An open game drive vehicle in Etosha Private Reserve: Onguma

Etosha Private Reserves

March 7, 2024

Exploring the vast expanse of Etosha National Park and its bounteous wildlife is a bucket-list experience for many. But where’s the best vantage point from which to set off on your Etosha adventures?

While the public rest camps within the park put you right in the heart of the action, those looking for a touch of luxury should consider the private reserves that are just a stone’s throw from the park entrance – yet miles away from the crowds.

Etosha Private Reserves

Staying at one of these small, intimate lodges on a private reserve means that you can combine the best of both worlds. Often only a short drive from one of the entrance gates, these expansive private concessions enjoy a prime position on their own land, with their own game – so you can spend hours at some of the best waterholes within the park, and then retreat to your private sanctuary for more wildlife sightings and a highly comfortable stay at one of its luxury lodges or camps.  

As private lodges are not constrained by park rules and are not restricted by the sunrise-to-sunset opening hours of Etosha National Park, you’ll be surrounded by an air of exclusivity. Which means that if you spot an elusive leopard, you can ask your guide to keep tracking it to make the most of the memorable sighting – ideally followed by a soul-stirring sundowner while you watch the sun sink into the horizon.

Private lodges also offer a wider array of activities, such as guided bush walks, sundowners and picnics, night game drives and rhino tracking. And there’s certainly no shortage of wildlife, with black and white rhino, leopard, lion, and cheetah, as well as zebra, giraffe, and a multitude of other game present year-round.

The Best Private Lodges Bordering Etosha

Our favourite private reserves offer a range of accommodation options, from luxury tented camps and family-friendly lodges to romantic hideaways and exclusive-use villas.

1. Onguma

Situated close to the east entrance of the park, Onguma Game Reserve is home to five lodges, two campsites, and 34,000 hectares of private, wildlife-rich wilderness to explore. Its latest offering, Onguma Camp Kala, is also its most luxurious, with the four-suited lodge already making it onto Condé Nast Traveler’s esteemed Readers' Choice Awards list. Elevated on wooden decks, with panoramic views of one of Onguma’s most prolific waterholes, you’ll often be able to spot wildlife from the comfort of your suite or while enjoying lunch or dinner. Onguma has a water-level hide located at a popular waterhole where you can sit and watch wildlife come and go.

Onguma properties: Onguma Camp Kala and Onguma The Fort (5 stars), Onguma Tented Camp (4 stars), Onguma Forest Camp and Onguma Bush Camp (3 stars), campsites: Leadwood Campsite and Tamboti Campsite or try the Onguma Dream Cruiser experience.

2. Ongava

On the fringes of Etosha Pan, in close proximity to Andersson Gate in the south, you’ll find Ongava Private Game Reserve. Known as the ‘Realm of the Rhino’, this former farmland sees the mighty creature roam free, accompanied by lion, leopard, elephant, and an abundance of other species. The quartet of lodges includes the 14-bedroom Ongava Lodge, Little Ongava with only three rooms, the more rustic Ongava Tented Camp with nine rooms, and Anderssons at Ongava with nine rooms and ‘a touch of Afro-Mediterranean flair’. Enjoy game drives, guided game walks, sunsets overlooking the waterholes or spend time in the photography hide.

3. Etosha Heights

One of the largest private reserves in Namibia, Etosha Heights shares a 65-kilometre boundary with Etosha National Park, and offers 60,000 hectares of unspoiled wildlife on its southwest border. Etosha Heights is about 1,5 hours from the closest entry gate to Etosha Park so it makes more sense to enjoy most of your game viewing in this private reserve instead of venturing into the park. It is known for its healthy population of both black and white rhino. Choose from three lodges and camps: the elevated Etosha Mountain Lodge with nine classic Namibian chalets, Safarihoek Lodge, which offers great views from the hill position of its 11 chalets, or the exclusive-use three-bedroom Safari House. Etosha Heights also boasts a two-level hide which allows guests to get incredible shots without intruding on the wildlife at all.

4. The Mushara Collection

Located just 8km from the Von Lindequist gate of the reserve, on Etosha’s eastern border, the 2,500 hectare family-run Mushara private reserve offers four accommodation options: the original Mushara Lodge, as well as Mushara Bush Camp, Mushara Outpost, and Villa Mushara. While no activities take place on the Mushara Reserve, you can opt for a guided game drive into the park, morning or afternoon.

5. Hobatere Lodge

Situated off the beaten track on the western border of Etosha National Park, close to Galton Gate, Hobatere Lodge forms part of the ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy. Closed for several years, the 8,800 hectare concession was re-opened under community ownership in 2015. Wildlife has been thriving ever since its reopening, earning it the nickname ‘Little Etosha’. It makes for an ideal stopover between Damaraland and Etosha, or the perfect base from which to explore to the western side of the park.

Other lodges bordering Etosha:

With an additional 16 tried-and-tested private Etosha lodges listed on our website just outside of the Etosha National Park we’re sure to find the perfect match for your budget and preferences – chat to us to find out which one suits you best, to get you started on your Etosha adventure.

Public rest camps or private reserves?

In our opinion, no Etosha visit is complete without at least one night inside the park (Okaukuejo Camp close to Anderson Gate remains a firm favourite among our team), with access to the floodlit waterholes and front-row entry to the park at sunrise. Having said that, the exclusive experience at a private reserve, and the additional activities offered, make it well worth the expense. We say combine both for the most immersive experience!

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