Etosha National Park is Namibia’s premier game park and annually attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world. It has an abundance of animal, bird and plant life and offers one of the best all round safari experiences available on the continent. Fact!
But one of the major decision visitor’s face when visiting the park is what to do, to see and where to stay and importantly which places are ok to miss out on. In this post I’ll quickly run you through the six camps available in the park and rank them, in my opinion, from best to worst.
By far my most favorite camp and most would agree is Okaukuejo. It is situated centrally to the South of the Pan and is the biggest, busiest and best camp. Why? The main reason is its floodlight waterhole where some of the best game viewing in Africa is on offer. This is not an exaggeration! You can literally only spend time at the waterhole and nowhere else in the park and will most likely see all the animals you came to see.
During the day, this waterhole plays host to large herds of playful elephant, cautious zebra, swaggering gemsbok, leaping springbok, lethargic gnu, elegant giraffe, graceful kudu etc and at night the more elusive rhino, hyena and leopard come out to make an appearance.
In addition to the waterhole, it is the easiest and closest camp to access from Windhoek via a 430km drive on a beautifully tarred road. Also it is the camp that offers the widest selection of accommodation including budget and premier options and the most facilities. This includes a shop, post office, restaurant, bar, petrol station and three swimming pools.
Unfortunately, due to its popularity Okaukuejo is nearly always fully booked during season and gets very busy, especially in the restaurant and around the waterhole. So booking is recommended and patience essential.
- The best waterhole in the park and it’s floodlit for night viewing
- Most accessible camp, only a 430km drive from Windhoek on a first-rate tar road
- Variety of accommodation options budget to premier, most with air-conditioning.
- Gets very busy, so service often suffers because of that
- Waterhole can get very busy and noisy, with little respect for the animals
- Often the petrol station does not have fuel or the credit card machine is not working
2. Dolomite Camp
Dolomite camp is situated in the far West of the Park in an area that was previously closed off to the public. It is unique and unlike any of the other camps. It was built on top of a dolomite hill where you’ll find 20 east and west facing tented chalets. You can only imagine the uninterrupted views provided by this exclusive location.
After parking your vehicle in the car park at the bottom of the hill you are chauffeured to the top by a 4×4 golf cart. Once checked in the same golf cart drops you at your room. Like I said very unique. As you drive towards your tented chalet you will note there is no fence around the camp and therefore are not allowed to walk around after dark. You will also note the icy blue infinity pool that provides relief from the Namibian heat and a perfect view of the sun setting every evening. This is the best pool I’ve seen at any NWR resort in Namibia.
- The most beautiful camp in Etosha
- Stunning infinity pool with the most amazing view
- No fence, which makes it quite exhilarating
- The golf cart that ferries guests can be quite noisy at times
- No dedicated waterhole at the camp
- No air-conditioning, yes this might be a major issue for some in the Namibian heat
About 70km west of Okaukuejo and exactly halfway to Namutoni is Halali camp. I like to think of Halali as Okaukuejo’s younger sibling that received all the hand me downs. It’s not that it is a bad camp, it’s just that everything seems to be one level below that of Okaukuejo.
Halali has a good waterhole, but its not the one at Okaukuejo. Its got good accommodation options, but not as many and most definitely not the premier options that Okaukuejo offers. Its got a pool, but it seems like an old soviet Olympic practice pool with very little atmosphere.
Halali’s value lies in its proximity to Okaukuejo. The areas in between these two camps offer, in my opinion, the best game viewing the camp has to offer. So I usually split nights between these two camps and explore the areas in between for an optimum game viewing experience. Halali is also a great alternative if Okaukuejo is fully booked.
- If Okaukuejo is fully booked, it serves very well as a second option
- Great waterhole
- Good selection of accommodation options
- You need to drive an additional 75km’s of gravel to get there, so not optimal for 4×2 vehicles
- The camp is getting old and maintenance is falling behind
- Will always play second fiddle to Okaukuejo
The only camping only camp in Etosha is like, Dolomite, situated in the previously off limits western side of the park. It is about 40km East of Dolomite and 130km West of Okaukuejo. It’s a long drive either way on a poor gravel road. Best to avoid this camp if you have a 4×2.
Olifantrus (translates to elephants resting place) served as the base camp for a massive elephant cull during the 1980’s. Some 500 elephant were slaughtered here as part of an effort to reduce an unmanageable increase in their population. The cull was conducted as efficiently as possible, with entire herds being culled to prevent traumitised elephants from roaming the park. Also the meat was processed and sold, and the opportunity used to gather as much scientific knowledge as possible. The remnants of the cull is the cold steel structures that dominate scenery.
A double storey boma/hide provides visitors with the most unique game viewing experience. On the first floor only a glass divides humans from animals and on the second floor you can view game from atop only a few meters away. Patiently wait for herds of elephant to arrive and enjoy their waterhole antics for hours on end.
As mentioned only camping is offered so come prepared. Ten camp sites are dispersed throughout the camp, each sharing a tap and power point. Some have shelters. There is shared bathrooms, a washing up area and a self use laundry. In addition a very basic shop with light meals and drinks and weak cell signal. The highlight of the day is when the generators are stopped at 10pm and the camp goes dead quiet. I was lucky to hear a pride of lions roaring through most of the night.
- Double storey boma at the waterhole, very unique
- Electricy off at 22:00, so its dead quiet and you can enjoy the sounds of Etosha
- Camping is the most affordable accommodation option in Etosha
- No swimming pool
- It’s a long drive from Okaukuejo
- Limited light at the waterhole, which makes viewing game at night nearly impossible
Like Dolomite camp, Onkoshi is unique in its own way. It is built on the Eastern edge of the Etosha pan, where you’ll find 15 permanent tented chalets on stilts (1 honeymoon) facing to the West. Imagine the beautiful sunsets… it can be accessed via the von Lindequest gate in the East or the King Nehale gate in the North. Both of these are via gravel and expect rough patches along the way. It is definitely Onkoshi’s uniqueness that makes it an attraction. So, I can recommend a night or two just too see what it’s all about, but no more than that is required.
Even more exciting is the fact that there is no fence, but one does feel a bit more protected as the entire camp is raised off the ground by wooden stilts and you are not allowed to wonder out of this “safe zone “. No matter how much I begged and bribed I was not allowed to take a walk out onto the pan, apparently it is too dangerous lol.
The tented chalets are spacious and gorgeous, but lack the basics such as a fridge, kettle or air-conditioning which is much needed in the prevailing conditions. It does have a huge bathtub (which doesn’t make sense if they are preaching resource preservation) with a magnificent view of the Pan. In addition, there is a restaurant, bar and nice swimming pool. The camp does not offer any self-catering facilities, so you are completely dependent on the restaurant and kitchen. This includes getting hot water to make a cup of tea in your room.
- Locations is unique
- No fence, so quite an exhilarating stay
- Lights out at 10pm. No noise or light pollution, enjoy the area in its full glory
- No air-conditioning in the rooms
- No fridge to keep cold water, no kettle to make a cup of tea
- No dedicated waterhole, the nearest is quite a drive away
The large white fort is an early indication that you are approaching Namutoni camp. Its white washed color clearly distinguishable against the green backdrop of the surrounding scenery and even prettier when the Namibian flag is proudly flown from the tallest turret. Namutoni has so much potential, but unfortunately is has been allowed to deteriorate through years of mismanagement. I remember staying in the luxurious rooms that used to be inside the outer walls of the fort. What an amazing experience and childhood memory. Today the fort is a mere shadow of what it could be and the state of the fort pretty much sums up the remainder of the camp.
Namutoni is easily accessed from the von Lindequest gate on the far eastern side of the park, via a 540km tar road drive from Windhoek. It is my least favorite of all camps at Etosha and this feeling seems to be shared by many fellow travelers as you will rarely find it fully booked. It’s a nice (I couldn’t be bothered to come up with a better adjective) place to stop, climb to the top of the fort and take a few pics. Not a camp I would recommend for an overnight stay, as either Onkoshi or Halali is a “short” drive away depending on what your needs are.
The camp offers bush chalets, double rooms and camping. I was especially surprised by the size of the double rooms, but they don’t offer self-catering. That is limited to the chalets. There is restaurant, fuel, museum, fairly well stocked shop, swimming pool and the loveliest large green lawn with perfectly shaded areas. So, it’s not all doom and gloom, but the facilities are probably better suited for day visitors or outdoor functions. Another bonus is that the camping has green lawns in contrast to the camping sites found elsewhere in the park.
- Very close to Von Lindequest gate, and accessed via tar road all the way from Windhoek
- The Namutoni fort, regardless of its current state
- Extremely large and comfy double rooms
- The fort is in a dilapidated state
- So is the rest of the camp, better to drive onwards to the next camp
- No reliable waterholes in the area
Etosha is a must do when visiting Namibia, but visitors do not always have the luxury of time. It is not necessary to spend many days here, but more important to spend the time you have in Etosha as wisely as possible. I hope this post can assist in making wise decisions and help you make the best of your stay in the park.