Ultimate Self-Drive Guide to Etosha National Park for 2024

Nestled in the north of Namibia, Etosha National Park is an extraordinary safari destination that offers exceptional opportunities for game viewing. From witnessing herds of majestic elephants at waterholes to observing cheetahs sprinting across the vast salt pans, every day in Etosha is packed with excitement. One thing is sure, embarking on a self-drive safari in Etosha guarantees a memorable experience.

This comprehensive guide to self drive Etosha National Park equips you with the best game viewing spots, accommodation, insider tips, a 4-day itinerary and much more!

Table of Contents

About Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is Namibia’s most popular destination mostly because of the abundance of wildlife and the possibility of a self-drive safari. The park gets its name from the vast salt pan known as the Etosha Pan, which used to be a lake millions of years ago.

The park as we know spans an area of approximately 22,280 square kilometers and was established in 1907. Etosha is home to 114 mammal species, including the cheetah, leopard, and rhino. Next to that, there are also 340 bird species to spot. You won’t find the Big 5 in Etosha as the buffalo is missing, but the abundance of wildlife makes up for that pretty quickly.

etosha national park map

Preparing for your visit

Before we go on with all the goods about going on a self-drive safari through Namibia’s best national park, a good preparation is key.

Choosing the right vehicle for your self-drive safari

First things first, make sure to have a suitable car. As you’re spending hours upon hours driving on dusty and bumpy roads searching for wildlife, you want to opt for a comfortable car. Even though you could get by with a small car in Etosha National Park, I would suggest to rent a 4×4.

I’ve written a comprehensive blog post about renting a car in Namibia and all the things you need to know along the way that will answer all of your questions on this topic.

4x4 rental namibia

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Stocking up on supplies & gas

Assuming you’re camping in Namibia, make sure to stock up on everything you need during your time in Etosha. Once you’ve entered the national park, there aren’t many options to purchase groceries. The small stores in the camps are very(!) limited.

If you’re a vegetarian like me, it was difficult to find enough vegetables in the shops to prepare a proper meal. Coming from Windhoek or Swakopmund I recommend stocking up in one of the big supermarkets.

elephants bathing in waterhole
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Wildlife in Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is famous for its abundance of wildlife with 115 species of big and small mammals. Most of the big cats tend to have specific areas where they prefer to hang out, whereas animals like elephants are easier to spot near waterholes. 

Note: the spots below are not a guarantee you will actually see them there, but it will certainly increase your chances!


Cheetahs love open plains and Etosha has quite a few of them. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to spot cheetahs in Etosha but the below-mentioned places are your best shot to spot them!

  • Gemsbokvlakte
  • Charitsaub
  • Twee Palms
  • Leeubron


Often high on everyone’s safari list and rightly so. Our goal on this safari trip to Etosha was to finally spot leopards, as we had been unsuccessful on previous trips. We were lucky enough with not only one but 2 leopard sightings inside Etosha.

We spotted a leopard during a sunrise game drive and another on our way out of the park near Namutoni, hidden under a tree.

The best times to spot leopards are early morning and late at night, as they are most active during those times. They mostly rest in or underneath trees during the day.

  • Goas
  • Halali
  • Salvadora – one of those places with a beautiful acacia tree where leopards are often spotted resting in the hot midday hours.
leopard sighting in trees
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Waterholes are a favorite among lions as they come out to drink during the day. Lions are most active in the early morning or at the end of the day when it’s cool. Basically all lions we’ve spotted on our own during our self drive in etosha national park were at waterholes, so they’re definitely your best shot.

  • Groot Okevi
  • Okondeka
  • Rietfontein
  • Sonderkop
  • Dolimite Camp


Rhinos are one of the most endangered species in Africa, and poaching is a significant issue as they are hunted for their horns. For that reason, I’m not going to put the exact locations of where we’ve spotted rhinos in the park, because I don’t want to put their trusted areas out in the open.

We were treated with various sightings of both the endangered black rhino and the white rhino (and no they’re not actually black 😉 ). I can say that waterholes were the most successful in spotting rhinos during our self drive in Etosha National Park.

However, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram and I’m happy to give you more tips and locations!

rhino drinking at waterhole in etosha national park

Other wildlife

Other animals like the elephant, giraffe, zebra, gemsbok, wildebeest, kudu, and black-faced impala are seen throughout the park and are often spotted drinking at waterholes. As for the elephants, we’ve seen big herds of elephants at the Moringa waterhole in Halali camp and Klein Namutoni.

Besides the iconic safari animals, don’t forget to search for smaller wildlife, such as the bat-eared fox, the honey badger, and the little Damara dik-dik.

Tips for spotting wildlife

#1 Visit Waterholes

Waterholes are your best bet for game viewing, especially during the dry season. As water is scarce, this is one of the few places for the animals to drink and cool off.

When you arrive and don’t spot any animals, don’t leave right away! Grab your binoculars and check the bushes around to see if they might be relaxing in the shade. We had this a few times with lions and because they were well camouflaged in the dry bushes we almost missed them.

#2 Drive slow

Even though 60km/h is permitted, it’s difficult to spot animals with that speed.

Especially around the areas that are known for good sightings, make sure to drive around 30 km/h. Not only for spotting wildlife, but you never know what might cross the road or jump in front of your car.

#3 Share your sightings with others

Trust me, if you tell some random people at your toilet spot where you’ve just seen some lions, they’re happy to tell you about their cheetah or leopard sighting. They might be driving around the area already for 2 days and are willing to give you some tips!

#4 Don’t be afraid to ask

When you’re seeing a car or 2 standing still on the side of the road, don’t be afraid to ask what they’re looking at. We did this a few times as we honestly couldn’t see what all those people were looking at. A guide was friendly enough to point it out to us very precisely, and it turned out to be one of the best leopard sightings we’ve had!

Remember to return the favor by sharing your own sightings with others as well. 😉

#5 Bring binoculars

You may not use it daily, but it’s worth having for exploring open plains or searching for hidden animals in the bushes.

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two lions laying in the shade under trees

Game Drives in Etosha

Self-driving is one of the best ways to go on a safari in Etosha, however, having a guide always adds more value to your game drives. Their skills in identifying wildlife and understanding their typical locations truly enhance your game drives.

I recommend a combination of guided and self-drive game drives to enjoy the best of both worlds.

Additionally, opting for morning or night drives allows you to venture into the national park outside regular hours, maximizing your wildlife encounters. 

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How to book guided game drives

Guided game drives organized by the camps are easily booked at each camp and cannot be reserved in advance. It’s best to do this on the day of arrival at Etosha to guarantee your preferred spot.


  • The morning game drive is NAD 650 p.p. (€32)
  • The night game drive NAD 750 p.p. (€37)

If you still want to book game drives in advance, you can book these here.

Entrance Gates

1. Anderson’s Gate is the southern entrance to the park and is reached on the C38 via Outjo/Ombika. We entered Etosha National Park through this gate as it was the closest to our first camp, Okaukuejo. 

2. Von Lindequist Gate – the most eastern entrance and a short drive away from Namutoni Camp. We exited the national park here as it’s only 5 minutes away from Onguma Nature Reserve which was our next destination.

3. Galton Gate – the most western entrance and only accessible for those staying at Dolomite Camp or Olifantsrus.

4. King Nehale Lya Mpingana Gate is the northern entrance of the park located 48km from the main road to Ondangwa. 

entrance camp namutoni

Opening Times & Fees

Opening hours are based on sunrise and sunset and vary every week. Check the website of Etosha National Park for the current opening times or at your camp.

Make sure to be at the entrance gate well on time as it’s still a short drive towards your camp inside the park. For those going to Dolomite camp or Olifantsrus, the drive to your camp is quite long so they might refuse you to enter the gate if you’re too close towards sunset.

Entrance Fees

  • Adults (foreign) NAD 150 (€7) per adult per day
  • Children under 16 years are free of charge
  • Vehicles with 10 seats or less are NAD 50 (€3) per vehicle per day

The entrance fee has to be paid upon arrival in your camp for all your pre-booked nights. At the entrance gate, you’ll have to fill in a form, that you have to show at the camp’s reception.

Both the Namibian Dollar and the South African Rand are accepted in the country as they’re linked.

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How to get to Etosha Park

Etosha is easily reached from either the capital Windhoek or from other parts of Namibia like Palmwag or Grootberg. I’ve listed a few options down below with directions and the best entrance gates for each.

From Windhoek to Etosha National Park (Von Lindequist)- 556 km

Coming from Windhoek, I would suggest entering the park through the Von Lindequist Gate on the eastern part of the park. It’s a 6 hours drive with amazing views along the way. Drive through Otjiwarongo and Tsumeb all the way to the eastern gate.

From Swakopmund to Etosha National Park (Anderson's) - 520 km

If you’re coming from Swakopmund and don’t have time to spend the night somewhere in Damaraland, take the Anderson’s Entrance. It will definitely take around 7 hours so do prepare for a long sit. I personally recommend staying overnight at Grootberg or Kamanjab.

From Palmwag to Etosha National Park (Galton) - 181 km

We drove from Palmwag to the Anderson Gate in roughly 5 hours (290km) as we stayed at Okaukuejo on night 1. If you’re staying in Olifantsrus or Dolomite camp then you can enter at Galton Gate, which will save you some time.

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Best time to visit Etosha National Park

Etosha National Park is an all-year-round travel destination with amazing wildlife viewing opportunities throughout the year.

The park has a semi-desert climate with huge temperature differences between day and night so prepare for both cold and warm weather any time of year.

Winter: May to October

The winter months are Etosha’s prime season for wildlife viewing with temperatures ranging between 18-30 degrees during the day and cold nights.

Water resources are scarce during these months and there’s barely any vegetation at the end of the dry season. Because of that, all animals come to the waterholes to drink, providing incredible sightings.

This is high season and therefore prices are higher and accommodation book out quicker.

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Summer: November to April

Summer in Etosha comes with rainfall and high temperatures of up to 40 degrees during the day and soft nights to 17 degrees. Vegetation grows back creating beautiful green lush landscapes.

Because the rain turns the pans into lakes, this is exactly the time to head off to Etosha for birding. Species like flamingos gather around the Etosha pan during the wettest months of January and February.

The summer months are Etosha’s low season, which comes with cheaper prices, more flexibility for accommodation inside the park, and fewer cars.

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Where to stay in Etosha National Park

Depending on your type of travel you can either camp or stay in lodging. Inside Etosha National Park you can find 6 camps that are all managed by the Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR), with most offering both accommodation options.

The other option is to stay outside the park, where you get more value for your money and have more flexibility for last-minute bookings. Click here for all the accommodation options outside Etosha Park.

The camps inside the park are often fully booked months in advance and therefore a bit pricier.

Camps in Etosha National Park

Okaukuejo Camp

Accommodation: Camping, rooms and chalets
Costs: from NAD 430 (€20)
Facilities: Swimming pool, restaurant, bar, waterhole, gas station, shop and shared ablution
Gate: Anderson’s

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Halali Camp

Accommodation: Camping, double rooms and bush chalets
Costs: from NAD 420 (€20)
Facilities: Swimming pool, restaurant, bar, waterhole, gas station, shop and shared ablution
Gate: Anderson’s

herd of elephants at moringa waterhole

Namutoni Camp

Accommodation: Camping, double rooms and chalets
Costs: from NAD 420 (€20)
Facilities: Swimming pool, restaurants, bar, waterhole, gas station, shop and shared ablution
Gate: Von Lindequist

Dolomite Camp

Accommodation: Safari tents (no camping)
Costs: from NAD 2620 (€128)
Facilities: Swimming pool, restaurant, bar, waterhole and tourist shop
Gate: Galton

male lion in bush
namutoni camp etosha national park


Accommodation: Camping only
Costs: from NAD 460 (€22)
Facilities: Waterhole + hide, communal kitchen, shared ablution and small shop
Gate: Galton

Onkoshi Camp

Accommodation: Chalets only (no camping)
Costs: from NAD 2620 (€128)
Facilities: Swimming pool, restaurant, bar and shop
Gate: Von Lindequist + pick up at Namutoni

Camping in Namibia is by far the most budget option to explore Etosha and if you ask me the way to go!

I dive way more into detail about camping in Namibia in my complete guide for all my tips and recommendations for camping in Namibia, which includes my top 7 campsites as well! Not only it’s a better option for your wallet, but the experience is so well worth it.

camping in namibia

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Pros and Cons of staying inside the Etosha National Park


  • One of the main reasons to stay inside the park is that you can start driving earlier as soon as the sun is up and there’s no need to queue like people coming from outside the park.
  • Another reason people opt to stay inside the park is because of the incredible waterholes right outside the fences of each camp.


  • Less value for money – the camps and facilities inside the park are pretty basic but functional.
  • Limited options as there are only 6 camps.
  • Fully booked months in advance.
lions drinking at waterhole

How to book your accommodation

To make a reservation for camps inside Etosha National Park, you have to make an inquiry on the official Etosha website or send an e-mail to enquiry@etoshanationalpark.org

Fill in your personal information, your preferred camp for each night inside Etosha National Park, and your flexibility in terms of dates. Also don’t forget to mention the type of accommodation in each camp in the comments as you can’t opt for this in the form.

They’ll come back to you as soon as possible telling you the availability or different options. Keep in mind that accommodation inside the national park fills up months in advance so be on time.

tents at campsite in namibia

Accommodation outside Etosha National Park

Various accommodations are located right outside Etosha National Park that are worth checking into. They have more options in different price ranges and way more value for money.

As for us, we stayed one night at the Onguma Nature Reserve on their Tamboti Campsite and loved our stay! The nature reserve shares a border with Etosha and is only a 5-minute drive from the Von Lindequist gate.

The downside of staying outside the park is that you’ll have to queue at the entrance gate when entering the national park and that you miss out on sitting at the waterholes after the gates are closed.

onguma tamboti campsite
Camping Recommendation:

Onguma Tamboti Campsite
Onguma Reserve, Namibia
Book Here!

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swimming pool at onguma nature reserve

Food and Drinks in Etosha

Most camps have a restaurant or bar offering a range of dishes and snacks but don’t expect anything fancy. We had one lunch and one dinner at the camp’s restaurant just because we ran out of food to cook, but like the whole camp, it’s pretty basic for the costs.

If you’re camping on your self drive Etosha National Park, I recommend stocking up on groceries and cooking yourself. Be aware that the restaurants open only during meal hours, so pre-check this upon arrival at your camp.

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camping equipment cooking

How to get around Etosha National Park

Navigating through the park is fairly easy. There are 2 types of roads in Etosha which are the main roads (green on map) and secondary roads (yellow). To get to each camp, there’s basically one main road and some extra loops to waterholes or viewpoints. At every crossing there are white stones with signs on them, guiding you to the right way/camp.

Distances in the Park

Dolomite – Okaukuejo: 173km

Okaukuejo – Halali: 56km

Halali – Namutoni: 75km

These numbers are a rough estimate and will take up a lot longer as you’ll be spotting wildlife along the way. Also, these numbers are the fastest direct route to the next camp so if you’re doing extra loops (which are often necessary to visit waterholes and other great viewing areas it will take a lot longer).

Don’t underestimate the distances between camps. Take an extra loop on your afternoon drive can take up longer than before expected!

road in etosha national park with acacia trees

4-day Safari Itinerary Etosha

3 nights is the perfect amount to explore different areas of the park, go on self- and guided game drives, and relax at the camp’s waterholes or cool off at the swimming pools. Personally, I think spending 4 nights in the park would be ideal, with one night in each area if you have the time.

Our 4-day Route

– 1 night: Okaukuejo Camp
– 1 night: Halali Camp
– 1 night: Namutoni Camp

Recommended 4-Day Itinerary

Even though we loved our time in Etosha, looking back we wished we could include the western part of Etosha National Park.

This itinerary is focused on those staying at the campsites but can be used for those who stay in chalets or rooms as well.

Day 1: First Day in the East

Enter Etosha National Park through the Galton Gate and spend the first day exploring the surroundings around your camp.

Upon arrival, they will give you a map with all the self-drive routes through Etosha. Make sure to check out the waterholes that are pointed out on the map.

After you’ve set up your tent and had dinner, head to the waterhole and watch wildlife gathering around the water.

The best thing about Olifantrus Camp is that there is a hide at the waterhole that provides an up close and personal view of the animals as they come to drink.

1 Night: Olifantsrus or Dolomite Camp

springbok in dry grass

Day 2: Full Day Safari

Wake up at the crack of dawn to start your first full day driving through the western part of Etosha. Lions and other big cats are often seen in this quiet area so keep your eyes open (as you always should in Etosha, but more importantly now).

Check-in at your new camp around noon, and relax at the swimming pool or sit at the camp’s waterhole during the hottest hours of the day.

Head out for an afternoon self-drive during the golden hours and spend some time at the waterholes around Okaukuejo.

After you’ve set up your tent and enjoyed your dinner, grab your drinks and head to the camp’s waterhole.

Alternatively, you can join a guided night game drive from the camp to spot wildlife that comes to life at night like hyenas, leopards, and bush babies.

1 Night: Okaukuejo Camp

elephants drinking and bathing in waterpool

Day 3: Self-drive Safari,  Waterholes & Etosha Pan

Before you leave, stop by the camp’s waterhole to check for any animals drinking.

Start your last full day in the national park exploring the many amazing waterholes and routes between Okaukuejo and Halali. Also, make a quick stop at the lookout point over the Etosha Pan.

At the beginning of the afternoon check in at Halali Camp. You can opt to stay inside the camp and spend time at the Moringa waterhole or drive around Halali at a slow pace.

We’ve spent a full evening at the moringa waterhole watching elephants, zebras, and even hyenas coming to drink until the late hours.

1 night: Halali Camp

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Day 4: Final Safari Day, Game Drives & Exit

Halali is one of the best areas in Etosha National Park to spot leopards so join one of the guided morning drives to enter the park one hour before the gates open.

When you return head your way towards Namutoni and visit more waterholes like Goas, Klein + Groot Okevi, and Twee Palms. Leave Etosha National Park behind you and exit at the Von Lindequist gate on the west.

More time in Etosha?

Spend one more night in Namutoni camp to have more time spotting lions, cheetahs, and leopards in the area of Namutoni and Halali.

lion during sunrise in bush
baby elephant in bush

Tips for your Self Drive Etosha National Park

1. Entering the park is only possible between sunrise and sunset. Times differ each day, you can check these at your camp or on the app.

2. Make sure to return to your camp on time if you’re out for a late afternoon drive.

3. The Etosha website and app are super useful to find information on during your trip.

4. Keep your lights on all the time, we only figured it out at the end of our trip when a police officer pointed it out to us (oops).

self drive etosha national park

5. Turn off your engine when you’re standing still watching wildlife. You may scare them away if they’re not used to it.

6. One of our favorite activities was sitting by waterholes and observing wildlife arriving one by one. Pack enough snacks and water and enjoy!

7. Always have an extra roll of toilet paper in reach for short pit stops. There are a few toilets located in the park which are pointed out on the Etosha map, they, however, are not the cleanest and they lack toilet paper.

8. Download the Etosha National Park map beforehand or buy one in the park, some of them also function as animal guides to help you out when you have no idea what kind of bird or antelope you’re looking at. 😉

9. Be silent around the waterholes.

girl at salt pan in etosha
giraffe in african bush

Packing essentials

Packing for a trip to Namibia is not like any other packing list. You need certain things that you usually don’t bring. The below-mentioned items are the ones that you certainly cannot miss in your bag.

  • Binoculars – a must to spot wildlife far away. Etosha has some large pans throughout the park and cheetahs are often spotted in those areas.
  • Camera with telephoto lens
  • Headlight
  • Power Bank
  • Pocket knife – useful for anything! We only used it as a bottle opener for our sundowners at the waterhole. 😉
  • Car charger
  • DEET
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Small EHBO Kit
  • International Drivers License

Park Rules

  • Be careful with wildlife. Give them enough space and don’t come too close.
  • Off-road driving is prohibited.
  • Never exit your car inside the national park unless mentioned at certain places.
  • No drones allowed.
  • Plastic bags are not allowed in the park.
  • The speed limit inside the park is 60 km/h but I recommend driving 30 km/h for better game viewing.

FAQs about the Self Drive Etosha National Park Guide

Can you self-drive in Etosha National Park?

As you’re reading this blog post, you may probably know this answer already, but YES! It’s also the absolute option to explore the park and go on a budget African safari.

How long do you need in Etosha National Park?

I would suggest to stay at least 3 days. Of course, more time in Etosha will increase your chance of seeing more wildlife or even endangered species like the black rhino, which are difficult to spot.

Do you need a 4x4 in Etosha?

Off-road driving in Etosha is not allowed and the paved roads are very well maintained. Therefore driving through the national park with a normal car is easily done, but considering the other parts of Namibia I do recommend renting a 4×4. 

How big is Etosha National Park?

The national park spans an area of 22,270 km2, almost as big as Slovenia.

Where is Etosha National Park located?

Etosha National Park is located in the northern part of Namibia, a 5-hour drive from Windhoek, the capital of the country.

Is Etosha National Park worth it?

1000% yes! Namibia is truly unique and one of Africa’s best and most budget-friendly countries to go on a safari! During the dry season, game viewing is easy as animals gather at waterholes resulting in extraordinary sightings.

Etosha National Park vs Kruger National Park

In both parks, we’ve seen incredible sightings, but the abundance in Etosha was way more impressive as sometimes you’ll see elephants, giraffes, zebras, and even rhinos drinking at the same waterhole. Whereas in Kruger wildlife is way more spread out.

As someone who did both parks, my preference goes to Etosha because of all the waterholes in Etosha which makes wildlife spotting a whole lot easier for self-drivers!

golden sunrise during morning game drive


I hope that this ultimate guide has inspired you to go on your own self drive safari in Etosha National Park or helped you plan your upcoming trip! As someone who has been on previous safari’s (South Africa), I was amazed by the abundance of wildlife we’ve seen in this park in Namibia, and I’m sure you’ll be too!

If you’re already planning a trip to Namibia, make sure to read my other guides about renting a car in Namibia and my favorite campsites throughout the country!

Drop any questions you still may have in the comments down below!

Safe travels! 🦁

Plan Your Trip to Namibia

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Simone Vromans

Simone is the owner and writer of Travel With Simone! By sharing these travel guides, she hopes to help you plan your epic adventures and inspire you to go on that long-overdue trip! 💛

travel with simone

About Simone

Hi there, I’m Simone and the writer behind this travel blog. By reading my guides, I’m hoping to inspire you to travel more mindfully and have epic adventures all over the globe!

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