The luxuriously enchanting Onguma The Fort’s red walls and 11 luxury suites look out to the thorntree-dotted plains of Etosha, one Namibia’s most dramatically vast landscapes. Inspired by a splendid Moroccan fort, Onguma feels wonderfully remote from the rest of the world, while offering a deep experience of what Isak Dinesen called Africa’s “real world” of nature and solitude, with some of the most spectacular sunsets imaginable, followed by limpid nighttime skies, “a warm conservatory whose great dome is encrusted with all the diamonds in the world,” as Elspeth Huxley wrote.
Each of the Fort’s 11 suites, decorated with lush but subtle flair, stands alone, detached by 150 or so feet, giving us extra privacy in an already deliciously private setting. Canopied, king-size beds look out at the Etosha’s plains, and the suite’s large glass doors open to a private sitting area, with close-ups views of the Onguma’s animal-attracting waterhole. Each air-conditioned suite is furnished with a bar refrigerator, and its spacious bathroom features indoor and outdoor shower areas and a commodious, reposeful bathtub.
Onguma’s artistically-lit public areas include an airy dining room and expansive deck from which to watch the ever-eventful waterhole while enjoying top-notch cuisine and quiet relaxation. As the Daily Telegraph says, “Eating dinner al fresco under clear southern African skies as lions roar in earshot is, quite honestly, both dreamy and surreal.”
The Etosha Pans are the heart of Etosha National Park. These pans are the remains of a once vast lake, formed 16,000 or so years ago during a wet phase in Southern Africa. When the lake evaporated, the local Oshindonga people gave it its name: Etosha, The Great White Place.
Today Etosha is perhaps the country’s greatest wildlife sanctuary, and while the park is a classical African mix of open grasslands and savannah woodland, the pans that surround Onguma are the primary focus of our game viewing. Despite its sere appearance, the Great White Place is dotted with waterholes, magnets for the park’s animals: 114 mammal species (elephants, lions, rhinos, just about you-name-it among the great African wildlife roster); 110 reptile species; 16 amphibians; and 340 bird species, including the million or so flamingos that breed in the former lakebed. Our day and night game drives are adventurous and revelatory. Criss-crossing the salt pan in safari vehicles, we excitedly spot animals silhouetted around a waterhole, and slowly come near for a classic safari experience: animals gathered in wary, temporary peace around life-giving water.