The Ongava Experience

We got an opportunity to visit Ongava, a famous private game reserve spread over 30,000 hectares. The conservation has highest number of lions, and a wide variety of antelopes and birds. Since we always wanted to see a lion’s pride in natural habitation, we started our journey with the hope to definitely spot it at Ongava.

ongava-game-reserve

It was early evening when we reached Ongava after travelling about 425km towards North. The staff welcomed cordially with wet scented towels and chilled lemon water, which we appreciated very much after a long journey in the blazing Sun. We took over our rooms. The chalets were so sparkling clean and cozy! Every piece of amenity inside was provided with a keen interest and thoughtfulness. We kept our luggage into the rooms and rushed towards a beautifully located swimming pool. The Sun was still glorifying the west horizon.

After a few dips in the pool we went to the rooms and got ready to sip coffee in the lounge. The thatched lounge of Ongava is designed such that the viewers can see the twin waterholes just beside and the Savannah plains that spread over acres till the horizon. While we were sipping coffee, we could see a pair of rhinos and a pair of giraffes; two of the five big animals of Africa. Our dedicated guide Abner told us that there was also a watch-house just next to it; smartly hidden in bushes. The route to watch-house was covered by bamboo stripes entirely, so that the viewers could be completely hidden from the animals. We speedily went there with cameras while the Sun was still flashing its last rays of the day.

animal-watching

Rhinos came and made giraffes wait till their turn of having water was over. They went into nearby bushes and ate. They again came to the waterhole. They didn’t allow giraffes to come near waterhole and poor giraffes were waiting for their turn. After multiple toggling trips to waterhole and bushes, the rhinos disappeared into the bushes once and for all, and giraffes came to the waterhole slowly. They stretched their forelimbs wide apart to be able to reach the water and drank it. So inconvenient it was for them! Giraffe is most vulnerable to become a prey while having water. Sun descended completely and we walked back to the rooms.

Since the chalets had dense vegetation around, a staff member escorted us to the dining area. Around 8:00pm we went to the lounge. It was pitch dark on the western side, barring a lamp at the waterhole. The dinner was laid next to a big braai. It was chicken kebabs and butternut soup; very well adorned with streaks of cream. The aroma of meat wafted in the air. The wind carried scent of dry soil and bushes to us.

While we were having dinner, Abner came to us to decide on next day’s plan. We expressed our wish to see a lion’s pride to him. While we were in the discussion, we saw a safari vehicle approaching back to the chalets with head lights on. Shortly a group of happy tourists arrived at the dining area and announced that they saw a pride of lions! 😮 The group so excited to have spotted lions that they shared their experience with twinkling eyes. 🙂 Their real story increased our anxiety to see the pride of lions even more. Abner was happy for getting a clue about where the pride could be.

Abner escorted us to our chalets and we straight went to the beds. Yet another awesome night beside the Savannah plains… 🙂

Early morning around 6:30, father and Nishant heard the roar of a big cat. Lion’s roar can be heard from a distance as long as five miles. At the time of breakfast, Abner came to our table and suggested that we should first visit the south-west terrain, where the other group of guests saw a lion’s pride the previous evening. We boarded the safari vehicle hopefully.

Abner took the sturdy vehicle through thorny bushes, ditches, and deep marked trails, which were left by other safari vehicles. We tried to keep ourselves from those thorny bushes and heat. We roamed the terrain looking for the presence of lions about an hour; but no luck…Abner, little disappointingly suggested that we go to the Etosha Pan and return to the west-terrain again to search the pride. We could see a large number of kudus, springboks, impalas, water bucks, elephants, ostriches, zebras, oryxes, wildebeests, and a lazy pair of lions, but the pride. 😦 The pair of lions we saw had tracing collars around their necks and they were lazily slumbering near a cement water tank. Sun was showering its warmest rays and the lion couple seemed to take years to move. 😀 I knew the lions were very lazy, but never knew they were that lazy!! 😀 Abner informed that they were together for making babies.

Sun was on our heads and Abner seemed to be little upset on not being able to follow the pride’s trail. He offered us for some juices and cold drinks to stay hydrated. In Etosha Pan we saw a giant tusker hurriedly coming to the waterhole. He was a darker than the most usual elephants. He drank from the water hole’s fresh water source and went his way. Abner told that the elephants splash water on their skin and then coat a layer of sand over the wet skin to make a mask, which saves them from the heat.

elephant-with-tusks

So the dark tusker seemed to have arrived from the terrain where there was dark soil. The tusker vanished into the bush with the same speed that he came with. A large herd of elephants came at the waterhole to quench their thirst. A little elephant cub was looking indeed cute 🙂

We decided to return to our chalets. We were little upset as we had only that evening left and we hadn’t yet spotted the pride. We were suppose to leave Ongava the next morning and time was running fast… 😦 We had chicken pies in lunch, took rest for an hour, and once again started the safari drive in search of pride. It was about 5:00pm with still a bright day outside. We all were sitting quiet in the vehicle and keenly looking around for any yellow furry patches or long brown mane…En route, Abner stopped the vehicle to show a beautiful fly catcher and few other small birds. But that day, we had eyes only for lion’s pride.

We roamed about more than 150km in Savannah plains in search of the lion’s pride. Abner was getting despondent and we were being desperate…The sky was clouded heavily and winds swirled up the dust in the air spirally. We were quiet and almost on the verge of losing hope… 😦 Sun was about to descend in some time. Abner again gathered his enthusiasm and took us to a nearby waterhole in anticipation of getting the pride’s trail…We spotted two mighty elephants at the waterhole, who were least bothered about our appearance. Abner stopped the vehicle at a little distance.

The elephants were munching leaves from the nearby tree, breaking its branches, and removing the bark…We keenly looked around again…

And all our efforts were paid!! 😀

It was there. Twelve of them. Camouflaged in the dry brown bushes. 🙂 Quiet and completely untamed…Spread around the waterhole. Young and old, males and females, and toddler cubs. Some lions were basking in the evening Sun.

lions-prideAbner read their body language and said that they had consumed their prey and arrived at the waterhole to conclude the day. The leader of the pride was keeping eye on elephants. He was little away from the elephants as well as from his pride. He looked ferocious with a steady gaze, full grown mane, and commanding gestures.

the-lion

Abner started the vehicle and parked it almost between the two elephants on one side and the pride on the other. After a lot of eating, the elephants approached the waterhole, where two lionesses were having water. One active elephant shooed them away by a loud trumpet and a thump of a forefoot. The lionesses made space for elephants and went aside. The elephants then started having water as if the waterhole was their own property! 😀 The pride kept anticipating their next moves and waiting for their turn to have water.

elephants-at-waterhole

A couple of lightening streaks appeared on the west horizon and we saw a massive cloud approaching towards us like a shower head. It carried a drizzle to us. Then it moved aside to make place for Sun to show its magic. Soon a beautiful rainbow appeared in the sky! It was magnificent. 🙂 The elephants, the Savannah plains, a lion’s pride, and the colorful sky!! The sight was so captivating!! A few hours before, we had wholeheartedly wished for the view of lion’s pride and He showed an extra-ordinary view of nature. 🙂 We were fortunate to be a part of that magical scene!!

Soon, the Sun went down leaving a hot orange streak in the western sky. Abner drove us safely back towards the chalets. It was so hard to get over the wonderful experience! We took dinner and went to bed.

ongava-managers

The managers, Ongava Game Reserve

The next morning, we took a lavish breakfast and met the staff to pay thanks. We expressed our deep gratitude to the lodge managers for hosting us. The staff members were so hospitable, and warmhearted that they effortlessly made us feel at home. 🙂 Their dedicated service with polite yet clear communication was unparalleled.

Ongava visit helped us to create one of the best memories during Namibian wildlife safari. As we know, we all retain best memories; for we can retrieve and revisit them, and smile again… 🙂 Holding memories of the unique experience at Ongava game reserve, we started back to Windhoek.