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“A TRUE LUXURY LODGE”
Review of Onguma the Fort

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Onguma the Fort
Certificate of Excellence
South Africa
Level 5 Contributor
44 reviews
27 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 58 helpful votes
“A TRUE LUXURY LODGE”
Reviewed August 31, 2011

We recently had the great pleasure to stay at Onguma Plains – The Fort. This place is truly 5 star, and in complete keeping with what we are used to from the 5-star game lodges in South Africa. Thank you to Stefan and Bronwyn for a memorable stay!!

After a long dusty drive through Etosha National Park, we were very pleased that the entrance to Onguma is within sight of the Namutoni gate. We arrived at 13h45, and while lunch is until 14h00, we were cheerfully told by Newman: “Why don’t you go and enjoy lunch, and then we’ll check you in?” Lunch was proudly PRESENTED to us by Chef Immanuel. What a scrumptious 3-course lunch, artfully plated! Now, that’s a luxury lodge!

The Onguma Plains – The Fort website clearly mentions that twin-beds only are available, but we thought we’d ask about the possibility of a double bed anyway. “Not a problem!” was the reply, “we’ll make a plan”. And so, a plan was made. Now, that’s going the extra mile and that’s a luxury lodge!

We asked about activities and were advised that we had options. We could choose EACH DAY between: 1. Etosha morning drive till 11h00. 2. Etosha afternoon drive (14h00 – 17h30 + sundowners back at Onguma). 3. Onguma sundowner drive. 4. Onguma night drive. We were free to choose as many of the drives as we wanted. Our suggestion is that you focus only on the Etosha drives, as the game inside Onguma is a little sparse, and the best place to watch the magnificent sunset is at the lodge itself.

The game drives were on their own vehicles, beautifully cleaned before each drive. Soft and clean blankets were provided for the morning drives. As going the extra mile goes to the very core of their existence, hot water bottles were even provided. Now, that’s a luxury lodge!

The early morning game drive left at 6h00, with breakfast was served from 5h30. The spread included smoked salmon, camembert, blue cheese, stewed berries, lychees, dried fruit, fruit salad, croissants, muffins, freshly baked bread, to name but a few options over and above the standard ones. Now, that’s a luxury lodge!

At around 9h30, we stopped for tea, coffee, delicious, juicy sandwiches on freshly-baked bread, croissants and muffins. And this was only for a drive that lasted until 11h00! A delicious three-course lunch is provided back at the lodge, with an opportunity to rest, before the possible afternoon activities. Afternoon tea is readily available. Now, that’s a luxury lodge!

Every single meal was passionately presented by Chef Immanuel, it was varied, prepared with fresh ingredients, imaginative, a feast for the eyes and of course the taste buds! Clearly, Chef justly takes pride in his creations. We asked Chef Immanuel for his chocolate pudding recipe, which he gladly shared with us, and even took us through the method, with glee and enthusiasm. Now, that’s a luxury lodge!

Towels were white, soft and fluffy. Bath sheets and bath towels were provided. The bedding was crisp, white and fresh. There was a telephone in the room. Reception was staffed at all times when guests were around, including the early breakfasts. The staff could not have done enough for us, and we had great fun at the main lodge building practicing some creative photography. The angular lines of the lodge create some impressive effects.

There are a couple of things to note: Firstly, you need to drive from your room to the main lodge, as there are no fences and game can wander freely through the lodge. I am not sure what the plan is for people who don’t come by car, but I imagine that the lodge staff will make a plan. Secondly, in Etosha, the guides are not allowed to go off-road to get better game sightings, like they can at reserves in the Sabi Sands in South Africa.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled as a couple
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4 Thank Proud_South_African
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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238 reviews from our community

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Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (38)
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Worongary, Australia
Level 6 Contributor
173 reviews
83 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 181 helpful votes
Reviewed June 8, 2011

We (two couples) also were upgraded to The Fort as the Bush Camp was still under reno's. We were suitably impressed. Lovely, unique complex, restaurant, pools and beautiful large bush chalets overlooking a view unhindered by fences of Etosha plains and pan. It is truly a magnificent setting. Loved the touch of free sherry in beautiful decanters in the rooms, lovely bathrooms. Clean. Warthogs snuffling beneath the chalet's deck!

Food was very good and most of the staff competent. We found the guided game drive and sundowners within Onguma okay, but to be honest, have had better. We were self-drivers so took ourselves into Etosha, however would recommend guides if you are new to Africa so you can get the right info re the environment and animals.

Unfortunately when we arrived the male receptionist did not ask who was who, and we were inadvertently handed each other's keys, which led to all sorts of problems when it came to paying our bill and the accounts were all mixed up. As soon as we noticed this, we tried to have it rectified, but got pretty blank stares and we were told by same receptionist fellow that our names / room numbers couldn't be transposed. The following day we spoke to a 'manager' who assured us the issue would be fixed (we even wrote down the alterations) but even the 'alterations' were input incorrectly and things continued to be posted willy nilly to each other's accounts. It just meant we then wasted another half hour on check out due to "slow computers", as we were advised, trying to get it sorted. It was just best to pay it and sort each other out in the end! We just felt for a hotel of this calibre it was a bit incompetent and a little frustrating.

The restaurant deck (or any other deck for that matter) has no barriers, which makes for stunning unhindered views but unfortunately one night we were there a gentleman accidentally stepped over the edge and fell some 8 feet below. Amazingly, he did not appear to seriously hurt himself - but this would never be allowed in Australia or other litigious countries!! Take care walking around the decks at night, it is very dark, quite creepy on the edge, lest you find yourself face down in the dust below, eyeballing a warthog, or worse.

Room Tip: All rooms have fabulous views across the veld.
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  • Stayed May 2011, traveled as a couple
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1 Thank HappyTravelsQld
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wilna-Onguma, Director of Sales at Onguma the Fort, responded to this review, June 14, 2011
Dear HappyTravelsQld,

I am delighted to hear you and your friends had such a great time at Onguma The Fort. I have to say, sitting on the deck overlooking the waterhole with a sundowner drink in-hand, is one of my most special memories of Etosha.

Thank you for letting us know about your experience with your bill. I truly regret that this did not go smoothly for you at check out, as it should have. We are in the process of changing our accounting software, and you have highlighted that more training in this area is clearly needed. Thank you for helping us to improve our service and for highlighting the gliches.

As for the unguarded decks - we face such a dilema. Do we put up rails and remove our guests even further from the bush, or keep it as open and unspoilt as possible to enhance their experience? In this case, I have asked the team to look into this and ensure adequate lighting is provided.

I wish you well in all your future travels across the world and hope you will come and stay with us again!
Wilna
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Omaha, Nebraska
Level 6 Contributor
226 reviews
64 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 79 helpful votes
Reviewed May 28, 2011

wonderful location overlooking a water hole where we saw plenty of game...service impeccable, meals and presentation truly outstanding,(if you want a real treat ask the staff the sing)..a few draw backs less that thorough guides..strongly suggest self drive into the park..tendency to nickle a d dine guests i.e. guided tours expensive..The fort more typical design of morocco than nambibia..

Room Tip: all rooms great
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  • Stayed May 2011, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank jackpine2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level 1 Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
Reviewed March 19, 2011

We were upgraded to the Fort due to works at the Bush Camp. Amazing location looking out to Fishers Pan in Etosha with outstanding views of the plains, game wandering right past the lodge deck. The rooms were very large, clean and luxurious with the option of indoor or outdoor shower. A very beautiful lodge with faultless, friendly service and delicious food. Highly recommended for a fantastic experience in the African bush. Really wish we could have stayed a lot longer!

  • Stayed March 2011, traveled with friends
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank JemWatWhere
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Luxembourg
Level 6 Contributor
113 reviews
88 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 113 helpful votes
Reviewed March 4, 2011

We booked 3nights in this stunning lodge. The lodge looks like an old arabic fort but was indeed built not so long ago. It is really close to Etosha and has its own private reserve and believe me what a private reserve. All day long you can enjoy watching animals passing by (giraffes, wharthog, impalas, kudus, springboks, birds..) and every nights we had lions roaring very very close to our lodge (the first time was a bit scary as they were probably 50m away from us). We had a great time there, very nice safaris in Etosha and in the reserve, great food (although five courses meals are somehow a bit too much sometimes) and the staff was quite nice with us.

  • Stayed August 2010, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank jboule
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney
Level 2 Contributor
6 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed November 26, 2010

The Fort was our first destination after leaving Windhoek and we arrived around 4pm in the afternoon after driving all the way.

Wow! what a place the Fort is, built on the edge of the salt pan in a Moroccan style the first glimpse of it took our breath away. On arrival we were met by Erasmus, head of house, at the main doors with cold towels and fragrant water to wash our hands. Erasmus then lead us through the courtyard, over the pool and into the main room for our briefing. At the end of the briefing we followed him, in our car, around to number 11 our own little slice of the fort for the next two days.

Our little lodge was spectacular, it had two large wooden doors that opened to a small entrance hall, the bedroom was on the left and the bathroom on the right. Walking into the bedroom it opened onto a large deck, which in turn looked out over the salt pan, flat as far as you could see. (Image 16. View of the lodge from the deck). Instead of walls there were heavy canvas flaps that rolled down with net windows. The window section could be rolled up independent of the main flap so you could lie in bed and look out on the horizon. But we were precautioned to roll them down at night as they did get lions and other large beasties roaming about.

[ To view a 360 panorama of the room visit http://www.tonyredhead.com/day-19-african-adventure ]

The bathroom was equally impressive as it’s built into the base of the tower structure and has a huge ceiling in it, two sinks and indoor and outdoor showers.

Now everything is pretty dusty and dry out here, but there was a small courtyard section near the pool that was a beautiful green lawn, when we arrived there were only two tables set out with one couple already occupying one. It turned out that we were the only couples there that evening and they thought they would do something special for us. A few minutes after arriving our chef, Edward, greeted us and explained his dinner menu that included sorbets to refresh the pallette between the starter and main course. By this time we were firmly in love with the Fort, and after dinner spent some time on the main deck of the building enjoying an after dinner Amarula watching the stars.

The next day we went out on an early morning safari to Etosha and after having experienced some great drives in Sabi Sands I felt the guide didn't particularly show much interest in listening to what we would like to do and see.

Back at the Fort it was 40c and and went to relax by the pool. The pool was refreshingly cold and you could swim to the edge and look out over the waterhole in front of the main lodge, there was also a shallow wading pool with chairs and a table in that you could sit in a splash your feet around.

We found the whole experience at the Fort worth every penny and the staff, especially David, Henni, Erasmus and Edwin (the Chef), made our stay all that more special by their attention to detail and they manner in which they interacted with the guests.

  • Stayed October 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank TonyRedhead
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brisbane Region, Australia
Level 4 Contributor
29 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed October 7, 2010

Situated just outside the Namutomi gate to the Etosha Pans, this relatively new establishment is inviting, clean and comfortable. The rooms are spacious. Dinner is by arrangement (fixed 3-course meal, no choices) and the kitchen is willing, as are the service staff. There is a water-hole in sight of the pool and dining area/ bar (a great place for a sundowner), which could attract a wide selection of game.
[This offering is one of 4 available from this Group- all on the same property and within a few kilometers of each other, but each totally discreet from the others- in the process catering for the full range of traveler i.e. from the (very basic) campers entirely doing their own "thing" , through to the quite sophisticated Visitor requiring a much higher class of offering, and having "everything" done for them- we only used the Plains Camp which is probably "just below the middle" of their offering range].
Note: there is NO "connectivity" available, which in our experince was absolutely typical of "the area" in general!.
A great place to relax after a tough time/ gameviewing in Etosha.

  • Stayed September 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank pohcrofter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Onguma the Fort

Property: Onguma the Fort
Address: Onguma Private Reserve | Near Etosha National Park, Etosha National Park, Namibia
Location: Namibia > Oshikoto Region > Etosha National Park
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 35 Specialty Lodging in Etosha National Park
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:5 star — Onguma the Fort 5*
Number of rooms: 13
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
This Fort is unlike any other, the only one of its kind in Namibia, built in exactly the right spot to give our guests probably one of the best sunset views in the whole of Namibia. Overlooking the beautiful scarceness of the Etosha Pans, decorated only with its wild animals and hundreds of Camel Thorn trees that dot the landscape. Accommodation consists of twelve Bush Suites with fire places for the winter months and air coolers for the summer months. Each suite has an indoor and outdoor shower. The one and only Fort Suite is situated inside the Main Tower of the main complex. It has a large beautifully designed bedroom that leads into a lounge area and out onto a private viewing deck. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Onguma The Fort Hotel Etosha National Park

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