As we headed out of Tsumeb I could feel the call of Etosha drawing us in. Excitement bubbled within and I could hardly believe I was finally going to see “The Great White Place” that I had heard so many stories about. I couldn’t wait to drive through the gate and soak up the feeling of ticking an item off my lifelong bucket list. We were due to spend that night in Onguma Game Reserve – and although it advertised it was alongside Etosha National Park – I was itching to drive into the actual park. However we had to go check in first and little did I know, I was about to experience one of the most memorable places of my whole trip around the magnificent Namibia.
Sharing the Eastern most border with Etosha National Park, Onguma Game Reserve is a 34 000 hectare reserve, only a few kilometers from the Von Lindequist Gate. The reserve has five lodges, two campsites and enjoys the same game and views that you would expect to find in the National Park. Elephants have long since pushed the basic fences down between the reserves and as a result game regularly wanders across the boundary, to the benefit of those staying at the various camps. For our visit we were booked into The Fort, their flagship lodge, and probably one of the most spectacular establishments I had ever had the privilege of staying at.
On arrival we were met with an unusual Moroccan outpost inspired lodge, with high terracotta coloured towers accented with wood and stone. Grand, desert-palace like doors framed our welcoming party who washed our dusty hands from a silver jug that looked like it belonged in a museum. In that moment I felt like royalty and my urgency to enter the gates to Etosha National Park, forgotten. Our hosts Kristina and Gary seem genuinely thrilled to be able to escort us through this immediately impressive lodge. The interior was cool and mysterious despite the baking heat outside. A surprising water feature flowed through the interior entrance hall and disappeared around a corner almost inviting me to explore the passageways that extended beyond. Beckoned by my party I followed them through three lounge areas with luxurious sofas and grand armchairs adorned with unexpected yet fitting brightly coloured cushions. Silenced by the tranquility that is clearly a main feature of this lodge I was hardly prepared for the best part. Following the sound of gasps and exclamations from Shaun (my husband) I stepped out on to the main deck and right into my dreams of Etosha. A white expanse dotted with thorny shrubs, grazing antelope and a small waterhole were right in front but beyond that a vast desert like pan extended endlessly towards the horizon. We were standing at the edge of a vast desert, here was Etosha.
The lodge and all its 13 suites face out on to the Eastern edge of Etosha National Park and Fischer’s Pan. The small waterhole right in front of the main building is frequented most of the day by game and Kristina excitedly tells me of the lioness they had drinking there the evening before. We were just happy to see impala and a Saddle-billed Stork that was standing statue in the shallow edge. We were driven to our suite and the same opulence found in the main lodge is carried through every aspect of the room with cool screed floors, canvas room frontage, over sized round bathrooms with indoor and outdoor showers and a great big ottoman in the middle. Colourful kikois hang in the bathroom in the same shades as the colour accents seen throughout the main lodge on sofas, tables and walls. A large private deck begged to be lounged about on for a week here but our settling in had to be swift as we were due to head out on a sunset game drive to visit a few of the other lodges, and of course some obligatory sundowners in the bush.
The other lodges in the game reserve are; Onguma Tented Camp, Onguma Treetop Camp, Onguma Bush Camp and Leadwood campsite, Etosha Aoba and lastly the brand new Tamboti luxury campsite. I am enthralled by the diversity here with each lodge offering its own unique style and every manager more welcoming than the next. The one I thought most intriguing was the Treetop camp with its four unusual looking rooms up in the trees and the Tamboti luxury campsite with 15 sites each with their own private ablution block as well as a swimming pool and shop/restaurant.
On our return to The Fort it looks even more impressive at dusk then it did in the day, with lanterns casting warm light into the fading sky and the indoor water feature and long deck pool lit up by a mesmerizing blue glow. I manage to capture the scene by fiddling around with my tripod and long exposures to get the last of the light; but soon the chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc waiting on the deck entices me to pack away the camera and watch the stars rise before settling at our table for a starlight dinner on the deck. Does it seem too perfect? Well that’s probably because it pretty much was. The next morning as we sat on our deck watching a small herd of fat impala grazing peacefully we got a distinct feeling of being right at the edge of civilisation, with nothing beyond this point; a liberating feeling. When it came time to leave, although we were excited to finally enter the National Park, I couldn’t help but think how could it possibly get better than this. Do yourself a favour and visit this reserve and whether you camp in one of the great campsites or splash out on one of the luxury lodges here at Onguma Game Reserve; you will get a lot more than you expect.
A few more pics of the various lodges and people we met at Onguma.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are my own and are not paid for or expected by any of the establishments featured.