When a group of families came together to transform four unproductive cattle farms into a 30,000-hectare private game reserve bordering Namibia’s legendary Etosha National Park, they had a shared vision of restoring the land to itself and creating a haven for iconic wildlife species. Almost 30 years on, that shared vision has become one of the south-west African desert nation’s foremost private game reserves and an inspirational conservation success story – Ongava Game Reserve.
Today, Ongava is renowned across the world for its commitment to conservation and local communities, ground-breaking research and authentic safari experiences. Its collection of three lodges – Ongava Lodge, Little Ongava and Tented Camp – have been widely recognised for both their levels of luxury and dedication to the principles of sustainable tourism, providing a safe, well-protected haven for some of the world’s most rare and endangered wildlife.
In April 2019 these three lodges will become four with the much anticipated opening of Andersson’s at Ongava. Named after the Swedish explorer Charles Andersson – who was the first to record details of the Etosha pan – Andersson’s takes the traditional safari experience and moves it into the modern era, creating a new brand of family-friendly ecotourism for the next generation of travellers.
It’s a small camp, sleeping a maximum of 18 guests and designed to offer an air of exclusivity with just seven guest rooms and a dedicated family suite. Built on solid foundations, the spacious guest rooms are anchored to their surroundings with natural stone buttresses. They offer a light footprint, with decor inspired by the discoveries of the camp’s namesake. There are nods to academia and the early pioneers everywhere and guests are offered access to a carefully curated digital library of treatises, research documents and publications, all designed to help them broaden their minds and learn more about the incredibly intricate environment around them.
Most importantly, Andersson’s incorporates an innate connection to the wild and evokes a deep sense of place, ensuring that guests immediately establish a notion of “belonging” to the wilderness that surrounds them.
This is most keenly felt at the camp’s waterhole and nearby underground photographic hide where guests can enjoy a water-level view of the incredible wildlife that Ongava has become famous for.
The seven standard suites at Andersson’s are designed to be a direct extension of this breathtakingly beautiful environment, with rock and other natural and organic elements used to reflect the beauty and drama of Etosha’s landscapes. Climate-controlled to beat the heat of summer and the chill of winter, each suite has its own private viewing deck offering a breathtaking 180-degree wilderness panorama.
The family suite is effectively two suites combined into one, with two bedrooms each offering either one kingsize bed or two three-quarter beds and linked by a short walkway. Each of the bedrooms has its own bathroom and private entrance.
A spacious lounge and bar, undercover and open-air dining areas, a sunken observation terrace and a centrally positioned infinity pool make up the camp’s social areas. These offer a world of relaxation between safari activities and gathering for mealtime discussions with the camp’s guides and resident naturalists.
Ongava’s guides have an intimate knowledge of the land and its wildlife, including the 100 different mammal species found on the reserve and are passionate about sharing it. It’s an enthusiasm that rubs off on guests, who quickly become filled with a sense of wonder and love for the wild fauna and flora around them.
Like every self-respecting modern safari lodge, Andersson’s has complimentary wi-fi, ensuring guests stay connected and can access the unique research data Ongava has gathered over the years. This is fitting, as Andersson’s offers guests one of the only opportunities in Africa to directly interface with a fully operational scientific research centre.
The Ongava Research Centre (ORC) is a short walk from the camp. This is where cutting-edge conservation takes place each and every day, with resident scientists in a custom designed lab interacting with guests via the ORC Visitor Centre, complete with a 36-seat auditorium and exhibition area.
The notion of integrating a science and research facility with a purpose designed luxury safari lodge is a first for Ongava and allows access for curious minds interested in more than a “traditional” safari experience.
However, the ORC is more than a mere tourist attraction and conducts cutting-edge research into the genetics of Ongava’s rhino population, making a difference to conservation not only in Namibia but also throughout Africa. It’s very much about applying science to the current conservation landscape – an ethos that has underpinned the ORC since it began in 2002 and that immaculately ties in with Ongava’s mission to protect this special corner of wild Africa.