Onguma Fort

Eastern Etosha, Etosha & North, Namibia Book from N$8,700

A gorgeous, sumptuously spoiling kasbah-style lodge looking out to the eastern border of Etosha Park
The Onguma Reserve encompasses a vast 20,000 hectare slice of bushveld, which nudges up to Etosha's easternmost border. When given the brief of creating a flagship lodge for the reserve, Namibian designer Heidrun Diekmann eschewed traditional safari style and instead looked to Morocco and India for her inspiration. The result of her derring-do is as stunning as it is innovative.

The Fort (also known as 'Onguma Plains'), and its 13 suites which fan out to either side, rise kasbah-like above the plain that stretches out towards the flat expanses of Fischer's Pan. Rough stone walls, earthy colour washes, spare interiors and an open frontage with a massive sweep of planked deck were all conceived to make the unforgettable vista, and Onguma's jaw-dropping sunsets, the main protagonists. And at night, when the reflection of a hundred lamps dance in the courtyard pools and the Milky Way seems close enough to reach out and touch, you can live your very own chapter of Arabian Nights - albeit in southern Africa.

Highs

  • The physical setting is heart-achingly beautiful
  • Eye-catching interiors: angular furniture and twists of lime green, scarlet and pinks in fabrics and cushions
  • Fantastic food
  • This place is romantic with a capital 'R' and perfect for crooners, swooners and honeymooners
  • You'll see plenty of buck at The Fort's water hole in dry season: if you're lucky you may see rhino or big cats
  • Water has been masterfully incorporated into The Fort's design, as both an aural and visual element

Lows

  • There were times when we'd have opted to cut the background chill music in favour of the sounds of the bush
  • Morning game drives into the Etosha Park aren't usually included in the price of your stay (but drives within the Onguma Reserve are)
  • Tarif only includes 1 game drive a day; if you want to do a second one, you'll have to pay extra
  • The Onguma Reserve is a 5.5 hour drive from Windhoek, albeit through fabulous scenery, or a 1.5 hour flight in a light aircraft

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.

Our top tips

Pack a star chart and swot up on what can be seen and where. You'll earn great kudos with your fellow guests if you can point out other celestial bodies in addition to Venus, the Southern Cross and Orion's Belt.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Safari Lodge
  • 13
  • Over 12s only
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

The Fort's 12 mini-suites stretch away from the main lodge towards the north and south, and share the same stunning vista out across the plain towards Fischer's Pan. Each is 50m from the next - this separation, along with their enclosed deck areas, makes every one feel like a truly private event. The architectural style mirrors that of the main lodge: ornately carved Indian entrance doors, adobe-coloured render, planked decks and a side tower housing an airy bathroom, whose tapering form is evocative of both Moroccan and Tibetan architecture.

These are big suites which naturally focus outwards: here a tented facade takes the place of side stone walls with flaps that can be opened or closed. Your sleeping space is separated from a big dressing area (with masses of storage space) by a low bed wall. It all bears the same shabby-chic stamp as the main lodge: screed floors, earthy-coloured walls and big mirrors with distressed frames pepped up by cerise-coloured lamp shades and masses of cushions in shades of aubergine and lime green.

Expect a big dose of luxury: top notch mattresses and bed linen, a temptingly stocked minibar, piles of fluffy white towels, and bathrobes and slippers. Your bathroom will be big enough for dancing a waltz, with twin surface-top sinks, a full length mirror, cosmetic goodies galore and an outdoor and indoor rain shower.

The mini-suites are so special that I'd choose them over the more pricey Fort Suite which is housed in the tower of the main lodge. Although you get a few additional creature comforts in here - sat' TV, a massive sitting room and a big sweep of terrace - the proximity to the dining room and tower chill-out area means it doesn't feel quite so intimate.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries

Eating

Although the Fort is still in its infancy, it has already attracted plenty of press thanks to the quality of its food. Every dish was impeccably presented and our enjoyment of the food was all the greater thanks to the easy, good manners of the staff. You couldn't wish for a more special dining spot than the open-sided deck: nothing lies between you, the veld and the most stunning sunsets you could hope to see. In cooler weather tables can be set up inside the lodge and in the case of wind or rain heavy white-cotton curtains can be drawn between you and the elements.

Breakfast is a sumptuous buffet served between 6-9am. Expect a big choice of cheeses and cold meats, smoked fish, a groaning fruit bowl as well as fruit salad, cereals and yoghurts, dried fruits and nuts and all kinds of jams and condiments. It all feels doubly festive thanks to immaculate presentation of both food and tables: white linen and silver service is de rigeur at all meals.

After such a huge feast you might be tempted to skip the 3-course lunch, which is essentially a pared-down version of the 4-course dinner - delicious. At night you choose between 2 main courses, one of which will always be some kind of game meat. Our dinner began with a creamy coconut and buttermilk soup followed by springbok carpaccio. Next, after a palate freshener of lemon sorbet, came a perfectly seared oryx steak accompanied by sweet potato, carrots and a wickedly rich gravy. And to finish, baked bread and butter pudding was an unexpected treat so far from home.

Food this good requires wine to match. The Fort showcases wines from Fair View Estate in South Africa. The vineyard takes Onguma's waiting staff under their wings to teach them about the different cépages and we can vouch for the excellence of our waiter's guidance.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Watch oryx, zebra, eland, warthog, wildebeest and giraffe from the privacy of your suite's deck. With luck you may also spot lion, leopard and cheetah

  • Take a game drive through the Onguma Reserve in the company of The Fort's excellent guides. They'll also help you spot abundant birdlife, including heron, stork, vulture and eagles

  • Head off early to visit nearby Etosha Park. The Fort's proximity to the eastern entrance means that you can avoid the crowds, even in high season

  • Chill out after dinner with a star chart and binoculars. The night skies at Onguma are unbeatable

  • Climb to the top of the lodge's tower for sundowners in the chill-out lounge and a stunning vista out towards Fischer's Pan

  • Swim in the decked pool: it has tables and chairs set up in the water should you fancy breaking for a drink!

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Star gazing
  • Swimming
  • Wildlife

Kids

No under 12s are accepted at The Fort: you'll understand why when you see the open-sided deck of the main lodge and the suites.

Kid Friendly:

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