Damaraland is where we find Namibia’s wildlife; predators, noble giants, the desert-adapted elephants, and an underworld of fascinating plants, insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals.
The famous desert-adapted elephants traverse this vast dry land in search of water, and the world’s only naturally occurring population of black rhino co-exists with the Damara communities. The endemic, black-faced impala, Damara dik-dik, and Hartmann’s mountain zebra thrive in the region, as do several endemic species of bird, including Rüppell’s korhaan, Herero chat, Monteiro’s hornbill, Bare-cheeked babbler, Carp’s tit and Hartlaub’s francolin.
Giant inselbergs, formed millions ago when lava was all the rage, rise sheer and jagged from the barren plains of the inner Namib Desert. Most impressive of these are Spitzkoppe and the Brandberg Massif – which, in addition to being the highest peak in the country, has the allure of ancient rock paintings and the intriguing White Lady of Brandberg.
Over 200 million years ago, a great flood swept enormous trees into the desert. These trees were fossilized by the sand and formed a Petrified Forest.
Twyfelfontein is Africa’s most impressive collection of stone ‘carved’ story art. Among the red sandstone boulders we found ancient rock paintings and engravings featuring animals, tracks, and abstract symbols. These fantastic pieces are between 2,000 and 5,000 years old!
Glorious stay at the impressive Onduli Ridge
Named after the resident giraffe of the area, Onduli is built at the base of two south-facing granite outcrops connected by a ridge. The six suites are hidden amongst the granite boulders that nestle the camp. The more temperate climate of central Damaraland allows for naturally ventilated suites, partial open-air bathrooms, and large open communal areas.
The camp is designed with extraordinary views of the exquisite landscape. Every space becomes a viewpoint, whether from the bed, the desk, or the bathroom. Louvered shutters can be opened completely, blurring the lines between the indoors and nature, or closed for complete privacy if required.
A king-size bed cooled by its own ‘climate conditioner’ (Evening Breeze) is also the perfect place for afternoon siestas, and the bed can be rolled out onto your private deck for a night under a billion stars as required.
The camp exudes character and meticulous attention to detail, meeting all requirements, from large rooms to libraries, rain showers, an infinity pool, and plenty of places to laze. Food to tantalize the palate after enjoying exceptional activities combines a genuinely unforgettable stay with exceptional quality while blending effortlessly into the natural surroundings.
Activities at Onduli Ridge: Nature drives; guided hiking trails; nature walks; Damara Living Museum and guided excursions into the surrounding wilderness areas, San rock art and geological structures.
Etosha National Park, Namibias' Highlight
Etosha the place to find some of the best game sightings. The park supports 114 species of mammal. There is an estimated number of 250 lions in the park, 300 rhinos, 2500 giraffes, 6000 zebras, and more than 2000 elephants. The dainty springbok are especially numerous; at least 20 000 of them roam the reserve. Often, they can be observed in enormous herds of several hundred animals.
At the heart of the park is a salt pan surrounded by sparse shrubs and grassy plains that become hilly mopane woodlands as you move away from the underwater saline desert.
The best viewing is during the heat of the day when plains game in their hundreds congregates at the waterholes to drink.
As vegetation in most areas is sparse, the animals have learned to drink during the day when predators are inactive, and it is the safest time to be out in the open. As a result, it is not uncommon to see up to 7 different game species at any waterhole.
Like everything in Namibia, the pan is ancient – 2 million years or so – formed when a tremendous continental upheaval diverted the Kunene River towards the sea, leaving a massive inland lake that soon dried up. Usually a shimmering white horizon, the pan fills with water after a good rainy season and becomes a vast knee-deep lake.
About 30 springs and waterholes along the pan’s southern edge attract large concentrations of every representative species in the park – especially in the dry season, which runs from April to September.
Birding is excellent, particularly after good rains when up to a million flamingos may congregate in the pan. Etosha is one of only two places in southern Africa where blue cranes and greater and lesser flamingos breed.
Photography at Etosha National Park is exceptional: the waterholes allow for unobtrusive close-ups and dramatic angles of the wildlife, while the salt pan throws up a backdrop of shimmering white beneath a parched blue sky.
Next to Etosha Pan is Fischer’s Pan. It is often filled with water during the rainy season and is an excellent birdwatching site. West of Okaukuejo is an unusual stand of Moringa trees – generally found on rocky hillsides – called The Phantom Forest for its inexplicable presence on a sandy plain.
Where to stay in Etosha
The Etosha National Park has a good infrastructure. Well-maintained gravel roads (un-tarred) lead to the waterholes, where game viewing is at its best.
Etosha Village is probably the best value safari lodge in Etosha with bright air-conditioned chalets, Etosha Village is now by far the best value safari lodge in Etosha.
Retaining its eco-conscious credentials – the bricks were salvaged from mining debris, greywater is filtered and re-used in the vegetable garden, water is solar heated and the kitchen produces a fair amount of high-quality composting material – Etosha Village had a major refurbishment in mid-2016 and what an upgrade.
The food at Etosha Village is fresh and the staff here, recruited from the nearby Village and trained in-house, are famous for their friendly and enthusiastic service. Breakfast and dinner are sizeable buffet spreads and lunch is a small a la carte menu with local venison specialties.
Being just minutes from the southern gate is ideal for daily access to Etosha National Park for guided game morning and evening drives in an open-sided safari vehicle. The vehicles accommodate up to 10 people and if that’s a bit crowded or constrained, Etosha is one of the easiest self-drive game reserves in Africa.
The Fort in Onguma Game Reserve
With a range of desert-adapted architectural styles, The Fort in Onguma Game Reserve is an award-winning Namibian Safari Lodge near Etosha National Park.
The Fort at Onguma was refurbished and re-launched in 2008 to instant international acclaim. Taking the new safari brief to the edge of conception, South African architects Slee incorporated natural materials and dramatic simplicity to create one of the most striking safari lodges in Namibia.
Walls are untreated and partially clad in stone, the interiors are uncluttered and furnished with great care and all about are vast windows and doors that frame the wilderness and invite the cool air inside. Attention to detail goes way beyond sublime décor and remarkable design. Moroccan meets classical African safari. The service and standards match international levels and the food, wine, staff and management as one complement the arresting grandeur of The Fort at Onguma.
And yet, not despite but perhaps because of the exceptional safari lodge and accommodation, the game viewing and wilderness experience remain the leading lady of this magnificent show.
The newly opened Windhoek Luxury Suites is a bright and swanky boutique guesthouse in Klein Windhoek – the smartest, swankiest part of town.
You’re a block away from many exciting restaurants and wine bar options and the botanical gardens are just down the road if you’ve got time during your stay in Namibia’s capital.
The all-suite accommodation is spacious, neat, and modern with elegant palettes, subtle lighting, super-comfy beds, and all the mod-cons you’d find in any city hotel.
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