Geologists believe that the pan, inside the Etosha National Park and that so much characterizes it, 10 or 12 million years ago was a shallow lake fed by the Kunene River, that later on due to the movements, and subsequent rise of the tectonic plate, diverted its course, heading to the Atlantic Ocean and no longer feeding this area.
With the melting of ice in the Northern hemisphere, about 16,000 years ago in Southern Africa there was a humid climate that caused the filling of the lake Etosha following the heavy rainfall; when the weather changed, the lake dried up and took on its present appearance.
The first Europeans who came to these lands were Sir Francis Galton and Charles Andersson; on May 29, 1851, with the help of some Ovambo raw copper traders, they came up to a shelter for cattle called Omutjiamatunda, now known by the name of Namutoni.
When the two European explorers left Namutoni, to continue their journey, they found the dried-up salty lake or pan, and also learned Etosha was the name of this place that, in the local language of the Ovambo, meant "great void" or "great white place ".
This area was originally inhabited by the Hai||om population, hunter gatherers belonging to the San population, they lived in harmony with the large amount of wildlife that inhabited these lands; the Hai||om recognized the sovereignty of the head of the Ovambo Ondonga kingdom, while the Herero, who inhabited the lands near Etosha, never acknowledged him.
In 1885, the entrepreneur William Worthington Jordan bought from local people a large portion of land between Okaukuejo and the Fischer pan for a value of £. 300, a figure paid in goods and for accuracy with 25 firearms, some salted meat and a box of brandy.
In the following years some trade patterns were tracked in the Etosha area, especially one West and one East of the pan; in 1876 the Eastern route of Andersson was united to that of the American Gerald McKiernan to the West and this opened an easier path for European hunters interested, unfortunately, in the great abundance of wildlife.
At the same time European hunters did hunt relentlessly and many animal species came to the brink of extinction in the region, including in particular elephants, lions, rhinos, buffalos and wild dogs.
William Worthington Jordan gave part of his lands, about 25 square kilometers, to the explorers Boers Dorstland who traveled through these lands, from today South Africa to Angola, between 1876 and 1879, and arrived in these lands in 1885; they renamed this Upingtonia from the name of the prime minister of the Cape Colony.
This settlement was abandoned in 1886 after several clashes with the Hai||om, led by their chief: Nehale Mpingana.
In 1896 the German government ordered his troops to occupy the Okaukuejo, Namutoni and Sesfontein areas with the aim to kill all the wildlife to try to stop the spread of murrain and the contagion to the livestock of the settlers.
The German cavalry built a fort near the Namutoni sources in 1899, but on January 28, 1904, 500 men, led by Nehale Mpingana attacked the Imperial Germany Colonial Army troops, Schutztruppe, based at the fort; the fort was completely destroyed by the Hai||om who prevailed and managed to take possession of the horses and cattle of the German army.
The German fort was later rebuilt and the troops returned; the same fort still exists today and has been recognized as a national monument and houses inside the Namutoni Camp.
On March 22, 1907, the Etosha National Park was declared by the governor of German South East Africa, Friedrich von Lindequist, protected nature zone and was named Game Reserve 2; Germans assigned a numerical order to the reserves, the number 1 was the Caprivi Western Reserve while the number 3 was the Namib Reserve.
With an area of about 100,000 sq km the Etosha was the oldest wildlife reserve in the world and the Fort Namutoni Lieutenant Adolf Fischer became the first ranger of the newly protected area, whose size was scaled progressively over the following decades.
In 1946, over the Easter weekend, the first wildlife safari was held inside the Etosha, it was attended by 137 people aboard 10 trucks.
In 1954, the Hai||om were forced by the settlers to leave these lands, so they had to change their way of life, from hunter-gatherers to farmers on the farms of the settlers; only in 2004 the Namibian government recognized that the lands of the Etosha National Park belonged to the Hai||om and studied a plan for their reintegration.
In 1955 the construction of a fence was started and it was be completed only in 1973 and, that same year, the influx of tourists began; in the first year 6,210 people went to the Etosha for a safari; in the following years the first accommodation within the perimeter of the park was built to accommodate visitors.
In 1958, the Game Reserve 2 became the Etosha Reserve and its surface was reduced to 55,000 sq km; in 1967 it became National Park by an act of the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, who administered these lands since World War II, while in 1970 its area was reduced again to its current size of 22,000 sq km.
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s this area was inevitably involved in the Border War, between Angola, Namibia and South Africa, and unfortunately there were serious consequences for wild animals who found themselves in the middle of the crossfire; to make matters worse a prolonged drought put a strain on their chances of survival.
Fortunately, today the Etosha National Park has forgotten its often turbulent past and is a quiet place, the animals are present in large numbers and this is one of the most fascinating places to go to enjoy its spectacular nature.