Western Etosha National Park – Enjoy an African Safari in the ‘Wild West’!

When the first explorers discovered Etosha in the 1800’s they enthused about it being wild and unspoilt by humans and this is what people are still looking for today when going on an African safari.

The problem is there are very few places left that can be called unspoilt wilderness areas, with a few exceptions, and the western part of Etosha is one such place.

For the last hundred years western Etosha has been a restricted area closed to the public, but now with the new Dolomite rest-camp opening in June 2011 visitors staying at Dolomite camp are allowed to drive into the western part of Etosha, either from Okaukuejo camp in the east or via the Galton Gate in the south-west.

If you travel from Okaukuejo to Dolomite camp you will notice the vegetation transition when you pass Ozonjuiti m’Bari waterhole – the sweet grassveld changes to thick scrub mopani woodland until you reach Nomab waterhole where it again changes to acacia shrubveld. The dolomite hills will slowly rise from the horizon as you are driving and then suddenly, when you reach the Duineveld waterhole area, you will be surrounded by craggy dolomite hills. Dolomite camp is situated on one of these hills overlooking Dolomietpunt waterhole.

Seven things that make Western Etosha unique:

• It is still a natural unspoilt wilderness

• The vegetation is unique – the area around Dolomite camp is characterized by rugged dolomite hills (like the small dolomite hill found in Halali camp) dominated by Moringa trees, shepherd trees, star chestnut trees, common paper-bark trees and the red bushwillow trees.

• The animals are plentiful but they are wary, timid and suspicious of humans, so when arriving at a waterhole don’t come thundering in at 60 kilometers per hour with tires crunching on gravel and clouds of dust billowing up behind you and expect the animals to stand still! If you drive in slowly the animals will watch you but they will stay put allowing you to photograph them.

• Animals, such as the Hartmann’s mountain zebra, baboons and roan antelope, are found only around Dolomite camp and not further east.

• Some birds, such as the Monteiro’s Hornbill, Hartlaub’s francolins, Rockrunner, Rüppell’s Parrot, White-tailed Shrike, Violet Wood-Hoopoe and Bare-cheeked Babbler are found only in the western part of Etosha.

• There is very little traffic on the roads. On all our game drives the most cars we saw was two vehicles at the same time at a waterhole with us – the rest of the time it was just us and the animals!

• Dolomite camp is unique – it is unfenced, holds only 40 guests, has five-star food and service, and has magnificent views of the surrounding plains and hills

Game Viewing and Nature Photography

Game viewing is good in this area, especially in summer as this hilly western part of Etosha is used by wildlife as a retreat during the wet season. Even though we visited the camp in October (end of winter / beginning of spring) we saw a pride of lions, cheetah, black rhino, elephants, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and a host of other plains game.

If you are a photographer, there are about 20 waterholes in this western part of Etosha of which about half are worth visiting as the others are dry or have been closed. Our favorites are Klippan, Rateldraf, Dolomietpunt, Okawao, Renostervlei, Olifantsrus and Tobiroen.

Dolomietpunt waterhole is situated at the base of the dolomite hill that Dolomite camp is built on. If you are a landscape, bird or macro photographer then photographing from the camp is very nice but if you are a wildlife photographer we suggest you focus on visiting the nearby waterholes as Dolomietpunt waterhole is at least 250 to 300 meters from the nearest chalet so wildlife photography can be a challenge, especially if you do not have the right photographic gear, such as a 500 or 600mm lens. And nocturnal photography can be virtually impossible if you do not have a bright light such as a Lightforce 240 Blitz 70W HID spotlight!

We found that many visitors stayed for just one night at Dolomite – you cannot get a feel for the camp or the western part of the park in such a short time. We would recommend staying for at least 2 or 3 days, especially if you are a wildlife photographer.

So if you enjoy magnificent views, a sense of being alone, good food, excellent service, no traffic jams at animal sightings and truly ‘wild’ animals, then you will love Etosha’s ‘wild west’ where you can enjoy an authentic African safari with minimal visitors!