Big Rewards at Little Ongava – Etosha, Namibia

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by Ginger Mauney

Big skies, big spaces and big game define Little Ongava. Located just outside the main gate of the Etosha National Park, Little Ongava is one of Wilderness Safari’s premier lodges and truly one of the most exceptional experiences a tourist could possibly imagine.

Designed for privacy, luxury and an intimacy with the bush, it is set on a high hill with pristine views across the plains. A long boardwalk meanders over rocks and trees and connects the beautiful main lounge and dining room area to one of three secluded thatch-roofed bungalows. As one British tourist commented, “It is wonderful to feel like you’re all alone with nature.” She was content to spend two entire days relaxing in her bungalow while her husband went out on game drives. Once you see these stunning bungalows, you’ll understand why.

Each bungalow is like a home, the tree house of an adult’s dreams. Three separate rooms flow easily into each other and yet can be divided for privacy. There is a large sitting room with a fireplace, several large chairs that invite you to sink into them and absorb the views, and an artist’s sketch pad and easel for putting the inspiration found in the bush on paper. The sitting room opens into the bedroom, which in turns flows into a large, luxurious bathroom where you have a choice of inside and outside showers and a deep bathtub, all with incredible views of the bush.

The bungalows are tastefully decorated with baskets, masks and the colours and textures of Africa. They also include all modern amenities such as a private bar and a walled safe.

Every room opens up onto the private deck and each bungalow has its own infinity pool and “sala”, a bed set serenely under a thatched roof for relaxing at midday or midnight with walls of stars and stereo sounds of the bush. From inside and outside all you see is nature; the feeling is one of pure luxury.

To get closer to the wildlife below and in the neighbouring Etosha National Park, Little Ongava offers several options. There are early-morning game drives into Etosha in open vehicles with your own trained guide. Guests may also go on guided walks on Ongava or spend time in a hide very close to Ongava’s prolific waterhole for an intimate look at the wildlife.

Another highlight is evening drives on Ongava where, over a decade ago, nearly 70 000 acres of land, previously cattle farms, were reclaimed. Today wildlife thrives on the land. Large herds of greater kudu, waterbuck, springbok and endemic black-faced impala abound, despite Ongava’s considerable lion population.

Our guide Johan Potgieter was eager to pass on his knowledge of the bush, from pointing out the differences between male and female giraffes to sharing the wonderful animal folklore of indigenous Namibian people. During our evening drive all life in the bush, large and small, was examined with wonder. Johan shared his admiration of the plumage and hunting skills of a Lilacbreasted roller, the wonder of a communal spiders’ nest, and we all laughed at the boundless energy of a small lion cub gnawing on the last bits of a warthog kill.

Although Ongava Main Lodge and Ongava Tented Camp operate on the same property, we never saw another vehicle during the entire three-hour drive. Instead we shared the sunset with a group of three white rhinos that moved across the plains, seemingly as relaxed as we were.

Upon returning to the lodge we were met at the Land Rover with delicious drinks and wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen.

Under the glow of candlelight and a magnificent chandelier, we relaxed and shared news of our evening drive, and then enjoyed a delicious meal. Beauti-fully prepared plates of food are placed in front of you as you relax while drinking some of the best South African wines. With a maximum of six guests at Little Ongava, all meals are taken together at one large table where you can share your experiences of your Namibian safari.

Along with our guide, Johan, and the camp manager, Vanda Miranda, Little Ongava’s staff is friendly and helpful in an entirely unobtrusive manner, adding to the relaxed atmosphere.

Guests generally stay for two days and the guest book reads like a map of Europe, with visitors coming from the UK, Holland, Italy, and France, among others. Combining the peace, quiet and magnificence of the bush with true luxury and service that any European hotel would be proud to boast, makes Little Ongava unforgettable.

So relax, enjoy the game drives, the nature walks, and the delicious meals at Little Ongava. You can do all of this, if you can bring yourself to leave your bungalow, which I found very hard to do.

This article appeared in the Feb/March ‘04 edition of Travel News Namibia.


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