Erongo Wilderness Lodge, Namibia
Updated: Jan 19
As the sun sinks towards the horizon, we find ourselves slowly falling silent.
Just a short while ago, we were chatting and laughing amiably, as we clambered and scrambled behind each other up the small hill near the lodge, led by our cheerful guide.
We are a group of about a dozen, consisting of mostly Europeans, who've decided to make this easy climb to take in the sunset over the surrounding bushveld and the distant Erongo mountains from a better vantage point.
It is fun finding oneself a continent away from home, together with like-minded fellow travellers and in an amazing new location, and we swapped our histories and our individual journeys with each other as we made our way to the top of the granite kopje.
But now all is quiet.
With a gin and tonic each in hand and as the colours around us fade to grey, we take it all in, mesmerised by the rarefied beauty that is Namibia.
The Erongo Mountain Nature Conservation Sanctuary
As the impact of travelling and tourism on the environment has become more and more obvious, plugged-in travellers have started paying more attention to how they undertake their own journeys, and especially to where they stay when vacationing.
Namibia as a country is not short of options when it comes to environmentally woke Eco lodges, which focus on integrating and contributing to their environments and improving their local communities. Many of them however, are eye-wateringly expensive, catering to a well-heeled international elite.
One exception is the Erongo Wilderness Lodge, north-west of Windhoek near Omaruru, which is much more reasonably priced. It is also a founding member of the Erongo Mountain Nature Conservancy. This private trust is made up of several farms which have banded together to remove the fences between them, creating 180 000 hectares of land which is once again available for the wildlife to move around freely. The trust has also been instrumental in protecting the surrounding environment, combating poaching, and reintroducing endemic wildlife species like the black-faced impala and the black rhinoceros to the region.
As commercial farming is not allowed within the borders of the trust, many of the landowners now earn an income through one form or another of tourism.
The Erongo Wilderness Lodge
Situated in this striking wilderness area, nestled amongst granite boulders and surrounded by the dramatic Erongo mountains, is the Erongo Wilderness Lodge.
It consists of only 12 units, described by the lodge as 'luxury tented chalets'.
Each chalet is set apart from the others, with its own private deck for taking in the views, and linked by raised wooden walkways with the rest of the lodge. The placement of the chalets and their construction is done in such a way that it does not distract from the countryside, but rather moulds into it.
The interiors of the chalets are casual and comfortable, without being ostentatious. The en suite bathrooms, though attached to the tent, are outside of it and constructed within the surrounding rocks together with local materials. It is part of the special experience of this lodge that you get to take a shower or brush your teeth while at the same time appreciating the nature all around.
One salient point to make is that these chalets do not have air conditioning, though they do come with huge fans. It is to the credit of the lodge that they are trying to minimise their environmental impact in this way, though given the elevated temperatures common in Namibia it is worth keeping this fact in mind.
For our part, during the worst of the afternoon heat we did find it stuffy to be in the room, and we spent our time next to the pool or in the restaurant and common areas of the lodge where it was cooler. And even with the hot weather during the day, temperatures fall quite fast overnight and we did not find it difficult to sleep.
Back from our gin and tonic sundowners excursion, and freshened up, we made our way to dinner. Here it is served on an outside wooden deck, the many stars overhead providing most of the companionable lighting.
The food itself is amazing. We have, amongst other things, the best piece of local game meat of the entire trip - a delicious oryx fillet in red wine. Followed by an amarula chocolate mousse for dessert that has us practically licking our plates. All served up by the graciously hospitable staff.
Given the small number of visitors, the atmosphere at dinner is hushed, intimate, appreciative. There are some places in the world where it is possible to completely break away from the rigours of modern life, if only for a time, to be completely immersed in the beauty of the surroundings, and to be soothed by it. The Erongo Lodge is one such place.
The next morning we are up again as the sun rises, for one of the included guided morning walks offered by the lodge. Our knowledgeable guide takes us on a 2 hour hike up one of the nearby hills for far reaching views of the bushveld all around. All the while, he regales us with tales of the local wildlife and the conservation efforts of the lodge, the indigenous flora and its many traditional uses, as well as the challenges faced by the region due to the lack of rain in recent years.
Back at the lodge, we sit down to breakfast, which turns out to be the best of our trip! There are some a la carte options available, but by far the best part of the breakfast is the picnic basket which is set down on the table, filled with delicious muffins and pastries, cold meats and cheeses, muesli and fresh fruit, butter and homemade jams.
Like everything else at this authentic lodge, it feels locally sourced, individually put together, attentively prepared.
Breakfast also comes with a show. The restaurant overlooks a waterhole, and at this time of the day it is frequented by the resident baboons, as well as the odd buck. And outside our window some of the local bird species and the odd dassie dash in and out, attracted by the seeds the staff have put out for them.
We leave the lodge not long after, and as with much of this Namibian trip, we leave another tiny part of ourselves fondly behind at the Erongo Wilderness Lodge. It has been another singular experience, and one we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.