Etosha National Park – 20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals

Etosha National Park – 22,000km2 of untouched beauty, abundant wildlife, wide open plains, big stormy skies and close encounters.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia

A lazy afternoon drive along Etosha National Park’s famous pan can easily turn into pure magic. The starkness of the white pan stretching beyond the horizon – the perfect stage for another one of Africa’s breathtaking performances. Dark skies start growing in the East, the sun’s rays reflecting from the West – the perfect storm lighting. And then, as if on cue, a herd of what must be fifty zebra come trotting down the road, the sun reflecting off their dust as moms usher their young onto the pan.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A herd of Zebras running down to the pan.

A herd of Zebras running down to the pan.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: The perfect storm (lighting) on a herd of zebras on the pan.

The perfect storm (lighting).

The Wild Animals in Etosha National Park

If there is one thing that is undeniable about Namibia it is that the wildlife found in its 22,000 square kilometer Etosha National Park is both abundant and breathtaking. Expect to see:

  • four of the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion and (if you are lucky) leopard)
  • a vast array of large mammals including giraffe, wildebeest, cheetah, hyena, mountain and plains zebra, springbok, kudu, gemsbok and eland
  • smaller mammals such as jackal, bat-eared fox, warthog, honey badger and ground squirrel

What starts off as a fun game of keeping count of animal sightings quickly becomes unmanageable as you discover plains scattered with springbok, zebra and wildebeest. In the end the abundance is overwhelming and one realises that it is the quality of sightings (not the quantity) that Etosha National Park really delivers.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: The road to Okondeka - with springboks for miles.

The road to Okondeka – with springboks for miles.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A group of giraffes walking across an open plain.

A group of giraffes walking across an open plain.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A herd of wildebeest jog past on their way to the waterhole.

A herd of wildebeest jog past on their way to the waterhole.

Individual sightings of smaller mammals are just as common. We came across a litter of baby jackal playing in the sun right next to the road. And this hyena just taking a nap meters from our vehicle. And what’s better than wildlife coming to you (and stealing your nuts) like the cute ground squirrels at Okaukuejo.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A hyena sleeping meters from the road between Okaukuejo and Okondeka.

A hyena sleeping meters from the road between Okaukuejo and Okondeka.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A curious baby jackal wandering into the road between Okaukuejo and Okondeka.

A curious baby jackal wandering into the road between Okaukuejo and Okondeka.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: We spotted jackals on every stretch of road in Etosha National Park.

We spotted jackals on every stretch of road in Etosha National Park.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A bat-eared fox and her baby along Fischer's Pan.

A bat-eared fox and her baby along Fischer’s Pan.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A friendly ground squirrel visits our campsite at Okaukuejo.

A friendly ground squirrel visits our campsite at Okaukuejo.

The Waterhole

We visited Etosha National Park in December 2014 at the beginning of the rainy season (November to April), which meant that wildlife was not as concentrated around the waterholes as it usually is. Having said that we were still treated to quite a show at each of the campsite waterholes each and every night.

Armed with a small cooler filled with a few cans of Tafel (local beer), we made our way to the Okaukuejo campsite’s waterhole on our first night. We setup our tripods amongst the largest collection of long lenses we had ever seen. The soft hum of languages from every corner of the world. Families gathered, drinks in hand, ready for the greatest show on earth.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: Sunset at the Okaukuejo campsite waterhole - a time for reflection.

Sunset at the Okaukuejo campsite waterhole – a time for reflection.

For a moment everyone is silenced by the magic of the twilight – the pink clouds above reflecting in the motionless water below. And then… the first lion call. Minutes go by, the silence penetrated only momentarily by distant lions calling to each other. At last the figures emerge from the darkness – a male and female lion. The crowd – breathless.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: Two lions drinking from the Okaukuejo waterhole.

Two lions drinking from the Okaukuejo waterhole.

Not long after the lions disappear into the darkness, the crisp Namibian air is again filled with strange noises from afar. This time a herd of rhino, including a baby. We watch as a young rhino bull attempts to join the herd at the waterhole. He clearly is not welcome. There is a standoff and a few mock charges but in the end he gives up. He walks into the light of the waterhole’s floodlights, stops and turns to us.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A lonely male rhino at the Okaukuejo waterhole.

A lonely male rhino at the Okaukuejo waterhole.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: The resident rhino family at Okaukuejo waterhole.

The resident rhino family at Okaukuejo waterhole.

The Game Drive

With daytime temperatures ranging from 25C-35C in summer, most animals retreat to shady (less-visible) spots during the day, whilst most people retreat to shady (pool side) spots. The best times for game viewing beyond the campsite waterholes, are early morning and late afternoon. Most vehicles queue up at the camp gates at sunrise waiting for them to open, and most race back at sunset before they close.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A male lion waking up next to the road between Halali and Namutoni.

A male lion waking up next to the road between Halali and Namutoni.

Every drive is unpredictable. Your friendly campsite neighbours (with heavy Swiss accents) might describe in meticulous detail the exact spot they found a handful of cheetah walking along the road. But unfortunately there is no guarantee they will be there tomorrow. Some days are filled with phantom sightings. Anthills start looking like giraffe, rocks look like rhinos. There is never a shortage of springbok and zebra though.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A baby elephant eating - look at that cute mouth.

A baby elephant eating – look at that cute mouth.

But every now and then – magic. A male lion sleeping meters from the road awakes and roars to greet the day. A herd of more than 20 elephants cross the road right in front of you – even stopping to inspect the game vehicle with their trunks. A rhino spots you spotting him and does a mock charge. A herd of giraffe awkwardly bend down to enjoy a sundowner at Twee Palms. Ostriches fan their feathers, open their mouths and perform a mating dance.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: Tense moments before this rhino mock charges our van.

Tense moments before this rhino mock charges our van.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: Sunset at Twee Palms on Fischer's Pan (close to Namutoni).

Sunset at Twee Palms on Fischer’s Pan (close to Namutoni).

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: Perfect storm lighting for this giraffe portrait.

Perfect storm lighting for this giraffe portrait.

20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: Ostriches performing a mating dance.

Ostriches performing a mating dance.

The Final Count

In the end we spotted 14 lions, 17 black rhinos, 32 elephants, 102 giraffes (feel like we must have double counted) and more springbok, wildebeest and zebra that we could ever imagine. We also saw one spotted hyena, a honey badger, tonnes of jackal and even a little bat-eared fox family.

The number of sightings really is inconsequential though. To be honest, there is no number of sightings that will ever be enough. And yet, just one sighting could change your life. Someone once said that visiting Africa is completely different to visiting any other place in the world. Once you have been to Bangkok/ New York/ Paris you get the sense that you can tick it off your list and move on. But a visit to Africa will always leave you wanting more. No two visits will be the same. And that is what really counts.

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20 Breathtaking Photos of Wild Animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia: A collection of amazing photos of wild animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia captured by fine art photographer, Adam Rabinowitz in December 2014.