We’d spent a morning in Etosha National Park, listening to the low rumblings of elephants, the frenzied i-hah, i-hah of zebras and the loud tink, tink, tink of blacksmith lapwings. Now we were listening to the tinkling of ice in our gin and tonics and watching from the sunset deck at Etosha Safari Lodge as the sky caught fire.
The terrace at Etosha Safari Lodge is enormous, bigger than an Olympic swimming pool I’m sure. But its finest feature is a wooden deck on stilts that pokes out about ten metres into the mopaneveld and gives a great view of the setting sun. That evening it seemed as if every guest had gathered there to enjoy the spectacle. Below the deck is a small waterhole where bokkies and birds can come to drink.
Find the lodge just 10km south of Andersson Gate, which makes for easy access to Etosha National Park. Stay here and make daily forays into the park, or treat yourself to a few nights before or after your stay inside the park.
The huge reception area roosts on a koppie, giving a 180-degree view from the dining area and terrace across the natural bush towards Etosha National Park. Four giant fireplaces make a statement in the inside dining and bar area, though they weren’t lit when we were there, the winter nights still being warm enough to eat outside in May.
Things to do at Etosha Safari Lodge
1. Go on a guided drive to Etosha
We headed out with guide Otto straight after an early breakfast. Our first sightings inside the gate were two jackals soaking up the morning sun, a red hartebeest and two secretary birds stomping through the veld in search of breakfast. We found and followed black rhino tracks for a few kilometres along the dusty road until they disappeared into the bush where we couldn’t follow. (You’re not allowed to go offroad in the national park.)
Small herds of zebras grazed here and there and we watched two northern black korhaans take to the air with a clattering of noise. We saw a kori bustard – Namibia’s largest flying bird – stomp through the veld towards some oryx (gemsbok), which to me are among the most beautiful antelope, so African with their strong black, white and grey markings.
Otto thought they might still be in the area so we continued north for a few more kilometres, eagerly scanning the veld for any sign of them. We found them sleeping in the shade of some mopane trees near a large depression with the remnants of rain water. Wildebeest snorted nearby, gemsbok crossed the road towards the water, and a small group of zebras obviously wanted a drink too. But none dared come too close to the predators. The lions – a female and four young males sprouting the beginnings of manes – ignored the wildebeests’ moaning; they didn’t care if the animals wanted to drink, their stomachs were too full for them to move.
You can also do a full- day guided game drive, which lets you to range a little further afield in the park.
2. Self-drive into Etosha
3. Go for a guided nature walk
Go for a guided nature walk on the lodge’s 23 000-hectare section of the Etosha Conservancy. The walk lasts about two hours and is a gentle nature ramble rather than a march, a time to reconnect with nature, spot tracks and signs of giraffe, zebra, black-faced impala and the tiny dik dik. You’ll also learn about some of the trees and shrubs like mopane, thorn trees and purple pod terminalia, as well as some of their medicinal uses.
4. Walk around camp in search of birds
5. Go for a swim
6. Don’t miss sundowners on the sunset deck
7. Enjoy dinner on the deck
8. Watch the sunrise
Get up early one morning and make a cup of coffee in your chalet. Then sit on the deck to watch the sunrise creep up on you. Half the joy of being on safari is seeing wildlife; the other half is slowing down to become attuned to the rhythms of nature.
9. Go glamping
10. Pitch your own tent
Warm, friendly atmosphere
Despite the chic sophistication of this classic safari lodge, there was nothing stuffy about it. The staff are warmly friendly, with ready smiles. I enjoy it when members of staff have the self-confidence to engage in chat with us; it makes my day. And here it was a particular pleasure that everyone – from reception to waiters, chefs and barmen – was happy to shoot the breeze when they weren’t busy.
Let’s face it, when accommodation and food are good, it’s only people and personality that make a visit one of a kind.
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