Ongava Lodge, which was the original 'luxury game lodge' near Etosha,...
Ongava Lodge: Our full report
Perched on the top of a small kopje (rocky outcrop), overlooking the plains below, Ongava Lodge was the original 'luxury game lodge' near Etosha. It stands on the private Ongava Game Reserve, which borders the southern side of Etosha National Park near the Andersson Gate, south of Okaukuejo.
With such close proximity to Etosha National Park, the 320m2 Ongava Reserve is noteworthy in its own right. There's a fence between the two, but smaller game can usually move between them – and there are plenty of instances of larger game breaking through. Most native plains game occurs on the property, including springbok, gemsbok, blue wildebeest, zebra, red hartebeest, giraffe, eland, Damara dik-dik, steenbok and klipspringer. Ongava also has what's said to be the largest population of black-faced impala outside of Etosha, plus a healthy population of predators, including lion, leopard, hyena and black-backed jackal.
Both black and white rhino have been successfully reintroduced onto the reserve. Although rhino are becoming increasingly rare, we've been very fortunuate to have had some great sightings here. On one of our visits, we stopped at the end of an afternoon nature drive for a relaxing sundowner drink and were fortunate to see two white rhino walk out of the bush ahead of us! Then on our most recent stay, we had the privilege one evening of watching a rhino come down to drink at the waterhole in front of the lodge.
Birdwatching on the Ongava Reserve can also be very good, with ten out of Namibia's 14 endemic (or almost endemic) species to be found here, including the bare-cheeked babbler, violet wood-hoopoe, Carp's tit and red-necked falcon.
The hub of Ongava Lodge itself is the main lounge, bar and dining area, which has great views down to the waterhole below, and across to the unpronounceable Ondundozonanandana hill range. Meals are served either here or under the stars on the dining deck, where one evening, while enjoying a delicious dinner, we watched a white rhino come to drink at the floodlit waterhole. There is also a welcoming swimming pool.
Ongava Lodge has 14 large, stone-and-thatch chalets, all with a private wooden veranda, and most with great views across the plains below. Each stylish room has air conditioning and an overhead fan, 24-hour 220V electricity, tea- and coffee-making facilities and large mosquito nets around the beds. The en-suite bathroom has a flushing toilet, twin handbasins and an indoor shower, as well as a selection of complementary toiletries. There’s an outdoor shower, too, in all of the chalets except the family unit. This family chalet has two separate en-suite bedrooms joined by a shared wooden deck.
Activities at Ongava Lodge, as at its sister lodges on the reserve –Little Ongava, Ongava Tented Camp, and Andersson’s Camp – focus firmly on game safaris. As well as guided 4WD game safaris in open 4WDs, Ongava Lodge offers guided walking safaris, including tracking white rhino on foot, which aren't available in Etosha itself; also night game drives which are not possible for many properties in the Etosha area. Ongava also has a hide near the camp, which is good for photographers, but it is popular and visits need to be requested in advance.
The scope of game drives from Ongava Lodge activities varies. Some stay on the Ongava Reserve, while other half- and (especially) full-day excursions venture into the Okaukuejo area of Etosha National Park. All use open-topped vehicles, which are a relatively unusual sight within the national park itself. In our experience over many years, the lodge's guides here have generally been excellent. Sadly, this wasn’t the case on our most recent stay in July 2014 when our guide, relatively new to his role, was uncommunicative – although when he did speak he clearly had very good knowledge of the wildlife. This was a real pity as other guests at the time gave their guides very high praise.
Our viewOngava Lodge remains a luxurious place to stay and the views from the lodge are quite spectacular. The game on the Ongava Reserve is generally excellent and as well as game drives on the reserve and into the national park, activities such as walking safaris – not allowed in Etosha itself - and night drives are also possible here. Though the guiding was disappointingly mediocre on our most recent stay, we have over the years found it to be really good.
Ideal length of stay: Two or three nights here is ideal if you want to go on game drives into Etosha, as well as on the Ongava Reserve itself.
Directions: The entrance to the Ongava Reserve is just off the tarred C38, just a few metres from Etosha’s Andersson Gate.
Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Soft drinks, house wine and local spirits are included in the full board rate, but fine wines, champagne and imported spirits and liqueurs will be charged as extras.
Further dining info: Yes
Birdwatching: Visitors at Ongava Lodge benefit from the prolific birdlife on the Ongava Reserve and neighbouring Etosha National Park. Over 340 species have been recorded, including local specials: Namaqua sandgrouse, short-toed rock thrush, acacia pied barbet, double-banded courser and yellow-bellied eremomela.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Namibia
Walking safaris: Expertly trained, armed guides lead walking safaris from Ongava Lodge in the Ongava Reserve. The focus of these walks is often on tracking white rhino, although you may also see some of the reserve's wide variety of other game species.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Namibia
Wildlife safaris: Ongava Lodge offers excellent game-viewing opportunities, both within the Ongava Reserve and the neighbouring Etosha National Park. Added bonuses include possibly tracking white rhino on foot and night drives in the reserve, neither of which is allowed in Etosha.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Namibia
Attitude towards children: Ongava Lodge says that children over the age of six years are ‘accepted’, rather than welcomed.
Property’s age restrictions: The lodge has a minimum age restriction of six years for children. There are further restrictions on activities: the minimum age for walking activities is 13 and for rhino tracking it is 16.
Special activities & services: None
Equipment: There is a family chalet with two en-suite bedrooms joined by a shared deck.
Generally recommended for children: The design of Ongava Lodge and its location make it suitable only for older children, and we feel that the atmosphere is orientated much more towards adults. Families may be better to consider its sibling on the reserve, Andersson’s Camp, which we think is much more suitable for children.
Notes: The lodge is not fenced and neither is the pool. Wildlife, including leopard and lion, is known to move through and around the lodge. Added to this, the lodge has steep stairways and long drops to the ground from its hillside perch, so children absolutely must be under the supervision of their parents at all times.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: There are plug points in the rooms for charging electrical equipment and for using hairdryers.
Communications: The lodge has cellphone reception and WiFi is available in the main area, where there is a telephone in the office.
TV & radio: None
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: We are told by the lodge that the tap water is safe to drink, although there is a water cooler with filtered drinking water in the main area. All the rooms have plumbed-in showers and flushing toilets. Water is solar heated.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The camp management is trained in first aid and a doctor is on call (on the phone) for 24-hour advice. Otherwise the nearest doctor is in Outjo. In a medical emergency, a traveller would be flown during daylight hours to Windhoek.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: The lodge is in a remote part of the Ongava Reserve, which is fenced, and there are security guards at the gate. An air horn is provided in each chalet to attract attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in each chalet and around the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included. Items are usually collected in the morning and returned in the evening, weather permitting.
Money: There is a small safe in each chalet. The lodge does not offer any currency-exchange facilities.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa debit and credit cards are accepted by the lodge. Cash is also accepted in Namibian dollars, South African rands, GB sterling, US dollars and euros.