Etosha King Nehale: Our full report
Opened in June 2020, Etosha King Nehale is set on the grassy, open Andoni Plains, just 2km north of Etosha ...... National Park's King Nehale Gate. The lodge is well appointed for travellers wishing to explore Namibia's flagship safari park in their own vehicle or on a guided game drive and benefits from exclusive access to a waterhole within the park.
Etosha King Nehale is a member of the Gondwana Collection and caters to individuals, families and small groups. It lies some 45km from the better-known eastern gate into Etosha , and approximately 191km from its sister properties to the south of the park: Etosha Safari Camp and Etosha Safari Lodge. It also combines well with other Gondwana properties, including Hakusembe River Lodge, Damara Mopane Lodge and The Delight in Swakopmund.
The scene is set 1km from the turn off to King Nehale, where visitors are confronted by a giant wooden throne, apparently in the middle of nowhere. It's definitely worth a photo stop.
Surprises continue on arrival, where the entire lodge is laid out like the head of a traditional Ovambo cow, with the main building forming the head and the chalets extending out on either side like horns. We loved the elements of traditional Ovambo culture on our visits in December 2020 and May 2022. We were pleasantly surprised at how well-thought-out and stylish the décor was. The staff were very welcoming, warm and friendly too.
Although the lodge has 40 spacious chalets, it does not feel big or busy or impersonal. Twin or double chalets make up the south side, while the north side features family rooms whose larger bedroom – with a sleeper couch and additional mattress on request – can accommodate a family of up to five. Like the rest of the lodge, the chalets are mainly built using sandbags for sustainability, with a huge front window and a private plunge pool that both overlook the Andoni Plains.
A frosted glass door leads into the entrance lobby of each chalet, kitted out with a vanity table and plenty of storage. Soft furnishings here, picked up in accents elsewhere, are of odelela, a traditional Owambo fabric made up of coloured stripes. Décor is largely a light stone colour, offset by bold Spanish-red feature walls.
Through an open doorway, the bedroom boasts twin three-quarter beds (often made up as a king-size double) beneath a ceiling fan, draped with mosquito nets and with a cow's head sculpture above the headboard. At the foot of the beds, a decadent-looking royal-blue sofa faces the picture window, with a cow's hide rug on the floor. Chandeliers – reflected in a huge wall mirror – add glamour and sparkle to the décor and bold contemporary artwork brings further impact.
On a practical level, you'll find a small hall table with a telephone and charging station, tea and coffee, a decanter of complimentary sherry, and a bar fridge stocked with complimentary water, fruit juice and a bottle of bubbly.
A barn-style door opens into the spacious, beautifully designed en-suite bathroom, decked out with grey, black and white encaustic tiles, well-spaced twin washbasins and mirrors, a toilet and a large walk-in shower behind a high wall. Luxury bio-degradable toiletries come as standard, and chandeliers introduce a touch of the exotic.
From the entrance lobby, a second door leads to a shaded veranda, where a plunge pool and two brightly coloured sunloungers with footrests invite serious relaxation.
All the chalets are linked to the main area by wide paved walkways. The distance from some can be a bit of a walk, but with parking in front of each chalet, it is also possible to drive. As a result, note that the “walkways” are shared by vehicles and pedestrians.
The main building houses a reception area, with a well-stocked curio shop of largely Namibian products. Replicas of the traditional Ondonga thrones provide a fun photo opportunity, with two smaller red chairs for children. When we visited, the staff dressed us in the traditional odelela garments of the Ovambo people.
First, though, is a huge circular boma area with a soft sandy floor, a firepit in the middle, and lots of comfortable seating with scatter cushions. Reminiscent of the olupale or parlour in a traditional Ovambo homestead, it's where the family would gather in the evenings.
The dining area and bar, inside a huge barn-like hall with high ceilings, is hung with elegant chandeliers, one made up of hundreds of traditional carved Oshiwambo drinking “glasses”, set in a spiralling design. Take your pick from comfortable leather sofas, high-backed armchairs and individual dining tables and chairs – from medieval to farmhouse style to modern. Huge windows and glass doors bring the surrounding plains into the room, while outside a shaded veranda with more tables and chairs – many carved in Oshiwambo and English with facts about Ovambo culture – looks over well-tended lawns. The Ovambo influence continues into the food served here, something that isn’t very common in Namibia. It was refreshing to see modern takes on traditional dishes, although the mopane worm (a kind of caterpillar usually served fried or dried) starter won’t be to everyone’s taste.
Activities at Etosha King Nehale focus on game drives into the national park, either self-driven or aboard one of their four open-sided vehicles for a half- or full-day guided game drive. However, the big draw for guests is a superb hide overlooking a waterhole within the park that is exclusive to guests at the lodge. The drive takes around an hour each way, but we think it’s worth it. Built out of an old shipping container and complete with a flushing toilet and refrigerator, this is one of the best-equipped hides we’ve seen in Namibia. Keen photographers should note that the hide is not sunk into the ground and, depending on water levels, the water’s edge can be some distance away. However, whiling away a few hours here waiting to see what comes to the waterhole is an enjoyable switch from the usual game drives.
Wildlife aside, there are plans to introduce cultural visits to a traditional Ovambo homestead in the future. All activities can be booked on arrival at the lodge.
While we enjoyed our time at King Nehale, and the hide is a real draw, the property’s location still presents something of a quandary, for several reasons. While the lodge’s design invites the outside in, the Andoni Plains are large and somewhat featureless, so the views are a little flat, with the proximity of the park fence and the gate building detracting further. In addition, the lodge is set on communal land where you are as likely to see livestock as wildlife – not something we have experienced anywhere else in Etosha. Finally, there are few waterholes or game-drive loops in this north-eastern section of Etosha, so game drives inevitably head south towards Namutoni and the eastern Von Lindequist Gate. As it takes up to an hour to reach these more southerly areas, and the park is only open from sunrise to sunset, guests at King Nehale miss out on the best wildlife watching in the early morning and late afternoon. Despite the lodge’s many positives, it’s important to take into consideration these factors before deciding on a stay at King Nehale.
Etosha King Nehale Lodge is a good and rather quirky base from which to explore Etosha National Park. We loved the elements of traditional Ovambo culture, and were particularly struck by the chandelier in the dining area and the modern take on traditional African dishes. The exclusive hide within Etosha is perhaps the biggest draw, ideal for those who want a change of pace on their activities. Note, though, that the presence of big game near the lodge is not as prevalent here as elsewhere the park, and that visiting more game-rich areas involves a relatively long drive in each direction.
Country manager: Namibia
- Etosha National Park, Namibia
- Ideal length of stay
- Two or three nights
- Etosha King Nehale is 2km from the King Nehale Gate into Etosha National Park, and 47km from Namutoni and Onkoshi camps.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Half Board
- Food quality
- During our stay in May 2022, the buffet meals offered sufficient variety to cater to many dietary requirements. Staff were both helpful and accommodating.
Between 6.00am and 9.00am, a sumptuous buffet breakfast was laid out, comprising yoghurt, a choice of cereals and traditional Ovambo porridge (mielie pap); fried, scrambled, poached or boiled eggs, as well as omelettes with a choice of fillings; cheese-and-onion sausages; bacon; a range of breads and toast, plus cheese scones, croissants and freshly baked muffins; sliced tomatoes, cucumber and salad; a selection of cheeses and cold meats; and various condiments and preserves.
Although we did not have lunch here, we understand that an à la carte menu is served between midday and 3.00pm.
Our dinner, available between 7.00pm and 9.00pm, was a delicious trip around Africa, with a buffet of dishes from different countries. Entrées, served in traditional Oshiwambo woven baskets, consisted of vet koek – a type of South African fried bread, mopane worms with chilli sauce, and chicken liver paté. There was also the option of a hearty bean soup for those who were feeling less adventurous. Our main courses were grilled kudu or beef steak with a mushroom jus, slow-cooked ‘marathon’ chicken and beef tongue in mustard sauce, served with caramelised pumpkin puffs, mielie pap, Kavango spinach, and various salads. To finish, the “queen's dessert trolley” was laden with peppermint ice-cream and a different kind of vet koek (more like a doughnut this time) accompanied with a homemade orange liqueur.
- Dining style
- Individual Tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Room service is not available here.
- Drinks included
- No drinks are included except for those in the chalets: a couple of complimentary bottles of water, a decanter of sherry, fruit juice and a bottle of bubbly. Bottled water is available from the bar.
- Attitude towards children
- Children are welcome at Etosha King Nehale.
- Property’s age restrictions
- There are no age restrictions.
- Special activities & services
- Highchairs and cots are available on request.
- Generally recommended for children
- Easy access the park entrance make the lodge suitable for families who want to explore Etosha in their own vehicle. Within the lodge grounds, there is plenty of open space for children to run around and play near the family rooms, on the north side of the camp.
- Children must be supervised at all times, especially when outside as vehicles share the wide pathways that link the chalets to the main area, and there is no fence around the camp. Additionally, the small plunge pools are unfenced.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Etosha King Nehale
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Etosha King Nehale 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 is a back-up generator in case of a power cut. There are plenty of plug sockets in each chalet.
- There is very good, fast free WiFi throughout the lodge, including in the chalets. Each chalet also has a telephone for internal communications.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Every chalet has a flushing toilet and fully plumbed basins and shower.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The nearest doctor is in Omuthiya, about 24km away. In a medical emergency a medivac to Windhoek would be arranged.
- Dangerous animals
- Moderate Risk
- Security measures
- There are night-watchmen on duty during the hours of darkness.
- Fire safety
- There is a fire extinguisher inside every chalet, near the entrance.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is available for an extra charge.
- There is a safe in every chalet.
- Accepted payment on location
- Payment may be made with Visa and MasterCard, and in cash with Namibian dollars or South African rand.
Other lodges in Etosha National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.