A Namibian Safari is something that you will never forget; incredible vistas, surprisingly varied ecosystems considering a lot of it is desert and wonderful wildlife experiences. Experiencing Namibia as a self drive is highly recommended as you have the opportunity to stop whenever you want to simply to allow your brain to comprehend the extraordinary scenery that you can see, it is pretty mind blowing. It is the arid nature of the environment that creates an incredible visual impact on any traveller to Namibia.
Choosing a Game Lodge to stay
In my mind, Namibia is one of the best places in the world for its scenery and wild open spaces. So it is really important that the accommodation reflects this unique environment in a sensitive and thoughtful way, blending and moulding the rooms and communal areas in a way that makes you feel as if you are at one with nature. And in order to be part of nature the lodges should have a minimal impact on these stunning settings, preserving this totally unique country.
The lodges that I have chosen are those that I have stayed in and where I highly rate the style of the rooms, the location of the lodge, the ambience of the whole setup and of course the wonderfully welcoming staff. I have therefore not chosen all top end lodges but those that have a quirkiness about them, something to make your stay utterly memorable.
Top 10 Lodges of Namibia
1. Desert Homestead:
Desert Homestead is a lodge that is simple yet stylish and the individual thatched chalets are designed with the fragile beauty of this remarkable environment in mind. The surroundings are tranquil and the alfresco dining is a great way to experience the endless plains that surround the lodge. I really like the way that each night the tables are changed so that everyone has the opportunity to dine out under the stars.
Desert Homestead is ideal for those on a self-drive as the lodge is easily accessible from the road and easy to find – driving on dirt roads in Namibia can take a bit of time to get used to! It is well signposted from the road and yet once you are there the ambience is totally relaxed and focused on the guest. The staff are very helpful in providing information about getting to Sossusvlei and their three-quarter day guided trip is worth going on – especially if you are a little bit nervous about driving in the desert and have only started your holiday.
A minimum of two days is recommended here so that you have a night either side of your visit to Sossuvlei. However, staying another day allows you to really immerse yourself into this stark beauty, so why not take an overnight horse ride and really get off the beaten track of mass tourism?
Reason to Stay: a friendly lodge with a great ambiance, wonderful food and easily accessible to Sossuvlei.
2. Ongava Lodge:
Ongava Lodge is beautifully positioned on the edge of Etosha National Park, with its own private concession area giving you that air of total exclusivity, which actually it is! The 30,000ha game reserve is the largest private reserve on the borders of Etosha and has a significant role in the conservation of the black rhino. The lodge is on a rocky outcrop where the main communal area of the lounge and dining room is on beautiful decking overlooking an amazing vantage point. There is a water hole below so that whilst you have your sun downers you can watch the wildlife come in to drink.
Ongava is part of the Wilderness Safaris and they have a very high standard when it comes to their accommodation, safaris and food. Every Wildernesses Lodges are designed for guests to understand the wilderness better and to respect it, however, each lodge has its own unique flavour to it due to the environment and the activities in the area.
The rooms at Ongava are actually chalets with enormous bedrooms and large ensuite showers, with the option of showering outside under a starlit sky. There is also a peaceful veranda but only some of these overlook the waterhole – chalets one and two in case you’re wondering. One thing to be aware of is that the rooms require quite a few steps to climb up and down, so those that aren’t completely mobile would find it difficult to get around at Ongava. But this is the beauty of this particular Lodge as it only attracts those that really want to immerse themselves into the environment, truly magical.
At Ongava the game drives within the private concession area is really recommended, as there is more chance to see the black rhino here, and they also do fantastic trips into Etosha itself. However, if you have your own vehicle then you can explore Etosha on your own terms as well. The choice is yours.
Reason to Stay: ultimate exclusivity with its own waterhole on the edge of Etosha.
3. Mushara Bush Camp
Mushara Bush Camp is a wonderful tented accommodation on the eastern doorstep of Etosha National Park, only 9 km from the main entrance. This is the latest addition to the Mushara collection and it is all about affordability, being down-to-earth as well as being family friendly.
There are 16 spacious tents that are built out of a combination of canvas and limestone and each one has its own veranda. The bathroom has a surprisingly large shower and once inside the tent has a bit of a Tardis feel to it! All the tents are all surrounded by thick bush which shelters the tented rooms and ensures an unobtrusive and private environment. The main camp area is also thatched and has a relaxed bush feel, which is a welcome retreat after a hard day of sightseeing in Etosha!
The lodge is simple in its design yet very effective in retaining that bush feel despite being only a kilometer from the main road. Mushara is a wonderful place to explore eastern Etosha from and the wonderfully friendly service makes this an exceptional experience.
Reason to Stay: a family friendly and affordable large on eastern Etosha, great respite if you’ve driven a day from the western Etosha gate.
4. Desert Rhino Lodge
Desert Rhino Lodge is another Wilderness safaris lodge and offers one of the most original wildlife experiences that you can have, if you are planning on staying here then tracking wildlife is the order of the day. Desert Rhino Lodge is one of the best places to see the endangered desert adapted black rhino and the lodge is run in conjunction with Save the Rhino Trust. It is centered around the exceptional experience of tracking black rhino, potentially on foot (which is often hold your breath material), and learning about other game in the area such as oryx, mountain zebra, lion and even hyena.
The rooms are tented chalets, and although they may look like a tent from the outside this is completely dismissed when you walk inside. Attention to detail is an understatement yet you’d never believe there was such simple luxury in the middle of nowhere. Everything has been thought of, including sofas on your veranda so that you can watch the desert adapted elephant walk by. This camp has no fences and in the early morning and late evening you are accompanied from the restaurant and communal area back to your room and back – there are lions in the vicinity!
Be prepared for an early morning starts, and sometimes even a late finish, a whole day of tracking wildlife and learning about this incredible environment is in store for you. Definitely a minimum two-day stay. And not for those who want time to sit around and read!
Reason to Stay: black rhino tracking in the heart of Damaraland staying in one of Namibia’s remotest lodges. Sheer luxury!
5. Grootberg Lodge
Grootberg Lodge is a community run venture that is perched on the rim of the Etendeka Plateau, overlooking the Klip River Valley. The view from the plunge pool is probably one of the best views you could envisage – looking down the central valley as far as the eye can see. Maybe have a gin and tonic as the sun sets here?
Each of the 12 rock and thatch chalets are cleverly positioned overlooking the gorge and at times you can look out from your private decking overlooking soaring black eagles. The peace and tranquility is wonderful and the setup of the lodge has been cleverly thought out.
Grootberg Lodge is a great stopover for travelling between Etosha and Swakopmund and is also a brilliant option for people on a tighter budget for tracking the elusive desert adapted elephant, the endangered black rhino and also the visiting a Himba village. You can even go on guided and self-guided walks from the lodge, so it great way to stretch your legs after being in a vehicle for a while.
Getting to the lodge can be an adventure in itself. There is a car park down at the bottom where you can get a shuttle up to the Lodge on the top: your car is safe here. Although simply putting your car into four-wheel drive, and low gear, anyone can easily make it up to the top. It makes life easier having your car with you in case you accidentally leave an important item in the vehicle!
Grootberg is more rustic around the edges, yet still has charm and a genuine feel about it. Make sure you chat with the staff as they are part of the community initiative as well and are exceptionally knowledgeable about the history of the surrounding area.
Reason to Stay: an affordable lodge with stunning views where your stay directly contributes to the local community.
6. Tree Top Lodge, Onguma
There are a number of places to stay on Onguma Game Reserve, but the most unique and at one with nature has to be Tree Top Lodge. This is a small and intimate camp which is especially designed for travellers who want to truly experience the bush in its raw splendour.
Onguma Game Reserve is one of Namibia’s best kept secrets and is situated on the eastern side of Etosha. The reserve covers 34,000 ha and activities range from guided walks to explore the bush on foot as well as night drives to spot those elusive nocturnal animals.
There are only four rooms which are made of a mixture of canvas, wood and thatch providing a back to basics feel with buckets of style. These rooms are set up in the trees and linked by wooden walkways which are daintily lit at night with lanterns. Imagine showering outside whilst overlooking the waterhole from above, what more could you want?
The whole camp is raised on wooden stilts amongst the tree tops giving a spectacular view over one of the most beautiful waterholes on the reserve. It is ideal for small groups that want to have their own exclusivity as well as families are travelling together who want to have the place in its entirety. It is not often that you can say that you hired a whole lodge out just for eight people! Reconnect with the environment.
Reason to Stay: stay in your own magical tree house at an intimate exclusive bush retreat, out of this world!
7. Mowani Mountain Camp
Mowani Mountain Camp is situated in southern Damaraland and is elegantly incorporated into the environment by molding itself around the unusual geological formations here. The camp commands great views over the ancient landscape and great care has been taken to design the camp giving it the impression of an authentic African village. The camp cleverly incorporates the harshness of the environment by blending this harmoniously with the luxurious softness of the camp interiors. Simply breathtaking.
Accommodation is in 15 very spacious double rooms emphasising the peace and quiet of the camp and are elegantly decorated with the environment in mind. You can even roll the canvas walls up to have a view from your cosy bed overlooking the distant valley. The ideal place for restoration for the soul. Some of the rooms have extraordinarily spectacular views whilst others have outdoor bathrooms, complete with a claw foot bath.
There is an enormous flat boulder which is the ideal spot for sundowners, giving you spectacular views of the table top mountains, the cone shaped peaks and the majestic Brandberg as the sun sets over the horizon. Chairs, reclining rugs and the bar is transported up to the top to ensure the least amount of hassle. Inspiring!
Reason to Stay: A magical place to stay where the rocky environment blends harmoniously with the luxurious camp. Easy access to Twyflefontein rock engravings.
8. Hoodia Desert Lodge
Hoodia Desert Lodge has that air of exclusivity even as you turn off the main road. The lodge is nestled on the banks of the Tsauchab River with a backdrop of majestic mountains which turn a rich red as the sun sets on them. Staying at Hoodia makes you feel as if you are in the middle of nowhere despite the fact that you only 15 minutes’ drive from the gate into Sossusvlei. The rooms are luxury ensuite tented bungalows all of which have their own private veranda and a great distance away from the next neighbouring room, giving you space and privacy to your heart’s content.
As soon as you arrive at Hoodia there is a sense of peace and tranquility. The whole lodge area is enormous, there is a large lounge area, a dining area, a large decking area as well to lose yourself in, also a small plunge pool; so even if there are other guests around you may feel as if you are the only one there. Exceptionally designed with an air of quiet and calm.
Hoodia is for the more discerning traveller who is looking for that something a bit different at each lodge they stay at. There is a small hill situated about a kilometer away from the lodge and you can be driven up to the top, sit with your private sundowners and nibbles, all set on a table dressed in a white linen cloth, and watch the sunset all by yourself. The driver will leave you there and come back to take you back to the lodge once the sun has set. How brilliant is that?
Reason to Stay: an exclusive family run lodge for the discerning traveller where those little touches make everything so special.
9. Okonjima Bush Camp
Okonjima is home to the Africat Foundation, which works with farmers and the public to conserve the big cat species of Namibia. The project is there to educate the local communities on how to work with big cat species rather than capturing them and removing them from arable land and includes a local school. The hopes are to extend their environmental education efforts to high school and even university undergraduates in the future.
Unique activities here include nature walks, cheetah & leopard tracking, and bushman walks. After dinner you are offered the opportunity to visit a night hide where many nocturnal animals, including porcupine, honey badger and leopard are frequently sighted. This activity is exclusive to the bush camp and a really unique experience, make sure you take them up on the offer. It is no longer available at Plains Camp in the Main Lodge.
Okonjima Bush Camp accommodation maintains the quintessential bush flavour, offering Edwardian safari elegance which is subtly combined with modern necessities and comforts. The large, spacious rooms open out onto the grass and acacia savannah – perhaps choose to sleep with the blinds open allowing you to enjoy the unique stillness of the African night.
It is recommended that you arrive as early as possible to give you the opportunity to walk the self-guided nature trails in the area. A wonderful experience as the trails the varied ecosystem giving you great views over the reserve.
Reason to Stay:track leopard and cheetah and experience a truly remarkable and luxurious safari camp whilst supporting the preservation of big cats in the Namibia.
10. Rostock Ritz Desert Lodge
Rostock Ritz is a little gem hidden in the Namibian wilderness. Nestled on the side of a rocky outcrop the whole lodge blends into the environment beautifully, creating a space that is part of nature. Once immersed in the lodge you can appreciate the sensational setting and the peaceful ambiance with endless views. And as the sun sets over the Namib desert the legendary kaleidoscope of colours will stay with you forever.
There are a variety of things to do at Rostock Ritz including visits to Bushman paintings, sundowner drives and self guiding hiking trails which take you through the mountains, canyons and vast plains of this privately owned farm. The trails are highly recommended, keep an eye out for zebra, gemsbok and ostrich, the popular residents of the area. You may be surprised that you see so much wildlife whilst out walking in this harsh environment!
Rostock Ritz is a lovely place to relax after a few days in the desert and there are many things that you can do independently if you choose to do so. It is an ideal stopover between Sossusvlei and Swakopmund for the those who want to cut down on their driving times and one of the most beautiful landscapes in southern Namibia.
The swimming pool is something else, probably one of the best vistas from a pool in Africa, standing in the pool you can marvel at the surrounding scenery which travels as far as the eye can see.
The rooms are ingeniously constructed igloo style ensuite rooms each with its own balcony with incredible views – spend the afternoon watching the waterhole to see what comes in. The larger rooms are recommended here and a peaceful night’s sleep awaits here.
Reason to Stay: experience a lodge which is aesthetically integrated into the environment and allows you to independently hike out into the wilderness.
Hi, I’m Jenny Bowen and I have been doing specialist African Safari’s for 15 years through my business: Sense Africa. I am a qualified ecologist and I enjoy writing about the many once-in-a-lifetime experiences of Africa. Follow my blog: Sense Africa Blog for more African Safaris stories and information, and keep up-to-date on the wonders of Africa by following my Twitter: @senseafrica and Facebook.