Etendeka Mountain Camp: Our full report
Etendeka Mountain Camp is a small, rustic eco camp, located in a private 500km2 concession area (effectively ...... a private reserve) in the foothills of the Grootberg massif. It’s an area of stunning scenery amidst the ancient Etendeka lava flows of northern Damaraland. Here the basalt rock has been slowly eroded over millennia, leaving scattered boulders lying upon dramatic flat-topped mountains. One of the first 'real' safari camps in Namibia, Etendeka opened around 1991 and has been run since then by Dennis Liebenberg, ably assisted by his wife Claire and head guide, Bonny.
Etendeka Camp has ten walk-in tents under canvas roofs, with a couple of chairs and a table at the front. All are relatively simple, furnished with twin beds, a small table, a table lamp, two luggage racks and a metal clothes rail. Next to the tent, but not en-suite, the bathroom is open to the sky, but enclosed at the sides. Here you'll find a washbasin with hot and cold running water, a fun and surprisingly good bucket shower, a flush toilet and electric lights. A curved stone wall beside each tent adds some privacy from the neighbouring tents.
Sandy pathways wind from the tents to the camp's modern, spacious but minimalist main area. This is open-fronted, with walls built out of gabions, using the local stone. The open-plan lounge has modern wicker furniture and a rustic wooden cabinet containing nature books. There is also a telescope used for stargazing in the evenings with Dennis: an interesting time learning about various constellations and the universe. The dining area, whose terracotta walls are hung with large prints of photos taken in the vicinity, has a long table surrounded by directors' chairs and a bar tucked in the corner. This is where Etendeka 's guests congregate for afternoon tea, sundowners around the campfire, and meals.
The camp also has a swimming pool, complete with a faux-grass surround and sunloungers. The pool is enclosed on three sides by stone gabion walls, so it is sheltered from the wind and is also fairly secluded.
The guiding at Etendeka is excellent. Dennis, Bonny and Boas know this part of Damaraland like the back of their hands and are passionate about the area, the geology and the wildlife that inhabit this harsh landscape. They will often share all sorts of facts about the local environment as well as about Namibian history and sociology.
Activities from the camp are included in the rates – and focus on nature drives and guided walks, at which Etendeka excels. The area's geology is especially interesting, and travelling on foot can be fascinating. The 'Quartz Walk' is littered with amazing quartz and agates – although the guides are strict that these are for viewing only!
It's worth noting, though, that there isn't much flexibility with activities. While there are four vehicles there are a maximum of three guides at Etendeka.
Etendeka isn't a place to come just for the game; it's better to treat wildlife sightings as an added bonus. The reserve has good populations of Hartmann's mountain zebra, oryx, springbok and giraffe, as well as occasional desert-adapted elephant, and very occasionally even black rhino, lion and leopard. On our last visit in November 2016, we had good sightings of springbok, oryx, impala, jackal (including pups) and to our delight elephant during our transfer into camp, which takes about one-and-a-half hours. During our nature drive we were also lucky enough to see one of the area’s black rhino with her calf in tow, although they were a way off in the distance. We also enjoyed a morning walk with Boas and were fascinated by his knowledge of the surrounding area.
Etendeka Mountain Camp is particularly conscious of their environmental impact, cooking meals over a fire and using alternative energy sources such as solar power. The staff also takes great care to remove any litter and rubbish from the area.
Etendeka is relatively simple by the standards of modern safari camps, and is exceptional in being owner-run for more than two decades – a major achievement. What's even more impressive is that Dennis and Bonny have retained their enthusiasm, and still manage to make sure that their guests have a really individual experience. Etendeka's fairly small size, communal dining and simple but excellent home-cooked food combine to make this a friendly and relaxed camp. It will appeal strongly to those who love solitude, great scenery and walking – while the wildlife that is increasingly visible here comes as a real bonus!
- Damaraland, Namibia
- Ideal length of stay
- 2–3 nights
- Given Etendeka’s remote location and the long 4WD-only track to the lodge, guests staying here leave their vehicle at Palmwag Lodge, from where they are transferred to the camp by the Etendeka team. The transfer is run as a nature drive so the time taken varies depending on what you see.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Meals at Etendeka focus on good, wholesome, home-prepared food, which we very much enjoyed on our most recent visit in November 2016.
Breakfast is a self-service continental buffet, consisting of breads, cereals and yoghurts, as well as cold meats and cheeses.
Lunch is served after the morning activity at about 12.00. We helped ourselves from a buffet of salads, freshly baked bread and a selection of cold meats and cheeses.
Dinner, a two-course meal, was superb both nights of our stay. With mains of beef goulash and a hearty beef pie we ate well, and were spoiled with a dessert of apple crumble and coconut pudding. Dinner is often cooked over the campfire, as ours was on a previous visit.
Afternoon tea is also provided, as is a full bar. A small snack is provided on the morning walk.
- Etendeka is a great base for walking in Namibia. A normal day at the camp might include a 2–4 hour walk, an afternoon game drive, and possibly a short hike up one of the area's mountains.
- See ideas for Walking
- Attitude towards children
- Etendeka welcomes children of eight years and upwards.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No children under eight years
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- Etendeka is recommended for older children from about 10 years, who are keen on exploration and wildlife (great and small), and capable of managing long walks.
- The camp is not fenced and wildlife often wanders through camp. Parents need to supervise their children at all times
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Etendeka Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Etendeka Mountain Camp have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There are no plug sockets in the tents, but there is a charging station in the main area for guests to use.
- There is very patchy cellphone reception. WiFi is available in the main area.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The shower is a simple bucket shower, where you fill a bucket from hot and cold taps, and then hoist it up above you. Quite fun and very effective! There is a normal flush toilet.
Etendeka: Protecting the environment
Comprising of 10 tented rooms, Etendeka Mountain Camp has been designed with care and respect to the environment to cause as little disturbance as possible to the pristine nature. The simplicity of the camp’s design and how innovations in water and waste management help the lodge fit well into the landscape constitute Etandeks’s most special feature.
In a semi-desert area where the average rainfall is roughly 110mm per year, Etendeka Mountain Camp uses eco-friendly open-air ‘bucket’ showers and low flush toilets. These do not only limit the water consumption, but also make guests aware of the lack of water in the region which is why they accept the system with enthusiasm. Also, the size of the swimming pool was kept at a minimum, and it only provides a place to sunbathe and cool off in the heat of the day. The pool is opened after the midday meal and closed at 4pm to minimise the use of chemicals and water.
Waste management is comparatively simple. Etendeka supports the local town of Kamanjab by doing the majority the supply shopping there. As there is no organised system for recycling in most of Namibia, on the shopping day the staff takes refuse in the form of packaging material back to town for disposal in the town rubbish dump. Also, organic material is taken to the local communal farms for feeding the chickens and making compost.
Etendeka Mountain Camp is one of the first lodges in Namibia to be assessed and achieved top score with 5 flowers awarded since 2014 by Eco Awards Namibia for its continuous hard work in protecting the environment.
See more great sustainability projects in Namibia
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Patients in need of medical assistance would be driven back to Palmwag Lodge, or in an emergency flown to Windhoek, which would take about four hours. There is an airstrip about 30 minutes’ drive from Etendeka.
Walking with an armed guide: at Expert Africa we strongly believe that when walking in an area with dangerous wildlife, it is normally important that you are accompanied by a trained and armed guide to protect you should you have a close encounter. While dangerous wildlife, such as lions, leopards, rhinos and elephants are found in the area around Etendeka, their densities are low and the terrain is generally very open. As such the chances of an unexpected encounter with these animals is very slim.
The guides at Etendeka are experienced and highly skilled, but they don't carry rifles on walking safaris. Given the circumstances, we believe that the walks here as are safe as the walking safaris that we offer elsewhere, where guides are armed; the bush is thicker; and wildlife densities are higher. However, if you have any concerns please don't hesitate to discuss them with the team at Expert Africa - and indeed to let the camp manager know that you prefer not to walk whilst you're there.
- Dangerous animals
- Moderate Risk
- Security measures
- Because of the camp's isolated location, there are no security guards at Etendeka.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers just outside each tent.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry cannot be done at Etendeka due to the short supply of water here.
- There is no currency exchange here. There is a safe in the office if you'd like to lock valuables away.
- Accepted payment on location
- No money is required here as your stay is fully inclusive.
Other lodges in Damaraland
Alternative places to stay in this same area.