Ongava Tented Camp: Our full report
Nestled in mopane woodland, Ongava Tented Camp overlooks a waterhole within the private Ongava Game Reserve.This 300km² reserve, which offers both day and night drives and guided walks, borders Etosha National Park on the south side, near the Andersson Gate, and benefits from similar wildlife, with the notable inclusion of both black and white rhino.
Set at the foot of a low hill, Ongava Tented Camp has just eight large, Meru-style tents, all raised up on wooden decks, and some with views over the waterhole. The tents are configured as six twin-bedded tents, one double, and a family unit made up of two tents connected via a single deck.
Each of the tents is entered through wooden double doors from a large veranda set with directors' chairs. Inside, they're comfortably furnished with a central bed, a sofa and an old-fashioned chair and desk. A dividing wall behind the bed conceals a cupboard, luggage rack and laundry basket.
Although each tent has a ceiling fan, it is not very powerful. More effective is the natural breeze at night, which stirs the canvas walls and keeps the rooms cool, but the tents can be very hot during the day.
At the back of the tent, the bathroom has a toilet on one side and an open shower on the other. Between the two are his and hers sinks with mirrors and a selection of toiletries. A door leads to an outdoor shower, which, although open, cannot be seen from neighbouring tents.
Ongava Tented Camp's stone-and-thatch main area includes a bar and lounge, where the soft furnishings had just been replaced on our last visit in March 2017, ready for the high season. It looked very clean and comfortable and the choice of fabrics added a touch of colour and modernity to the traditional structure. There’s a small selection of books here, as well as a photo album showing previous game sightings.
In the adjoining dining room, the wooden tables and chairs suit individual dining, but they can be brought together if guests would like to eat communally or in a small group.
Outside, offering great views of the much-frequented waterhole, is a refreshing swimming pool and patio. When we visited they had just refurbished the pool, decreasing its size slightly, but thereby extending the patio area.
To one side of the main area, directors' chairs are arranged in a circle around a firepit – perfect for pre- and post-dinner drinks – and another row of chairs faces the waterhole so you can watch the comings and goings there. Just a few metres from the front of the camp, it is particularly popular with game during the dry season – yet although it was towards the end of a very rainy, wet season during our last visit, we saw numerous zebra here. On a previous visit, a group of six lions spent two days snoozing by the waterhole, and in the evening two rhinos came by for a drink during dinner. Needless to say, our unfinished desserts were soon forgotten!
One special feature of Ongava Tented Camp is the camera set up by the waterhole, which automatically takes pictures when movement is detected, even after dark. So in the morning, guests can take a look to see who stopped by while they were sleeping!
Ongava Tented Camp shares the Ongava Reserve with its three sister lodges, Ongava Lodge, Little Ongava and Andersson’s at Ongava. Activities (included in the rates at the Tented Camp) are the same at all, encompassing game drives (day and night) and guided walks on the reserve, and daytime game drives into Etosha – where night drives and walks are not permitted.
The Ongava Reserve's proximity to Etosha means that some of the smaller plains game can cross between the two, whilst reintroduction of a large number of species, including giraffe, waterbuck, springbok etc, ensures that game viewing is very good on the reserve itself. Ongava is also one of relatively few private game reserves in southern Africa where you have a real chance to see both black and white rhino.
Since driving in Etosha National Park is only permitted between sunrise and sunset, game drives into the park, in open 4x4 vehicles, are normally in the morning. On the reserve, however, game drives normally set off in the afternoon and are combined with a stop around sunset for a sundowner. If you are lucky enough to encounter a white rhino and your guide considers the conditions to be suitable, it may be possible to get out of the vehicle and approach the rhino. This is done with extreme care and in single file behind your guide who carries a rifle for safety. Night drives are also normally an option in the reserve, although our most recent visit was in the rainy season, and the state of the tracks made night driving impossible.
Guided walks on the reserve focus primarily on things you may miss from a safari vehicle. When we stayed at Ongava Lodge in March 2017, our morning walk was so fascinating that we stayed out for nearly three hours! Our knowledgeable guide discussed the flowers and the trees that we passed, the tracks and dung of animals that had moved through the area and various birds that we saw. However, the highlight for us was a large flap-necked chameleon that scampered from the ground into a nearby bush.
With its homely atmosphere, busy waterhole and luxury bushcamp feel, Ongava Tented Camp can be a delight. It’s as close as you’ll find around Etosha to the safari camps in Botswana, and elsewhere in Africa, and is at its best when you take advantage of the organised activities – especially the guided walks. Although the camp can be used as a base for self-drive excursions into Etosha, it's probably not the best choice for this as it’s relatively costly, and a half-hour drive from the main access road to the park.
- Etosha National Park, Namibia
- Ideal length of stay
- 2–3 nights
- The Ongava Reserve is west of the C38, just before the Andersson Gate into Etosha National Park. The drive through the reserve to Ongava Tented Camp is along a gravel road, and takes about 30 minutes, during which you are likely to spot antelope such as kudu and oryx.
The Ongava Reserve has its own airstrip with scheduled flights in light aircraft from Windhoek, Swakopmund and Damaraland.
- Accessible by
- Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Although we didn’t eat at Ongava Tented Camp on our most recent visit in March 2017, on a previous visit in May 2014 the food was varied and tasty.
Breakfast consists of a delicious buffet of freshly made bread, fruit, cereals and muffins with a choice of juices or tea and coffee. A hot breakfast is freshly cooked for each guest.
For lunch we had a chickpea salad, followed by a game steak sandwich.
Dinner is a set menu for starter and dessert, with the main being a 'help yourself' option. We ate biltong paté with melba toast, followed by a very tasty game stroganoff and chocolate and vanilla cheesecake.
Tea and coffee are available in the afternoons, along with a homemade cake. On our previous visit mini pizzas were also there to tempt us.
- Dining style
- Mixture of group dining and individual tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Room service is not available.
- Drinks included
- Included – except for premium brand and imported wines and spirits.
The tap water is considered to be drinkable, but bottled water is also available.
- Ongava Tented Camp, on the Ongava Reserve and close to Etosha National Park, is a fantastic place for birdwatching in Namibia. Local specials include Namaqua sandgrouse, short-toed rock thrush, acacia pied barbet and yellow-bellied eremomela.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Walking safaris
- Ongava Tented Camp offers guided walking safaris focusing on the smaller things you may miss from the safari vehicle, such as the vegetation, tracks and trails, birds and insects. Larger game may also be encountered.
- See ideas for Walking safaris
- Wildlife safaris
- Within the Ongava Reserve, and with Etosha National Park on the doorstep, Ongava Tented Camp offers wonderful wildlife viewing including the opportunity to see black and white rhino, along with elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard and a plethora of plains game.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Attitude towards children
- Ongava Tented Camp welcomes children aged six years and over.
- Property’s age restrictions
- No children under the age of six. Children must be at least 13 years old to do walking activities, and 16 years or older to take part in rhino walking activities. Families with children of 12 years or under must book a private vehicle, at an extra cost.
- Special activities & services
- There are no special activities for children.
- Generally recommended for children
- Because of the intimate nature of the camp and the adult feel, we believe that it would be best for teenagers who would enjoy this atmosphere and could partake in most of the activities on offer. Families with younger children might be better suited at Andersson’s Camp or Ongava Lodge.
- The camp is unfenced so there is a risk from dangerous wild animals entering the reserve. The pool is also unfenced. Children must be under parental supervision at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Ongava Tented Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Ongava Tented 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
- Solar panels are used for lighting in the tents and to heat the water – so on rainy or cloudy days the water may be only lukewarm.
- A central phone and internet service is available in reception for emergencies, but there is no cellphone reception. Very patchy WiFi is available in the central areas.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The toilets are flushable and the showers plumbed in.
Ongava’s Research Centre
Ongava Tented Camp is one of the leading properties to turn an unproductive cattle ranch in Northern Namibia into a 30,000-hectare private game reserve that has grown to become a safe haven to large concentrations of wildlife. Home to a diverse range of birds and reptiles, the highlight of Ongava’s conservation efforts is its research centre.
The centre operates conservation projects spanning over 120 square miles including successful breeding programmes of both black and white rhinos. Moreover, it is home to one of the largest and most important breeding populations of the rare black-faced impala. Nestled amongst an array of flora and fauna, the Ongava Research Centre further demonstrates its commitment to conservation by constantly looking to improve understanding of endangered species, in a bid to inform smarter decision-making and preserve Namibia’s natural environment.
In this sense, Ongava encourages guests to immerse themselves directly in the Ongava Research Centre project by participating in interactive presentations and Q&A sessions with on-site scientists, therefore providing them with a valuable insight into the most critical environmental issues of our time: protecting the natural environment.
A proud recipient of Namibia’s acclaimed 5-Flower Eco-Award, Ongava Tented Camp combines a high level of service with access to innovative sustainability projects, offering guests a memorable and culturally enriching experience.
See more great sustainability projects in Namibia
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- Some staff at Ongava Tented Camp are first-aid trained. There is a small clinic at Okaukuejo that can treat minor complaints, and the nearest doctor is in Outjo. In event of an emergency, patients would be airlifted out to Windhoek.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There is an armed guard to escort you back to your tent at night as dangerous game can wander through the camp.
- Fire safety
- There is a fire extinguisher in each tent..
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included, with the exception of underwear.
- You cannot change money at Ongava Tented Camp.
- Accepted payment on location
- Payment may be made in Namibian dollars, South African rand, US dollars, GB pounds and euros cash, as well as by Visa and Mastercard credit cards and in travellers' cheques.
Other lodges in Etosha National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.
Set within Etosha National Park, Okaukuejo Resort is a large camp with a productive, floodlit waterhole.
The smallest of Etosha's erstwhile restcamps, overlooking its own floodlit waterhole, Halali has a superb location near the centre of Etosha Pan.
Mushara Bush Camp
The family-friendly Mushara Bush Camp offers great value and is an excellent base from which to explore Etosha National Park.
With fantastic views over a private reserve bordering Etosha, the smart Ongava Lodge offers driving and walking safaris on the reserve, and guided drives in Etosha.
Onguma Tented Camp
Onguma Tented Camp is a lovely, little tented camp which centres around an attractive waterhole a short drive from the Von Lindequist Gate to eastern Etosha.
Opened in 2011, Dolomite Camp allows visitors access to the far west side of Etosha National Park, which was previously off limits to most visitors.
Close to the eastern entrance to Etosha, the comfortable Mushara Lodge is well-placed for exploring the park in your own vehicle or on a guided drive.
Centred on an old fort, the government run Namutoni Camp is located just inside Etosha National Park, close to Fisher's Pan.
Onguma Bush Camp
For great wildlife viewing without breaking the bank, the affordable and understated luxury of Onguma Bush Camp could be perfect.
To the west of Etosha National Park, on the edge of Damaraland, Hobatere Lodge offers good game-viewing on its own reserve.
Intimate and luxurious, Mushara Outpost is well-placed on a private reserve to explore nearby Etosha National Park on your own or on a guided drive.
Onguma Camp Kala
For a bird’s eye view across African bush, the stilted rooms at Onguma Camp Kala are truly special.
Onguma The Fort
The Fort is the jewel in the crown of the Onguma lodges, and arguably the whole of eastern Etosha.
Onguma Forest Camp
From its woodland setting on the Onguma Reserve, Forest Camp is within easy striking distance of Namibia’s flagship national park.
At the heart of the private Etosha Heights Reserve, Safarihoek Lodge offers comfortable accommodation and excellent game-viewing.
Taleni Etosha Village
Only 4km from Etosha's southern entrance, Taleni Etosha Village is an affordable base from which to explore the park.
Etosha Safari Lodge
A short drive from Etosha National Park's southern entrance, Etosha Safari Lodge is a convenient base from which to explore the park.
The beautifully located and luxurious Little Ongava is a stunning place to stay in order to explore Etosha National Park and the private Ongava Reserve.
Etosha Safari Camp
Funky, low-key and very original, Etosha Safari Camp is well placed for visiting Etosha National Park on a self-drive or guided safari.
Andersson's at Ongava
With game drives on both its private reserve and in Etosha, Andersson's at Ongava also offers access to the Ongava Research Centre.
Mokuti Etosha Lodge
With 106 rooms, child-friendly Mokuti Etosha Lodge is more like a hotel than a lodge. Facilities to include a gym, spa, tennis courts and even a snake park.
In the heart of the private Etosha Heights Reserve, the family-friendly Mountain Lodge offers game drives and bush walks within an exclusive environment.
Vreugde Guest Farm
Vreugde Guest Farm is a delightful owner-run and working sheep farm where you can expect a warm welcome and charming hospitality.
Offering luxury on a peaceful private reserve close to Etosha, Villa Mushara is a great choice for honeymooners & those wishing to indulge themselves.
Etosha Oberland Lodge
A short drive from Etosha National Park's southern entrance, Etosha Oberland Lodge is a very comfortable base from which to explore the park, with excellent food.
Etosha Garden Hotel
Safari in Etosha National Park Namibia, whilst based at the nearby Etosha Garden Lodge.
The private Safari House on the Etosha Heights reserve is a great option families or friends travelling together.
Safari in Etosha National Park Namibia, whilst based at Etosha Gateway Lodge.
Onkoshi Camp is owned and run by Namibia Wildlife Resorts. Built on elevated wooden platforms it overlooks Etosha Pan.
Etosha King Nehale
A short drive from the national park's northern entrance, Etosha King Nehale Lodge is an interesting and comfortable base from which to explore the park.