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.Since then, the lodge has been looking a little tired, so we were pleased to see a large renovation underway during our most recent visit in June 2014. There were building works taking place on the main area, restaurant and some of the rooms, and we are hoping to have an update on these soon.
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 Himba village tours, 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 has been looking a little tired over recent years. On our last visit in June 2014 we were pleased to see renovations underway on the main area, restaurant and some of the rooms. 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.
Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
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.
During the construction at the lodge (underway in June 2014) dinner is served at the pool bar, and must be booked before 3pm and orders placed before 7pm.
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.
Further dining info: No room service available.
Photography holidays: 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 Photography holidays 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
Attitude towards children: Palmwag Lodge has a very good attitude to children – and two special 'family units' that share their own plunge pool.
Property’s age restrictions: None
Special activities & services: Palmwag Lodge do not offer any special services for children.
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
Power supply notes: There is a backup generator in case of a power cut.
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. Wifi is available in reception for a small charge.
TV & radio: No
Water supply: Borehole
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: 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.
Accepted payment on location: They accept payment by Visa and MasterCard, as well as in cash (US dollars, euros and British pounds).