No mention of Naankuse (spelled N/a’an ku sê, in one of the local dialects) seems to be made without the words Angelina Jolie popping up.
Through the work of the Shiloh Jolie-Pitt Foundation, the actress has for almost a decade supported the work being done at Naankuse, in honour of her Namibian-born daughter.
The Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary and nature reserve has as its aims the conservation of the land, the cultures and the wildlife of Namibia.
And so, tempted by the reputation of the sanctuary, as well as its great location not far from the Windhoek Hosea Kutako airport, we decided to book ourselves into the Naankuse lodge for our final night's accommodation, before our flight back to South Africa the following day.
At Naankuse there is a large variety of wildlife activities on offer, based around the different animals and conservation areas of the sanctuary, including for example cheetah, caracal and rhino experiences, or horse rides through the nature reserve surrounding the lodge.
Seeing the majority of these animals is only available exclusively through one of these booked activities, none of which come cheap.
Given that we were at the end of an activity-packed week that also included plenty of time on the Namibian roads, we decided to forgo the activities and simply relax at the lodge accommodation for our final evening.
It is possible to do a self-drive through the part of Naankuse's conservation area where the chalets and villas are based, although this area is not particularly large, and 10 minutes or so in the car will cover most of it.
We did take the opportunity to do so briefly, at sunset and before we made our way to the lodge's on-site restaurant for dinner, and we were rewarded with sightings of zebras, buck, giraffes and ostriches.
As for the accommodation itself, we were booked into one of Naankuse's standalone 2-bedroom villas on the property, and here unfortunately we were to be a bit disappointed.
The cost of accommodation at Naankuse Lodge is about the same as what we had paid for our previous night's stay at the brilliant Erongo Wilderness Lodge, and more expensive than our night at the Sossusvlei Lodge, but the quality of the lodgings at Naankuse did not, for us, live up to either of those.
Nor can Naankuse compete on location - the stunning views surrounding both the Erongo and Sossusvlei lodges are unique and special, while here is the usual safari bushveld and thorn trees common to the area around the capital.
The villa was perfectly sufficient for our needs, however it was no different to the kinds of thatch roof houses found a-dime-a-dozen in nature reserves across southern Africa, plainly and unfussily decked out.
The interior of the house was functional, but in no way special.
On the plus side, it had plenty of space - there were 2 bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom, and there was a decent sized common area that was the lounge and open-plan kitchen.
A sliding door opened onto a small patio with some basic chairs and a small table, though the view was not particularly noteworthy. We did have a few minutes of entertainment at one point however, as a small herd of giraffes wandered placidly by.
Having made our way to the on-site restaurant at Naankuse later that afternoon, we found a table at the floor-to-ceiling windows which surround half the space, giving views over the surroundings. The restaurant is a comfortable space tastefully decorated in a wood-and-concrete African theme, together with some beautiful artworks depicting wild animals and local tribes.
As our pre-dinner drinks arrived we appreciated the sightings of a few animals come to visit the waterhole not far away, as dusk approached, together with a troop of monkeys cavorting around the swimming pool area. As a result, heading down to the pool would have been too dangerous, and it did leave me wondering if the animals were discouraged from the area during the day when guests wanted to use the pool, or if it was simply not available at certain times.
We ordered from the limited set menu, and our starters of bobotie spring rolls were superb! Our main courses were also pretty tasty, with some delicious vegetable sides. We did though have to send our meat back to the kitchen once to be recooked, as it had arrived cooked completely differently from what we had ordered.
In all, dinner at Naankuse was a decent success, but again not completely living up to the great meals we had had elsewhere on this trip.
The next morning we made our way back to the dining area for breakfast, having had a relaxed night's sleep.
In the morning this space is bathed in the glow of the early sunshine and it is a very nice place to enjoy a meal.
We helped ourselves to the hotel breakfast from the small buffet, while our waiter brought us some coffee. There was a decent choice on offer, including continental breads, cheeses and pastries, as well as cooked English breakfast options, and a muesli and fruit selection.
We were perfectly happy with the breakfast on offer, and spent an enjoyable bit of time reminiscing about our amazing Namibian holiday. Once again though, the breakfast buffet at Naankuse did not live up by comparison to what we had received at the Erongo lodge the morning previously, or the lovely breakfast options at the stunning Desert Grace Lodge between Sesriem and Solitaire.
Not long after, we said our final goodbyes to Naankuse as we made our way back to the Windhoek airport for our short flight back to South Africa, after what was a truly amazing and memorable trip to Namibia.
Final review of the Naankuse Lodge
In the end, all things considered, the Naankuse lodge is not one we would necessarily recommend. At least not from the point of view of our accommodation experience in one of the Villas.
The price is quite high for this lodge, and it simply did not compare favourably to some of the other incredible lodges that we had stayed in during our brief visit to Namibia.
On the other hand, the conservation efforts of the Naankuse sanctuary are commendable, and visitors to Namibia may want to stay on site simply to experience the wildlife activities. As we did not partake in any of the excursions we cannot comment on them, though from the lodge's activities brochure they do look great (if pricey)!
Apart from the Villas, there are also some Chalets available at Naankuse to stay in, situated next to the restaurant and swimming pool, and they may potentially be of a higher standard than the Villa we had been assigned.
What is certainly true is that the Naankuse lodge is well located for the Namibia International airport, and should definitely be considered from that point of view, as good hotel accommodation options for the Hosea Kutako airport are generally quite limited.