Ongava Tented Camp

Eastern Etosha, Etosha & North, Namibia Book from

An intimate and alluringly authentic bush camp in a remote corner of the vast Ongava Reserve, 5 hours north of Windhoek
The setting is one of rare beauty: a remote valley close to Etosha's southern border at the foot of the Ondundozonanandana mountains (don't worry, just ask for 'Ongava Tented Camp'!). Arriving here we felt as if we'd been dropped straight into the pages of a Hemingway novel: birds of every hue flitted amongst the greenery, zebra and water buck were grazing beside a water hole whilst a porcupine was lazily drinking its fill: a quintessential vision of Africa, crystallised, it seemed, before our eyes.

The low stone walls, high thatch roof and heavy wooden furniture of the lodge feels utterly 'bush', as do the 9 Meru-style tents, which arc around one of Ongava Reserve's most frequented watering holes. And so too did the 'One Tribe' philosophy of the camp where guests eat together at one table in the company of their guides and camp managers. It's fun, intimate and, best of all, you're guaranteed plenty of animal action.

Highs

  • The tented accommodation is as good as we've come across in southern Africa
  • You may see as much game close to the camp as you will on your excursions into Etosha
  • It all feels a long way from home and the design of the lodge and tents really gets you close to the spirit of the African bush
  • The Tented Camp specialises in game walks with armed guides: there are few wildlife experiences that can compare with the thrill of tracking rhino on foot
  • The opportunity to do night drives and see lion, black rhino and striped polecats by torchlight

Lows

  • If you're staying during the Rainy Season, expect a long and bumpy arrival
  • Be prepared to eat meals at one table with your fellow guests and the camp guides
  • It takes the best part of an hour to drive from the camp to Etosha so book full rather than half-day excursions if possible

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 one very warm jacket for evenings and insect repellent, a high factor suncream and a basic medical kit.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Safari camp
  • 9
  • 8+ year olds 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

There are 9 tents fanning out to either side of the main lodge; #8 and #9 can be linked to make a family suite. At any one time there will be a maximum of 18 guests staying (as opposed to nearly double that at Ongava Lodge) so you can be assured of an intimate ambience.

The tents are, to my safari way of thinking, simply perfect. Each is at a proper distance to the next, slung beneath a high thatch roof atop a polished deck of locally sourced teak. A front wall of fold-back glass doors is replaced at the sides and to the rear by canvas, whose netted flaps can be left open to the night or dropped down for extra intimacy. A head-high bed wall serves as the visual divide between the main sleeping space and a small dressing room area where you'll find a wardrobe, luggage rack, laundry basket and full-length mirror.

The muted khaki of the tents is contrasted by bright beaded cushions on the twin beds and jazzy kilims on your teak deck. Campaign furniture - a small writing desk and a butler's table with glasses and a thermos - together with antique trunks and bedside tables made from carved tree trunks all feel right in tune with the Out Of Africa feel of the main lodge.

Bathrooms are every bit as special. Twin ceramic sinks are matched by twin showers, one in, one out, wrapped by boma-style poles. You'll find plenty of snowy white towels as well as a range of eco' creams, gels, shampoos and soap, all nicely presented in small, pump-top bottles.

Features include:

  • Coffee tea making
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Plunge pool
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries

Eating

Dining is very much part of the big picture here. All meals, unless you should request otherwise, are eaten at one big table with your fellow guests and - even more special to my way of thinking - in the company of the camp guides.

Dinner is the main culinary event, and is normally served at around 8pm. Guests tend to first gather around the bar to trade stories of rhino and lion, buck and birds, hyena and hyrax: the whole vibe of the camp is very conducive to making new friends. Expect a 4-course evening meal: soup, salad, a choice of white or red meat - much of it game - and a dessert accompanied by a house red or white served à volonté. If you would like a more special wine, there's a small list of reds, whites and rosés, all from South Africa. And your meal will end on a perfect note with coffee or tea served round the boma fire.

Lunch will often take the form of a picnic - we recommend that you opt for a full-day excursion if you plan to visit Etosha - or if you're eating back at the lodge you can expect a light, 2-course offering made up of a hot or cold soup followed by cold meats and cheeses accompanied by salad. If this seems on the light side remember that tea and cake are also served at around 4pm. Expect a hearty breakfast before you set out on your game drives, any time from around 5.30am. As well as a big, help-yourself buffet you can order the cooked breakfast of your choice.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Communal dining
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Track rhino on foot in the company of one of the camp's armed guides; thrilling

  • Chill out with a book by the small plunge pool, but keep one eye trained on the water hole

  • Bird watch: there are over 340 species to be spotted in the Ongava Reserve, including the lilac breasted roller, tawny eagle, black-shouldered kite and the critically endangered Cape Griffon vulture

  • Book a place on a night game drive for a very different experience of the Ongava bosveld: you'll hopefully see black rhino, lion, aardvark and striped polecats

  • Take a full-day excursion into the Okaukeujo area of Etosha Park: a shorter, half day trip could leave you wanting more

  • Exchange stories with your fellow guests and guides, around the lodge's cosy corner bar

Activities on site or nearby include:

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

Kids

Children aged 8 and above are welcome at Ongava Tented Camp and most kids would love the easy, informal atmosphere of the camp. Families are expected to use tents #8 and #9, which are linked together. But remember that Ongava is surrounded by wild animals: at night guests are accompanied to and from their tents by an armed guard.

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