We departed Windhoek after breakfast and embarked on our very first car journey in Namibia. The Erongo Wilderness Lodge is located 350 kilometers from the capital city, Windhoek. En route, we found interesting road-side attractions, such as arts & crafts tents selling home-made products and souvenirs that were inexpensive; the stopovers allowed us the opportunity to chit-chat with the locals. This was the second lodge in a series of six lodges we stayed in during our 2010 Namibia trip.
The Erongo Wilderness Lodge – arrival
After a comfortable six-hour drive, on well-marked, well-planed gravel roads, the drive should have taken us 3.5 hours (had we not made so many stops), and we finally arrived at the Erongo Wilderness Lodge at about 4:00 pm. We were barely in time for the afternoon activities.
From the main road we found a sign to the entrance of the Erongo Mountain Nature Conservancy, where the lodge is located, and from there, we drove an additional 10 kilometers to the Lodge’s first gate. Our Namibian organizer had warned us that we had two choices on arrival to the main gate. 1) Park and leave the car at the entrance and then take a safari vehicle to the main lodge, or 2) if we felt confident, we could drive ourselves, up the tricky road, dotted with massive granite boulders.
A cheerful man was standing by the lower gate, and when he saw our car, a Land Rover Discovery, he smiled and said, “follow me” and jumped in his car and proceeded to drive away, expecting us to follow him. We had no option but to set the car on low-range gear, and slowly make our way up the very steep, scary road, full of huge obstacles, of the granite boulder variety.
After the scary, up hill drive, the road flattened out, and we could see dark green tents with thatched roofs, perched on the side of the granite mountain. A handsome man, dressed in safari khakis ran to our vehicle and bid us a hearty welcome. We were the last guests to arrive that evening, so he knew who we were. “Your tent is ready, he said, and the driver will bring your luggage to tent #10. Why don’t you step in to the office to sort out your details?”
“The office” is a thatched roof hut built against massive boulders. We mused that it was a fantastic way to take advantage of natural rock to give a building a solid and handsome structure. A woman, also dressed in safari gear, greeted us and suggested sorting out things the next morning, as the two evening activities were about to begin, 1) a one-and a half hour safari drive in the nature reserve, to view small, indigenous animals and plants, or 2) go on a walk, to the top of one of hills and enjoy an amazing sunset. After driving all day long, we opted the “amazing sunset.”
The same man from the gate was waiting for us to show us to our tent, and we quickly made our way up the gentle hill, leading us to our tent. We placed our valuables in an electronic safe, and made our way down to join the group for the sundowner walk. The guide asked what we’d like to drink for the Sundowner.
The Tents (called chalets)
The Erongo Wilderness Lodge is a 3-stars accommodation, and while it is called a “luxury tented camp,” A 3-stars rating is proper, and a more suitable description would be, a “comfortable tented camp,” instead of luxury.
The lodge offers 10 large Meru-style lodge tents set in a dramatic setting of granite boulders and stunning views. The chalets are raised on stilts, and have been placed around the existing boulders and trees. Above and around the chalets is a structure made of wood, with large thatched roofs. The entire lodge is low-key, and from the distance you couldn’t see any buildings there, which is the intention.
Our tour agent booked a standard tent, and while all tents are the same, one pays extra for the views, and we were pleasantly surprised that our tent was set high, with gorgeous views of the Erongo Mountains and the valley. In essence, we had been upgraded!
All tents also have a cozy little balcony with a table and two chairs to enjoy the views. All tents are also a good distance away from each other, and you never see your neighbor’s tent.
While we were there in April 2010, which is Fall in the Southern Hemisphere, it was still pretty warm at night, and if anything, air-conditioning would have been greatly welcomed, but no such luck, and a noisy free-standing fan is provided which kept us up most of the night.
Yes, even tented accommodations have proper bathrooms and toilets!
A canvas screen separates the bedroom area from the bathroom, behind which is a spacious area with a table and a mirror. Here is a freestanding washstand with a porcelain basin on top. The flush toilet and the shower are opposite each other. One could see the valley from the sides of the bathroom.
The large bathroom, while I would not call it luxurious, was set against a granite boulder, giving it a certain charm. We did not lack for comforts, such potable drinking water, very hot water, lovely lavender toiletries (set in huge bottles), and plenty of towels.
The rest of the lodge
The entire complex is very charming and blends beautifully with the environment. Much thought has been given to keeping the human footprint to a minimum, with raised wooden walkways and natural stone steps to connect the chalets to the main area, where the restaurant, lounge, swimming pool and sundowner deck.
The lodge rate of $160 per person, per night includes two meals a day (breakfast and dinner), and two daily, guided activities. Beverages and laundry are extra, but inexpensive.
The lounge and restaurant are housed in a partially open, thatch-roof building with afireplace in the center (colder winter need this), and an outside deck, or veranda, with views of the landscape and the floodlit waterhole.
The lodge’s has on staff two chefs, and we really enjoyed the deliciousand original meals made from local game and vegetables and herbs grown at the lodge. Breakfasts were not as lovely as other locations we’ve stayed in, but it included freshly baked breads and pastries, cereals, and some fresh fruits. The made-to order hot breakfasts, however, were quite good.
Dinner starts promptly at 7:30 pm, but unlike other lodges, guests can eat whenever they wish, up to 9:30 pm. Dinner was a three course event, and both nights offered good choices. The bar is fully stocked with excellent choices of South African wines and spirits; the prices were reasonable.
Why stay at the Erongo Wilderness Lodge?
The Lodge is situated in a special wilderness area of 200,000 hectares called the Erongo Mountains Nature Conservancy, where you will find desert, mountain and bushveld ecosystem coming together. The bushveld is defined as; a sub-tropical woodland eco-region of Southern Africa.
A few decades ago, the area was used for sheep farming. All the farms of the area were adjoined to form a cooperative. The aim was to restore the area to its natural eco-system, and also explore eco-tourism. The Lodge location straddles the Erongo Mountains, and over time, the land has returned to its original pristine condition. Many endemic animals, birds and plants which had disappeared are slowly establishing themselves.
The area is famous for the large variety of endemic, and as such, it is called a Birdwatcher’s Paradise. Indeed, while walking around the lodge, or sitting in our small balcony, we could hear the different calling of birds, as well as seeing many beautiful birds. The dining lodge area attracts a myriad of birds and it was a joy to eat breakfast while observing the many birds.
Bushman Rock Art
For one of our activities included in the price of lodging, we chose to visit one of the Bushman rock art sites. Our experienced guide drove us to a cluster of granite boulders known to contain caves. In one of these caves, there are bushman paintings depicting hunting scenes of wild game, such a Kudu (an antelope). The rock art scene tells future generations that it is possible to hunt Kudu in this region, which indeed, does see a good amount of this specially adapted antelope.
Other activities included early morning walks in the vicinity and we observed endemic small animals, an amazing amount of birds and unique rock formations.
Normally, tourists who are traveling around this region make this lodge a one-night stop over, on their way to other parts of Namibia. It is a shame to stay only one night because the area has much to offer. We stayed here two nights, a decision I made based on other independent reviews found online. Honestly, we really enjoyed ourselves, and had ample time to explore the wilderness surrounding the lodge.
The lodge is not set up to accommodate the handicapped given its location. Two of the tents are accessible with a minimum of stairs, which I can see someone with some crutches could gain access to the tents, but it is not wheelchair-friendly.
During our stay in late April, the days were still hot, and tent interiors during the day can be very uncomfortable, even when all the flaps are open and the stand-alone fan is blowing. We found other things to do outside the lodge after breakfast, such as nearby attractions, which we drove to, returning to the lodge in the late afternoon, ready for the afternoon activity. I would recommend not traveling here in the height of summer, which promises hot temperatures, and would also recommend a two night stay.
Some photos of the Erongo Mountain Lodge