The reviews of the parks on this page are my own subjective opinions based on the limited time I was there. In each case, I indicate the dates I was in the park and I offer a short description. I also give each park a rating of "G" (Good); "VG" (Very Good) or "E" (Excellent).
Except for the Caprivi Strip and the area in the north along the border with Angola (areas I did not visit) Namibia is a vast desert landscape. It is very different from the other countries I've visited in Africa. More than any other country, the landscapes are the prime attraction of Namibia. The country is sparsely populated and the distances between places of interest can often mean long and somewhat monotonous drives (you might consider an itinerary that includes a few small-plane flights to decrease your travel time).
During most of my time in Namibia (except for the Skeleton Coast camp mentioned below) I was part of a group driving safari operated by Afro Ventures Tours & Safaris. We stayed in mobile tented camps, which were excellent, as was our guide, and we saw a very interesting mix of what Namibia has to offer. There was, however, A LOT of driving involved to get from place to place and a few stops at some rather kitschy "tourist traps" – which, in fairness I should point out, were the ONLY places to stop for long stretches, so it was either the tourist traps or nothing.
If game viewing is your primary goal, Namibia probably should not be considered your first choice. Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa all have more richly varied wildlife and safari infrastructure. Namibia, however, is an excellent mix of desert landscapes, coastal areas, indigenous cultures and wildlife viewing.
Etosha is Namibia's flagship wildlife park and it has a world-class reputation. There is a wide assortment of game here, but because of park regulations it is not as easily seen as in other parks I have visited. Regulations prohibit entry to the park before sunrise and all vehicles must be out of the park before sunset. Thus, night game drives are impossible (as are bush walks). Because most predators don't become active until the sun begins to set, your chances of seeing these animals are greatly reduced. Also, just as the light is achieving that late-afternoon glow that photographers wait all day for, you find yourself racing for the exit gate to meet the sunset deadline. (Sossusvlei, an area of dramatic sand dunes further to the south, also had this unfortunate restriction.) In addition, except at designated areas (mostly water holes), vehicles are not permitted to leave the roads, which is a necessary rule to protect the fragile ecology but means that unless game is close to the road, you won't get good views of it. In fact, during three days in Etosha, we did not see any cheetahs, leopards, or hyenas and the only lions we saw were far in the distance at a lighted waterhole at Okaukuejo, one of several places where visitors can stay overnight in the park. Having said all that, Etosha is still definitely worth seeing. There are many water holes in the park and these are prime places to see zebra, giraffe, springbok, impala, oryx, kudu, eland, wildebeest and elephants. We also had a quick glimpse of a black rhino that suddenly charged out of the bush and nearly hit our vehicle, plus some other rhino late at night at the Okaukuejo water hole. To see for yourself the animals and landscapes you are likely to see in Etosha, see the slide show on the Etosha National Park page. As for accommodations, we spent one night at the government-run facility at Okaukuejo. Although the lighted water hole was a very good experience, the area itself can get very crowded and our rooms were among the very worst I've ever had in Africa.
The primary draw of the Skeleton Coast is the vast and unusual desert landscapes and sand dunes that lie along this wild and desolate stretch of coast. Along the coast, one can see gigantic colonies of Cape fur seals (which, despite the name, are technically a species of sea lion) in Cape Frio in the north and Cape Cross further to the south. Along the coast, one can also see the occasional black-backed jackal and, if you're very lucky (I wasn't), brown hyena. Further inland and at the occasional springs, one can spot oryx, springbok, giraffe and desert elephants. In addition, I was able to visit a Himba village and see first hand how these people have been able to survive in this forbidding landscape. I stayed at the Skeleton Coast camp operated by Wilderness Safaris in a private concession area of the park. The accommodations and Wilderness Safaris guides were excellent! Temperatures ranged from near-freezing in the early morning to very hot during mid-day. Although it was generally clear and sunny, early mornings could be very misty and one day we had sustained winds that blew a lot of sand around. The weather here is VERY changeable.
For reviews of game parks in other countries see: Botswana Game Parks, Kenya Game Parks, South Africa Game Parks, Tanzania Game Parks, Uganda Game Parks, Canoe Safari in Zambia and Zimbabwe Game Parks.