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One of the greatest game parksin Africa – and one of the oldest– is also Namibia’s number-one tourist destination. Home to 114 large and small mammal species, more than 400 recorded bird species, scores of reptiles and even a fish species, Etoshais the country’s flagship park. The size of the park has been reduced considerably since it was first proclaimed in 1907, but it still remainslarger than several European countries. TheOndonga name for the pan was Etotha, meaning ‘the place where no plants grow’, but early European traders, unable to pronounce the name, called it ‘Etosha’. The pan was once part of the massive Lake Kunene fed by the Kunene River, which at some time in the distant past dried up, leaving the current pan system. Newly excavated fossils belonging to marsh-dwelling antelopes such as sitatunga,lechwe and tsessebe, and a 90- cm long catfish, are testament to much wetter periods. Etosha has a proud record of black-rhino conservation, and white rhino were recently re-introduced. The park has also played a major role in the recovery of the endemic blackfaced impala. The Etosha Ecological Research Institute attracts scientists from around the world. Etosha’s waterholes are famous among international tourists for spectacular game viewing and at the Okaukuejo waterhole at night it is possible to see black rhino, lion and elephant.
The best time to visit Etosha National Park is during the dry winter months from July to October. Less water is available during this time and the animals tend to gather around the few sources that are available. The Wet season (November to April) is less productive for spotting wildlife because the animals tend to scatter.
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