Let’s just be real and say it: It’s extremely difficult to choose the ten best waterholes in Etosha National Park. There are multiple factors that make a waterhole great – but each person’s encounter there could be different.
Don’t forget, animals move around constantly. So choosing a waterhole in general, let alone the best ones – that’s a pretty challenging task! Lucky for you, here’s a list of our Top Ten – based on ease access, popularity and relative chance of game.
Close to Okaukuejo, Nebrowni makes a great first impression on travellers. Large numbers of different animals gather around this waterhole throughout the day. This gives you the perfect opportunity to see plains game like zebra and impala walking around with the majestic elephants of Etosha National park.
Not only is this waterhole easy to get to, it’s also the first one you come across leaving Okaukuejo. Being close to the pan means Nebrowni lies right in the middle of, well, nothing. A-grade views of the wildlife already there and other animals approaching are guaranteed.
While you’re sure to see other game from Okaukuejo to Nebrowni, it’s often a hotspot of activity. Especially early in the morning, chances are good of coming across a few lions getting their sunrise drinks.
Meaning “plains of the oryx“ in Afrikaans, this artificial waterhole boasts a solar-powered pump. With fresh water all the time, it makes for great encounters in the dry season. Big herds of zebra and, you guessed it, oryx, spread out over the plains and make the air vibrate with their calls and grunts.
Although it’s a little further away, the landscape and vast herds make for excellent photography – especially late in the afternoon.
Admittedly, this one was a no-brainer. Right in the popular camp of the same name, it provides wildlife seekers with seating and floodlights. An incomparable all-day location, you will be able to observe various animals coming and going.
Due to its location, the Okaukuejo waterhole is also an unmatched opportunity for a supreme sunrise. The benches all face west, giving photographers beautiful lighting as the sun ascends – no filters needed.
Olifantsbad (“elephant’s bath“) is at the bottom of an extensive loop that includes Gemsbokvlakte. It often attracts elephants in the morning who come to have a drink and wallow in the mud. Smaller game is also a common sight, with zebra, impala, hartebeest and even giraffes frequenting the area.
Pair that with its proximity to a picnic spot and toilets, and its remoteness is simply rendered irrelevant.
A tribute to the end of hunting in the area when it was proclaimed a national park, Halali is the name of the music played on the hunting bugle after a hunt.
The waterhole itself, situated just below a hill, is actually called moringa due to the trees that grow there and provide much-needed shade. The hill is a good vantage point to watch the waterhole, and benches make it easy to spend an afternoon there.
While this camp in the middle of the park is often overlooked, it has a few perks that make it a must-visit (and even warrant a night’s stay). Besides the honey badgers haunting the campsites at night (pro tip: do NOT feed these deceptively adorable creatures – think gremlins!), the forested landscape puts your chances of seeing leopards on steroids.
The absolute highlight, though, are the relative good odds of seeing multiple white rhinoceros gathering in the late afternoon and night (thank you, flood lights).
Named after the Salvadora bush (Salvadora persica), it’s just off the main road and close to the salt pan. Lions are a fairly regular sighting here, and you have an amazing view northwards over the Etosha Pan. But what catapulted this waterhole into our list of Top Ten Water holes in Etosha is the possibility of spotting cheetahs. Cheetahs. Need we say more!?
Rietfontein bears some fame from the Dorslaand Trek. Literally the “thirstland haul“, three major expeditions left South Africa in the 19th century in search of new pastures. Many stayed in this area for well over a year. Only two graves have survived this long, and make a unique addition to your safari.
With a large body of water, Rietfontein is a great place for wildlife sightings. It attracts most large mammals of ENP, including elephants and even leopards. It’s not uncommon to see almost ten different species drinking peacefully (or not!). A special treat is the black rhinos that sometimes join the fun in the late afternoon.
Past Halali in the woodlands, you will find Goas. A natural spring within dense mopane trees, it’s a splendid spot for professional or hobby birders.
The thick forest also provides predators like lions and hyena with helpful hideouts for ambushing their prey. In the late afternoon, elephant herds may dominate this otherwise fairly tranquil space.
Situated close to Namutoni, an incline to a natural spring that pushes up from underground makes for an interesting viewing spot. Special game to see here are eland, which you might not see in many other places in the park. This, the largest antelope, can easily grow over two metres at the shoulder and is well worth some effort.
Chudop is also popular with lion and spotted hyena in the early morning and late afternoon, with some occasional elephants.
Known for giraffe and elephant coming to drink from this natural spring, spotted hyena, Damara dik dik, red hartebeest, black faced impala and leopards often visit, too.
Because it’s so close to the Namutoni rest camp, it’s a perfect stop for the last waterhole of the day before the camp gates close for the sunset curfew, or if you are leaving the park, it is close to the Von Lindquist gate, one of the main entry and exit points of ENP.
One of the man-made waterholes in Etosha National Park, Tsumcor lies between Andoni Plain and Namutoni. It is for this reason that many elephants frequent this waterhole as well as eland and other plains game.
Late afternoons here are best to spot large herds of elephants, or simply large elephants – you often find lone bulls that tower over the other animals, broken tusks and all.
A very small but popular waterhole, it’s the first one you find when driving north from Namutoni. All the animals seem to visit it – it’s good for black rhino in the late afternoon as well as elephants, lots of zebra, springbok and kudu.
Inside Etosha and Park Fees
All camps and accommodation establishments are run by NWR (Namibian Wildlife Resorts), which is a state-owned enterprise. Private tour operators will be able to assist with bookings at these accommodations.
Okaukuejo is easily the most popular rest camp in the park, mostly because of its amazing waterhole. It’s also an easy drive into the park on a tar road when entering through the Anderson gate, with good animal sightings along the way.
Namibians: N$5000 pp per day
Foreigners: N$150.00 pp per day
Vehicles: N$50.00 per day (less than 10 seats)
We hope you find our guide to the best watering holes in Etosha National Park helpful and look forward to welcoming you to Namibia soon.