Etosha King Nehale is a glorious lodge just outside the northern Nehale Lya Mpingana Gate of Etosha National Park, one of my favourite wild spaces. Apart from treating you like royalty, the lodge opens opportunities to explore Etosha’s Andoni Plains and a private waterhole not open to the ordinary visitor.
You’ll find Etosha King Nehale about 50km north of Etosha’s Namutoni camp and in spitting distance of Nehale Gate. It gives easy access to the wildlife of Etosha National Park, and also makes an easy stopover on the way north to Oshakati 135km away or Ruacana Falls 190km away.
The lodge is named after Nehale Mpingana, king of Ondonga from 1884 until he died in 1908. He led the 500 men who destroyed the first German fort at Namutoni in 1904 and is commemorated as one of Namibia’s nine national heroes at the Heroes’ Acre monument south of Windhoek.
The royal theme of Etosha King Nehale lodge declares itself right from the start, with a large wooden throne at the entrance to the property, a place for your #EtoshaRoyalty selfie (if you’re that way inclined). The royal theme continues in the high-backed throne-like chairs in the dining area, the opulent furnishings in your room.
Homage to Aawambo culture
I especially loved the homage paid to Aawambo culture. (The Aawambo consist of eight Owambo communities who share similarities in language, lifestyle and culture.)
For instance, next to the dining area there’s a large boma with a fireplace and chairs around a sand circle. Mirroring the central area where the community gathers in an Oshiwambo home, it’s a perfect place for a pre-dinner drink and chat with other travellers or friendly staff.
The Aawambo and royal themes continue in your room, with the pink and red stripes of traditional Aawambo fabric on the cushions harmonising with the purples and royal blues of European kings. A leopard-print throw celebrates the animal kingdom’s place in royalty too, since only Aawambo kings wear leopard skin.
Each chalet has a private courtyard with a plunge pool and a view of the Andoni grasslands, a perfect place to unwind and let all your worries drift away.
Food fit for an African king
Don’t miss the sunset from the dining area and verandah, which smears a band of hot terracotta along the far horizon. You can sit inside or outside on the verandah. A magnificent feast is served buffet style. Some of my favourite dishes on our first night were broccoli and cauliflower salad, lamb chops, sosaties, and salted caramel mousse.
The second night was a celebration of African cuisine, a chance to taste some of the dishes I’d heard about but never eaten. There was domoda, a Gambian beef and peanut stew. There was spicy Moroccan chicken and Ethiopian fish stew with coconut. There was Ghanaian jollof rice and Ethiopian cabbage, North African cauliflower salad with chermoula sauce, and Maghreb couscous and spinach salad. It was all tasty enough to dispel any ideas that African food can’t satisfy the cravings of a ‘foodie’.
By the way, talking about food, don’t miss the Paris-quality fresh croissants and pastries at breakfast. I loved the omelette and fresh fruit too.
Guided drive to a private hide in Etosha
From Etosha King Nehale, you can go self-driving into Etosha National Park, accessing good waterholes like Andoni, Tsumcor, Groot Okevi and Klein Okevi. Or you can go on an open safari vehicle for a half- or full-day drive into the park with a guide from the lodge.
For me, though, the best activity here is without doubt a guided drive off the beaten track to the private hide at Ontalelo Outpost. Visiting this – and another private waterhole not available to ordinary Etosha visitors – is in itself reason to stay at Etosha King Nehale.
We saw flamingoes and other water birds at Andoni waterhole and a lion and lioness relaxing next to a natural waterhole a bit further south. Then we turned east off the main road onto a tweespoor track that leads to the private hide exclusively for Etosha King Neyale guests.
Boom! Suddenly there was a roadblock; a big maned lion lay across the track ahead, with a female half hidden in the grass to one side. We assumed the couple was mating because she rose and waved her tail in his face, then lay down in front of him. Three times she tried to entice him in this way, but after 40 minutes he hadn’t taken the bait. Usually, lions mate every 20-30 minutes, so this was unusual. Perhaps he was just worn out. Eventually, she moved off into the bush and he followed but flopped down in the grass not far away. He wasn’t a roadblock anymore, so we left them in peace and pushed on towards the hide.
More elephants approached from our right. Another smaller herd broke from from the trees to our left. Before long, there were some 100 elephants of different breeding herds that hurried in. It was magic.
Cultural village tour
If you’d like to learn more about local culture, join an outing to Ondjumba Cultural Village a short drive from the lodge. There, in the company of brightly dressed locals, you can explore a traditional Oshiwambo homestead and learn about the Aawambo people and their culture.
The cultural experience takes three hours, including time spent travelling there and back to the lodge.
You may also be interested in these other cultural villages at Gondwana lodges in Namibia’s Zambezi region:
Need to know
- To book for Etosha King Nehale, email email@example.com, tel +264 61 427 200 or +264 81 129 2424 (after hours).
- To see all the Gondwana Collection lodges, glamping tents and campsites around Namibia click here.
- Yes, there’s wifi at the lodge, both in the main area and the chalets.
- There’s a shop next to reception where you can buy something made locally to remind you of your Namibian holiday, from clothing, bags and jewellery to books and plush toys. I loved the exquisitely scented room spray in our chalet and was thrilled to be able to buy a bottle to take home.
Etosha National Park: the ultimate guide
Places to visit and things to do in Namibia: the north
How to watch elephants safely in the wild
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