by Ron Swilling
Yapping wildebeest, Kori Bustards – the heaviest flying birds, a Red-crested Korhaan hanging in the air about to drop suddenly to impress a female, gemsbok swishing their horsy tails and kudu males looking up, their long spiralled horns curling majestically. “Bellisimo!” the Italian guests exclaim. This is Frans Indongo Lodge.
Golden light catches the Waterberg plateau in the distance and the acacia savannah stretches before us, dotted with red termite mounds.
The 23 000-hectare property belonging to and run by Frans Indongo, a Namibian businessman, consists of two game farms, two cattle farms, a lodge and a small 300-hectare camp with exotic and interesting antelope species. An elevated wooden deck looks out onto the waterhole where white blesbok, black springbok, tsessebe, nyala, roan and sable antelope, black wildebeest and black-faced impala come to drink. The other two game farms hold the more common Namibian species, as well as white and black rhinoceros, and a number of black wildebeest.
John, our guide and assistant manager of the lodge, explains on the afternoon game drive that black wildebeest make two sounds, the well-known “gnuuuuuu” giving them their alternate name of gnu and a short yapping sound. Calves can stand nine minutes after birth and at two days old can keep up with the group. While we are watching kudu disappear into the vegetation, Frans Indongo stops by in his farm vehicle and checks that all is well.
Back at the lodge, after a hot bath, blue wildebeest roulade is served with potatoes, broccoli and beetroot. Blankets cover the dining room chairs for extra comfort and warmth and candles light up the room with a rich orange glow. The large thatched building has a bar, restaurant and a comfortable lounge with a central fireplace. The furniture is a mixture of wood, leather and woven cane, leading out onto a wooden deck overlooking the floodlit waterhole. Adjacent to the deck, a swimming pool is surrounded by a rough and rustic wooden ‘kraal’ fence, made in Owambo style as seen in villages in the northern part of the country. African bowls and wooden statues continue this theme.
Accommodation is offered in eight thatched bungalows, of which one is wheelchair friendly, and four rooms, two of them family units. The bungalows have a bath and shower, fridge, air-conditioner and television. The spacious and attractive units are furnished in pale wood, keeping the colours neutral and earthy, integrating well with the thatched roof. A small sitting area with a table and two cane chairs fills one corner and the bathroom, with its own thatched roof, the other.
Frans Indongo Lodge has a large hotel-like reception area, combined with a curio display, as the entrance into the lodge grounds. Internet access is available, charged at Internet café prices. Through the reception area, the thatched bungalows, restaurant, breakfast room and tower come into view, the tower providing exceptional views for those energetic enough to climb the steps.
A simple bush camp is situated on farmland across from the lodge. Positioned on a hill, it makes a good sunset spot and is lit up in the evenings with paraffin lamps. Campers are welcome to patronise the restaurant and join the game drives, subject to availability.
In addition to the game drive, there are trails of varying length from one and a half to four hours around the camp, giving views of the plains across to the Waterberg.
The lodge recommends an hour and a half drive to visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), an organisation successfully working to conserve the cheetah whose habitat and numbers have shrunk dramatically. The CCF provides sanctuary to cheetah unable to be released back into the wild and has an extensive education and information centre. If pre-booked, the lodge offers a half-day tour to the Belebeno Cheetah Camp, a 64-hectare enclosure with fourteen female cheetahs.
Accessible from the D2433, just north of Otjiwarongo, this hotel-like lodge makes a good stop en route to Etosha or to the north, visiting the Waterberg Plateau Park or on the return to Windhoek for a few days’ rest.
As I close my eyes, tucked under a blanket and feeling the first winter chill, every now and then I hear the wildebeest from the small camp “yap, yapping.”
This article appeared in the June/July ‘08 edition of Travel News Namibia.