Namibia is such a dramatic and vast country. Known as the second most sparsely populated country in the world, with only two million inhabitants, it is quite easy to see why it has such unspoiled natural landscape. It’s an incredible place to soak in the culture, history, and sightings. Any African species you wish to see, Namibia is your one-stop destination. But while there are the national parks like Etosha, there is definitely a bonus to visiting a private game reserve. In my opinion, there is only one place that stands out from the rest: Erindi Private Game Reserve.
Here are my first impressions:
Our Travel Group
We set off for Namibia in April, a month where the weather is transitioning from summer into the cooler winter months. I was part of a group of 9 people. Five us were colleagues travelling together from ibay. The other four were a film crew consisting of the finest cinematographers, photographers and drone pilots around. They were: Naude Heunis, Kyle Mijlof, Sean Eddy and Benjamin Malherbe. We flew from Cape Town International Airport to Walvis Bay, where we jumped onto a shuttle and headed for our destination via Swakopmund. Driving from west to central Namibia illustrates a cacophony of different terrains. It literally changes every few hundred kilometers – from desert to bushveld, savannah plains, and tall mountains.
Arrival at Old Traders Lodge
Entering the gates at Old Traders Lodge excites the butterflies in your stomach. By now, you’re ready to get out into the fresh air and explore the camp. Erindi means “place of water”. The waterholes and lakes are humongous. A good water supply benefits the vegetation and wildlife immensely. While other farms and towns looked dreary on our drive, Erindi was a welcome surprise with its thick green bush and signs of life. The roads, parking, and entrance are neatly maintained. Being escorted from the bus to reception for check-in was a simple process. Our luggage arrived via porter at our respective suites.
Erindi has a reputation for offering outstanding accommodation at reasonable rates. Once I had dropped my belongings, I had to take a moment to absorb my immaculate sleeping quarters. My chosen room was a superior suite, which faced the main waterhole. A neatly dressed white bed draped in mosquito nets welcomed me. But my eyes were immediately drawn to the private verandah which had two inviting armchairs overlooking the smaller waterhole. The suite was adorned in tasteful pieces including a large wooden headboard, two leather armchairs, a mini-bar and coffee station cabinet, small library and coffee table with complimentary sherry. The bathroom was my favourite. Large, clean, and convenient. Oh, how I relaxed in the oversized tub. There was also a frameless walk-in shower, his-and-hers sinks and granite tiling which lends to that luxury safari pizazz.
Our group gathered at the Old Traders Dining Hall for our first nourishing meal after a long day’s journey. Traditional Namibian food wafts through the air as you find your seat. There is not enough space on a large dinner plate to hold all the delicious offerings in one serving. Several trips to the buffet table are necessary to taste everything. The chef prepares your meat to your preference. Organic game such as Gemsbok and Springbok were culinary highlights. Then there are homely comforts such as sweet potato mash, curried grain salad, and a selection of freshly baked desserts. This gets easily washed down with the fruity and slightly spicy Antonij Rupert Protea Shiraz 2014, which our group took a massive liking to. We might have temporarily depleted their stock while we were there (sorry).
Old Traders Deck
Besides the amazing cuisine, the action happens at the Old Traders Deck which wraps around the dining hall. From here, guests can recline on armchairs for hours as the elephants frolic in the giant waterhole. The crocodiles lie on the banks like dead trees, and the hippos gurgle from below the water’s surface.
Morning game drives start early, and they are fresh. Super fresh. But fortunately for the ill-prepared, all the game viewers are kitted out with individually bagged ponchos. These fleecy blankets are heaven-sent. Once you’re bundled up appropriately, you head out into the reserve in search of a golden sunrise and the possibility of a great sighting. Erindi’s guides are such well-mannered and humble people. Mostly young men, they are the most passionate and driven people I’ve ever known. Their day starts even earlier than yours, as they need to travel in from Otjimakuru, a neighbouring farm, where they reside. They load up their custom-built Land Rover Defenders with beverages, snacks, and a rifle – this is more a precautionary measure (and to put you at ease) in the case of a threat. Lighter measures would be attempted before having to use it, thankfully. No animals are to be harmed unless completely necessary. The guides will stop at a viewpoint to make coffee-choco-Amarulas, which is the speciality drink to warm up croaky throats and frozen fingers. Dunking a rusk into this brings great pleasure. The guides continuously offer interesting facts about Namibia’s fauna and flora without even having to ask. They are a wealth of knowledge and understand the importance of conserving their precious Namibian resources better than anyone. It’s fascinating to hear the lengths they have gone through to protect the wildlife. Sigh, I want their job.
Let me just mention how calm the animals are at Erindi, and how accepting they are of game viewers. This was the most interesting thing for me. After a close encounter with an elephant cow in the Kruger National Park, you won’t easily forget how serious a breeding herd of elephant are. But at Erindi, the elephants are generally peaceful. The lions, in particular, don’t mind how close you get. I think this is largely due to the fact that Erindi won’t allow more than two vehicles near a sighting, at a time. The animals are respected, and trust has been mutually earned.
The landscapes at Erindi are breathtaking. Sitting in the game viewer as a cool breeze rustles through the golden grass of the savannah is like being in a parallel universe. The sun beats down on wary creatures seeking refuge from the midday heat. Shadows are cast from the trees. Bushman Mountain stands proud, enveloping the space around the Vlei. Inselbergs stretch as far as the eye can see, in a giant semi-circle. They have a history of their own, dating back thousands of years when tectonic plates shifted underground. Then the sounds of hooves pounding the ground grab our attention. A herd of Oryx dart through the dense bush just ahead. Necks crane to see the action. Next, a herd of giraffe gallops past. Their long front legs and shorter hind legs make their strides look awkward. Life is continuously happening around you. You’re the one looking into their mysterious world; the outsider. We venture up to the Saddle on Vlei Berg. As we approach, an eagle takes flight, leaving his nest, to soar across the valley. Our guide sets up a generous table of beverages for sundowners. The sun dips behind heavy clouds. Night draws closer. The temperature starts to plummet. The sound of the wilderness around us is all consuming.
Erindi is renowned for their personalized bush activities. Our group had some unbelievable experiences. These included tracking a cheetah coalition who had just been released into the reserve, plus finding a pangolin hiding in long grass, and hiking through the valley to see the ancient San engravings that date back as far as 20,000 years. We even found a termite mound covered in Omajova – a giant edible mushroom and Namibian delicacy. However, the highlight was seeing Erindi’s pack of wild dogs devour an entire adult gemsbok in less than 20 minutes. Covered in blood, the dogs seriously started to stink. But having seen the most trafficked mammal in the world (the pangolin) and a critically endangered mammal (the African wild dog), you realize how blessed you are to visit this conservation site.
Previous to the trip, I had heard that Namibian people are friendly and welcoming. Now I know this is true. Our hosts at Erindi were exceptional. From being greeted in the dining hall each evening, to inviting us for a private braai/barbecue, to ensuring we had everything we needed during our stay; they went above and beyond for our group. We ate like kings, so much so that gym and exercise were needed on returning to the city.
My first impression of Erindi? It’s an amazing place that needs to be visited at least once to see its beauty and magic.
For those who haven’t been, Erindi is essentially a well-oiled machine. Each cog fits into place and, combined, this place runs at full steam. Both Old Traders Lodge and Camp Elephant experience 90% occupancy throughout the year. The locals know what I’m talking about. Pulling into Erindi for a romantic weekend, a family retreat, or just some quiet time is exactly what one needs from time to time. My first impression of Erindi? It’s an amazing place that needs to be visited at least once to see its beauty and magic. On behalf of our group, I’d like to thank the owners, management, and staff. We had an incredible time. Erindi feels like home. And it was a mere 48 hours upon returning to South Africa that we longed to be back in that sweetly scented bushveld. I can’t wait to return again and (hopefully) again.
Written by: Kelly Frielinghaus
Photos supplied by: ibay