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African game reserves and national parks are all unique and each one has a distinctive draw card that appeals to visitors. The waterholes in Namibia’s Etosha National Park are what bring us back year after year. Each waterhole has its own unique character and in the dry season (from June to October) these waterholes are a magnet for game, which makes Etosha a paradise for wildlife photographers.
Visitors to Etosha want to see and photograph as many animals as possible – but they normally have just a few days, if that. Here we list all our favorite waterholes stretching from Okaukuejo camp in the west to Namutoni camp in the east with tips that should help save you valuable time and improve your game viewing and wildlife photography.
Okaukuejo rest camp area:
Okaukuejo – This must be the most popular waterhole in Etosha. There is a constant procession of animals from morning to night which can be viewed from inside the camp. Our recommendation would be for you to sit at the waterhole from just before the sun rises until about 09h00 as the light is perfect for photography with the sun over your shoulder providing front-lighting. We have seen hyena and lion drinking and then when the doves start flying in the black-backed jackals chase them and we have managed to get great action photographs. If you sit at the waterhole the rest of the day you won’t be disappointed as there are elephants, herds of springbok, wildebeest, gemsbok and zebra that come to drink.
Whether you stay at the waterhole or go for a drive please ensure that you are back just before sunset as the setting sun makes for great silhouettes and reflections in the water and, after the floodlights have come on, we have seen black rhinos fighting as well as a lion kill after the sun has set!
Gemsbokvlakte – We suggest you visit this waterhole in the afternoons – we have seen herds of springbok, gemsbok, elephant and zebras here.
Olifantsbad – this is a morning waterhole and it attracts elephants, zebra, black-faced impala, giraffe, red hartebeest and we have seen an African wildcat drinking here.
Nebrownii – This waterhole is close to Okaukuejo yet still has impressive numbers of game drinking here. We have seen large herds of elephants, zebras, springbok, gemsbok, ostriches, and giraffe. The waterhole is small so the elephants tend to get aggressive with each other making for some nice action photographs. The lighting is good both mornings and afternoons for photography.
Okondeka – The light is best in the afternoons. For landscapes this must be one of the best waterholes in the park. The waterhole is on the edge of the pan and animals come from miles around to drink so you can get photographs of masses of animals spread out for miles. We have seen giraffe, zebras, springbok, gemsbok, ostriches, and wildebeest all massed together on the plains surrounding the waterhole. There is also a resident pride of lions that hide in the dunes to ambush the animals.
Halali rest camp area:
Moringa – this waterhole is viewed from inside Halali camp and is floodlit. In the mornings there are normally just a few small herds of animals that drink here but night is when the action starts, with herds of elephants, black rhino, lions and leopards putting in their appearance!
Goas – is our favorite waterhole in this area. We have seen large herds of elephants and black-faced impala as well as black rhino, lions and leopard. The lighting is good both mornings and afternoons.
Salvadora – has a superb backdrop of the open plains and the pan. Zebras love drinking here and we have seen herds of about 2000 zebras drinking at this waterhole. Mornings provide the best lighting.
Rietfontein – this waterhole has a large open plain surrounding it so you can see animals approaching from a distance. The lighting for photography is best in the afternoons.
Homob – we have seen a few small herds of kudu and wildebeest here but also a leopard. The morning light is best.
Namutoni rest camp area:
Namutoni – This waterhole is observed from inside the camp and is floodlit. It has not provided us with good sightings except at sunset when hundreds of red-billed queleas come to roost and they fly in and out of the reeds with their wings back-lit. Keep a lookout for giraffe as you may be lucky and get a silhouette against the setting sun. There is also a platform in the fort where you can watch for the queleas and other animals.
Klein Namutoni – Afternoons provide the best lighting but the mornings could provide nice silhouettes. We have seen giraffe, hyenas, lions, leopard and elephant drinking here.
Chudop – this waterhole is very scenic with a floating island of reeds. Mornings and afternoons provide good lighting for photography.
Kalkheuwel – this waterhole faces south so the light for photography is good most of the day. The waterhole attracts many animals and is very close to the parking area so you don’t need a long lens to get good photos!
Twee palms – We have seen mainly zebras here but the two palm trees make a nice background for photographs in the mornings or a silhouette in the late afternoons.
write by JOHNATHAN GIPSON