Waterholes of Etosha National Park, Namibia

Etosha National Park was one of the highlights of my recent visit to Namibia.

The 22 750km² wildlife sanctuary is home to 150 mammal species, but the real action is at the water holes. The semi-arid savannah grassland and thorn scrub landscape means that water is in short supply at Etosha. As a result all the animals congregate at one of the park’s few waterholes, like the Okaukuejo waterhole. I also got all of my best elephant photos at the water holes. The result is incredible wildlife viewing opportunities:

Oryx at a water hole in Etosha National Park, Namibia


Zebras drinking at a waterhole with a giraffe looking on. In Etosha National Park, Namibia

Zebras drinking while a giraffe looks on.

Springbok and a giraffe drinking at a water hole in Etosha, Namibia

Springbok and a giraffe. Watching the giraffe drink I felt sorry for how awkward she was to lower her neck to the water.

Springbok, Kudu and Oryx congregated at a waterhole in Etosha, Namibia

Springbok, Kudu and Oryx congregated at a waterhole in Etosha.

Elephant taking a mud bath in Etosha, Namibia

Elephant taking a mud bath

Herd of elephants at a water hole in Etosha, Namibia

Herd of elephants at a water hole

Zebra observing elephants at a water hole in Namibia.

Zebra observing elephants at a water hole.

Elephants drinking at a waterhole in Etosha National Park, Namibia

Elephants drinking at a waterhole

Elephants at the Okaukuejo waterhole/rest camp in Etosha National Park, Namibia

Elephants at the Okaukuejo waterhole/rest camp. Plan on staying here a minimum of 2 nights.

Know Before Go to Etosha National Park:

  • By now I hope I have you convinced that thhe waterholes in Etosha are where all the action is happening.  My favorite water hole was the Okaukuejo Rest Camp.  Check out my photos.  Plan to spend at least two nights at Okaukuejo.
  • Plan to visit Etosha from May to  October during the dry season if possible.  It’s not as hot then and the dryness means that wildlife sightings are plentiful around the waterholes.
  • #1 Travel Tip:  Book early!!!! Etosha offers limited accommodation and it fill up early.  German tourists often book a year in advance.  In addition to booking your accommodation, also book your game drives early if you want a guide.
  • See Five Things to Do in Etosha for more inspiration.
  • Also be sure to check out the Cheetah Conservation Fund for a chance to get up close with cheetahs,. They are difficult to spot in the wild.
  • And click here to find out just how well you would survive in the bush.  Hint:  It’s not just the animals you have to worry about.

Stayed tuned for The Dark Side of Etosha….I’m talking about a night safari drive of course!


Many thanks to the Namibia Tourism Board for making my visit possible.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own and they did not force me to take the 1500 pictures I took in Etosha.

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their hiking, cycling and wildlife vacations in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.



  1. Sherry September 20, 2013 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    I’ve been to northern Africa, but I’ve never made it on safari, down south. It’s a shame to make it to the continent and not see the wildlife, the thing most people in the world can only dream about. One day, I’ll make it. Great photos and they all seem to be very happy – that’s always a plus.

    • Laurel September 21, 2013 at 4:35 pm - Reply

      @Sherry – You’ll have to go. I’ve never been to northern Africa.

  2. Jennifer September 21, 2013 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Oh my gosh, these pictures make me SO excited! We’re going on safari in February and I can’t wait to see wildlife like this. It’s truly going to be a dream come true.

    • Laurel September 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm - Reply

      @Jennifer – You will love it!

  3. Marcia September 21, 2013 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    You’ve brought back some wonderful memories, Laurel. These animals are so beautiful, so lovely to watch. No matter how many times you see them, it’s like the first time all over again.
    Would love to do a safari in Namibia.

    • Laurel September 21, 2013 at 4:34 pm - Reply

      @Marcia – So glad :). And agreed, I could do it over and over.

  4. Mary @ Green Global Travel September 21, 2013 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Amazing! There is so much to see! Thank you for the incredible suggestions! 🙂

    • Laurel September 21, 2013 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      @Mary – Agreed, the best waterhole wildlife sightings I’ve ever had.

  5. Cheryl September 21, 2013 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    So incredible! Adore any and all photos of elephants. 🙂

  6. Ali September 24, 2013 at 10:19 am - Reply

    This looks like such an amazing experience! I’m not one for roughing it, but going on a safari is pretty high on my list. Love your photos of the animals!

  7. Alex | Partial Parallax September 30, 2013 at 1:35 am - Reply

    Wow the amount of wildlife is spectacular and watching them all move into to drink seems to be a great experience. It must help that in Namibia there are limited places for the animals to drink so you are almost guaranteed to see many great animals. Looks like a great place to visit!

  8. 2wisemonkeys October 2, 2013 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    What an amazing experience to see all those animals! The pics really are magnificent!

    • Laurel October 15, 2013 at 6:01 pm - Reply

      @2Wisemonkeys – Agreed, I loved every minute of it. Thank you!

  9. Jeff October 10, 2013 at 8:28 am - Reply

    So incredible. I would love to see elephant taking a mud bath.

  10. Dan November 5, 2013 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    It’ll be a while before we make it out to Africa but we’re already planning and this just made the list! Great photos

  11. Jade November 25, 2013 at 2:09 am - Reply

    Wow, this must have been an incredible experience. Love the first photo so much!

    • Laurel December 9, 2013 at 10:03 am - Reply

      @Jade – Thank you, can’t recommend Etosha enough.

  12. Cristina November 27, 2013 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Love it! Have been to Namibia 3 times and can’t wait to go back. Probably next year!

  13. Natasha von Geldern December 4, 2013 at 10:00 am - Reply

    It is hard to pick the best thing in Namibia but Etosha is right up there – loved the whole experience and how you can be independent there.

    • Laurel December 9, 2013 at 9:41 am - Reply

      @Natasha – Agreed, there are a lot of great places in Namibia. Etosha was my favorite though, I thought it was incredible.

  14. Christy December 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Wow. I love those elephant photos!

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