Reviews of Ongava Lodge
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Great wildlife spotting and luxury at Ongava!
We have stayed at Ongava on two previous occasions, and wanted to return as we have always had excellent guiding and wildlife sightings here. Unfortunately we could only squeeze in one night, but the wonderful staff and management made sure that we were able to make the best of our time there. We were allocated room 1 which has a fantastic view of the waterhole. We saw an amazing amount and variety of wildlife just from our deck and bathroom. The rooms have been refurbished since our last visit. They are very luxurious, well appointed, attractive and comfortable with an amazing bathroom.
The view from the lodge restaurant across the reserve is one of our favourite views. It is even better now that the balcony area has been extended. The reserve is an excellent place to view wildlife, and we had good sightings and excellent guiding from Teacher. We also had an enjoyable and worthwhile trip into Etosha, again accompanied by Teacher.
We would recommend this lodge to anyone who is interested in wildlife, but who also would like a bit of five star comfort in the bush. We have always found the sightings here to be very good, and the guides are excellent. It is a good location for photography. Stay two nights if you can.
Ongava Lodge review
Slightly jaded review for this as I got food poisoning on the last day, so after the morning game drive spent the rest of the day in bed. This was more of a return to 'real world' tourism after Damaraland, and although it was fun to see the Big 5 it did not have the excitement of tracking the elephants in Damaraland.
The reserve and game park are obviously well-stocked and managed. Perhaps the jaded view was shaped by the illness, but I think my husband would agree. Not going to comment on the food as I don't know if it was that that made me ill. Different focus here, as it felt like a much bigger lodge and the staff were not so personally engaging.
Ongava Lodge review
We liked this lodge too. Very good facilities. It felt bigger and a little less personal than the others and again a lot of driving.
We had very little time in the middle of the day and we would have appreciated more time to rest in the middle of the day. Not really sure about the night safari (in all the camps)
Food not as good as the other camps
Expert Africa comments
Ongava Lodge received this feedback gratefully and have already passed on the comments about the food to their 'food experience manager' so that he can take them into consideration and work on improving what's on offer. It is true that there is more driving required from Ongava to get deep into the Etosha National Park than from some of the camps in Botswana which are already well situated within the wildlife areas. Expert Africa will endeavour to make travellers more aware of this when they have a long safari combining multiple countries, and possibly build in some 'rest' days.
This is a real 'Out of Africa' experience. The lodge is unfenced and there is a serious safety briefing on arrival to tell you you have to be escorted to your room after dark and to stay there until daylight. Sounded a bit OTT until we were woken at 3am by the deep rumbling of lions 'calling' outside our room. They were so close that they set off the light outside the door and you could feel the deep vibration through the floor! We took the briefing more seriously after that.
Accommodation excellent with a favourite outdoor shower with a view into the bush and the waterhole. Food and service were patchy (as we found at Kulala, our other Wilderness Safaris operated lodge - though Ongava was the better of the two).
If you are driving yourself we feel it is best to go into Etosha on an independent basis rather than pay for the lodge's trip, you are situated right at the park gate and if you get a map and check the waterholes (in the dry season) and drive slowly your chances of seeing game are good. Another thought is that if the rains have started and the animals no longer need the waterholes there is no need to get up before dawn. We saw all our major animals - lion; rhino; cheetah - in the middle of the morning after a civilised breakfast!
Ongava Lodge review
The problem here is that the central facilities are at the top of a very sttep hill and all of the chalets were at the bottom. The steps were very very sttep (mountain goats would have had difficulty) and this had to be negotiated twice a day. After 7.30 we we had to have a member of staff to show us the way with a torch. Apparently we were in danger from lion!!!. If so we would have been at risk of attack all night. I think this was a grat over-reaction.
Timekkeping of torch bearers was appauling.--1/2 hour late.
Food was cold and poor quality.
Please take this off your list, especially for older clients.
Air con hardly worked, partly because rooms faced the sun for most of the day.
This lodge was my favourite - the room (5) very luxurious with a great terrace (although no view of the waterhole), the food excellent.
We had a late afternoon game drive on the Ongava reserve where we saw lions and white rhinos at close quarters and then a morning (5-6 hours) in Etosha, both with Michael who was the best and most knowledgeable guide we came across by some margin. Once we got used to his driving!
He also gave us good advice on how to get the most out of our next stay at the east end of Etosha when we planned to do our own driving.
Wildlife galore at Ongava Lodge
This lodge was a little disappointing; we felt that the management were not up to the standard we experienced elsewhere and this resulted in less than perfect service. It started when we were shown to the wrong lodge (one already occupied!) and then the one we did have had a broken glass pane in the door. A promise to fix it did not materialise and we had the impression they really had no intention of fixing it; we turned down an offer to move us as we had already unpacked and the lodge did have an excellent view of the waterhole. The accommodation was otherwise very good with lots of space and probably the best shower we experienced on our trip.
Food was good, only slightly below the excellent standards of other lodges. The service was not so good, especially in the dining room where the staff were much too interested in the football!
Our guide, Hennock, was excellent, well up to the superb standard we found everywhere - even if he did not find the lions! The trip into Etosha was great with lots of wildlife.
Very professional lodge
Ongava Lodge is run very professionaly and smoothly, although it does not have the personal and cosy atmosphere of some other lodges we visited. The activities were planned in a way so that not much time was left between drives and meals and we felt a bit overwhelmed with the programme sometimes.
The activities itself were neverthless great, both Ongava reserve and Etosha park have plenty of animals and each drive is an excellent opportunity to watch them.
The room was very spacious and well-equipped and we had a great view of the waterholes from the terrace. We really appreciated our guide Abder, who was one of the best guides we met during the trip.
Ongava Lodge review
We thoroughly enjoyed our 3 nights here.....unfortunately we were in Room 11 which has no view.
We would recommend the game drives on the property rather than in Etosha. The water holes at the Lodge and the Tented Camp are visited by lots of interesting game.
Expert Africa comments
Subsequent to these travellers comments Wilderness Safaris have written a letter of apology. They acknowledge that they definitely advised the camp of the room request, however unfortunately the manager on duty neglected to arrange the room allocation as requested and for that they are sincerely sorry. The concession manager has looked into this matter to avoid any special requests being unattended to in future.
We felt a little ''captive'' staying here, particularly after dark when we had to be escorted everywhere. We were troubled by this fact and that yet the rooms could not be locked, a contradiction ? We were told everything was really safe, several times, but were not really sure what we needed to be wary of.
Accommodation was fine, as were the facilities, with a great view of a waterhole from the main lodge. The service was variable and the food basic.
We had one game drive in the reserve, which went from an afternoon into the evening. The standard of guiding seemed to show a lack of respect to the animals, and the level of knowledge limited when prompted.
We were concerned to be so close to some animals at dusk and after dark, to the point where they were visibly stressed and seemingly threatened by our presence. The use of bright white spot lights and allowing some guests to use flash photography at extremely close range surprised us.
Not an enjoyable way to watch the wildlife for us. The next day we decided to visit Etosha on our own rather than take another guided trip, and felt better for it.
Expert Africa comments
We are sorry that these travellers had some problems at Ongava, as are Wilderness Safaris (who own the lodge). As such they have responded at length to points raised.
Wilderness wanted to apologise to the guests for the fact that they had the impression of being held captive and wanted to explain clearly why various rules are in place. As a responsible safari company all safety procedures are in force at Ongava with their guest’s best interests at heart. Like many lodges in dangerous big game areas, Ongava is unfenced. This means that animals can freely wander through the camp. Meeting an elephant or a lion after dinner can be not only surprising, but also dangerous, if you don’t have an experienced person with you. Because of this, Ongava insists on having its guests escorted after dark when they move around the camp. Wilderness Safaris is sorry if this wasn’t clearly explained.
Like many isolated lodges in private game areas, the lions (which frequent this camp fairly regularly) and other dangerous wildlife deter potential burglars (!), and so there is a very low security risk from other humans here. Hence the rooms have no locks.
Because animals can't usually open doors, as long as your room door is closed (with a simple catch of some sort) there's no significant risk of big animals entering the rooms. Ongava Lodge's manager has informed us that there were occasions in the past were guests locked their rooms at night and then couldn't find the keys quickly enough in an emergency situation. As guest safety is a priority, cabin hooks have now been added to all rooms, however at the time that of these travellers stay their room did not have a hook. This has since been added and all rooms in Ongava Lodge now have these hooks installed.
The guides at Ongava are trained to adhere to very strict safety rules & regulations and to behave appropriately towards wildlife. At no time should guides conduct themselves in such a way that the animals feel agitated. The manager of Ongava Lodge assures us that this is not the usual way the game drives are conducted here and this issue is being addressed with the guide concerned. However, it is normal to use spotlights on night drives, though research is being put into place to find more suitable techniques of finding the animals in the dark.