Palmwag Lodge is a large but very welcoming lodge set in the heartland of Damaraland...
Palmwag Lodge: Our full report
Palmwag Lodge is nestled in a fantastic location next to a palm-lined spring in the Uniab River. One of this region's oldest lodges, and able to accommodate a significant number of people, it was renovated during 2007. Despite this, on our last visit in October 2010 was looking very tired.
The lodge is the gateway to the vast Palmwag Concession which covers an area of about 5,000km² – a first-class wilderness area. Remember that this is a semi-desert area, so although its densities of wildlife are excellent, they don't compare with reserves further east, in areas of higher rainfall. This region provides habitat for a variety of species of plants and animals that are adapted to semi-desert conditions, some of them quite rare. The largest of these are the desert-adapted elephants, Hartmann's mountain zebra, giraffe, cheetah and lion. In addition, Damaraland as a whole supports the world's largest population of black rhinoceros outside a national park. The Palmwag Concession is probably home to nearly 70% of these rhinos.
Palmwag Lodge itself has a range of accommodation, incorporating 15 thatched rooms (including two family units), five more secluded 'luxury' tents, which we prefer, and several campsites. Because of the number of people that can be based here and the number of groups that come through, it can feel quite busy at times, and service can be slow.
The focal point at Palmwag Lodge is the large, thatched open-plan lapa or central area, incorporating the restaurant, lounge and bar, and with two large verandas looking over the reedbeds of the Uniab River to the mountains in the distance. Here you can while away the hours watching a variety of birds flit in and out of the reed beds, or observe the elephants that regularly come to the spring; on our most recent visit we watched a small herd of elephants drinking here – fantastic!
The big, friendly Uniab Restaurant, with its wooden tables and a buffet bar for breakfast, is decorated with beautifully woven baskets, African bush drawings and masks. In the adjacent small lounge area, a big sofa has large comfy cushions and a few reference books on Namibia. On cooler winter evenings, seek out the tall wood-burning heater between the dining room and the lounge. A small, well-stocked bar is constructed partly of natural tree branches.
The lodge has two swimming pools: one with loungers under shady palm trees; a second with a pool-side bar (where, bizarrely, they won't serve you drinks by the pool). This is near to the campsite, and so sometimes gets a lively crowd. Palmwag's curio shop is open 6.30am–8.00pm.
You can use Palmwag Lodge as a stopover, or stay for longer to take part in some of the activities offered here. These include daily morning and evening game drives; guided walks, lasting between three and five hours; and two walking trails, information for which is in a leaflet in your room.
With advance booking, there are also various full-day game-viewing and cultural excursions. The adventurous might consider the option of a camping trip within the Palmwag Concession. These explore breathtaking landscapes, sleeping out in comfortable dome tents with rustic bush facilities (although no showers) and nature all around you. These trips can last from a single night to as long as you wish – and the guides are excellent!
Many of our travellers enjoy a night based at Palmwag Lodge, followed by a night sleeping out in the wilds. Typically they head out in an adapted 4WD for an afternoon's game drive, arriving around sunset at their private camp. Dinner is cooked on and served around the fire and the night is under the stars, falling asleep to the sounds of nature. The following morning, they head out on foot, and are guided back to the lodge on an interesting walk lasting three or four hours.
Our viewPalmwag Lodge may have a superb location, but when we visited in October 2010 its rooms and central areas were badly in need of an update. For many people, the best option is to spend a night relaxing at the lodge, followed by a night or two camping, giving the opportunity to explore the sheer scale and beauty of the region, unencumbered by large numbers of other people.
Ideal length of stay: 2–3 nights
Directions: Heading north on the C43 signposted Palmwag, not far past the junction with the C40, you reach the veterinary fence. Some 500m past this on the left-hand side you will see the sign for Palmwag Lodge. Note that if you are driving from the east, the route via the C40, over the Grootberg Pass, offers great views of the Damaraland landscape.
Owner: Fritz Schenk and Brigitte Kriess
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: When we last visited Palmwag Lodge, the standard of food was very good.
Breakfast is served between 6.30 and 9.00am, and consists of a large buffet offering cereals, fruit, yoghurt, breads, cheese, meats and hot options.
Lunch and other meals are available from 10.00am to 10.00pm at the Makalani pool bar, where there is a short menu ranging in price from N$30 to N$70.
Tea and coffee are available in the restaurant area throughout the day, with cake being provided from 3:00pm.
A three-course set dinner is served in the Uniab Restaurant from 7.00pm to 9.00pm. We had a green salad to start, followed by a wonderful steak served with a jacket potato and sour cream, and accompanied by roasted butternut squash and ratatouille. Pudding was a rather indulgent chocolate mousse.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Tea and coffee are included in the rates; all other drinks are extra.
Photographic: Set in the dramatic scenery of the ancient Etendeka lava flows of northern Damaraland, Palmwag Lodge not only offers great landscape photography but also the opportunity to photograph the desert-dwelling elephants and perhaps even the black rhino and lion that wander this semi-desert region.See more ideas for Photographic in Namibia
Traditional Cultures: Palmwag Lodge offers a full-day excursion (or an overnight trip) to visit the Ovahimba people in their villages to the north, in the Opuwo region. You will get a taste of the daily life of this nomadic people, most of whom still live according to ancient traditions and rituals.See more ideas for Traditional Cultures in Namibia
Walking safaris: Palmwag Lodge offers guided walks and marked walking trails (with map) for self-guided walks. With advance booking, we can also arrange for you to camp out with an expert guide at a small, private fly-camp. Then you can spend as much time as you like exploring the concession on foot with your guide.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Namibia
Wildlife safaris: Palmwag Concession is one of the last wilderness areas in the world outside of a national park. You can see a variety of game including, with a bit of luck, free-roaming black rhino, desert-adapted elephant and lion, all in the most spectacular landscape far off the normal tourist routes.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Namibia
Walking: Palmwag Lodge offers guided walks and marked walking trails (with map) for self-guided walks. With advance booking, we can also arrange for you to camp out at a small, private fly-camp – guided by an expert guide. Then you can spend as much time as you like exploring the concession with your guide on foot.See more ideas for Walking in Namibia
Attitude towards children: Palmwag Lodge has a very good attitude to children – and two special 'family units' that share their own plunge pool.
Equipment: One small bed and a highchair and are available for guests' use.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: Parents should be aware that the camp is not fenced and that dangerous big game often passes through (elephants are pretty regular visitors).
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is a central phone, fax and email. There is cellphone reception and you can also purchase phone cards which can be used in the public phone.
TV & radio: No
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Khorixas. Nurses are available closer and there is a medical kit in the lodge. Medi-rescue is also available.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are five guards on site and they each carry a deterrent against animals.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in every room and in the central areas.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: There is an extra charge for laundry of between N$3 to N$15 per item.
Money: The lodge will exchange cash in US dollars, euros and British pounds, but not travellers' cheques. Each room has an electronic combination safe.