For most the dream vacation to Africa involves spending the days spotting The Big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) and nights enjoying fine meals of wild game while sipping on South African wines. All the travel porn that is published by the African tourism boards toys with these fantasies. I was lucky enough to visit a few wildlife parks in Africa, The Etosha National Park in Namibia and Chobe National Park in Botswana.
The Etosha National Park
The Etosha National Park is situated in the north of Namibia. There is a giant salt pan in the middle of the park that covers so much area it can be seen from space. This feature makes this park unique from others in Africa. But don’t worry even in the dry season there are numerous waterholes in the park where the animals often congregate.
I had an epic first 2 hours in the park and saw more animals in that short time than I saw during the rest of my days in Etosha!
Namibia is a diverse country that is has giant sand dunes and savannahs. Etosha is the same the park offers a diverse vegetation that accounts for its abundance of wildlife. Namibia is also one of the few countries where animals still roam freely and are unrestricted by humans.
The Etosha National Park has 3 camps (Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni) quipped with restaurants, shops, curios, swimming pools and petrol stations. One of my favorite features was the waterhole in Okaukuejo that was lit up at night for casual late night animal viewing. The park was well mapped and easily accessible in our rental car. We did self drive safaris the while time we were in Etosha. I think this is a great way to see the park and animals at your own speed.
We stayed in the Okaukuejo and Namutoni camps. My boyfriend and I camped while his parents stayed in the chalets. We were totally happy with our handy dandy roof tent and with the camping facilities all across Namibia. As a budget traveler camping in the parks is a great way to go. You still have access to the fancy facilities like wifi and the pool but are saving a butt load of cash to be spent on experiences. I won’t lie though, if someone was sponsoring my next safari trip to Africa I would happily stay in the chalet.
During our 3 days in Etosha I saw every animal in the big 5 except the leopard. While every animal sighting was magical my favorites where a grouping of 3 White Elephants and a pair of Lions on their honeymoon!
Chobe National Park
The Chobe National Park is located in northeastern Botswana. The Chobe River forms the park’s northern border and it is eastern edge is the border of Zimbabwe. From Chobe’s north-eastern gate you are less than 100km from Victoria Falls making this a great hub for African Bucket List experiences.
Unlike Etosha The Chobe National Park is all about water. The Okavango Delta’s lushness makes a fabulous home for African Elephants and Hippos.
In the dry season the all the animals flock to the river. During those months it is not uncommon to see between 500 and 5000 elephants at one time! Seriously the herds were massive! The terrain in Chobe is a bit more rugged than Etosha and 4 Wheel Drive is essential in the park. Driving around on our own in Chobe we saw a crocodile, a ton of giraffes and elephants but once again no leopard.
Yes. The the shy leopard is the only animal of The Big 5 that I didn’t see in my 2 months in Africa!
I could have gone to a farm or rescue center to see on but call me a stickler but in my opinion that doesn’t count. Neither do the ones in the zoo. I wanted to see one in the wild! I’ve come to terms with it and see it as an excuse to return to Africa someday.
Visiting Chobe National Park isn’t about the driving safaris though… It is all about getting out on the river and seeing the wildlife from the water.
We took a sunset cruise and were right next to bathing elephants and hungry hungry hippos! Maybe it is that I’m an island girl but when ever I’m on the water it is a good day. And that sunset cruise was no different.