Etosha National Park and Owamboland
Located in Northern Namibia, Etosha National Park is one of the country’s main attractions. Surrounding a 5000km² salt pan, the generous size of the park and the quality of the game viewing have made Etosha one of Africa’s most popular game reserves. North of Etosha the traditional land of the Owambo people is the most densely populated area of the country.
Etosha, meaning ‘great white place of dry water’, is one of Southern Africa’s most accessible and rewarding wilderness areas. Dry during most of the year, animals of all sizes are drawn to the 30 springs and water holes. Along with sparse vegetation in most of Etosha the dependency on water creates easy and often spectacular game viewing. The large Etosha Pan that named the park is characteristically dry and provides a surreal, moon-like backdrop to your game viewing. Only during water-rich rainy seasons does the pan fill and attract a cloud of flamingos, which migrate here to breed. The rainy season generally offers better birding with about 340 bird species; about a third of which are migratory.
Beyond the saline desert of the Etosha Pan you will find dwarf-shrub savannah and grassland as well as thorn-bush and woodland savannah. The game in Etosha is surprisingly abundant for a largely arid region. Large antelope such as kudu, eland and oryx can be seen dotted throughout the park, while even larger mammals such as elephant, giraffe and even the endangered black rhino are seen frequently. Etosha’s apex predator is the lion, with leopard and cheetah completing the trio of big cats. Other predators include the hyena and smaller carnivores such as jackal, bat-eared fox and the fearless honey badger.
Accessible in regular two-wheel drive vehicles, mostly malaria free, with ample accommodation in and outside of the park, Etosha continues to be one of the most popular game viewing destinations in Southern Africa.
The Land of the Owambo
The land north of Etosha is the traditional home of the Owambo people. The Owamboland consists of four regions: Omusati, Oshana, Ohangwena and Oshikoto. Together these regions have the highest population density outside of Windhoek. The 56 100 km² area consist of mainly communal farmland, where the inhabitants live on subsistence farming. In the rainy season the water from the Angolan highlands fills the rivers and soaks the oshanas – a shallow depression that gathers water during the rains.
The two largest towns, Oshakati and Ondangwa, lie in the Oshana region. These urban centres have colourful markets and the slightly disorganised but charming buzz of urban Africa.
Tourism is more of a side-line endeavour in this agricultural region, but those who venture north of Etosha will find unique experience among real people. The Oshakati Omatala is the largest open market in Namibia and well worth a visit. For those searching for a closer look at the Owambo culture will enjoy the Uukwaluudhi Traditional Homestead or the community based Nakambale Museum. Lake Otjikoto offers a completely unique underwater museum to experienced divers.