular dunes of Sossusvlei and the arid bush of Damaraland (home to the desert adapted black rhino and elephants), you might be looking for a more abundant game viewing experience. Cue Etosha National Park. The 22,750km wildlife sanctuary in Northern Namibia is a hub of wildlife and lush vegetation thanks to the 5,000km depression that forms the Etosha Pan. The pan is a shimmering backdrop that rarely contains water but provides enough moisture to stimulate the growth of a blue-green algae that entices thousands of flamingos to the area.

Waterholes attract all walks of life, from the dazzles of zebra and enormous herds of springbok to the endangered black rhino, tssesebe, black-faced impala and big cats. Etosha is also known as a birders paradise where water birds seek sanctuary from the harsh conditions and birds of prey soar overhead.

But the experience is very different from that of the Kruger National Park in South Africa. For a start, Etosha is not a Big 5 destination. There are no buffalo in Etosha. The habitat is far more open and arid lending itself to large herds. Where you might go in off-road pursuit in the Sabi Sand through dense thickets, in Etosha you are more likely to wait patiently at a waterhole as various thirsty visitors make their way to water throughout the day. Which makes Etosha a favourite destination for photographers.


Picking Where to Stay

Visiting Etosha is a must on any Namibian itinerary. But it can be tricky to decide where to stay. The public rest camps within the park gates might be an obvious choice. I can understand the attraction – within the National Park gates, there are no set times to enter and exit the park and you can sit up all night by a waterhole waiting for creatures to venture close.

BIrds of Etosha

However, these semi-government owned properties are not for those looking for a bit of luxury on their travels. But do not fret! There’s a great way to get the best of both worlds – several private game reserves lie a stone’s throw from the gates of Etosha.

This isn’t like East Africa where the private reserves require a substantial drive just to enter the National Park gates. The private camps surrounding Etosha are a mere 10 minute drive from the entrance. The private camps have their own land with their own game on it, which means that you can go on game drives within the private reserves or in Etosha National Park itself. Off-roading is nor permitted in the private reserves or in Etosha National Park.

Etosha Map

And as for the night viewing at the waterhole, you can do that too! Many private lodges will have a waterhole directly in front of the lodge and their own private area of land abundant with game which you can enjoy away from the crowds while you delve into a cocktail or two as the sun goes down.

Private reserves offer bush walks, exclusivity, sundowners on your drive and experienced guides – all essential factors to creating the perfect Namibian adventure. And there is no shortage of wildlife! Black and white rhino, lion, leopard, cheetah, zebra, giraffe and a multitude of other game can be seen year round in three of our favourite private camps bordering Etosha: Ongava Private Game Reserve, Onguma Private Game Reserve and the Mushara Collection.

Wildlife of Etosha

At these luxury lodges, meals will be an occasion to look forward to and your private room will be a sanctuary of escapism. You’ll feel closer to nature and enjoy more freedom than anywhere within the National Park border.


Rhino Africa’s Top Picks for Etosha

  • Little Ongava Camp is the picture of luxury and privacy in Ongava Private Game Reserve only 10 minutes from the South-Western Gate of Etosha. Three chalets sit on raised wooden platforms at the crest of a hill boasting panoramic French doors sliding back to reveal the verandah complete with private sala and plunge pool with views of the waterhole.

Little Ongave & Onguma Tented

  • Onguma Tented Camp sits just off the North-Western border of Etosha in the Onguma Private Game Reserve offering the elegance, comfort and exclusivity of their accommodation in combination with the National Park. Seven huge tented suites surround a waterhole offering the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in nature.
  • Mushara Villa is an exclusive villa near Etosha Park with two separate suites, each with enormous interiors and luxury service delivered by your own private butler and personal chef. The outdoor Zen garden and pool area with day beds and sun loungers are surrounded by an expanse of African bush waiting to be explored on game drives.

To book your Namibian adventure, contact one of Rhino Africa’s expert travel consultants who can tell you all about their recent visit to Namibia. Take a look here to see what they got up to.