Etosha National Park is a mecca for animals. It’s really big, about the size of New Jersey, and overall, the climate is pretty dry. There’s a huge dried out lake, called a salt pan, in the middle of it. The salt pan is the size of Rhode Island, and looking out over it feels like looking out at the ocean. The salt pan is flat and goes as far as the eye can see. It makes for great photographs where you can mess with perspective.
Because of the scarcity of water at Etosha, animals congregate at various watering holes around the park, some natural and some man-made. This makes it easy to spot a lot of animals at once. Apparently, the animals help each other out spotting predators — each brings a different skill, whether strong hearing, vision, or smell. Here’s a little video that I took — see if you can spot the giraffe’s tongue and the elephant drinking:
At the entrance gate, I bought a handy little booklet which has photos of the animals found in the park, and checked them off there. In total, we counted 50 different types of animals over our two days there — 23 species of mammals and 27 types of birds. I don’t have photos of every single one, but I’ll share a lot here!
The youngest member of our group (who is 11) kept count of what we saw, so I’ll list the big animals here, roughly from the most common to the least.
Springbok (more than 1000) — we saw them everywhere!
Plains Zebra (also more than 1000) — this is a different type than what we saw at the watering hole in the desert, which was the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra. They’re just so beautiful — check out the nursing colt in the bottom photo.
Blue Wildebeest (~500): They’re quite majestic, and apparently, also sometimes called a gnu!
Oryx / Gemsbok (~85) — I think these are my favorite of the deer-like animals:
Giraffe (~65) — I’ve seen them before, but they don’t cease to amaze me. I loved watching them drink, and their run is very clunky but also poised:
We saw two young giraffes flirting and playing, and it was the cutest thing ever:
Black-Faced Impala (~47) — these guys are called the McDonalds of Southern Africa, because they’re everywhere, and it looks like they have the letter M on their butts:
African Elephants (~35) — So majestic and beautiful. From afar, of course. They’re dangerous to approach!
Greater Kudu (~30) — Yet another type of antelope / deer type animal, but with the curliest horns. Here’s a male and a few of the females in his group in front of the salt pan.
Red Hartebeest (~20): I love their long faces. They’re big guys, like the wildebeest.
Blackbacked Jackals (~14): They are smarmy little canines who try to steal leftovers from other animals and apparently carry rabies. They hang out with vultures. But they’re very cute.
Banded Mongoose (a bunch) — they were at the campsite where we stopped for lunch. Very playful!
African Lion (4) — We were lucky to see a group of lions with their kill. A bloody zebra.
We weren’t too close, but we went back later that night on our evening safari and drove right over. Check back to see those pictures. Yikes. In these ones, taken during the day, you can see the jackals and vultures keeping an eye, to swoop in when the lions aren’t looking.
Warthog (3) — They’re pigs, but Lion King made them famous.
Black Rhinoceros (2): They’re very endangered, and it’s much more likely to see white rhinos in other parts of Africa, but the black rhinos are more common in Namibia. One way to tell them apart? We were told that the black rhinos always have their babies behind them, and the white rhinos always have their babies in front, like humans (not sure if this is a real “rule” for humans, but interesting nonetheless).
Leopard (2) — I had never spotted a leopard, so I was pretty excited about this one. They’re beautiful! We saw it stalking a red hartebeest, but then ultimately deciding to take a nap under a tree.
Other smaller animals included the ground squirrel:
And the Damara Dik-Dik, the smallest of the antelope family:
As you can see, there were A LOT of animals at Etosha. How many animals you can spot here? What big bird can you see?
Check back soon, because the birds of Etosha were incredible, and they deserve their own post. In addition, I’m going to do one extra Etosha post just on our night safari, which was both amazing and terrifying. There’s too much for one blog entry, let alone one photo!