by Ginger Mauney
Sharing the eastern border of Namibia’s Etosha National Park, Onguma Tented Camp is a beguiling mixture of sophistication and relaxation, of elegance and the earth. It is this intriguing combination and attention to detail that makes Onguma Tented Camp, the latest in Visions of Africa’s up-market portfolio of camps, the ultimate in safari chic.
In the local Herero language, Onguma means, ‘the place you don’t want to leave’. With a stunning main building and seven tents providing private, exclusive accommodation, Onguma Tented Camp certainly lives up to its name.
The principal entrance of stone, wood and steel guides guests into the camp’s main U-shaped building with its lounge, dining area, cellar and dark, rimless swimming pool. From here you are entranced by the surroundings, both inside and out. The lodge blends seamlessly with a natural waterhole edged with graceful makalani palms, attracting a prolific bird- and wildlife. Though the beauty and the bush are stimulating, there is a wonderful, peaceful harmony in the surroundings.
Like the bush, where soft air blows against sharp thorns, Onguma Tented Camp is a study in contrasts. Textures such as stone, suede, linen and steel create a setting that is sleek and modern but also inherently of the earth. Inspired by a photograph of a gemsbok on Etosha’s Fisher’s Pan, the interior echoes the colours of its natural surrounds. Grey, charcoal, black, white, and creams, together with a touch of muted or unexpectedly bright green, add sophistication and earthiness to the atmosphere.
Linen drapes blowing in the breeze provide softness and a movable frame for the beautiful views outside, giving the camp a romantic, ‘Out of Africa’ feel. Stunning white beaded chairs, nguni cattle skins on screed floors, ostrich-egg shells painted a vibrant green, soft green suede cushions, African art and artefacts plus glossy African-inspired books of photographic art placed in the lounge add the detail that sets this lodge apart.
The seven spacious tents extend the U-shaped design, allowing for both privacy and fantastic views. Styled similarly to the main lodge in the colours of the bush, each tent is designed with the same attention to detail and has a feeling of natural luxury. Each has an indoor and outdoor shower, a gorgeous modern interpretation of an old zinc bath, a separate toilet, two stone basins and a private sitting area.
Classic safari tents are softened by draped, billowing white fabric above, creating the illusion of being in the clouds. With thick white towels, cool cotton dressing gowns, oversized European pillows, retro-inspired fans, stainless steel lights and gunmetal grey and white linen, the attention to detail takes time to absorb.
From each bed in every tent, there is a direct view out onto a waterhole that is floodlit at night. Under a canopy of stars, lions roar, hyaenas cackle and owls hoot. In the morning, if you should choose to leave such comfortable surroundings, the bush continues to beckon.
Onguma Tented Camp is located on the Onguma Private Nature Reserve. With over 20 000 hectares of protected land, lions, jackals, countless antelope and rare black rhinos, roam free. Guests can enjoy guided walks through the bush, and both day and night game drives on this private reserve, along with drives into neighbouring Etosha National Park.
Together with builder ‘Swannie’ Swanepoel and Heidrun Diekmann, who helped fashion the stunning interiors, André Louw of Visions of Africa and Mowani Mountain Camp in Damaraland has created another spectacular camping experience. But the vision for Onguma doesn’t stop here.
The goal is to create a holistic relationship with the original people of Onguma and Etosha National Park, the Hai-/om Bushmen, assisting them with the development of schools, job creation, housing and training. It is a relationship that will ultimately benefit the tourists too, as the Hai//om have a deep respect and knowledge of the bush to share.
This amazing place in its equally amazing location, with a camp that blends natural elegance and style, relaxation and stimulation with a vision for the future, truly sets Onguma Tented Camp apart, creating a new standard in safari chic.
This article appeared in the Oct/Nov ‘05 edition of Travel News Namibia.