Etosha National Park Wildlife

Etosha National Park Wildlife is more varied and exciting than any other game reserve in Northern Namibia. Dry winters and multiple watering holes combine to encourage a wealth of different species to cohabit in a natural environment.

Although you will only find 4 of the Big 5 in Etosha National Park, the 4 that are here make up for the missing water buffalo. You should expect to see leopards and lions, and elephants that are some of the biggest in Africa. Regularly spotted are rare black rhinos, they tend to roam near the floodlit waterholes of Halali and Okaukuejo. A dozen white rhinos were introduced some years ago, with the best chance of viewing them being in the east of Etosha.

In total, there are 114 species of mammal and 340 species of bird in Etosha. Around a third of those birds are migratory and travel down from the north to inhabit the Etosha Pan during the rainy season. This is when the grasses and seeds are lush food is plentiful and the watering holes are full. 

Etosha National Park Wildlife – Large Mammals

If you have never been on a game reserve, prepare to have your mind blown. It is like walking into a National Geographic magazine. You will view a wide variety of animal sightings including the popular zebra, giraffe, rhino, common antelope, and elephants all relaxing around water holes. Often, you might spot a mass of brown in the distance and not realize until you get closer that it is a gathering of wildebeest. Not hundreds, but thousands of them, all flocking together as one huge community.
Elephants travel in large herds and are regularly spotted. They might not be as big-tusked as you would expect, they rely on their tusks to dig down on the hunt for water during the dry season.

Big Cats of Etosha

Leopards – Look closely and you might spot a leopard. They are mostly nocturnal and even if you catch sight of them during daylight hours, they are shy and will seek cover if he spots you. For this reason, you should always have your camera at the ready. They will lie in wait for their prey of small mammals and antelope, and launch a surprise attack.

Cheetahs – The fastest land mammal in the world who only needs a short distance to reach 70mph speeds. Again, be braced with your camera ready to get a shot. Cheetahs are the most common of the big cats that roam Etosha National Park and feast on springboks.

Lions – Who doesn’t want to see a lion in its spectacular natural habitat? They’re usually found close to watering spots, after all, so many animals congregated together is a very varied menu to the lion, they enjoy zebra and wildebeest. Lions live in family groups, so if you spot one, there will be a family close by. Luckier still, imagine spotting some cubs playing together in the shade who will put on an awesome show for you.
Other big mammals that are common in Etosha National Park, include giraffes, mountain and plains zebra, antelope, springbok, gemsbok, eland, hyena, and kudu.

Smaller Mammals Found in Etosha

There are many species of small mammal in Etosha National Park. Wildlife including warthogs, honey badgers, jackals, bat-eared foxes, and ground squirrels are but a few.
The black-faced impala is rare, there are only around 1000 of the animals in the park. Dik-diks are a relatively common sight, they are the smallest of the antelope family and are found in areas where the bush is dense.

Birds of Etosha

With more than 340 different breeds of birds, over 200 of which are resident year-round, Etosha is a bird-watchers paradise. Species that are often considered garden birds, such as sparrows, thrushes, and tits, through to impressive ostriches, flamingos, and storks make their home in this region of Namibia.
Larger birds of prey such as sparrow hawks, eagles, hawks, and vultures are often seen hovering over prey, whilst eagle and barn owls might be spotted at dusk.
Many birds head southbound into Etosha during the rainy season, on the hunt for more readily available food around the waterholes.

Practical Tips

To get from Windhoek to the park, head north on highway C38 for approximately 4 hours.
Driving slowly between camps or accommodations looking for wildlife to photograph is a wonderful way to spend a day. You can only drive in the park between sunrise and sunset, but the times often change, I would suggest you check Eto
sha’s website to stay up to date. You must stay inside your vehicle at all times while in the park, except for rest stops. No short pee breaks on the side of the road, not that you would want to. Who knows what’s hiding in the bushes, toilets and rest stops are available throughout the park.
If you’re serious about photographing the wildlife, ensure that you have a camera with a good zoom. Suggest two cameras, one with a zoom and the other with a wide angle and keep both ready and close by.
Did anyone say ‘Elephant crossing’?


Etosha National Park wildlife is extensive. With the animals that we have mentioned, we haven’t even scratched the surface. There are also 110 reptiles species, 16 types of amphibian, there is even 1 species of fish!
Remember to take your time around the park, drive slow, and be observant. Grab a map from the tourist information shop at Okaukuejo, not only will it help you to recognize some of the more unusual animals, but you can also use it as a checklist to keep count of just how many of the hundreds of species you manage to spot.

Etosha National Park Wildlife

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