Onguma Tented Camp

Eastern Etosha, Etosha & North, Namibia Book from

Tented safari chic at its most intimate and alluring, at the heart of the vast Onguma Reserve
Onguma translates in the local Herero tongue as 'place you won't want to leave'. Too right: the position of this remarkable tented camp, set amidst thick acacia woodland looking out to a water hole surrounded by graceful Makalani palms, is bush at its beautiful best.

When designing the camp, Namibian designer Heidrun Diekmann (she also created The Fort) took inspiration from the Etosha Pan for her colours and materials: a muted palette of grey, white, khaki and beige then a combination of canvas, screed, pole and stone. The result? A tented camp that feels authentic and innovative.

For all its designer attitude - the camp hinges around a remarkable 'rock & pole' wine cellar! - it's what lies beyond Onguma's wooden decks that remains the most thrilling part of a stay here. Admire dik dik and zebra grazing yards from your bed, hear lion and hyena at night, watch porcupines come in to drink and abandon yourself to the raw beauty of Namibia's vast wilderness.

Highs

  • You're miles from anywhere yet the food is as good as that of a top city restaurant
  • The layout of the camp ensures that every tent feels utterly private
  • The vibe is spoiling and cossetted yet doesn't detract from the simple pleasure of being in the bush
  • The main tent's decoration, which mixes retro and contemporary elements, is intimate and deeply comfortable: chilling out here is a treat
  • It’s the cheapest of the 3 Ongumas (apart from the Bush Camp), but by no means a lesser option; we loved it

Lows

  • The amount of animals you'll see at the water hole will be in direct relation to the dryness of the season
  • Be prepared to spend a fair amount of time in your game vehicle: Onguma has plenty of wildlife but for big game viewing your drives will mostly take you into the Etosha park
  • 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 good pair of binoculars and a bird guide (the SASOL guide comes highly recommended). Whilst you should see animals at the water hole, feathered activity comes guaranteed.

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Safari Camp
  • 7
  • 12+ 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

Onguma's 7 guest tents, reached by way of gravelled paths through the acacias, fan out in a broad arc giving each a direct line of vision down to the water hole. A broad sweep of wooden deck with twin Planters-style chairs feels right in sync with the Out Of Africa feel of the rest of the camp.

Sliding mozzie-netted doors lead into the tents where outer walls alternate adobe, stone and canvas. Ceilings are draped in white cotton (which imparts a rather marquee-like feel) whilst dun-coloured screed floors come cloaked in Nguni cattle hides. A low bed wall provides the demarcation between your sleeping space and the dressing room and the bathroom is to the rear, flanked by high, twin mirrors. In here, you're treated to a deliciously retro zinc tub (evocative of scenes from The Snows of Kilimanjaro), twin stone sinks set in a big run of leadwood surface, and indoor and outdoor rain showers.

No spoiling detail has been overlooked: expect a tea and coffee station, a chenille throw draped over your corner armchair, huge fluffy-white towels, kaftan-style cotton bathrobes, natural amarula shampoos, soaps and gels, a safety box for your valuables and extra long twin beds made up as kingsize doubles with goose feather duvets and fine linen sheets and pillow cases.

Given the choice we'd ask for tent 7 or 4, which are the furthest out into the bush. But any one is bound to tick all of your 'chic-safari-sleep' boxes.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Coffee tea making
  • Fan
  • Internet access
  • Mosquito net
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries

Eating

Eating is a big part of the experience; each meal is a special event in its own right. The setting could hardly be more droolingly safari-romantic with 7 tables-for-two set around the edge of the polished deck, just yards from the palm-fringed water hole which is lit at night.

Your dining experience will probably begin with a cocktail: a Bloody Mary, piña colada, Brass Monkey or, to get your dinner off to real flyer, a TNT! If lunches tend to stay light, dinners are always 4 courses, and are, in the words of your ever-smiling camp manager Christian, "fresh-produce driven". Guests are asked about their culinary likes and dislikes on arrival at camp and always get to choose between white or game meat as main course. A soup and salad course, then homemade desserts frame things.

The choice of wines stored within the Tented Camp's central stone-and-pole wine cellar is staggering. It showcases the top wines of the Fair View Estate in South Africa: whether you fancy a shiraz, pinotage, mourvèdre or a blended wine, you'll find it on the wine list. The camp's staff have been trained in house at Fair View so they can offer expert guidance about what's what.

You can also expect a memorable breakfast; an immaculately presented cold buffet as well as any variant on the full works theme. At all meals the cheerful good nature of the camp's staff makes for a relaxed and truly enjoyable dining experience.

Features include:

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

Activities

  • Laze on your private deck with one eye on the water hole: you're bound to see buck and birds and, with luck, a lot more

  • Slip into the camp's eye-catching pool; the drop rim gives the illusion that you can swim out into the bush

  • Star gaze: the night skies in this part of Namibia, with so little light pollution, have to be seen to be believed

  • Head off to explore the Onguma Reserve and Etosha Park in the camp's top-of-the-range game vehicles, with expert guides. Etosha has 114 mammal species, some of which are endemic to Namibia (the black-faced impala included). It's also home to lion, black rhino, elephant, giraffe, cheetah, the elusive leopard and 20 species of antelope

  • Birdwatchers will be in heaven, with a cast array of feathered friends. Heron, pelican, egret, and flamingo are some of the common spots, with woollynecked stork, white headed vulture and various eagles included in the trophy sights

  • Chill out in the tented lounge where you'll find plenty of glossy books on Namibia as well as a small shop selling local handicrafts

  • Enjoy superb wines served at a perfect temperature by the Onguma team. It may seem like an bizarre notion given the context but why not? Carpe deum quod vinum...

Activities on site or nearby include:

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

Kids

No children under the age of 12 are accepted. The camp is unfenced and lion, leopard, elephants and rhinos all roam free in Onguma.

Kid Friendly:

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