Etosha National Park spans an area of 22,270 square kilometres (8,600 sq mi) and gets its name from the large Etosha pan which is almost entirely within the park. The Etosha pan (4,760 square kilometres (1,840 sq mi)) covers 23% of the area of the total area of the Etosha National Park. The park is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds and reptiles, including several threatened and endangered species such as the black rhinoceros.
Etosha National Park is unique in Africa. The park’s main characteristic is a salt pan so large it can be seen from space. Yet there is abundant wildlife that congregates around the waterholes, giving you almost guaranteed game sightings. At the same time Etosha National Park is one of the most accessible game reserves in Namibia and Southern Africa.
The abundance of game in Etosha National Park is somewhat unexpected, showcasing some of the most common and rarest wildlife species. The areas with thicker vegetation are home to elephant (some of the largest in Africa due to the vitamins and nutrients found in the ground), the endangered black rhino and even leopard. Lions are camouflaged in the pale- golden colour of the grasslands, while giraffes rise- high above most of the dry vegetation. Bird enthusiasts will love the rainy season in Etosha. After good rains the salt pan fills with water attracting a cloud of flamingos. More than 340 bird species have been counted in Etosha National Park. Among the migratory species, the European bee-eater is possibly the most popular sighting. The game reserve is also home to the world’s largest bird, the ostrich, and the heaviest flying bird, the kori bustard.
During winter the Etosha Pan is bone dry. This endless white expanse is an unlikely venue for a wildlife sanctuary. The park is a wasteland of white dust which comes from the clay in the pan. Bushes along the road turn white as vehicles throw up dust and visitors who leave the park usually have a dusty aura around them! This is also the time when most of the visitors come to the park as the climate is mild and the wildlife concentrates itself at the waterholes. Yet the surrounding areas overflow with springbok and zebra.
The summer in the park is vastly different with heavy rains turning a dry dusty Etosha National Park into a lush green oasis. This time of year means life in the park for new born animals as well as birdlife. Many European migratory birds come south to enjoy the new life that has been washed into the vegetation. Driving during the rainy season can get a lot trickier as roads can be flooded and having an equipped vehicle will make the journey a lot more enjoyable. It is also advised to do a lot more driving to view the wildlife as animals tend to keep clear of the once active waterholes that posed such dangers during the dry season.
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