Reviews of Onguma The Fort
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Over the top
After an initial "wow" reaction, I think everyone in our group was a bit appalled at Onguma Plains Camp (now known as The Fort on Fisher's Pan). It certainly is a beautiful place, but it's just TOO over the top. I give it low marks for environmental friendliness: Too many large decorative pools evaporating water into the atmosphere. And ridiculous to have air conditioners in rooms that are basically open to the atmosphere (though the rooms got very hot once the turndown service closed up the mesh/slat wall that overlooks the pan).
Most ridiculous of all is that they won't even allow you to walk to your room in the daytime, but insist on taking you in a little motorized cart. Supposedly this is to protect you from wildlife, but nowhere else was there this daytime restriction (and Etosha Aoba, 7km down the road, even allows you to walk back to your room unaccompanied at night).
Fantastic Fort Suite
Onguma The Fort (formerly Onguma Plains Camp) was our fourth and final lodge of our trip in Namibia. In many ways it was the most luxurious with a flatscreen TV, air conditioning, etc and we just loved the design of the whole Fort and the public spaces which brought Arabic/North African influences to Namibia. This design may not be for everyone, but we definitely loved the colour scheme and overall vibe of the place.
The Fort is close to the Western gates of Etosha National Park so also very conveniently located to get into the park in the morning and is not far from Mokuti airstrip where we landed. It overlooks a watering hole where springbok, kudu, zebras and waterhogs came to drink and which during the dry season probably sees other animals visit it as well.
The service we received from the waiters and management at Onguma was fantastic. We thought Albertus and Erasmus in particular were fantastic and they prepared a very romantic private dinner for us on our last night. Also Karen and Ryan the managers were efficient and helped us out with re-confirming flights etc. They were truly excellent.
The guides we had however, were probably the weakest of our trip. Things didn't start well as there was no one to meet us when we landed at the airstrip (at all other camps we had been met by a guide with cold drinks). Our guide was Nicholas for the game drives in both the Onguma Reserve and Etosha National Park. The sundowner game drive in Onguma was disappointing and not perfectly prepared, e.g. bottle openers not available to open bottles, holes in table cloth, our guide making private calls on his mobile during the game drive etc. In addition, our guide was accompanied on the game drive by an understudy who was learning to become a guide and we were quite surprised when Gerson, the understudy, also helped himself to the beers as part of the game drive while he was still "on duty".
Another area for improvement is the food, which on 2 out of 3 nights was not fantastic, but I think it depends on who is chef in the kitchen as on our final night, with a new chef, the food was markedly better. We also enjoyed the singing from the waiting staff and thought this was one of the highlights of our Onguma trip.
Overall, Onguma does some things really well such as the level of accommodation, fantastic waiters/service in the lodge, but there is room for improvement with the guides and also the food. If visiting the Etosha area again, we may be tempted to try out the Ongava private reserve next time as a couple that visited both Onguma and Ongava reported that the wildlife they saw at Ongava (lions, rhinos etc.) was also more diverse and more easily spotted there than at Onguma.
Onguma Plains Camp review
It's difficult to express how wonderful this place was. The location is stunning with a view in the distance of Fishers Pan and a wide plain set out below and in front of the rooms and main building. This made for some fantastic sunsets to watch in the evenings, and there was a constant stream of animals to and from the waterhole in front of us. One morning we were woken by the sound of zebras hooves galloping past our window!
Our room enormous and stunningly designed in a north african style with a huge terrace which had an outdoor shower and bath. Two walls of the room were canvas and rolled up to open up the room to the terrace and the plains. The service here was exceptional, and the food was consistantly stunning, from breakfast through to a four course dinner - the chef is brilliant and also very friendly!!
On our second day we returned from our nature drive to find a dinner table for two set up on our terrace with candles lit and champagne on ice...the chef came over to our room to describe the menu to us and we were served a candlelit dinner on our terrace under the stars. The staff even came over to sing to us at the end of our meal! Simply a wonderful honeymoon memory...
The only negative feedback would be that at the entrance gate as we arrived the guard tried to persuade us to give a lift to two people into the reserve. We didn't really have room due to all our luggage and it made us feel a little uncomfortable. Not quite the luxury welcome we had expected!!
Onguma Plains Camp review
Great stay but bugs were horrible this time of year! It would have been a little nicer to have lamps or other bug repellants at least during dinner.Read more about the whole safari
Onguma Plains Camp review
You can regard the positioning of an imitation adobe Moroccan fort on the plains of southern Africa either as inspired design or as Disneyland kitsch. Either way the design of the building with its multiple water features, curtains and air vents works beautifully and the site overlooking the western park with a water hole is stunning. Compared to Okaukeujo the water hole was not so busy, but there are not many places in the world that you drink a cocktail sitting in a swimming pool while watching deer, warthogs, wildebeest and jackals.
The camp features in one of the "100 great destination" guides - deservedly, as the ambience is fabulous. By the time we arrived we had been on the go for two weeks and had seen plenty of animals, so we gave the game drives a miss and chilled out all day around the pool, lazy but most enjoyable. Staff did everything possible to make our stay comfortable. Dinner was served in a leisurely and elegant fashion, and was very nicely presented although the overall quality did not quite match the standards to which it aspired.
As walkers we found the need to drive from rooms to main building irksome, but preferable to being supper for the local lions.
Onguma Plains Camp review
Lovely view, especially of the sunset and great place to stay. Very nice architecture that fits in well with the surroundings. The lighting in the rooms is very dim and could be a lot better, this is also true of the verandah where dinner is served.
Good staff, although some need a little more experience, but this does not take away from the fact that they are polite, friendly and welcoming. The menu is read to you, and it can be difficult to understand accents and this can cause confusion over what is to be served. Suggestion to manager that a printed menu along with being read the items was accepted, but we were told the owner disapproved, as it took away from a personal service. The service was personal, but being confused about the food was not very good.
Very relaxing place, we could easily have stayed longer. Really lovely to be able to open the side of the room to the sunset and use the outdoor shower.
This was an excellent lodge in a lovely setting - definitely the best on the trip. Our little 'private fort' with its view of the fairly active waterhole was lovely and had a huge bathroom. The swimming pool was really fantastic and the first one we found where you could actually swim lengths rather than just cool off. The food was without a doubt the best we had anywhere in Namibia and the service was very good.
Although we chose to drive ourselves around Etosha rather than take the organised trip, the guides were still very happy to give us tips on where to go. Because Onguma is so close to the gate we were able to get into Etosha as soon as the gate opened and we ended up being a lot luckier than those on the main trip (who left a lot later) and saw white rhino, two leopards as well as lots of lions all within two hours. We also did a night drive on Onguma's own reserve which was excellent - with a very informative and enthusiastic guide.
One small suggestion would be to have mosquito nets over the beds as we were innundated with moths as the netting at the side of the building had quite big gaps under it. The roof also leaked when we had rain but it didn't detract from the overall experience.
Expert Africa comments
Onguma Plains Camp have subsequently reported back that custom-made mosquito nets are in the process of being manufactured and as soon as they arrive will be put into place.
Also, the roofs at the lodge have now been sealed so rain water can no long get through.
one of the most stylish hotels we have stayed at - particularly villa. air conditioning a very welcome indulgence.
room and communal areas excellent. good welcome, and staff - whilst still training in some cases - pleasant. food well presented, but only average compared to other lodges.
activities a little disappointing in terms of animals seen, although not for lack of effort by guides . the afternoon drive was too late, arriving back just before dinner . needs to be shorter or start earlier.
separate email sent concerning these activities as confusion over whether or not included in the package.