Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park             
Etosha was established as a game reserve in 1907. Later on in 1967 Etosha became a National Park. The size of the Etosha Pan covers 4,730 km2 ( 21 % of the park area. ), and the size of the whole Park is 22,912 km2. Making Etosha  to one of the largest National Parks in Africa. Significant to it is the Etosha Pan, the area that makes Etosha game viewing experience unique. 114 Mammals species is found, several are rare and endangered e.g. rhino, cheetah and black-faced impala. Etosha's elephants are the largest in Africa. The tallest elephants can be up to 4m. Blue wildebeest, zebra, hyena, lions, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, antelope species and about 340 bird species are also found in the area. The area has about 30 springs and waterholes that provide excellent game viewing and photographic opportunities. Visitors should approach and depart from waterholes slowly and with little noise so as not to disturb the game.

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Etosha National Park                      
One of the largest savannah conservation areas in Africa, Etosha National Park is world reknown for its spectacular wildlife: elephant, black and white rhinoceros, lions, leopards, cheetahs, large herds of springbok, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and a multitude of other fascinating species, big and small, interacting in their natural environment.

Namibia Wildlife Resorts is exclusively located within the Etosha National Park. The three camps; Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni have underwent major renovations throughout 2007. These upgrades and the launch of a fourth, exclusive facility, Onkoshi Camp provides NWR's clientele with a wider range of comfort and a wildlife experience of a lifetime.

Discover the Etosha National Park
One of the greatest wildlife spectaculars on earth – herds of elephant, black-maned lions and the world’s largest population of rare black rhinos – roam the plains of Etosha, a vast area that is home to 114 large and small animal species and 340 bird species. Savour the thrill of spotting animals hidden in the bush while driving along Etosha’s 763 kilometres of open roads. Or simply wait for animals to come to you. Herds of wildebeest, flocks of ostrich and lines of zebra emerge out of the heat haze to drink at one of the seeps found at the edge of the magnificent Etosha Pan. At Etosha’s 86 springs, fountains and waterholes, springbok spark, jackal prance, and giraffe approach cautiously as they try to elude Etosha’s large predators. At night, you can soak in both the silence and the charged atmosphere at one of Etosha’s three floodlit waterholes where you never know what might appear out of the darkness. Take a seat and immerse yourself in Etosha live theatre at its best!

Tracks in time
The Etosha National Park has a rich and varied history, hidden in rocks and blown away by the sand. Simple animal life existed here more than 650 million years ago before the world was carved into continents. The bones of species forgotten for more than 5 000 years have been found on the edge of Etosha Pan. Among the earliest residents of Etosha, the Hai||om Bushmen understood life on the plains as a matter of survival, complete with harmony and competition. The Hai||om trod lightly, moving nomadically with the game and the seasons, until their history in the park ended abruptly. Etosha has been the site of battles and triumphs, of man’s best and worst moments. Owambo and German soldiers clashed, forts were burned and rebuilt, and even when the Etosha National Park was reduced to a sliver of its original size, its wildlife endured, surviving to begin yet another chapter in Etosha’s history.

Dramas and distortions – Etosha’s dry season
Dust, heat and a coat of white earth cover the plains. In the distance, mirages shimmer, creating an illusion the Hei||om called ‘the devil’s cattle’, those animals lost in the haze that come close, but never close enough to touch. Wind-blown sand stings the skin, but strangely, visitors don’t seem to mind; they are much too preoccupied with the scenes of springbok sparring, of giraffe moving languidly across the plains and of lions waiting patiently for the chance to pounce on unsuspecting prey.
From April to December, Etosha is consumed by the dry season. During these long months, life is drawn to Etosha’s many waterholes. Elephants wade into the water to cool down, while rare black rhinos shuffle across the rocks to reach the water’s edge. During the bleak but stunning dry season, all of Etosha’s animals survive on the fine line of life and death on the edge.

Electrifying and life affirming - Etosha’s wet season
Starting in December and running through April, clouds build on the horizon. Slowly, the mass grows. Lightning flashes, thunder rolls and then a towering collection of white and purple clouds dominate the sky. The temperature drops, the wind blows ominously, and suddenly a torrent of rain is unleashed. This spectacle is the hallmark of Etosha’s rainy season. It is a time like no other in the Etosha National Park. The rains herald an explosion of colour on the plains – green grasses, yellow flowers, blue pools. Almost overnight, the plains are teeming with life. Tiny springbok lambs charge across the plains, racing, chasing and pronking as if in celebration. Zebra foals and wildebeest calves are similarly carefree and plentiful. But this is also the time when many predators give birth, so the young antelope must be cautious, or they could end up becoming a meal for another litter.

Leaders in conservation
For more than 100 years, the Etosha National Park has provided a vast sanctuary for wildlife. Its protective borders have allowed conservationists to implement plans that have helped resident wildlife flourish and other initiatives that have drawn elephants, lions and other creatures deemed too dangerous or destructive to co-exist on neighbouring farms back into the park. The Etosha Pan has provided refuge for scores of greater and lesser flamingos to breed during the wet season. It is a vast, open-air shelter for animals that seek solitude away from predators in the park during the dry season.
Since it opened in 1974, the Etosha Ecological Institute has supported local and international scientists as they explore questions related to animal behaviour, ecology and conservation. Their work is not only vital to Etosha’s future, but to the world beyond the park’s borders. Scientific studies on the atmosphere, seismic waves, and infrasonic communication have shed new light on how elephants communicate over vast distances. Relocating black-faced impala from Namibia’s Kunene Region into the Etosha National Park brought this species back from the brink of extinction. Today half of the world’s population of black-faced impala are found in Etosha. Groundbreaking conservation initiatives in the Etosha National Park have led to the establishment of the world’s largest population of black rhinos, as well as to a donor population that has secured the species on more than 170 farms in Namibia.

Because wildlife thrives in Etosha, communal conservancies throughout Namibia have benefited from translocations of antelope, giraffe and black rhino back into areas where they formally resided, spreading the risk, responsibility and rewards that  make wildlife conservation unique.

Accommodation, camping, fuel, curio and basic food shops, information centres and flood-lit waterholes are found at Etosha’s three main camps, Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni. The Namutoni Environmental Education Centre is available for conferences for up to 40 people.

How to get there
Main roads from all the major towns in Namibia lead to one of the Etosha’s three main entry points: Andersson Gate, Von Lindequist Gate and King Nehale Gate. Etosha is 435 km from Windhoek, Tsumeb is 107 km from Namutoni and Oshakati is 201 km from the King Nehale Gate.

Past and Present

Before the park was a park
The name clicks off the tongue, conjuring up images of hunter-gatherers and they are among the earliest residents of the Etosha National Park. The name Hai||om is derived from the problems the Hai||om experienced with mosquitoes and malaria. To ward off mosquitoes they built a wooden scaffold with a platform called ‘#heeb’in a tree and underneath burned natural materials that drove mosquitoes away. This explains why the Hai||om are also called ‘tree people’ or ‘tree dwellers’. The men hunted using a combination of luck, patient stalking and the power of a poisoned arrow to kill. The women gathered bush foods. While only three out of ten Hai||om hunters were truly skilled, a woman never returned home from gathering without something to eat – even if it meant walking more than 20 km through lion territory carrying a baby on her back! Today, the Xoms |Omis Project, an initiative that works with the Hai||om to archive their cultural, economic and environmental history in Etosha, is aimed at protecting the Hai||om’s links to the past and the land.

The building of the first fort at Namutoni was completed in 1903. It was used as a control post in an effort to stop the spread of rinderpest that was ravaging the eastern and southern part of Africa. In 1904, 500 Owambo soldiers of King Nehale lya Mpingana of Ondonga, led by Captain Shivute, attacked Namutoni. Those German troops who weren’t killed in the fighting, fled under cover of darkness and the fort was burnt to the ground. In 1905 the fort was rebuilt and in 1906 First Lieutenant Adolf Fischer took command. Fischer became the first Game Warden of Namutoni, and the pan nearby bears his name. In 1996, Namibia’s first President, Dr Sam Nujoma, unveiled a plaque outside the entrance to the old horse stables just north of Namutoni. It honours the 68 Owambo soldiers who lost their lives in the 1904 battle, the 40 warriors who went missing and 20 others who returned home wounded.

Etosha’s incredible shrinking boundaries
In 1907 when it was proclaimed, the Etosha National Park encompassed approximately 90 000 km2, extending northwest to the Kunene River and the coast. This made it the largest game reserve in the world. But by 1958 its size had been decreased to about 55 000 km2. In 1963, the borders were again redefined, reducing Etosha to its current size of 22 935 km2, about a quarter of its former area.

Back to the future
The good news is that, even at a fraction of its original size, the Etosha National Park is a vital ecosystem, supporting a vast variety of plant and animal species. Further good news is that the Namibian Government, in close collaboration with the Kunene Regional Council, traditional authorities, communal conservancies and other local stakeholders, is currently working to establish the Kunene People’s Park. The vision is to link the Etosha National Park and Skeleton Coast Park by proclaiming the current three concession areas (Hobatare, Etendeka and Palmwag) and working neighbouring conservancies. The Kunene People’s Park is envisaged not only to restore migratory routes for wildlife, but also to ensure that many more people will benefit from Namibia’s progressive conservation strategies.

While abundant wildlife enjoys the cooling relief at Rietfontein waterhole, there is a plaque a few hundred metres away that commemorates the Dorsland Trekkers, those hardy pioneers who left South Africa in 1874 and through disease, death and every other calamity imaginable, made it to Rietfontein in 1879. Here they rested, regaining their strength from the sweet water provided by the artesian fountain, and hunted the abundant game before setting off again, this time for Angola. Eventually many of these tough trekkers returned to farm in and around what is now the Etosha National Park. Did you know that……there are many different meanings for the name Etosha? In local languages the name means ‘to go to a pan’ or ‘where the pan is’. The name has various interpretations in English: the Place of Dry Water, the Great White Place, or Place of Emptiness; Lake of a Mother’s Tears (this explains the limitless grief of a Hai||om mother when her infant dies); ‘to run falteringly across’ (illustrating the fatigue an early hunter felt when he attempted to cross the pan); and the Hai||om ‘chum-chum’ from the noise made by a person’s feet when walking across the pan. …although Etosha is best known today as a spectacular refuge for an abundance of animals, it is also a part of the world that is providing critical evidence for the existence and evolution of ancestral animals? The rocks in the hills near Halali have revealed fossil life as old as 650 million years! …in 1955 Etosha opened its gates to tourists for the first
time? Although Etosha has existed as a protected area for more than a hundred years, it was proclaimed as a national park only in 1967.

Conservation counts
22 935 km2 – the size of the Etosha National Park
4 730 km2 – the size of the Etosha Pan
114 – the number of small and large mammal species
340 – the number of resident and migratory bird species
3 551 – kilometres of road in the park
850 – kilometres of fence surrounding the park
86 – the number of waterholes (natural and man-made) in the park
200 000 – the number of visitors to the park annually
295 – the number of Ministry of Environment and Tourism staff in Etosha.

The human component – which is vital to the continued well-being of the Etosha National Park – is dedicated and knowledgeable. The fact that Etosha is a cohesive ecosystem which is well adapted to environmental fluctuations and extremes over hundreds of millions of years, helps tremendously. Both humans and the environment are resilient, and in the Etosha National Park, thanks to many conservation
initiatives, they are both successful.

Drilling for elephants?
In 1954, 26 elephants were counted in the park. Today this is the number of elephants you might see at Olifantsbad waterhole in a single afternoon. How did this happen? Boreholes were drilled along the 19th latitude, principally to draw elephants into the park from farms in the Outjo and Kamanjab districts. By 1967, the elephant population was estimated at 500. Today there are more than 2 500 elephants resident in the Etosha National Park, and they are some of the most intensively studied elephants in the world. Some of the earliest elephant studies in Etosha were designed to establish baseline information – the number of elephants, their home ranges, and their movements in and out of Etosha, especially when these moves brought them into contact with people living outside of the park. Two other studies have focused on communication.

Long-distance calling
Elephants communicate via infrasound, sound below our threshold of hearing. In Etosha it was discovered that certain atmospheric conditions allow elephants to send infrasonic sounds for greater distances. Under a veil called a ‘thermal inversion’, elephants bounce sound off the inversion, sending it more than a hundred kilometres further at certain times of day. At sunset and sunrise, the inversion is sometimes so clearly visible that you’ll see a line in the sky. Elephants also receive audio clues of events such as distant thunderstorms, precipitating their movements to the north-east of the park as they await the coming rains.

Foot fetish
A second study focused on elephants’ feet. Given their unique physiological make up, their feet may be able to detect sound waves from underground. Foot stomping, mock charges and low-frequency rumbling generate seismic waves in the ground, separate from what we hear, and these waves can travel up to 32 kilometres along the surface of the earth. By detecting and interpreting messages sent seismically, elephants have yet another way of gathering and sharing important information and one that is independent of the weather and time of day.

What goes around comes around
Another animal that was moved back into the park is the black-faced impala (Aepyceros melampus petersi). It isn’t found anywhere else in the world, it numbers less than 4 000 in the wild, and almost half its population is found in Etosha. That wasn’t always the case. In the early 1970s, 200 black-faced impala were moved from the Kunene Region, where they were almost extinct, to Etosha. Thirty years later, the population of blackfaced impala in Etosha is thriving, and at least 23 game farms have established small populations of black-faced impala. Moreover, in the early 1990s, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism was able to move black-faced impala from Etosha back to the Kunene.

Back from the brink
Within a relatively short period of time the Etosha National Park went from harbouring 48 black rhino to becoming the single-most important custodian of the black rhino in the world. The rehabilitation of Etosha’s black-rhino population was so successful that in 1993, two male and four female rhino were placed on 7 300 ha of private land under the newly conceived Rhino Custodianship programme. These six animals represented the first satellite population. Today, there are over 260 black rhinos in the hands of 28 custodians, including both commercial farm owners and communal conservancies. In 2007, for the first time, rhinos were returned from Etosha National Park to areas in the Kunene Region from which they had been removed in the 1970s in an attempt to help save the last remaining few.

The mystery number
This is the number of black rhino (Diceros bicornis bicornis) currently living in Etosha. It is well known that Etosha has the single-largest population of black rhinos in the world, but the actual count is kept secret so that this fact – and the population of rhinos it defines – is never threatened.

Last but not least
One incredible experience within a bundle of countless memories awaits each and every visitor to Etosha.