Spoilt for choice - Namibia's accommodation options
When choosing where to stay in Namibia you’ll find something to suit every taste and budget. By Lizzie Williams.

 

There’s a wide variety of accommodation in Namibia that caters for every budget; whether you’re exploring the country on an expensive flying safari and staying at luxury lodges or on a self-drive camping trip. There is a requirement for every hotel, lodge, guest farm, campsite and backpackers hostel to be graded and registered to ensure that minimum standards are met and that the establishment deserves the right to be registered and promoted by the Namibia Tourist Board. As a result, the quality of establishments across Namibia in every price bracket is very high. Options vary from top-of-the-range, stylish game lodges and tented camps (N$2500-7000 per couple per day), mid-range chalets and safari lodges in the national parks (N$500-1300), to guesthouses and B&Bs (N$400-600), and dorm beds or camping (N$100-150 a day). Reservations, especially in the parks, should be made well in advance if possible, particularly around the southern African school holidays, the longest of which are in December and January.

 

Lodges & Tented Camps
At the luxury end are a number of game lodges and tented camps. Their attraction is the chance to combine prime wilderness areas with top-class accommodation, fine dining and vintage wines. Lodges vary with rooms and facilities in one building or individual bandas or rondavels (small huts) with a central dining area. Efforts are usually made to design them to blend into their environment, with an emphasis on natural local building materials and use of traditional art and decoration.


Many have resident guides for organised walks or game drives, and some even have astronomers to guide guests through Namibia’s extraordinary night sky. Luxury tented camps usually have spacious tents with thatched roofs to keep them cool inside, proper beds and a verandah and a small bathroom at the back, usually with solar-heated hot water. From a tent you might hear animals surprisingly close by if you are in a wildlife area, or in the desert, enjoy only the sound of total silence. Both are often isolated and not easily accessible by road, so many have their own airstrips. Charter flights save time and avoid long dusty journeys by road.


Wilderness Safaris (www.wilderness-safaris.com) operate five super-luxurious lodges and tented camps in some sublime locations at Sossusvlei, Damaraland, Skeleton Coast, Hartmann’s Valley and Etosha. Wolwedans (www.wolwedans-namibia.com), located in the heart of the NamibRand Nature Reserve, offers a portfolio of camps that provide the perfect base from which to explore this incredible region. For the ultimate Spa experience, Gocheganas, not far from Windhoek, is a luxury lodge offering a unique combination of wildlife, nature and wellness experiences (www.gocheganas.com). If you want to explore the Fish River Canyon, Gondwana (www.gondwana-desert-collection.com) operate desert lodges nearby, and Ecolodgistix is a young and dynamic company that manages the beautiful Fish River Lodge (www.fishriverlodge-nambia.com) as well as three other lodges in Namibia. Islands in Africa (www.islandsinafrica.com) have some intimate lodges in idyllic watery locations in Caprivi, and Classic Safari Camps of Africa (www.classicsnambia.com) promote luxury lodges and tented camps in Kaokoland, Etosha and the NamibRand Nature Reserve. For something a little different, Onguma (www.onguma.com) in Etosha offers several accommodation options including a tented camp, a bush camp, the fort and a treetop camp, or you could stay in one of the incredible 11 traditional African-style round buildings that make up the Rostock Ritz Lodge (www.rostock-ritz-desert-lodge.com) in the Namib desert.

Hotels
Every medium-sized town has at least one small hotel, often providing the only comfortable bar and restaurant in town. Many of these hotels are family run and fall into the two-star category, offering clean, basic rooms, while the more upmarket hotels in the cities and towns provide good service and international standards. Under Namibia Tourism Board’s grading system a hotel must have at least 20 en suite rooms, whilst a hotel pension must have at least 10 but not more than 20 en suite rooms. To be called a lodge or resort, the establishment has to be located in a rural area or within a natural environment, and must have at least five rooms and provide recreational activities.


Kempinski Luxury Hotels (www.kempinski.com) operate the Kempinski Mokuti Lodge in Etosha, while Namibia Country Lodges (www.namibialodges.com) run hotels and lodges in country locations. Protea Hotels (www.proteahotels.co.za) run a number of hotels in Namibia’s towns. Also, keep your eyes peeled for two new openings: The Hilton Windhoek  and The Olive  Exclusive Boutique Hotel. See page 17 for more details.

B&B’s & Guesthouses
Once confined to Windhoek, the B&B concept has taken off in all of Namibia’s towns. Most operate along conventional lines and you will be staying in someone’s home, which can be a good way to meet local people and gain an insight into their lives. Guesthouses tend to be a cross between a hotel and a B&B and are generally found in Windhoek, Swakopmund and the towns of the central and southern regions, and generally offer en suite rooms with TV and have a small swimming pool. Both provide a hearty full cooked breakfast, and at some it may be possible to arrange an evening meal by calling ahead.


Many B&Bs and guesthouses are listed with the Accommodation Association of Namibia (www.accommodation-association.com). Officially a guesthouse, but offering something a little different, The Olive Grove Guesthouse (www.olivegrove-namibia.com) is a small, quiet, but upmarket establishment in a quiet area of Windhoek.

Hostels
Apart from camping, backpackers’ hostels provide the cheapest accommodation in Namibia, though they are generally found only in Windhoek and Swakopmund. Most are well-run communal houses with dorms and double rooms, and there is usually a well-equipped kitchen, bar, lounge with library and TV, a notice-board for travellers, and often someone who can arrange budget safari tours and car hire. For independent travellers, these places are the best source of information, companionship, parties and advice.


Chameleon Backpackers (www.chameleonbackpackers.com) has evolved from a basic backpacker’s lodge (when it was founded in 1996) to a boutique facility catering for all ranges of traveller. They offer six-bed dormitories with en suite bathroom facilities, standard twin/double rooms with en suite bathroom all the way through to a premier honeymoon suite with four poster queen-sized bed and private balcony with two showers. Another hostel option is Villa Wiese (www.villaweise.com), which provides a good base for exploring Swakopmund.

Camping
For visitors on a limited budget who wish to see as much of Namibia as possible, staying in campsites and using the money saved on hotels towards hiring a car is probably the best option. Camping is far from a neglected end of the market and there are campsites all over the country; there are good facilities at many parks, most guest farms have their own private campsites and there are some excellent community campsites.  In the most popular parks, like Etosha, pitches get booked up to a year in advance, so don’t assume there will be space. Even the most basic site will have a clean ablution block, many with electric points, lighting, fireplace for cooking (locally known as a ‘braai’) and tap. Be sure to stock up on provisions in the supermarkets and bottle stores of the major towns. The cooking side of camping can be the most awkward for visitors; however, many car hire companies rent vehicles with everything you need, including bulky items such as tables, chairs and cool boxes, plus small items such as cooking utensils and towels. If cost is no concern, you can hire one with a built-in refrigerator, water tank, solar-heated portable shower, roof tents, long-range fuel tanks and all the smaller items necessary for a successful camping trip.


The Namibia Community Based Tourism Assistance Trust (NACOBTA; www.nacobta.com.na) promotes almost 30 campsites across the country that are run by local communities. Camping Car Hire (www.camping-carhire.com), Odyssey Car Hire (www.odysseycarhire.com) and Caprivi Car Hire (www.caprivicarhire) all offer all-terrain vehicles including camping equipment.

Guest Farms
There are hundreds of guest farms all over the country. Many offer horse-riding, hiking, good country food and relaxation in a tranquil, rural setting, and the owners know their land (and everything that lives on it) intimately. It is easy to be misled by the word ‘farm’. In fact, most Namibian farms are vast tracts of land, typically as large as 10,000 hectares, used predominantly for livestock farming; although most guest farms usually have some wild game such as springbok, gemsbok and warthog. Visit www.orusovo.com for a comprehensive list of Namibia’s guest farms.
 
Self-catering
Namibia Wildlife Resorts (www.nwr.com.na) is responsible for management of all the 23 declared game reserves and parks. Most have some form of accommodation, usually a mix of self-catering bungalows with two to six beds, and well-serviced campsites. Recently, some of the accommodation has been upgraded, such as the former self-catering chalets in Etosha, which are now luxury units with rates that include breakfast in the restaurant and in some cases dinner too. Other accommodation upgrades include the Waterberg Plateau Park and the Ai-Ais Hot Springs Resort at the bottom of Fish River Canyon. Overall, they represent reasonable value and in most cases the camps are located in beautiful positions.


You can also find self-catering accommodation in the form of  VIP, luxury or standard and economic bungalows at the Zambezi Waterfront Tourism Park (email ) located within the beautiful Caprivi region.

 

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