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Traveller reviews

Travel reviews by Mr B & Mrs C from Hants.

Review Distribution

Excellent
Good
Average
Poor
Terrible

Total number of trips

1

Countries visited

1

Lodges stayed in

8

Excursions taken

0

Astonishing wildlife on first trip to Namibia

Namibia between 2 Sep 2012 and 17 Sep 2012

Trip rating: Excellent
"Our holiday got off to a frustrating start with our luggage remaining in Frankfurt while we jetted off to Windhoek! Our connecting flight from Heathrow was late and presumably there was insufficient time to transfer our cases from one plane to another. Although the lady on the baggage enquiry desk at Windhoek was very helpful, she did not ring us when she said she would, so it was just as well my wife had brought her mobile phone with her, just in case!

Collecting our hire car from Thrifty at Windhoek airport was fairly straightforward, the formalities taking about half an hour to complete. Mention is made in the Bradt guide book about Wheel, Underside and Glass damage insurance, which I was going to ask for. There was no need as you simply tick the relevant box on the contract and the cost is debited to your account. I would strongly recommend this option as the gravel roads in Namibia are not as good as the guide books indicate.

Having landed at 06:30, we finally drove away from the airport at 09:10. The roads were quiet on a Sunday morning as we headed through Windhoek and it was a pleasant drive up to Okahandja where we stopped at around 10 o'clock for an excellent breakfast at the Brewed Awakenings coffee shop. This place is mentioned in the Bradt guide book and it really is a real gem! Their full breakfast of four rashers of bacon, two eggs, sausage, toast and jam with a pot of tea was superb value.

Despite being delayed at the airport, we still managed to reach Swakopmund at 14:20 and checked into the marvellous Stiltz Hotel for our two nights stay. We quickly noticed the change in temperature on the coast compared with the heat inland. Low cloud kept the temperature down around the low sixties Fahrenheit whereas it was in the high eighties away from the coast and our jackets and jumpers were in our missing suitcases!

The weather was not doing what the guidebooks indicated would happen. Overnight fog stubbornly refused to burn off during our stay and so we never did see Swakopmund or Walvis Bay at their best, even though two or three miles inland it was gloriously sunny! Our cases finally caught up with us towards the end of our second day, having been put on the following overnight flight from Frankfurt then the afternoon flight from Windhoek to Walvis Bay, with Air Namibia delivering them to the Stiltz Hotel by van.

There are numerous places to eat in Swakopmund, not least the many German hotels with tempting (albeit similar) menus in their restaurants and there are a few suggestions in the guidebooks, one of which is the Napolitana pizzeria and grill. This place was so good we went there twice! Their pizzas, baked in a proper wood-fired oven are among the best we have tasted. The "special" featuring stir-fried oryx was superb.

On our second night we wanted to try the Swakopmund Brauhaus but it was unpleasantly warm and smokey when we walked in so went back to Napolitana where I enjoyed a lamb curry and my wife had a simple but very tasty meal of chicken and chips (a whole chicken, by the way, so I had to help her out!). We were too full afterwards to attempt one of their wonderful desserts!

We drove up the coast road towards Cape Cross on another disappointing grey day and the scenery became increasingly desolate. The salt, sand and gravel road was in surprisingly good condition and we made very good progress. Somewhere around Mile 30 we came across the first of the shipwrecks to be seen along the coast. This one being relatively recent, a trawler which ran aground in 2008 so we parked the car and went to have a look.

Almost immediately, we were intercepted by a local youth who pestered us to buy some crystal for a "negotiated" (extortionate) fee. This crystal can be picked up off the ground if you search for long enough and I told him we were not interested. However, his partner soon appeared and the only way to get rid of them quickly was to give them money. N$40 was not a lot but it was annoying and I certainly would not normally give money away like that but we were miles from anywhere and nobody else was around. Be warned!

We deviated off the "main" road into Henties Bay, intending to make a coffee stop but nothing looked welcoming so we carried on. We did not pass another vehicle for the rest of the journey to Cape Cross, where we were going to visit the Seal Reserve but it was so grey and miserable we checked in early at the nearby Lodge instead. With only one other couple booked in, there was certainly a cool and empty feel to the place. At least there was a log fire burning in the restaurant to warm us up as there was no heating in our room!

Next morning remained cool and dismal but there were encouraging breaks in the cloud as we headed north towards the Ugab River Gate entrance to the Skeleton Coast Park. Really desolate scenery but a thrilling drive with nobody else around and at last the sun came out! Only one vehicle was seen during the 75km journey from Cape Cross. When we entered our journey details in the register at the gatehouse, I noticed that the previous entry was over two hours earlier! When the gatekeeper realised we were all the way from England, he wrote out a free permit for our passage through the park. It should have cost us N$170 so this was an incredibly kind gesture! There were some souvenirs on sale so my wife bought a traditional African necklace for N$50.

As soon as we entered the park, we encountered a small herd of Springbok wandering around the dried up Ugab riverbed and they "sprung" into the air in fright when we got too close to them. About 30kms further on, the road ran very close to the sea and there was a pull-off to view the wreck of the "South West Sea", a small fishing vessel that came to grief in 1976. Only part of its wooden frame remains but it was a fascinating and peaceful place to stop for a while (and nobody to pester you for money!).

The C34 road stretched away for miles into the distance and it remained beautifully maintained, the reason soon becoming clear when we encountered some major road reconstruction going on in the middle of nowhere, I would guess 100kms from the Ugab River Gate. Having had the road to ourselves, we now had to dodge construction lorries and graders and we passed a motley collection of shacks that presumably formed a temporary home for construction workers. No doubt this underlines the importance of the coast road and the national park.

Beyond the construction site, the road headed away from the sea and traversed a vast expanse of sand and salt. To add to the experience, the wind was blowing sand across the road making it difficult to see the road ahead. It really was like being in a sand storm but we continued to maintain a good speed and reached the junction with the C39 road inland after covering the 220kms from Cape Cross in a little over 3 hours. Before continuing on towards our destination of Doro Nawas, I wanted a last look at the Atlantic Ocean at Torra Bay but the condition of the C34 beyond the junction dictated otherwise.

There were sand dunes by the road and so much sand was being blown on to the road, I was having difficulty driving through it. A 4-wheel drive vehicle would probably have coped but we were not going to risk our rental car any further so turned around. With such good progress made so far, I felt confident that we would cover the 130kms remaining in about two hours. Not a chance! The C39 started off well enough being a good, wide gravel road but soon deteriorated and for much of the time speed was kept to 40kph or less to stop the car from being shaken to pieces!

It took about an hour to cover the 33kms to the Springbokwasser Gate, which shows just how bad the road had become but at least the slow speed meant we were able to really enjoy the stunning Arizona-like scenery. After signing the register and handing in our permit we made use of the facilities there and carried on. After four hours driving it would have been nice to have been able to buy a coffee or something but there was nothing.

We started to encounter wildlife, including Giraffe wandering free from the confines of a national park. That was a surprise! Reaching the junction with the C43 at Bergsig took three hours from the coast, twice my estimation. Surely, only another half hour to cover the remaining 45kms to Doro Nawas? No. Although the road had improved slightly, 80kph was possible only in short bursts and it took another hour to complete the journey. I was starting to regret not paying out the extra to hire a four-wheel drive vehicle because seven hours from Cape Cross was exhausting!

However, our two-night stay at the Doro Nawas Camp was fabulous and included a highly successful safari in search of desert-adapted elephants. The staff there were great and we really enjoyed their impromptu song and dance routine after dinner on the second night!

Our next destination was western Etosha National Park and there are two ways to get there. The easier route is via Khorixas but we opted for the more scenic route via the Grootberg Pass, which was supposed to be better for spotting wildlife. This meant doubling back along the C39 to Bergsig and continuing along the equally poor C43 to Palmwag. This 88km journey took two hours and twenty minutes. I needed to fill up with petrol and there are two pumps located just the other side of the entrance gate to the Palmwag Concession so you have to state your business at the gate. This was not a problem but we wondered why we were asked where we were from and what our Christian names were.

Whilst I was using the (absolutely disgusting) toilet, a member of Wilderness Safaris staff asked my wife if she would like to buy a souvenir. This "souvenir" was a nut (similar to a large conker) onto which our names had been etched. She declined and I would suggest this was inappropriate behaviour from someone in uniform trying to extract money from tourists in this way. I got caught in this trap whilst walking around Swakopmund on our first day, when I was asked N$300 for this same rather pathetic "souvenir". When I refused he tried to barter but I walked away. Beware of this trick.

We continued our journey on the C40 over the spectacular Grootberg Pass but no wildlife, except for the odd Springbok, was seen. At the top of the Pass we passed the entrance gate to the Grootberg Lodge and it would have made an ideal lunch stop, had it been possible. However, the barrier was down and nobody was around so we carried on. By now my wife was in need of a comfort stop. A few kms further on we passed the entrance to a campsite run by the Grootberg Lodge. Facilities were advertised and the barrier was up so I turned around and drove in. There seemed to be nobody around but I found a member of staff who showed where to find the (absolutely spotless) toilet.

The main road at Kamanjab was still 75kms away and the C40 was just as awful as the C39 and C43. Speed was no more than 40kph for long periods. The chalky white surface was dazzling under the relentless sun and after over 5 hours, the journey was starting to get tedious. We reached civilisation at Kamanjab at 3 o'clock and, hooray, tarmac! We stopped off at the supermarket for some much needed snacks including ice cream, which we enjoyed whilst reeling off the kilometres to Etosha National Park, reaching the Galton Gate entrance at 4 o'clock.

Having filled out the paperwork, we drove the 12kms to the administration office to pay for our permit which covered us for the six days that we would be staying in the park. The cost was N$1020 and could not be paid by credit card so that was a lot of cash to part with in one go! We didn't get far down the gravel road towards Dolomite Camp before we encountered elephants. We also saw zebra, giraffe and oryx during our first hour in the park. We finally arrived at Dolomite Camp at 17:40 over 8 hours after leaving Doro Nawas and two and a half hours longer than I expected the journey to take.

Having been well rested at Dolomite Camp and visited some of the local waterholes to view the wildlife (being very lucky to see a black rhino at Renostervlei), we proceeded on the next leg of our journey which was across Etosha to Okaukuejo Rest Camp. Stopping off to enjoy an excellent packed lunch provided by Dolomite Camp, it was exhilarating to be able to enjoy the animals alone. We had seen only three other vehicles the whole morning as only residents of Dolomite Camp were allowed in western Etosha Park.

However, the road across the park was fairly rough in places and as it was restricted to 60kph anyway, the journey of 190kms was going to take a while. At least this time we were prepared for it but as for comfort breaks, we were told back at Dolomite that there was a toilet after about 90 kilometres. That was incorrect and it was quite apparent that the only toilet was the one marked on my map, about 130kms from Dolomite. Not good news when you are bumping along at 30kph on a terrible road!

When we found the signpost for it, we followed a track to a fenced area protected by a gate which appeared to be chained shut. Now what? There were no notices and you are told not to get out of your car when in the park. It turned out to be only a loose chain on a hook so I got out of the car, opened the gate and drove in, following the dusty track with some huge potholes, past some uninviting picnic tables to an outbuilding which contained a pit toilet. Better than nothing!

It took about seven hours, with stops, to complete the journey to Okaukuejo and it was very enjoyable although not much was seen in the early afternoon during the hottest part of the day. We deviated up to Okondeka waterhole and saw an incredible sight on the way. A large herd of around 100 Springboks were walking as if on parade along the edge of the road. On the way back and by the same road closer to Okaukuejo we were lucky to see three lionesses relaxing under the shade of a tree.

We were well impressed with the rest camp at Okaukuejo and in particular the waterhole there. Everyone that visited always respected the silence that was requested in order that the animals were not unduly disturbed. The waterholes near to Okaukuejo are also worth a visit, not least Nebrowni (about 9kms to the east) which was absolutely astonishing. We went there three times, on different days and at different times. On each visit there were vast herds of various types of antelope present, numbering into the hundreds and they kept on coming (and going). There was usually an elephant or two to add to the excitement!

We also stayed at Halali Rest Camp and enjoyed that too. Its waterhole wasn't so busy but it was in a peaceful setting and if there were no animals, there were usually plenty of birds to watch. We visited most of the waterholes in the vicinity of both rest camps but found the minor roads (particularly the one between Olifantsbad and Aus) to be in poor condition and had great difficulty negotiating them in our mid-size (Nissan) hire car. A very bad road was Rhino Drive as was the road leading to it from Halali and I would say they are really only suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles as they were severely pot-holed and badly rutted. We didn't see much wildlife on these back roads either.

Namutoni Camp can be easily reached from Halali in a leisurely drive and we enjoyed a lunch there. We would have bought some souvenirs from the tourist shop had it not been for a party of Americans barging in front of us to be served first so we walked out in disgust! We noticed that the part of Etosha east of Halali didn't seem quite so good for wildlife spotting with the exception of 7kms from Namutoni when three large elephants crossed the road right in front of us. We'd had quite a lean morning up to that point!

I would say that the six days spent in Etosha were outstandingly good. I had no idea, having never been here before, that Namibia contained so much wildlife. My wife and I have been to South Africa six times, visiting Kruger National Park in 2005 and we thought that was good. Etosha trounced Kruger without any doubt! It was with great reluctance that we left, taking one last look at the waterhole in Okaukuejo (an elephant was there for a lunchtime drink!) before heading south on tarmac roads again.

The main roads in Namibia are a joy to drive on, mainly because not much traffic uses them but they are very well maintained. You just have to watch out for warthogs! The road south from Anderssons Gate cuts through pleasant scenery to Outjo, a pretty little town which we passed through without stopping. This was a mistake as we later found out that the bakery we drove past sells wonderful apple strudel! The next major town is Otjiwarongo which has a Super Spar in the centre, very useful for any required provisions. We wanted to buy some wine to take home but it was 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon when we were there and you cannot buy alcohol in Namibia after one o'clock on Saturday at weekends! (Duty Free staff at Windhoek airport do not point out that you cannot take wines and spirits back to the U.K. via Frankfurt, a trap that we later fell into.)

Near to Otjiwarongo is the Cheetah Conservation Fund and this was a very worthwhile visit, particularly for close-up pictures of these wonderful animals. The only drawback is its location, at the end of a 44km dirt road which, although well maintained, still takes 45 minutes to drive so you have to factor in 90 minutes to and from the entrance on top of the time you plan to spend there. The Bradt guide book indicated that tea and coffee is included in the admission price but this was not the case when we visited. You certainly need bottled water at the very least (available at the shop) when walking around.

A short distance south of Otjiwarongo is the turn-off for Waterberg Plateau, reached by way of the D2512 dirt road. A 100kph advisory sign at the start of this road gives the impression that it is in good condition. It isn't. Almost immediately I hit ruts from water damage and it clearly is in urgent need of regrading. There was a lot of loose sand on either side of this wide road and for much of the time I was driving down the middle of it at only 40kph. We stayed at the Waterberg Plateau Lodge which was a great place to relax after the hectic activities of Etosha.

Our final stay was at Okonjima Main Camp, the base for the AfriCat Foundation where we were able to see leopards from a distance, wild dogs up close and (incredibly) to walk with cheetahs. It was expensive but what the Foundation is trying to achieve does not come cheap and we will never forget our experience here. It was a great way to end a quite extraordinary holiday.

We managed to return our hire car undamaged, which was quite remarkable after all it had been put through. In two weeks we covered almost 2000 miles (yes, miles not kilometres) and about two-thirds of that was on salt and gravel or dirt roads which were not at all as good as I was led to believe they would be. Our Group C car coped but a bigger car would have been better and I think that, despite the cost, I should have gone for a 4 x 4.

If there was one disappointment (apart from the cold and miserable weather on the coast) it had to be Windhoek. We spent some time there to shop for gifts and souvenirs before flying home but after two hours looking around the new shopping malls in the city centre, we found nothing. The malls consisted mainly of the usual clothing outlets found back home. Where are all the African-themed stores?

We were looking for tee shirts, sweatshirts or even towels with Namibia's national animal, the Oryx, emblazoned on them. Not a chance! However, there was an Australia shop. Goodness knows why. We couldn't even find calenders, the usual gifts we buy for ourselves and close relatives, anywhere. There were some items of interest at the airport but not much. Why doesn't Namibia blow its own trumpet and promote itself? It should. It is a fabulous country and we would definately go again.

Suggestions to help us improve our trips or our service:

We cannot fault the service you have given us.

Most of the ideas for our holiday were put together from reading the Bradt guide book to Namibia which is extremely well written. Sabina enhanced the itinerary for us and we were very impressed with the work she did on our behalf. Thank you!"

Arranged By Sabina Hekandjo


The Stiltz

The Stiltz

"A warm welcome at The Stiltz."

2 nights Arrived 2 Sep 2012
"This wonderful little hotel is exactly as described on their website, really funky! Our room (no.8) was ideally located with great views over the Swakop River estuary and its resident flamingos and cormorants, the crashing waves of the Atlantic and the distant dunes of the Namib Desert. Tall reeds surrounded the hotel and appeared to be home to vivid yellow weaver birds.

The room itself was very spacious (actually, enormous!) and had a very well designed en-suite. Had the weather been warmer, we would have spent some time relaxing on the verandah but unfortunately overnight fog only lifted into low cloud which the sun would not burn off and the temperature remained cool for the duration of our two-night stay. We never did see Swakopmund at its best even though just two or three miles inland it was gloriously sunny and very warm!

The beds were really comfortable and had electric blankets. For the first time in my life I actually switched mine on as it was surprisingly nippy at night and that was probably why I slept like a log for almost ten hours! It was nice to be able to make tea in the room as a kettle with tea bags and coffee was provided.

The breakfast room was welcoming, spacious and comfortable. The buffet breakfast had a good choice of yoghurts, fresh fruit, cold meats, cheese and bread. Hot food was on offer and cooked to order by one of the kitchen staff. We made good use of the toaster and enjoyed the mild coffee from the perculator. (Could have made tea if we wanted).

It really is difficult to find fault with this hotel. We were warmly welcomed on our arrival and the staff couldn't be more helpful. The only factor which spoiled our stay was the cool weather and the fact that our luggage (containing our warm clothes) was still in Frankfurt when we arrived at Windhoek, eventually catching up with us towards the end of the second day! We would definately go back and would recommend The Stiltz to anyone. It is such a different experience."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Good
Cape Cross Lodge

Cape Cross Lodge

"Disappointed at Cape Cross Lodge."

1 night Arrived 4 Sep 2012
"I think we probably did not get the best out of this hotel because only two couples were booked overnight. The weather was cold and windy so we didn't even bother to visit the nearby seal colony, which was the whole point of coming here!

Our room was comfortable and spacious but being painted pale blue it made you feel as cold as the weather outside. There was no heating in the room but warm quilts were provided on the comfortable beds. There were good en suite facilities. We had a great view looking out over the beach and in better weather we could have enjoyed a pleasant walk along the sand.

We were staying on HB basis so the evening meal was included, although not in its entirety as it turned out. Apparently, we could choose anything from the four-course menu as long as the cost did not exceed N$220! Our server didn't explain beforehand but normally guests are presented with a set menu, the cost of which is incorporated into the room rate. However, as there were only four guests for dinner, we were being given a choice from the normal restaurant menu. Our original choice broke the budget so we had to do without the second starter!

The meal itself was pretty good, rump steak and pork chops being well cooked but we found the chips and baked potato very salty and there was very little vegetable to accompany the meat. The dessert was a very good banana cake with custard but it is not often that I finish a meal feeling hungry so overall, I would say value for money was poor.

In the morning one of the staff was washing our car, which was filthy from the drive up the coast from Swakopmund and this was very much appreciated. Breakfast was a reasonably good help-yourself buffet and hot food was cooked to order. However, the coffee served to us was awful and could have been left over from the night before.

This review should not put anyone off from coming here. This is a modern, spacious and comfortable hotel in an extremely remote location and it must have been awkward catering for so few people. I'm sure that at busier times things would have been different. It is ideally located to break the long journey up the Skeleton Coast (and it really is long)."
Average
Location
Excellent
Service
Average
Facilities
Good
Rooms
Good
Food
Average
Doro Nawas

Doro Nawas

"Fantastic experience at Doro Nawas."

2 nights Arrived 5 Sep 2012
"Really cannot praise this Safari Camp enough. We had been driving for seven hours and were quite exhausted when we parked the car. Reception staff must have seen us coming as we were welcomed on the steps with a refreshing flannel. We were also very hungry, having not eaten since breakfast yet dinner was not going to be served until 8 o'clock (three hours away). That was not a problem as savoury snacks were already available in the restaurant as was chocolate cake which was absolutely delicious! Tea and coffee were always available to help yourself.

Our thatched chalet was comfortable and very spacious. It was also extremely well designed with a large veranda onto which you could pull the bed in order to sleep under the stars (which were a fantastic sight) but we chose not to as it was still a bit nippy at night in early September! Privacy is maintained because of the clever way each chalet is arranged in a circle at the bottom of a small hill (with the restaurant and reception being on top of the hill) and when standing on the veranda to admire the great view, you cannot see the chalet next door.

The bed was really comfortable, (so much so that we didn't want to get up in the morning!) the en-suite facilities were good and there was even an outside shower in the corner of the veranda. Due to limited electric power it was not possible to use a hair dryer and there was no fridge although chilled water was supplied in a flask.

The Restaurant was large with an adjoining bar and lounge area. There was also an open air viewing deck upstairs, ideal for enjoying sundowners and for an incredible view of the night sky. The meals were help yourself buffets and the two dinners we had were absolutely superb.

On the first night there was a choice of beef or pork chops but you could have both if you wished! The meal on our second night was chicken breast stuffed with spinach and feta cheese or game steak with red wine sauce and with each meal three portions of vegetable were available. All of it was beautifully cooked and I would add that the meals were of three courses with a beautifully presented starter and delicious dessert. The wine selection was pretty good too!

We opted for a morning safari in search of desert-adapted elephants, which set out at 8 o'clock after breakfast. My wife and I were the only passengers and what a treat we had! It wasn't long before Richardt, our driver, had tracked down a large bull elephant at a waterhole in a spectacular setting. We thought it was a privilege to be able to sit and watch this magnificent animal from just a few yards away but as we were driven along the beautiful and remote Huab River valley we encountered a herd of eleven elephants and we stopped to watch them for half an hour in a stunning and peaceful setting.

We were then taken for a drive across the plains to admire the magnificent views and to see what else we could find. After being driven along a dried up river bed, we quite by chance spotted a second herd of elephants known to visit the area from time to time. They were on their way to visit a water storage tank at a remote tribal village. Although we were heading back to camp, Richardt turned around and headed for the deserted village, parking up close to the water tank. Sure enough, the elephants (14 of them) soon arrived to refresh themselves and to cool down. Another amazing sight!

The safari drive was certainly not cheap but we were out for almost 5 hours (advertised duration is three and a half) and, boy, it was worth the money. Lunch on arrival back at camp was included and what a treat that was. Probably the best Bobotie we have ever tasted! After that, there was only one thing to do. Relax on our veranda in the glorious afternoon sunshine and wait for dinner!

Doro Nawas was a fabulous place to stay and our only regret was to stay just two nights. We'll have to go back!"
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Excellent
Facilities
Excellent
Dolomite Camp

Dolomite Camp

"You need to be fit at Dolomite Camp!"

2 nights Arrived 7 Sep 2012
"There can be no doubt this camp is in a stunning location but there seems to be no system in place for meeting arriving guests. The camp is built on top of a high ridge and the car park is at the bottom. You cannot drive up to the reception. There was no-one around when we arrived so we walked up the steep hill, which was quite exhausting after an 8-hour drive. There really needs to be some sort of communication between the car park and reception; a bell, for example!

The means of transportation around the camp is by a motorised 4-seater cart. Two are normally provided but one was out of action on our visit, which caused some problems. Upon checking in we were welcomed with a glass of orange juice. The glass was chilled but the juice wasn't! We were taken by cart back down to our car to collect our luggage, then taken futher up the hill to our room.

We had one of the deluxe chalets (no. 19) which had a private patio and plunge pool. (Lovely!) The chalet itself was very secluded as it was located away from the main pathway, down some steps at the end of a private path. The view, high up on a dolomite ridge looking out over the vast savannah below was absolutely stunning. From our balcony we could see a large herd of elephants making their way through the trees. We could also see giraffe and zebra. You couldn't ask for more.

Well, actually you could because although the location was wonderful the design of the chalet was poor. It was split level with the large double bed taking up most of the lower level and a narrow kitchen area above. We found that we were always getting in each other's way when moving around! The shower and toilet were behind the kitchen area. There was a fridge as well as tea and coffee making facilities along with a hairdryer.

Dolomite Camp is unfenced and (despite protection from its height) you are not allowed to wander around after dark without being accompanied by a member of staff. As the path down to the restaurant was steep, we had to ring reception to ask for the cart to take us to dinner and we found this aspect of our stay rather tedious. It was also a very long walk to the car park so when going out for the day you have to be reliant on the cart, unless you don't mind a long walk with whatever you are taking with you. (Incidentally, a toot on the horn when parking the car later on got the attention of the cart driver!)

There was a waiter service for dinner and we were free to dine at any time between 6:30 and 9 o'clock. The food was quite good with a varied choice of main dishes but we found the main course on our first night was not particularly hot. In fairness, though, on the second night the meal was piping hot but the service was slow due to a large group being catered for in the second of the two restaurants. Unfortunately tea or coffee was not offered at the end of the meals, no doubt guests are encouraged to visit the lounge bar afterwards. When you want to go back to your room, you have to arrange for someone to go with you. We again wanted the cart and it took some time to organise, then when it turned up another couple suddenly appeared and jumped on too, which was rather annoying.

However, not wanting to dwell on the negatives, if you have an east facing chalet and you happen to be awake just before dawn you will be able to watch the first glimmer of a new african day beginning without even having to get out of bed. (There's no need to draw the curtains at night as nobody is going to be able to see in!) Just before sunrise I put the kettle on and to be able to sit up in bed sipping tea watching the sun slowly rise over the vast sweeping savannah stretching out below us was just incredible. I would go back to Dolomite Camp for that experience alone!

We enjoyed a lovely lunch during our full day at Dolomite. The choice was Greek Salad or Spaghetti Bolognese. Both were absolutely delicious. On the day we left we had pre-ordered packed lunches and for N$50 each they were exceptionally good value, consisting of a cheese and ham sandwich, a boiled egg, a cold sausage, a breaded chicken breast, an apple, a packet of peanuts & raisins and a small carton of juice.

Overall, yes, this is a good place to stay but the paths around the camp are steep so you need to be fairly fit. Perhaps Dolomite should be fenced so that you are not reliant on that damned cart!"
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Average
Facilities
Good
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Okaukuejo Camp

Okaukuejo Camp

"Great location, incredible wildlife."

2 nights Arrived 9 Sep 2012
"We were pleased with our bush chalet (actually more like a semi-detached bungalow) as the layout was simple, yet spacious and clean. It was equipped with everything we needed including a fridge which was handy to chill a bottle of wine from the camp shop! We also liked its position which was within 100 yards of the waterhole and only a two-minute walk to the restaurant.

Our first evening meal was quite good. The restaurant was large with seating inside and out. The dinner was a help yourself buffet. The salad selection was excellent and the choice available was a meal in itself. There was also hot soup but after a hot day, salad is so much more refreshing! The main course was a choice of beef or kudu. The beef was a bit tough but the kudu was nice and tender. There was a selection of vegetables available and all was nice and hot.

There was a choice of dessert, much of it we couldn't recognise so stuck with fruit and ice cream. I have marked the food as being only average because the following night's meal was disappointing. The salad selection was much reduced and the vegetables to go with the main course (oryx or chicken) were insipid, as if all the flavour had been boiled out of them, which was a shame. Perhaps the normal chef had the day off! The dessert selection was the same as before.

Breakfasts were again a help yourself buffet with eggs being cooked to order on the grill as you waited. There was a good selection of cold meats, cheese, bread and jams as you would expect of a good hotel, so no real complaints there. There was also a toaster although even on the high setting, the bread had to be put through three times!

We missed out on lunch but snacks were available throughout the day. We had ham, cheese and tomato toasties with chips which went surprisingly well with a bottle of chilled chenin blanc from our fridge! This could all have been enjoyed sat around the very inviting pool area but we chose to relax in our room instead.

There is a petrol station on site which I made use of but the attendant wasn't exactly "Mr Happy". He very diligently topped the tank right up and just as I thought he was going to leave it at exactly N$340, he squeezed in an extra 4 cents worth! I offered N$400 and told him to call it N$350 to make change easier, thus giving him a tip of almost N$10. There was no word of thanks! The camp shop was well stocked but the girl cashier wasn't particularly friendly either. My greeting of "Hello, how are you?" was just ignored and an error on the till receipt was corrected with no word of apology.

We chose not to take part in any game drives (a night drive was available) as we felt we had seen enough by ourselves already. Overall, I would say Okaukuejo is ideally located, the grounds are very pleasant and well laid out and there is plenty of wildlife to be seen in the area, not least at its own waterhole. Nearby Nebrowni waterhole was astonishing when we visited, not once but three times!

It is perhaps unfair to criticise the catering at such a remote location because the staff did a pretty good job. We just had one disappointing meal. With two exceptions we found everyone friendly and left a complimentary remark in the guests register at Reception when checking out because this place is well worth a return visit."
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Average
Facilities
Good
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Average
Halali Camp

Halali Camp

"A good place to break your journey in Etosha."

2 nights Arrived 11 Sep 2012
"This camp is smaller than Okaukuejo and is in a pleasant setting surrounded by trees. The chalets are of similar style and comfort but our chalet was not supplied with spare pillows and the only two hangers in the wardrobe were for small children! There was no adaptor socket for our hairdryer so I asked at Reception if a hairdryer could be borrowed but the response was a rather firm "No" without apology.

As we had checked in early in the afternoon, we went for a snack and enjoyed a toastie, traditional burger and chips which were delicious, especially with cold beers! We thought this bode well for dinner but were disappointed. As at Okaukuejo, it was a help yourself buffet and there was soup and salad to start but the salad choice was poor. Main course was beef or oryx cooked to your liking but we chose fillet of fish (enabling us to jump the queue!). I regret to say that, as at Okaukuejo, the vegetables on offer were uninspiring and there wasn't much to tempt us for dessert. We opted for steamed chocolate pudding which was delicious but it would have been so much better with hot chocolate sauce rather than vanilla ice cream!

Breakfast was pretty good, with the usual help yourself selection and the scrambled eggs were cooked perfectly for us. There was a toaster which was just as inefficient as the one at Okaukuejo! We were out for lunch (an excellent greek salad at Namutoni) and were hoping for a better evening meal than previously. Actually, it wasn't bad although the salad choice was lamentable again.The main course was a choice of peppered beef or kudu, with fillet of fish for the those not wishing to eat meat. We chose the beef which was well cooked and the vegetables were a little better. There was a selection of rather good sponge puddings with custard for dessert (I think I had two!).

I would mention that we chose to sit inside even though it was warm outside because we had noticed some people smoking and were surprised it was tolerated. We find nothing ruins a meal more than cigarette smoke. Perhaps the smoking laws in Europe don't apply here.

The waterhole at Halali (actually known as Moringa) is a seven-minute walk away but there is a car park and we did take the lazy option on one occasion! It is more secluded and the viewing area is smaller than that at Okaukuejo but the setting is really peaceful. Not so many animals tend to come here but we did see elephant and rhino and there is usually some interesting birds to look out for in the trees behind the viewing area.

There is a small shop selling the essentials but not so much choice as the one at Okaukuejo. The camp has a swimming pool but we didn't use it even though it looked inviting. Overall, we enjoyed our stay and Halali is a good place to break your journey through Etosha which takes longer to drive through than you may think, especially with the distraction of all the wildlife!"
Good
Location
Excellent
Service
Average
Facilities
Good
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Average
Waterberg Plateau Lodge

Waterberg Plateau Lodge

"Stunning scenery, great location at Waterberg"

2 nights Arrived 13 Sep 2012
"After a long drive down from Etosha National Park on excellent tarred roads, the last leg on the D2512 was awful. As soon as you turn on to it from the C22 you pass a 100kph speed sign so you think this dirt road is in good condition. It isn't. We soon hit ridges which, no doubt, were caused by water damage from rains earlier in the year. There was also a lot of soft sand on the road which impaired steering so our speed was down to just 40kph for much of the way.

The direction signs to Waterberg Plateau Lodge were not particularly clear and we ended up heading down the long driveway to Waterberg Wilderness reception, despite the lady gatekeeper at the entrance saying that we were heading the right way! We had to return to the D2512 road and carry on for another 8kms (passing through another gate en route) where the Plateau Lodge was signposted along an even more challenging dirt track! Having made it to reception we were welcomed with an orange juice and told to continue in first gear further up the track where staff would be waiting to show us our room.

The climb up was unbelievably steep yet our hatchback managed it fully loaded. Goodness knows how because you don't realise how steep this track really is until you go back down! At the top we were met by one of the restaurant staff who guided us to our chalet. Although it was 5 o'clock, we were invited back to the restaurant for coffee and cake which is usually served at half past three. It was thoughtfully left out for us so that we didn't miss out!

Our chalet was one of eight positioned amongst the trees in a secluded location and with a tremendous view. There was a small patio with deck chairs and a plunge pool. The chalet itself was very spacious with an enormous bathroom (much of it taken up with the shower area) however our hairdryer would not fit the adaptor socket provided so we had to borrow one. Tea and coffee was provided but the hot water was supplied by the restaurant in a flask. There was no fridge. We found that the chalet was poorly lit, the roof being very high and the small spotlights being insufficient (although there were table lamps). The area off to the side leading to the bathroom was not lit at all.

Meals were taken in the large, circular restaurant which was nicely laid out. Dinner was served at 7.30 with candle-lit tables already set for the number of guests staying. The cold starter course had already been placed on the tables to welcome guests as they arrived. We were invited to help ourselves from the salad bar before the main course was served. On our first night this was spiced beef patties with sultanas accompanied by cauliflower, broccoli and rice. I found the meal quite tastey but my wife didn't enjoy it. The dessert was a rather too sweet orange custard slice. We were disappointed that coffee was not offered at the end of the meal.

On our second night the meal was very good. Rolled beef with ham accompanied with runner beans and peppered mash. Dessert was a delicious home made dark chocolate mousse. Mindful of the lack of coffee we asked for a flask of hot water and a small jug of milk to take back to our chalet, which was not a problem. We wished we had thought of that before!

Breakfasts were the usual help-yourself selections, with hot food cooked to order which was very good. There was no toaster and the bread was a little disappointing, being of a cake-like consistency which disintregrated when trying to spread fridge cold butter on it!

There are a number of activities on offer at Waterberg including self-guided hiking trails but after several days spent driving through the incredible Etosha National Park it was great to be able to just chill out and relax for a while and simply enjoy the peace and tranquility. One of the restaurant staff noticed we were not going anywhere and thoughtfully brought us a fresh flask of hot water at coffee time! However, we were not going to miss out on the afternoon's safari drive and that was time well spent. Being taken to see the Lodge's two resident white rhinos at close quarters (we were allowed off the land rover!) was well worth the very reasonable cost alone.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay. Waterberg is ideally situated in a stunning location and breaks up the long drive from Windhoek to Etosha. There is much to do here and although we chose to do very little we would come back to appreciate what is on offer more fully."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Excellent
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Good
Food
Good
Facilities
Good
Okonjima Plains Camp

Okonjima Plains Camp

"Close encounters at Okonjima"

2 nights Arrived 15 Sep 2012
"We arrived at 3.15pm and were welcomed by the host with a cold drink and introduced straight away to Pieter, our guide for the duration of our two-night stay. Being on full board basis, all activities were included and we had been allocated with another couple on a safari drive to track wild dogs which would leave as soon as we were ready! So we only had time for a quick freshen-up in our (lovely) room before clambering into a Landranger for an exhilarating drive to the far corner of the vast conservancy in search of these rare animals.

They did indeed prove difficult to find, even with radio tracking and it took an hour and twenty minutes to pick up their signal. When the signal was strong, Pieter told us he believed they were somewhere deep in the surrounding bush where there were no tracks to follow so he took us "off road" in the true sense of the word and bulldozed a way through! Being confident the wild dogs were close by, Pieter stopped the vehicle, turned the engine off and whistled to them. Amazingly, after a few moments four wild dogs came running towards us and stayed close to the Landranger for ten minutes before a nearby Oryx caught their attention.

Thankfully, they left it alone and headed off to a nearby water trough instead. After they departed we were invited off the vehicle for a sundowner and in the fading light it was a great way to conclude to a fantastic experience. The drive back to the Main Camp was in darkness so a spotlight was used to seek out other wildlife on the way. The long time taken to find the wild dogs meant that we were a little late back, with less than ten minutes before dinner which was served at 8 o'clock. We wanted to get changed and freshen up and it would appear that by the time we arrived at the restaurant, we had kept everyone else waiting for a few minutes as service doesn't start until all are seated!

We did not realise that dinner was a set menu with no choice of main course. This caused a problem because it was game sirloin and my wife, on principle, will not eat game. After speaking to our waiter, the kitchen staff offered chicken as an alternative. Problem solved! Unfortunately, when it arrived the breaded chicken fillet looked like it had been cooked inside a blast furnace. It was burnt to a crisp and tasteless. The game meat wasn't bad but I didn't ask what it was. The vegetables to accompany our meal were spinach, diced sweet potato and a small jacket potato. The portions were quite small.

Dessert was supposed to be pear crisp but all that was served up was a peeled pear with cream. The pear was quite firm and a spoon would not cut through it. Everyone was having the same problem, chasing their pears around their plates! Eventually knives were brought out but they were not much use either. Finally, some forks appeared but overall this was a pretty poor meal. At least we were able to help ourselves to tea and coffee.

The following morning we were taken out early to track some cheetahs and this time it was just the two of us with Pieter plus another member of the team for safety. Unusually, for September, the morning was very overcast and we experienced a brief shower of rain. The cheetahs were proving to be as difficult to find as the wild dogs but at 8 o'clock three of them were spotted in a wide clearing. Pieter stopped the vehicle and invited us to climb down. We walked, slowly, in single file towards them and they didn't seem at all phased by our presence. They had picked up the scent of some Wildebeest and started walking. We walked with them, albeit from about 50 feet away and it was fantastic! Soon realising that a herd of Wildebeest was not a realistic target, they stopped.

We walked back to our Landranger but in the meantime the cheetahs had turned their attention to something else. Pieter drove a little closer and noticed two or three kudus browsing amongst the trees. They were aware of some danger but couldn't see what. The cheetahs were laying down watching the kudus and it looked like they were going to pick one of them off. I had previously told Pieter that we did not want to witness a kill but I suppose that if he had started the engine and moved away, that would have caused a distraction which may have deprived the cheetahs of a meal. We were very anxious but thankfully, after half an hour and a couple of clear opportunities missed, the kudus wandered off and the cheetahs lost interest.

We returned to Main Camp for a brunch, effectively a late breakfast and this was really good. In addition to the usual buffet selection there was a menu of hot food which was cooked to order on a grill set up in the garden. Brunch is normally served instead of lunch because of the early morning activities but if you arrive in the early afternoon a lunch will be offered. As we arrived too late the day before, we were offered a lunch today at a time to suit us. Unfortunately it turned out to be the chicken again, just as burnt and tasteless!

In the afternoon we finally had the opportunity to enjoy our "view" room, so called as it had a fabulous view out over adjoining grasslands where some oryx were grazing. We could also see warthogs and the occasional black-backed jackal (being seen off by the warthogs!), all of this being viewed whilst enjoying the warm sunshine in comfortable chairs on our veranda!

There are two types of rooms offered at Main Camp and I would strongly recommend the View rooms over the Garden rooms as the latter, whilst looking cosy and surrounding a pretty garden are very close to the restaurant and reception so do not enjoy the privacy that the View rooms have. The View rooms may look basic from the outside but they are enormous and extremely comfortable with all the facilities you need including a fridge. A square to round pin adaptor was available at reception so that we could use our hairdryer.

Our next scheduled activity (after coffee and cake) was a leopard-tracking safari, this time with seven other guests. Sightings of these wonderful big cats are not guaranteed and Pieter did have trouble tracking down a female leopard that he was after. After almost an hour an a half we found her laying down in a ditch amongst dense thicket. She was so well camouflaged that even from about 25 feet away most of the group couldn't see her but she could definately see us! Pieter explained that anyone on their own, exposed, in this situation would be killed very quickly.

This leopard was impossible to photograph but there was a signal from another leopard, this time a male, nearby. It took another half an hour to spot him because he was moving around. The sun had set and the light was fading when Pieter was finally able to position the vehicle to intercept this magnificent animal. It stood still, curious of our presence, just long enough for us to grab some pictures before disappearing into the bush once more. We were certainly lucky as another party out looking for leopards had no success!

With everyone happy, we were driven to a clearing to enjoy another sundowner. This was the last day of our holiday and what a way to end it! After enjoying our drinks amongst the incredible stillness and silence of the Savannah, we embarked on another night-time safari back to main camp.

Dinner that night was, once again, game sirloin which didn't show much imagination. However, we had already asked for an alternative during the day and were promised fish which was beautifully cooked. This was enjoyed with an excellent bottle of sauvignon blanc. The dessert was much better this time, a rather good creme brulee but because of earlier poor experiences I have marked the food overall as only average. Sorry!

After dinner we went to a nearby hide where food scraps were put out for the nocturnal animals but the hoped-for honey badgers and porcupines proved elusive. Only a jackal appeared but didn't seem interested and quickly trotted off into the night. We were entitled to another activity, an early morning search for hyena but we declined it as we wanted the time to pack before our flight home.

Overall, Okonjima is an excellent place to stay although it is quite expensive. We were happy to stay there as we wanted to support the work of the AfriCat Foundation and would certainly pay return visit. We were told that rhino and even lions are to be introduced when the conservancy expands even further."
Excellent
Location
Excellent
Service
Good
Activities
Excellent
Rooms
Excellent
Food
Average
Facilities
Good

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