Part 8, Ongava Lodge, Etosha National Park

By Jason & Lyndon Duplessis

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It was another road trip to get from Damaraland back to Etosha for our 2nd visit.  This leg of the trip wasn’t really bad at all seeing as the majority came on nice paved roads and by this time we are probably feeling just as comfortable driving on the left side of the road as the right.  We had inspected Ongava Lodge earlier so we knew it was located just outside the gate to the park in an adjacent reserve (Ongava Game Reserve).  The lodge itself is well located, elevated on a hill with a fantastic view of a watering hole and the surrounding area.  Our room was a short walk from the main area and it as well did not disappoint.  The room was rather sizeable, had a similar view although not elevated of the watering hole and came equipped with an air conditioning unit.  This proved helpful but it was not nearly as hot as it had been in Damaraland so Ongava Tented Camp, the smaller and more intimate Wilderness camp located in the same reserve, isn’t lacking much.

Our evening game drive was inside the reserve, as is the usual custom at Ongava.  There had been a lion sighting nearby but unfortunately by the time we arrived they had gone into the bush and were not visible.  The Reserve has a nice population of antelope and they were on display from the outset but overall it was a rather quiet drive.  Our guide discovered some promising lion prints and we tracked them for quite some time but they eluded us just as the earlier lions had.  We had our sundowners a bit later than usual and headed back to camp for dinner.

Little did we know the best sighting of the day would come as we ate our dinner overlooking the watering hole at night.  A group of 4 white rhinos came to join us and they stuck around until just before dinner ended.  This was really a special experience because it is rare to be able to spend so much time just observing these animals.  To be able to relax, enjoy some good food and watch the rhino interact with each other while having a drink was a real joy and made us completely forget the quiet game drive we had just returned from. 

In the morning we headed into the park and almost immediately found some lions lounging around.  It was still cool in the morning but these guys seemed content to lie around all day.  There were a couple of interested glances from some of the young males who must have caught scent of some prey but I would venture a guess that this pride could have been found in that general vicinity for the next few hours at least.  After spending some time admiring the lions we stopped at a nearby watering hole and must have seen a group of at least 14 giraffe, some heading towards the water some already bending over in their unique way and getting a sip of water.

We made our way back onto the main road and got to Okaukuejo to check out a very popular water hole.  We were not disappointed as it was crowded with antelope and, more importantly, a couple of elephants.  We must have spent a solid 45 minutes there just watching the animals come and go.  One particular kudu had the most impressive set of horns I have ever seen and of course elephants are endlessly entertaining.

After a quick restroom break at Okaukuejo we went deeper into the park and came across a zebra kill surrounded by jackals.  We had just missed a hyena that had been feeding there but we saw him scampering off in the distance.  After scouring the area our guide found a large male lion in the distance who must have been responsible for the kill.

For the evening we took our final game drive in the Ongava Reserve and apparently we saved the best for last.  After driving up one of the rocky hills for quite some time we came to a watering hole near the summit.  It seemed quiet and we drove off for a couple of minutes but wound up returning.  It was a good thing we did because as we rolled up in our vehicle we witnessed a large pride of lion make their way to the water.  Once they all arrived we counted 18 lions in total, many of them young cubs.  It was the most we had ever seen in one sighting and quite spectacular.  They took turns drinking and would then go lie down only to have one of the young ones come over looking to play.  After a while the sun started to set and some of them came to rest in the shade of our vehicle.  We stayed with them for at least an hour and I wouldn’t have minded another one, just a great sighting and a fantastic way to end our time in Namibia.

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