Game Viewing in Etosha and Damaraland

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Mar 11th, 2005, 03:28 PM
  #1
Lin
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Game Viewing in Etosha and Damaraland

Can anyone who has also visited Botswana and South Africa game parks, compare the game viewing with Etosha and Damaraland in Namibia? I know the game is less concentrated, but what were your experiences?
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Mar 11th, 2005, 04:20 PM
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I have been to Etosha, not Damaraland, and the game in Etosha is much more concentrated than in either the Okavango Delta or Kruger. I visited Etosha in August, and I saw huge groups of zebra (100s in the herd), and large groups of all sorts of antelope (for example, 50 hartebeest in one group, and 100s of springbok), plus large groups of elephant, giraffe, and several rhino (we only saw black rhino). At the waterholes, especially near Okajuejo, you can see 500 animals at once. We also saw many lion and one cheetah. The concentration of animals in Etosha rivals Masai Mara, Serengeti and Chobe, where I have also seen large concentrations.

While I haven't been to Damaraland, I'm sure you know the game is very sparse.

Etosha is amazing!!
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Mar 11th, 2005, 06:16 PM
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Lin
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Thanks! It's good to hear from those that have actually been there.
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Mar 12th, 2005, 01:46 AM
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I have not visited Etosha but have been to Damaraland, Botswana's Okavango Delta, Linyanti and Magkadigkadi Salt Pans areas, South Africa from Imfolozi-Hluhluwe, Ithala and Ndumo to Kruger.

The Delta offered the best game viewing overall, closely followed by Linyanti, both staying in private camps with trained guides. Game in Imfolozi-Hluhluwe (self-drive) was also pretty good. Ndumu was great for birds (why we chose it) as well as some smaller mammals too. Ithala was best for landscape and close encounters with white rhinos. Kruger was enjoyable and great for birds, eles and hippos but not so good for close up or prolonged predator encounters. And although there were quieter roads there were far more visitors than the other parks. Damaraland was magical in terms of scenery and experience. Game density isn't high but sightings are satisfying - for example when we were there there were estimated to be only 400 desert elephants in existence spread out in a rather extensive territory. We saw 17 of them. And we saw more than expected at Jack's Camp too including meerkats, brown hyenas, huge zebra herds, flamingoes and other animals. Haven't been to Etosha - am attracted by animal density but put off by human density.
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Mar 12th, 2005, 12:29 PM
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Our experience in Etosha last May was similar to thit cho's -- very large concentrations of animals, especially at the waterholes, the biggest I've seen anywhere, except for an experience in Botswana in 1987, when our vehicle was completely surrounded by more than 100 elephants. Etosha is truly awe-inspiring.
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Mar 12th, 2005, 01:52 PM
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Celia
Did the visitor numbers impact on the experience in any way or not noticably? The pictures I see of the Etosha pans and wildlife look amazing so it's still on my possibles list...
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Mar 12th, 2005, 04:25 PM
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Kavey, the number of visitors to Etosha, especially during high season, is relatively large, so you often share the road with other vehicles. But the park is large, and we certainly were able to spend substantial time by ourselves at certain waterholes or other sites.

The waterhole at Okakuejo, which is amazing, is very popular, with maybe 100 visitors or so, especially at night when you are unable to drive in the park, so most guests at Okakeujo congregate at the benches along the waterhole.

I didn't find the presense of other guests problematic, and the low rates to visit Etosha certainly compensate for having to share the park with others.

I also stayed at Ongava, just outside Etosha, and we did a morning drive into Etosha, and the afternoon drive around Ongava's property. We saw 1000x more animals in Etosha, at least, than in Ongava, but we were able to track white rhino on foot in Ongava.

Of all the parks I have visited, and I have been to most of the principal parks, the two that I most look forward to returning to are Masai Mara/Serengeti (I'll count that as one park) and Etosha.

Michael
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Mar 12th, 2005, 06:15 PM
  #8
Lin
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thit cho

Am I reading correctly that by staying at Ongava (there are 3 camps), I will see less animals than by staying somehow in Etosha itself? I haven't come across accommodations within Etosha on the web sites I've been reviewing. What are they? You mention 'benches' around the waterhole - that doesn't sound like watching animals in the wild! Would you say July is the high season? That's when I want to go.

Kavey

Funny how everyone's luck is different. Last summer in Botswana, I stayed at 3 delta camps, Jack's, and one in the Linyati. I felt the game viewing was wonderful but definitely not prolific. We saw many lions but other animals were sporadic. I also didn't know that Etosha was over populated by human visitors, thanks for that info.
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Mar 13th, 2005, 04:37 AM
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Ongava is situated on private property adjacent to Etosha, and Ongava does conduct game drives within Etosha, so on these drives, you certainly will see the large number of animals within the national park. However, for afternoon game drives, Ongava tends to drive on their own property, where game is much less prevalent than within Etosha.

Etosha has three lodges (Okakuejo, Halali and Namutoni), but they are not luxurious.

As to the waterholes. Waterholes are scattered throughout the park, and they don't contain benches. But each of the camps has its own waterhole, and there are benches at those waterholes. They tend to attract those staying at the lodges since you can't drive out of the lodge at night.

Etosha is nothing like the delta. It would be more like visiting Yellowstone, or another popular park in the US. There are many visitors, especially in high season. Frankly, if you're considering a July visit, you may not even be able to get into Etosha or Ongava. You should check soon. We visited in August, and booked in the prior January.

If you are looking for exclusivity, Etosha may not be the park for you, and even if you stay at Ongava, where we did for one night, on the drives in the park you will definitely see other vehicles.

But this is Namibia, and the number of visitors is still much less than other very popular parks, like Masai Mara, Chobe or Kruger.

But, my answer to your initial question still stands -- the amount of game in Etosha is enormous, and the landscape is quite different from other parks.

We spent four days -- one night at Ongava and then one night at each camp within the park. I really preferred staying in the park, as I'm always willing to sacrifice luxury for game viewing (so long as I'm able to have a personal bathroom and hot shower -- I'm not willing to sacrifice that

Michael
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Mar 13th, 2005, 10:40 AM
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All good to know, thanks!
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Mar 14th, 2005, 01:10 AM
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Lin

I can not agree to thit-cho`s observations about Ongava.
He is correct in the fact that you will see less animals than in Etosha (maybe a factor 10 and not a factor of1000++!!!). The main difference though is that the animals will not appear as tame as in Etosha and the sighting will not be crowded (in 3 days I only had to share one sighting with another vehicle).
Ongava offers some very good chances of seeing both white and Black Rhino and I got to see both on foot.
I believe that a stay at Ongava offers a good mix of "private" game viewing at the reserve combined with the excellent waterholes at Etosha
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Mar 14th, 2005, 07:31 AM
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Lin: I have visited Etosha, Damaraland, and Botswana (Delta & Linyanti).

Very different experiences. All are amazing areas that are must see. Botswana was my favorite game viewing because I have a strong preference for diversity, predators, and observing wildlife in wilderness without other people. I also love not being confined to roads as you are in national parks like Etosha.

As mentioned by others Etosha has large gatherings that lead to fascinating behavior. Being able to watch 7 or 8 different species interact at a waterhole was so interesting and captivating and different than anything I saw in Botswana. I was in November and herds were probably not at peak and we still saw huge numbers of animals. We saw lots of lions too -- but other predator species are much less seen than in Botswana. Being on a shoulder season it wasn't too crowded and we had great lion viewing all to ourselves. At known congregating waterholes though there could be quite a few other vehicles fanned around. It's definitely not my favorite way to view but usually the amazing scene of animal interaction had me tunnel vision and block out the other vehicles. We did stay at Little Ongava as our base. Viewing on the Ongava Reserve was hit and miss. We did see 20 different mammal species -- a night drive really helps find some diversity, but we had some drives where we saw very little. Tracking white rhino on foot is an extraodinary experience and one of my 3 or 4 highlights of my safari times.

Damaraland is a truly unique experience. It has a unique landscape that is just different than anywhere else. The elephant veiwing is equally unique as the guides can drive very close to these eles without changing their behavior. They are fascinating elephants as they pluck leaves and small twigs, feeding adaptations that protect their fragile system instead of ripping down limbs as they do in other areas. Damaraland Camp is also just a special experience as all the staff are from the local tribe and you get a special cultural feel here too. You can mountain bike and go on guided hikes as well, so it can be a little more active than the avg. camp. The wildife lacks diversity but in the river bed where the eles are there are lots of springbok, oryx, kudu, steenbok, ostrich, baboon, etc that you can find. Two nights is probably a good stay here unless you are elephant obsessed. They find them like 98% of the mornings and in the p.m. you usually do something else.
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Mar 14th, 2005, 07:33 AM
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Here is the link to my Namibia trip report should you want more details
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...iologist&fid=4
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