One of the highlights of any trip to Namibia is without a doubt a visit to Etosha National Park. The park is so big, however, that you will quickly face the same question as we did: how much time do you need and what is the best place to stay in Etosha.
In this guide, we share some tips on where to stay in Etosha National Park and the best area to stay nearby.
How Much Time do You Need to Visit Etosha National Park
How much time you need to visit Etosha will depend on your interests and the time you have. If seeing African animals is the main reason for your visit, you will obviously want to spend more time in Etosha than somebody who does a standard 2-week road trip covering all the main landmarks of Namibia.
An absolute minimum time you need in Etosha is, in my opinion, two days. Ideally, you spend 3-4 days in Etosha or even more.
We spent 4 nights and 4 days in Etosha on our 27-day long Namibian trip (here you can find our complete Namibia trip itinerary) and it was the right amount of time for us. We could have stayed longer as – obviously – there is no way to see the whole park in such a short time. On the other hand, we saw plenty of wildlife in Etosha during that time and it didn’t feel like we were missing something when we left.
And while Etosha was not the only place we visited in order to see wildlife in Namibia, it was definitely the best one.
Where to Stay in Etosha
There are many different options when it comes to accommodation in and around Etosha National Park. It can be difficult to choose… Obviously, I cannot comment on all of them, but I will tell you about the lodges we stayed at, why we chose each particular place, our experience, and our recommendation for your trip to Etosha.
We stayed at three different lodges in Etosha. Two of them are inside the National Park and are state-owned: Dolomite Camp on the Western Side of Etosha and Okaukuejo Camp in the middle of the park. We also stayed at the beautiful privately-owned Mushara Lodge at the Eastern entrance of the park.
We chose each of the places for a different reason. Dolomite Camp because – at the time we booked – staying there was the only way to see the Western part of the park. Okaukuejo – for its famous waterhole. Mushara Lodge – for the luxury. If I were to go back, I’d do it differently – read further.
Review of Dolomite Camp in Etosha
Dolomite camp is beautifully located on top of the hill on the Western side of Etosha National Park. It’s a nice place with a pool, two restaurants, a bar, and lovely tented rooms. The food at the restaurant is good, but the service is totally inadequate. It’s a state-ran place and you feel it in every detail.
There is one serious drawback to the place – it’s a total logistic disaster. It’s one of those places where design comes before customer experience.
Upon arrival, you leave your car at the bottom of the hill from where you are completely reliant on 2(!) golf carts for everything you and 50 other guests do. Whether to go to your room, to the restaurant, or to the reception – you need to use a golf cart every time. I already mentioned that there are just two carts and over 50 guests + staff that all also use these golf carts for getting around.
Depending on where your room is located, you might need to walk for 15-20 minutes to the reception area where all the facilities are located. On top of that, the place is not fenced and in principle, you are not allowed to walk alone in the evening. We ended up doing just that – we walked to our room after dinner as one of the two cars didn’t show up after more than 20 minutes waiting, and the driver of the second car was nowhere to be found.
Checking out in the morning was a complete nightmare too because everyone was leaving at around the same time. We ended up waiting for almost an hour for a car to pick up our baggage. I will spare you more details, but if you want to keep your sanity and good mood, this is really not the best place to stay in Etosha.
Our experience at the Dolomite Camp was not the best one, and based on it, I would not recommend staying there.
On top of that, the Western Side of the park is not that impressive and you don’t see much wildlife because of the dense vegetation. AND Western part of Etosha is now open to everyone, so you don’t have to stay at the Dolomite Camp in order to see it.
Review of Okaukuejo Camp in Etosha
Our second hotel – Okaukuejo camp – was the least luxurious of the three, but if I were to go back to Etosha, it would be for this place.
It’s a National Park camp with all the facilities you need, but it’s still a government-managed camp and not a luxury hotel. There is a small shop, a restaurant, a petrol station (which usually has petrol – make sure to tank whenever possible), and various types of accommodation including camping facilities.
If you have a possibility to book premium waterhole chalets, don’t hesitate. Especially the big ones, with a balcony on the first floor. We booked our trip almost a year in advance and none of the waterhole chalets were available. But you might have more luck, depending on your flexibility and the time you travel. Waterhole chalets are also the only ones that can accommodate a big family.
We had two separate rooms for the five of us and our rooms were less than a minute walk from the waterhole. The accommodation was ok, but it was very simple and basic. To us, the room didn’t really matter that much, because we traveled to Etosha for the experience. But we also loved the private luxury lodges where we stayed at in other places – it’s also an experience in itself… Anyway, back to Okaukuejo…
There are two main reasons why Okaukuejo is the best place to stay in Etosha:
- Okaukuejo has the best waterhole in the whole of Etosha and you can literally spend day and night watching animals like you do on National Geographic or the Discovery Chanel.
- If you stay at Okaukuejo, you are inside the park, so you can see the animals at sunrise and at sunset without having to worry about the opening hours of the park gates.
You can inquire about the Okaukuejo accommodation here – official NWR website. But you should know that this place fills up more than a year in advance…
Good to know: You don’t have to stay at Okaukuejo in order to see the animals at the waterhole. But you will be sorry if you don’t stay here at least one night. I heard many disappointed people telling others how they regretted having to leave and not being able to stay for the sunset.
TIP: If you prefer more comfortable accommodations, maybe you could just book one night at Okaukuejo for the experience and spend the other nights at the beautiful and more luxurious lodges just outside the park. Further below, you can find some best alternative suggestions for a place to stay, but first, I want to tell you more about Okaukuejo.
What’s so special about Okaukuejo waterhole
There is no better way to tell you what makes Okaukejo so special than sharing some of our experience…
You wake up in the morning and rush to the waterhole just before the sun rises. Sky colors light pink and you stand there all alone. Except, you are not alone…
All of a sudden you see three lions drinking at the waterhole and you realize they have been there all the time. How is it possible you haven’t seen them before?! And why in the world did you leave your tripod in the room?!
The rest of the day you sit on one of the many benches surrounding the waterhole watching the never-ending parade of wild animals. You don’t have to spend hours in a car on bumpy roads. You just sit there and let the animals come to you.
We saw herds of zebras, around 30 elephants, but also countless antelopes, giraffes, and many other animals.
I don’t know if there is any other place in the world where you can see so many wild animals in such a safe, comfortable, and effortless way. That’s why Okaukuejo is simply the best place to watch safari animals in Etosha. Needless to say that it’s a perfect place for families with young children to see the African animals up close.
After dinner, you go and check the waterhole one last time before going to bed. A herd of elephants is back again, but there are three new visitors as well – Black Rhinos seem to prefer the dark hours.
Don’t feel like going to bed just yet? Bring a warm blanket or a sleeping bag and join the other travelers who choose to spend the whole night at the waterhole. It’s lit, so no worries if you don’t have night-vision binoculars.
We didn’t stay at the waterhole the whole night, but any time we visited, it was always full of action and never the same…
Review of Mushara Lodge
The last place we stayed at in Etosha was the luxurious Mushara Lodge, located at the Eastern Side of the park. Mushara is located just outside the park gates (8 km from the Von Lindequist Gate) and they offer multiple Etosha safari tours for their guests throughout the day. Of course, you can also just go and explore the park on your own.
We didn’t see to their budget-friendlier accommodation Mushara Bush Camp so I cannot comment on it, but the lodge was just beautiful. We had a family house with a cozy living room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and it felt like a home away from home. It’s not cheap, though, but it’s totally worth it – everything about this place is a 5-star experience.
If you are looking for a more comfortable, luxury place to stay in Etosha and a place that’s run by a family and not state employees, I can definitely recommend Mushara Lodge. But there are also many other comparable accommodation options near Etosha – see below.
Conclusion & More Great Places to Stay in Etosha
Stay at the Okaukuejo Camp for the best animal-viewing experience or at one of the private lodges outside the park for the luxury. Ideally, you should combine the two: spend 1-2 nights in Okaukuejo and at 2-3 nights at one of the luxury lodges near Etosha.
It’s a very different experience, but no visit to Africa would be complete without staying at a really nice luxury lodge.
Most of our best memories from Africa are related to one or the other really special lodge we stayed at. Take my word for it, it’s worth the money.
If you are looking for a place to stay near Etosha, the lodges just outside of Okaukuejo gate are probably the best price/quality Etosha accommodation with an excellent location. Staying here means that you can easily visit Okaukuejo waterhole, from the moment the park gate opens at sunrise till it closes at sunset.
Here are some highly-rated and most-recommended luxury lodges close to Okaukuejo:
TIP: Using the map below, you can compare lodges and short-term rental accommodations just outside of Etosha NP and a short drive from Okaukuejo. Simply insert your travel dates and group size, and you’ll see what’s available for your stay. Check it out!
If you are looking for a place to stay at the Eastern entrance of Etosha, close to the earlier mentioned Mushara Lodge, Mokuti Etosha Lodge is also a wonderful alternative.
Good to know: Namibia lodging is scarce and quality accommodation in and near Etosha is very scarce. So make sure to book your Etosha lodge as soon as you know your travel dates.
More information for traveling to Namibia:
- Namibia Itinerary
- Best Places to See in Namibia
- Namibia with Kids
- What I Wish I Had Known Before Traveling to Namibia
- Namibia Packing List
- How to See Himba and Other Tribes in Namibia
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Friday 7th of January 2022
I am so happy I stumbled upon your website with so much insight and helpful information for traveling with kids. We are an American family living in Portugal for the next year and have 4 children (ages 4, 8, 10, and 12). We are interested in doing a trip to South Africa since it appears to be a shorter plane ride and perhaps a bit more affordable to do from Europe. This would be our first time. I'm thinking of doing this in April during their 2 week spring break to possibly even save more money during off season. I have a few questions for you: If you had to choose between Cape Town, or Namibia, which one would you choose? Would you try to squeeze them into one vacation? I think we want to minimize driving as much as possible, so we would fly from Cape Town to Namibia if we did that (however, more expensive). Also, how many safari rides would you suggest doing on a trip to Africa to get great overall experience? The beach in Cape Town looks amazing, but I think we are hoping for more of safari type of vacation since we have been to beautiful beaches here in Europe (Azores and Algarve). I know our kids would love to see the penguins at Boulder's Beach, feed elephants, and go zip lining, but I'm not sure if that's worth a trip to Cape Town. And if we did Cape Town I'm thinking it would only be for a few days to just do those things if that makes sense. Any advice you can offer would be so helpful! Thank you for putting so much work into this amazing resource!
Saturday 8th of January 2022
Hi Kathleen, it's really a tough choice between the two. My first thought - for the first trip to Africa and with 4 kids that age - is to go to South Africa. Cape Town and the entire Garden Route is amazing, and you can easily fill 2 weeks there and still not see everything. The only thing you won't have is a really good safari experience. I mean, there are some game reserves and Addo Elephant NP is probably the best place for a safari in that region, but you can't compare it to Kruger NP or to Etosha NP in Namibia. So if you are really interested in safari, then Namibia is probably better for that. But if you don't like to drive a lot and are looking for more variety, then the Cape Town area - Garden Route is much better. Driving distances in Namibia are big and you'll have to spend lots of time in the car if you want to see the main places. I also don't think I'd do both in 2 weeks. It's definitely possible, but you won't do any of the two destinations justice with just a week at each, and - as you say - it will be much more expensive. But if you want to get a taste of both places, it can definitely be done. For the travel budget, Namibia will likely be much more expensive and also much more difficult to get accommodations for a family of 6. You'll likely need at least 2 rooms everywhere (most places have rooms for 2, max 3 people). South Africa is easier to arrange a trip to and you can very easily just book everything yourself and there will be plenty of accommodations for a big family. Also, in Namibia, you need a 4x4 and I have no idea if they even have somewhat affordable cars for 6. In South Africa, you can just rent a bigger van or so. There is really not one simple answer and so much depends on your preferences, travel style, and - this year - also travel restrictions (keep in mind that at this moment, there's still an obligatory +-10-day quarantine in most EU countries if you return from that region). One more thing - Easter holidays are not a low season in South Africa. They also have a school break and it's quite busy everywhere. I think, this year, their vacation is from +-17/3 to 5/4. So if you decide to go, book asap. For Namibia, April is the end of the rain season, which can impact some of the roads, especially in the north of the country. But for the main places you'd probably go to in 2 weeks, it should be ok (you do need a 4x4 there, either way). What I'd do when we go back to S-A with our kids and have two weeks, is plan a one-way road trip between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town (fly to/from those airports) and do the entire Garden Route, plus Addo Elephant NP. But another option - for a better safari - is to fly to Johannesburg first, visit Kruger from there for 4-5 days (travel days included), get back to Johannesburg, and then fly to Cape Town and spend the rest of the vacation in that area. If you go to Kruger (or to Namibia in April), check the malaria situation too. Hope this helps a bit and doesn't confuse you even more. :) There's really no one 'best' way to do this, so do what feels right for you. Good luck with the planning!
Esmeralda van Stee
Monday 28th of September 2020
What an informative and detailed blog this is! I couldn't agree more on your review of Okaukuejo and Dolomite! We also stayed in Halali Restcamp and had a similar experience there. The waterhole gave us some of the best wildlife sightings in many years of traveling Africa!
Before entering the park we stayed in Etosha Safari Lodge (as mentioned above) just outside the gate and we highly recommend it!. Usually we combine the state camps with private lodges. And however we are not that keen on the bigger lodges, this one was a pleasant surprise. Part of the very family friendly Gondwana collection and with nice accommodation, very good food, friendly staff and reasonable prices. They also have a more low key camp called Etosha Safari Camp which is also really nice!
They both did organised safaris which were ok though we prefer to drive ourselves.
Saturday 3rd of October 2020
Thanks a lot for sharing your experience, Esmeralda. I'm sure it will be very helpful to our readers researching where to stay in Etosha. And who knows, maybe we ourselves will go back again too. It was such a beautiful road trip!
Sunday 13th of October 2019
Thanks for all this info and hard work. We are going to do some traveling to Africa with my 4 kids 5,5,6,9 and would appreciate anymore info or insight you can provide on Okaukuejo - what type of room to stay in and what other activities we should do while in the area.
Monday 14th of October 2019
Hi Cameron, if you can, get a waterhole-view chalet - those are the best ones and also the only ones that will fit the whole family. That being said, they are usually booked up a year in advance. If you want to stay at Okaukuejo camp itself, you'll often just have to take whatever they have and will probably have two separate rooms for a family of 6. Alternatively, a much more luxury option is to stay just outside the park, where you have a much bigger choice of accommodations and most offer better value. For example, Onduri lodge has a 6-p chalet (not cheap though) and Sasa Safari Camp has very cheap family bungalows that can accommodate 6. Here you can find more options for Okaukuejo accommodation. It means that you won't be able to visit the park before sunrise or after sunset though, but in exchange, you'll have more luxury, maybe a pool (keep in mind that pools are freezing cold in the Namibian winter - June-Aug), and you are still very close to the park for safari rides during the day.
As for activities, it's really all about watching animals in Etosha. You can join guided safari tours, drive around and look for animals yourself, or just visit Okaukuejo waterhole and watch animals there. If you stay outside the park, your lodge might have some activities that you can book with them, but those will also all be centered around game viewing.
PS If I can give you one tip - book your trip asap. It's already quite late for next summer, if that's when you're traveling. If you need more ideas where to go and what to do, here you can find our Namibia itinerary and here you can read about the best things to do in Namibia.
Monday 4th of March 2019
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your adventures in Namibia. Did you book accommodations on your own or did you use a service? I'm trying to figure out the best way to go about finding places to stay for a family trip next year. Thanks!
Sunday 10th of March 2019
Hi Loretta, if you start well in advance you can book it all yourself. The only place that might be a bit tricky is indeed Etosha, but if it doesn't work out or if you want more luxury, there are quite some alternatives just outside the park as well. We did this trip quite a few years ago when Booking.com wasn't all that widely used in Namibia yet, so we booked through a travel agent. Now I think I'd do it all myself - it's really not difficult. The hardest part is to make a nice itinerary, accommodations are easy to book if you are doing it well in advance.
Tuesday 15th of May 2018
There is a Gondwana Etosha Safari Lodge set at Okaukuejo - would that be the same area?
Tuesday 15th of May 2018
Appreciate your response. This is for my son’s honeymoon and it is their first stop so I am in - between- deciding on Mushara & Okakuejo Camp. ( Tolerable )? They only have 2 nites so I am wondering if 1 nite at Mushara and 1 nite at Okakuejo camp will work or 2 nites if they can be confirmed at the camp? Yes it would be nice to wake up inside the park.
Tuesday 15th of May 2018
Hi Bee, yes, Gondwana Etosha Safari Lodge is located very close to the Etosha entrance gate and about 30min drive from Okaukuejo camp. It's a good centrally located area to explore Etosha NP. The only difference is that you are staying outside the park gates so you cannot enter before sunrise or leave after sunset. However, one big advantage is that you are staying at a really nice lodge, whereas park lodges are much more basic. I'm sure they have organised safari drives from the lodge, or you can just go and explore with your own car, or a combination of both.