The Etosha National Park is located in the North-Western part of Namibia, it is a protected area since 1907 and, with its 22,270 square kilometers, is one of the largest national parks in Africa.
Etosha is a word of the Ovambo language meaning "great white place" and this name comes from the enormous pan that is located in its North-West part; 130 km by 50 km wide at its widest point, and with an area of approximately 5,000 square kilometers, this is the element that most characterizes the park, in addition to being one of the largest salted depressions of the African continent.
The Hai||om, another population inhabiting these lands and belonging to the Khoisan group, call this place Khubus meaning " barren place, white place with a lot of dust"; the Etosha is also known by the name of Chums, that refers to the noise that you hear when you walk on the pan salty crust.
In the area of the Etosha National Park in addition to the Ovambo, who occupy the North area, and the Hai||om, there are also the Herero who live just outside the park boundary.
Originally, the pan was a lake fed by the Kunene River, but following the raising of the ground, due to the movements of the tectonic plates, the river has diverted its course further North of the Etosha, heading directly towards the Atlantic Ocean.
This has deprived the lake of its only permanent tributary, and, gradually, the lake has dried up, leaving behind the salt crystals that we see today; however, during the season of rains, seasonal rivers and rain itself partially fill the lake, that never exceeds 10 cm depth; the waters have a high salt content and attract thousands of flamingoes and pelicans and other waterfowls.
A San legend tells that a girl has seen all the inhabitants of her village killed, including her family, so she began to cry, and wept so much that her tears formed a lake that, when dried up because of the sun, formed the huge white pan surface.
In the park there are 114 species of mammals, 340 birds, 110 reptiles, 16 amphibians and 1 species of fish; you can see lions, leopards, cheetahs, jackals, spotted hyenas, oryx, elands, greater kudus, springboks, black-faced impalas, plains and mountain zebras, or Hartmann zebras, wildebeests, black rhinos, giraffes, elephants and many others.
The best time for the sighting of the animals is during the dry season, on the austral winter, from June to October, during this time of the year the streets are also more easily passable; during the rainy season instead it is the best time for spotting birds, thanks to the greater presence of water, they are found in greater numbers, this period also coincides with the presence of the Palaearctic birds that migrate here during the months from October to March to escape the harsh Northern winter.
In the Etosha National Park there are many pools, some with spring water, while others are artificial and, especially in the winter months these are the best places to spot the animals that come here in search of water; a system of secondary roads links the various pools to the main road, that on its side connects the entrances and the 6 fields present in the park.
The park roads are unpaved and in good condition and have a total length of 3,550 km, while the pools are 86 among natural and artificial.
The activities that can be done within the confines of the Etosha National Park are limited to day safari; while in the reserves that lie beyond its borders you can also make night drives and walking safaris.
The Etosha National Park is about 420 km from Windhoek and can be reached with a 4-hour drive or a flight, as in Tsumeb there is an airport.
A curiosity: the Etosha National Park has been the location for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.