Ongava Lodge

Eastern Etosha, Etosha & North, Namibia Book from

A pioneering hilltop lodge specialising in rhino tracking at the heart of the Ongava reserve, 5 hours north of Windhoek
The Ongava Private Reserve, which shares its northern border with Etosha Park, encompasses a huge 30,000 hectare slice of bushveld whose best-known residents are a thriving population of white and black rhino. There are masses of other species of game too, and Ongava Lodge has a long-established reputation as being a place where you're guaranteed the best chances of fruitful wildlife viewing.

The lodge cantilevers out from a steep hillside and treats you to a soaring panoramic view of the surrounding plains. And just yards from where the lodge's wooden deck ends are twin water holes which attract a stream of animal visitors with occasional visitations from prides of lion and white rhino. Being the largest lodge of the Ongava portfolio - it can cater for up to 30 guests - this place is popular with organised groups. But don't be put off: you get plenty of space, both in the main lodge and your chalet, and the beauty of the physical setting is hard to beat.

Highs

  • Excellent food and the lodge's high perch provides a perfect platform for observing the animals whilst dining out on the deck
  • Top-of-the-range vehicles for game drives and guides who are both informative and proactive
  • You're within easy driving distance of the Etosha Park, making for relaxing full day and half day excursions
  • The Ongava Reserve is a first-class game destination in its own right: during the wetter months, when game is more difficult to see in Etosha, you'll still see masses of wildlife here
  • More luxurious than most safari camps, with air con in the chalets

Lows

  • There's a fair amount of mosquito activity during the rainy season so be sure to pack your anti-malarials/repellents
  • The nature of the terrain means you'll need to negotiate a lot of steep steps
  • The lodge has a slightly regimented feel and we felt the pace of meals was dictated by the staff and not by us

Best time to go

The Dry Season roughly equates to July through to mid November (even though it stops raining earlier in the year) and is when most folk visit the area in and around Etosha.

The busiest season in Etosha coincides with the northern European summer holidays, that's to say July and August, which means an ideal time to be here is any time between September and November.

From December through to mid February be prepared for high (mid 30sºC) temperatures. During the Rainy Season (January to March), the animals can find water without recourse to the holes along the southern routes through the park so the chances of spotting game are considerably reduced.

Bear in mind that even if daytime temperatures are high throughout most of the year they can rapidly descend at night and the lodge's hilltop position means that it catches the breezes. So remember to pack a fleece.

Our top tips

Pack good walking shoes, sandals, cool clothes and a very warm jacket for evenings. If you wear contact lenses, bring glasses in case of dust irritation. Keen birders will want binoculars and a copy of Newman’s Birds.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Safari Lodge
  • 14
  • 12+ only
  • Open all year
  • Plunge Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

Twelve of the lodge's chalet-style rooms stretch north from the main lodge in a double tier. Numbers 1 to 8 have a front-row position with the best line of vision down to the water hole: rooms 9 to 12 aren't really in the same league, having less of a view and decks in the public eye (they give on to the path which leads to the rest of the chalets). Rooms 13 and 14 are the only double-bedded rooms and are further down the hill from the lodge: they have a more private feel, are closer to the water hole and have the added treat of a double showers where your ablutions can be à deux.

The chalets are big and airy, and stylishly combine thatch, canvas and pole with high ceilings and polished screed floors. Sliding glass doors lead out to a deck where there are chairs and a table as well as a sun lounger: this is where you'll spend most of your time at Ongava. The decorative style feels very safari with Casablanca-style ceiling fans, mozzie netted twin beds, campaign furniture, block-cut prints and photos of Ongava's best-known residents, the rhinos. And the chalets come with all the trimmings: a tea and coffee station, air-conditioning, safety box, luggage rack, masses of wardrobe space and - one of my personal must-haves - a writing desk.

Expect a swish bathroom with twin sinks set into a big run of mosaic surface, indoor and outdoor showers, soft white towels and flannels, cotton bathrobes and a big range of natural bath products. You'll find a big cotton bag hung next to your towels: all laundry is included during your stay.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee tea making
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries

Eating

Ongava's dining room, with its high thatch ceiling and soaring views, makes for a memorable venue for meals. Whenever the weather allows, tables are moved down to the big run of deck which spans out above the surrounding foliage and overlooks the lodge's twin watering holes.

All meals follow a buffet formula. Breakfast gets on the go from 5.30am: if you're heading into Etosha you'll need to make an early start. Your first feast will include fresh fruit salad, yoghurts, cereals, cold meats and cheeses as well as homemade bread and jams. Guests help themselves to tea, coffee, juices and - a nice touch during the hotter time of year - iced lemon water. An order is then taken at your table for the cooked breakfast of your choice.

Packed lunches are provided if you plan to spend the day in Etosha, whilst back at the lodge a light buffet is on offer. This will include soup (hot or cold according to the season), a selection of cold meats and salads, maybe a quiche but no dessert.

Dinners are much more substantial. Ours began with a delicious hot butternut squash soup served at our table. We then helped ourselves to a big spread of hot dishes and salads, which included a choice of white or red meat. We opted for the springbok fillet which was served with root vegetables and a mushroom and port sauce: it was excellent. A tarte au citron followed by coffee wound things up on the right note and the included house wine was good even though it was whisked straight from the fridge. If you prefer, you can choose a finer wine from the small selection of South African listings.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Track white and black rhino in the Ongava Reserve alongside the lodge's first-class guides

  • Explore the surrounding veld on foot with an armed guide: it's a thrilling way of getting closer to the game

  • Chill out by Ongava's beautiful small pool whilst watching the comings and goings of the resident weaver birds

  • Order a picnic lunch, spend the day in Etosha Park then return in time for a sundowner on your private deck

  • Watch birds and animals from a small hide just yards from Ongava's water hole: if you're really lucky you'll see lions

  • Check out the camp shop, one of the best we came across in the country: as well as a big range of safari clothing it sells handicrafts, books on Namibian wildlife and interesting works of art

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Swimming
  • Wildlife

Kids

No children under the age of 12 are accepted. Room 12a and 12b can be linked in and so are ideal for a family with older children. Rooms 1 to 11 are all large enough for an additional single bed to be added, but a teenager will be charged as an adult.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

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