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“A lovely experience.”
3 of 5 bubbles Review of Ongava Lodge

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Ongava Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
Johannesburg, South Africa
Level Contributor
101 reviews
27 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 71 helpful votes
“A lovely experience.”
Reviewed May 5, 2013

Let me first start by saying that we had a lovely time at Ongava and that staff were very welcoming, friendly and willing to please. The rooms are rustic but lovely and in keeping with the whole bush theme and we certainly found them clean. This lodge is not in the Etosha game reserve but in its own private reserve where we oursleves saw lion, rhino, gemsbok, etc. Etosha is about a 15 minute drive in the lodge's vehicle and I would definetely suggest at least one game drive into Etosha, preferably a full day trip in Etosha itself, depending on your time available here, as Etosha is huge and watering holes( the only place in this vast land, where you saw any sign of animal acitivity) are all rather quite some distance from each other due to the size of Etosha.A few tips for improvement: I think the lodge needs to be more organised with its breakfast in the morning and plan ahead depending on what the guests are doing. On all 3 mornings that we were here, breakfast was not ready by the time we arrived at breakfast.In fact it came in drips and drabs and the muffins, bread and fruit was only being put out when we were getting up to leave for our game drive!There also seemed to be an issue with having hot water in the flask for tea!!!A bit annoying as you want HOT water for your first cup of tea/coffee for the day. The food however was very tasty and well thought out.Whilst we thoroughly enjoy our guide, being quite keen birders and bush holiday makers, we noticed that his knowledge and facts on the above was not always correct. Lastly, we were quite dissappointed that no-one told us that we could go sit in the hide by the lodge's watering and watch the animals come drink water after sunset! All in all a lovely experience and with a bit of an effort by the lodge's management - yes, everyone does seem to have a very laissez faire attitude here, this lodge could creep up to a four star.

Room Tip: All rooms are well appointed, but if you have a thing about walking around the bush at night in an u...
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  • Stayed April 2013, traveled with family
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1 Thank Fomc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
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    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
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  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
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Kansas City, Missouri
Level Contributor
38 reviews
18 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 44 helpful votes
Reviewed May 2, 2013

Our stay at Ongava Lodge was magical. New management is in place, so we did not experience any of the concerns mentioned in some of the reviews below. In fact, all of my expectations were exceeded.
First, a compliment to Wilderness Safaris operations in Namibia. Our South African Airways flight from Johannesburg to Windhoek was delayed by over 4 hours. We were to be met by a Wilderness representative and transported via Wilderness Air to Ongava / Etosha National Park. I expected that since our transfer was missed we would be left to fend for ourselves for the night in Windhoek. (This is a small place with only 1 - 2 flights every few days in some instances.)
When we deplaned, the pilot was there, waiting for the two of us, his only passengers, for several hours. In fact, our original plane had gone ahead without us, but Wilderness called in a plane and pilot from his day off (holiday) to ensure we made it to Ongava Lodge the day we were expected, & did not miss a day of our safari. That was just the beginning of our exceptional service in Nambia.
We arrived to a hearty welcome from all the staff at Ongava Lodge. The lodge itself is very beautiful, with stunning views of the vast landscape. For the duration of our stay, each employee made a point of remembering the names of all guests and his or her preferences.
Our room was a spectacular private, comfortable, thatched chalet overlooking the camp waterhole. Waterbuck and oryx (gemsbok) were already waiting at the water when we arrived. I was thrilled with the beauty of the main area and dining room.
We immediately took off on the afternoon game drive and were rewarded with sightings of 4 lion, numerous red hartebeest, giraffe, impala, kudu, lilac breasted rollers, hornbill & then, suddenly, 4 white rhino just in front of the open range rover! We saw more wildlife in the first 4 hours than we had hoped for in the entire trip.
We arrived back at camp to find 2 white rhino, 1 black rhino with a baby, an adult giraffe with young and an owl all enjoying the waterhole. Dinner at the lodge was ordered from a menu and delicious. A starter of leek soup, followed by your choice of chicken kebab with spicy chili sauce or a delicious, tender, grilled wild game steak (Oryx or kudu,) many sides and dessert. In fact, we found the food for our entire stay to be delicious, varied and made to order. The dining area even has a computer with internet connection for those who just cannot leave it behind. I did manage to send out one email so friends and family would know we had arrived safely.
The camp waterhole is illuminated at night. I know that some believe this is not in keeping with natural surroundings, but for me, it was absolutely stunning. Our room had a lovely balcony / deck and double doors elevated above the waterhole area. If I could complain about sleep quality here, it is because my excitement made me wake up several times to look at out at the stunning wildlife right outside my window all night long. Massive amounts of white and black rhino, zebra, and antelope too many to name and count come in steady, ever changing streams.
Other highlights of game drives with Kapona, our exceptional guide, were racing to keep up with a pride of lionesses who were hunting a herd of wildebeest (up close and personal to our vehicle), sighting Rhino every day and tracking 4 of them successfully on foot (it's really something when a rhino stops, turns around and stares at you), and too much game to list. All in the "green season" when typically one should see less.
Kapona also treated us to a special sundowner surprise experience 1 evening. I had asked about the hide, or blind, at the camp waterhole that morning. When we were returning from a drive about 7 p.m., Kapona pulled up to the hide. It was dark & we could see several giraffe & antelope at the water. Kapona shuffled us safely inside the tiny building where we each had a front row seat at the open, panoramic window. As we watched, he silently handed me my usual preference of a glass of cool white wine, along with some biltong (dried game meat), pistashios and fruit.
From my right side I heard heavy footsteps very close, and endangered rhinocerous soon came into view, almost on cue. We watched a group of 4 white rhino, one very dominant female, and a small black rhino. There were a few rhino showdowns and the up close interaction was spectacular. A truly beautiful and luxurious experience. I'm sure I will never have another that is comparable.
On our last morning we had an early flight. I thought we would not have time for any activities, but Kapona surprised me by offering to rise extra early and take us out before dawn on a final game drive. This certainly wasn't expected or necessary, and was extra work for our guide, but I was thrilled to have the chance. So we left before the sun, and were amazed by the beauty of it cresting over the hills.
That morning we saw the ever present springbok, oryx, waterbuck and more, but Kapona seemed determined to make our final morning special. He drove along quickly, off roading through the brush. We were rewarded by finding 3 large male lions, having a lie in under some trees. We would have been pleased with just the lion, but Kapona took off again, bouncing through some narrow passages until we found 2 separate groups of white rhino camouflaged by the tall, dry grasses around them.
Overall, I could not have been more pleased with the facilities, food, service and game at Ongava Lodge. The manager sat down with us on at least two occasions to ask our opinions and to solicit any suggestions for improvement. I would return there in a heartbeat. My only suggestion to fellow travelers is that the game experience is better, and the setting prettier, on the Ongava Private Concession than in Etosha National Park itself. The game drives will take you both places, but I enjoyed the concession more.

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
5 Thank tkdbb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
83 reviews
27 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 93 helpful votes
Reviewed January 25, 2013

Getting to Ongava lodge you drive thru the private reserve which is next to Etosha. The vegetation is small bushes very dense (we went in January) so it makes it very difficult to see any animals at all. We were very excited to do this part of our trip and looking forward to a great superior lodge and great animal!
The main entrance is nice and welcoming, great big shop and then you enter the main area. What a disappointment! It looks awful. The only AMAZING thing about it is the view (and at least you are not looking at the room!) A huge room with horrible tables and chairs, it all looks like a business hotel outside of an airport. They have not updated their communal parts for years. No decoration, two miserable sofas and that’s it. Not a place where you can just rest, look at the views, play cards in the evening with a night cap, nothing! The staff were very “laissez faire” , nice enough but they didn’t look like they cared that much. The food was awful! There were only 10 guests when we were there. One night arriving for dinner after the other 8, they ran out of spinach, we asked for some and were told “no that’s it, it’s all gone!” When we ask to may be check in the kitchen it was just a definite no, you should have been here earlier

The rooms are nice, very spacious, great shower and comfortable beds. Not 100% clean but ok. Air conditioning, nice veranda where you are supposed to see the water hole but they are so many trees that you can’t really.

Our guide was friendly and nice enough; the drive within the private reserve was not very good again vegetation in there is far too dense. They have a private access to Etosha park.

They offered a nature walk, don’t do it! They show you nothing, talk about nothing so you end up walking in the bush for one hour for nothing. Such a disappointment...

The best thing is the waterhole below the deck. There is a natural one where animals do come and drink during the day and at night, great to see a rhino come in whilst you are having dinner. BUT they decided that was not enough so they build a horrid water hole, a huge thing made out of concrete that even the animals seem to avoid! They should at least try to hide the concrete, make it look as if it natural but no, why bother seems to be the order of the day.

This lodge has lost it. Every lodge around has understood that the communal areas are important, that people want to rest, read nice nature books, chat with other people, see local arts on the wall, etc none of this there. They have to update soon or they will lose everybody. It’s very expensive for what it is and looks like the kind of place where buses of tourists stop for a quick buffet not a superior lodge. Funnily enough, they seem to have understood that in tehir sister lodge, Little Ongava which is above you, six luxurious rooms with great communal area. I understand that there is a great difference in price between the two and I do no expect the same level of luxury in Ogava itself but I expect much, much better than what you get. Basically the worst accommodation of our whole trip in Namibia. You can find better

  • Stayed January 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank margauxhanoi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
WildernessSafaris, Manager at Ongava Lodge, responded to this review, February 22, 2013
We are truly sorry that your expectations were not met on your recent visit to Ongava Lodge and would like to thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience. All feedback is appreciated, both good and bad, as it allows us the opportunity to share praise where it is due and take corrective action in areas of concern.

The upside of travelling on safari in our summer months is the opportunity of witnessing the explosion of new life! On the wildlife front, this means seeing fatter, healthier, more energetic animals and all the babies (which often result in some good predator vs prey interactions). It is the best season for birding with many special resident species breeding, and complemented by the arrival of migratory species. Photographic opportunities abound with beautiful light, clear air (thanks to the occasional thunderstorm) and vibrant green vegetation - a contrast to the browns and oranges of this normally very dry country. However, as a result of the much needed rains, the animals do disperse as water and food are now freely available, plus the vegetation can indeed be thick and dense. Ongava is a private reserve so not having to share the area with other vehicles is a great plus, however, it is unfortunate that on this occasion you did not have the wildlife experience that this area is known for.

Your comments on the appearance and style of the lodge have been shared with management for due consideration. We would also like to assure you that the training team will be focusing on the shortfalls you raised regarding the food and the housekeeping. Our food experience manager and chef trainer will be doing an extensive training trip to Ongava Lodge, plus we have introduced a interactive training system in the lodge in the shape of high definition multimedia lessons and tailored practical assessments, focusing on areas such as Service, Housekeeping, Bar and Wine.

We do apologies for the fact that our nature walk did not live up to your expectations. While it is less likely to see game when on foot, we do expect our guides to point out the smaller things like plants with medicinal properties, birds, insects, etc. Our guide trainer will certainly make this a focus during his next visit.

The waterhole is a great feature of this camp and we are pleased that you enjoyed it. With regards to the concrete one specifically, we have found through experience that building concrete waterholes is a necessary “evil”. Namibia is an incredibly dry country and in a natural waterhole, a lot of water goes to waste when it seeps away into the ground. The concrete waterhole at Ongava Lodge normally gets filled every day and the “natural waterhole” is actually a deliberate overflow, for animals like rhinos and warthogs to wallow in!
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Sussex
Level Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed October 26, 2012

We have just returned from a memorable trip to Namibia staying at some wonderful camps but this was one of the most expensive and definitely the least good.
Arrival is to an untidy car park and the initial impression is that it is tired and in need of an update. Nothing of the lovely decor and ambiance we had experienced elsewhere.
The service was indifferent, at times amateur, and definitely nothing near the standard of the other lodges we visited.
The food was mediocre and it is disappointing to see that despite previous comments and the high cost of the lodge it still persists in a buffet style meal.
The final straw was returning to out room after breakfast, prior to our departure, to find the cleaning materials and linen for the next guests outside the room and the maid sitting waiting for us to vacate. They obviously really valued our custom.
Finally BEWARE the inadequate room safe facilities. A hole in the wall with a key.

  • Stayed October 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank janeeSussex
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
WildernessSafaris, Manager at Ongava Lodge, responded to this review, November 7, 2012
We are pleased to hear your trip to Namibia was a memorable one overall. We are sorry that your visit to Ongava did not meet with your expectations.

Thank you very much for the comments made on the décor and ambience of Ongava Lodge camp – generally our feedback in this regard is really positive but we shall certainly take them into consideration and pass them on the to the relevant people for review.

The car park has an odd shape and depending on the time of the day it can look a bit disorganized with land rovers pulling in and out. In addition there is an area where lodge vehicles and self-drive vehicles are parked during the day which perhaps gave the impression of untidiness. The lodge manager inspected the parking area and found a rail that needed attending to and this was rectified.

The buffet, for meals, is under review. Our Food Experience Manager is certainly on the path of moving away from the buffet style meals, however, logistics at the lodge may be challenging. Until such time we have developed an alternative plan to offer meals in a non-buffet style without compromising on quality of the food and service we will have to continue with the buffet as a standard.

We are concerned to hear that housekeeping was waiting with the cleaning equipment in front of the room waiting for you to depart. We have informed management and reiterated that housekeeping needs to be more discreet. Service training is ongoing and we are certain that this will bring a higher level of service consistency.

The safes are small box safes built into the wall. Should guests wish to store any larger items that do not fit in the room safe, management can place these items in the strong box.

As always we appreciate constructive criticism and will strive to improve our operation.
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Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
163 reviews
53 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 112 helpful votes
Reviewed September 16, 2012

Overall a wonderful experience. The rooms were spacious and the option for indoor and outdoor showers (with game views) was indulgent. The AC was appreciated, even though we weren't visiting in the hottest part of the year. Our guide, Abraham, was excellent and knew both the Ongava reserve and Etosha. We were lucky enough to see a cheetah family on the reserve (as well as many lions) and also flushed a caracol, who was lying in wait for some guinea fowl. We didn't find the facilities "tired", though we did think the upper watering hole's cement lining a bit out of place. It did distract from the natural feeling of the view (and the lower water hole). The opportunity to follow game off-road (which is not an option in the national park) was great. The food was good, standard lodge fare but didn't excite. It is an area they could focus on for improvement.

Room Tip: Even the rooms that don't directly view the watering hole provide a wonderful view over the rese...
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled with family
    • Location
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Jan01234
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kent UK
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed June 28, 2012

Stayed here for 3 nights,loved every minute. We had a great guide-Salomon- he found us lions 10 minutes into Etosha!. Staff were lovely and the food was excellent. Met some great people around the bar after our evening game drives with first class sundowners!. Our room was fantastic overlooking the waterhole,it's not everyday you get to have a shower whilst looking at a giraffe!
Would recommend Ongava as a great place to stay to see the Etosha National Park.

  • Stayed June 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Claire M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cape Town Central, South Africa
Level Contributor
10 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
Reviewed April 14, 2012

We stayed at Ongava Lodge in March 2012 and while we enjoyed our stay, this lodge could be so much more. The initial feeling was that the lodge is tired and in need of a refurb. Also, there was very little in terms of ambience at the lodge - a luke warm, almost empty feel. The rooms are spacious and well furnished, we were in room 13, which is a bit further away and more private. I love the outdoor shower and the inside shower had twin shower heads. But again, the decor needs a lift, it's very dark with dark-coloured brickwork adorning the walls.

The highlight is the view from the main area onto the (man-made) waterhole - at night, the spotlight reveal zebra, rhino, giraffe and we saw plenty of owls too which were incredible. The food was good, the service was okay but there were too many waiters standing around, watching you like a hawk which created a bit of a stiff atmosphere. Our game drive inside the reserve was nothing spectacular - but it was the rainy season and there was lots of water around. Our guide just wasn't very informative and hardly gave any information at sightings, which was disappointing.

Overall, I think Wilderness Safaris need to pull up their socks and pay some attention to this lodge.

Room Tip: Rooms 13 & 14 are further away from the main area for extra privacy - you have to walk down step...
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  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank The_Meerkats
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
, Manager at Ongava Lodge, responded to this review, July 4, 2012
Thank you very much for your valued feedback. We are very pleased to hear that you enjoyed your stay and the game viewing at the waterhole was a highlight during your visit. We do take both positive and negative feedback very seriously. We have a dedicated Food Experience Manager in Namibia who will be focussing on every aspect of our food offering and service delivery, providing valuable training to all our chefs and staff alike.

Both our Guest Experience and Concession Managers have visited Ongava Lodge, providing further specialist training for the staff and ensuring that the camp itself, on every level, is more than ready to host future visitors.
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Additional Information about Ongava Lodge

Property: Ongava Lodge
Address: Ongava Reserve, Etosha National Park 9000, Namibia
Location: Namibia > Oshikoto Region > Etosha National Park
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Restaurant Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #8 of 35 Specialty Lodging in Etosha National Park
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Ongava Lodge 3.5*
Number of rooms: 14
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The well-established Ongava Lodge is situated along the southern boundary of Etosha National Park in the privately owned Ongava Game Reserve. Situated as it is close to the top of a hill in the foothills of the Ondundozonanandana Mountain Range, the vantage point is beautiful and overlooks a well-frequented waterhole and the plains beyond. Ongava Lodge offers luxury accommodation in 14 rock and thatch en-suite chalets. There are impressive views over the camp's waterhole from the main lounge and dining areas and there is also an inviting pool to cool off in the heat of the day. Meals are either served in the main dining area under thatch or on the dining deck under the stars.Activities include game drives into Etosha, visting hides, and nature drives and walks on the reserve. Ongava has resident white and black rhino, giving guests staying at Ongava the opportunity to see both species. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Ongava Game Hotel Etosha National Park

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