ETOSHA GAME RESERVE
Etosha National Park is one of Southern Africa's finest and most important Game Reserves. Etosha Game park was declared a National Park in 1907 and covering an area of 22 270 square km, it is home to 114 mammal species, 340 bird species, 110 reptile species, 16 amphibian species and, surprisingly, one species of fish.
Etosha, meaning "Great White Place", is dominated by a massive mineral pan. The pan is part of the Kalahari Basin, the floor of which was formed around 1000 million years ago. The Etosha Pan covers around 25% of the National Park. The pan was originally a lake fed by the Kunene River. However the course of the river changed thousands of years ago and the lake dried up. The pan now is a large dusty depression of salt and dusty clay which fills only if the rains are heavy and even then only holds water for a short time. This temporary water in the Etosha Pan attracts thousands of wading birds including impressive flocks of flamingos. The perennial springs along the edges of the Etosha Pan draw large concentrations of wildlife and birds.
The game viewing in Etosha National Park is excellent, the best time being from May to September - the cooler months in Namibia. Visitors to Etosha Game Reserve can expect to see many buck species, elephant, giraffe, rhino and lions. More fortunate visitors will see leopard and cheetah. There is a network of roads linking the five camps and subsidiary roads lead to various waterholes.
When it was originally proclaimed at the turn of the century the Etosha Park consisted of an area of 100,000 square kilometres. This was the largest reserve on earth but in the 1960's political pressure resulted in the Park being reduced to its current size.
The main entrance to the park is called the "Andersson Gate" situated near Okaukuejo in the south. The eastern entrance is called the "Von Lindequist Gate" and is near Namutoni. The new "Nehale lya Mpingana Gate" gate, (King Nehale Gate) was opened at the beginning of 2003 in the north-east.
The dominant vegetation in Etosha is Mopane (Colophospermum mopane) or Omusati in a local language, and it is so widespread in the north-west of Namibia that a region in Owambo is named after it. The western areas of the park support mainly mopane scrub, whereas there are extensive woodlands of tall trees in the southern parts of the Halali area as well as in the camp. One of the most spectacular trees in the park is the African moringa, (Moringa ovalifolia) or ghost tree.
There is a specially fenced off area, some 30km west of Okaukuejo, to help preserve this unique and to some, grotesquely shaped trees, known as the haunted forest . This is an unusual habitat for the moringa, as they normally occur on hillsides and they grow in a variety of weird shapes, and as many of the trees have several trunks emerging from a swollen base, they are often mistaken for baobabs, but are not related to them.
The second most common species in Etosha is the red bushwillow, (Combretum apiculatum), and is known locally as Kudubusch (German) or koedoebos (Afrikaans), aptly named because kudu and other game species browse the nutritious leaves, whilst rhino consume entire branches and elephant prefer the bark.