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A great start end ending to your Namibia holiday

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Eurowings returns to Namibia

Vacationers from Europe have another affordable option to fly directly to Namibia. Eurowings is re-establishing its route from Germany to Windhoek – strangely enough, however, at a time when the peak holiday season in Namibia is drawing to a close. But that's not the only surprise...

  • Eurowings flies to Windhoek three times a week as from the end of October

    Eurowings flies to Windhoek three times a week as from the end of October. Photo: Wikipedia

The Lufthansa subsidiary, known for its affordable rates, flies to Windhoek three times a week as from the end of October, but not from their home airport Cologne/Bonn, but from Frankfurt. Outgoing and return flights take place at night. An Airbus 330 departs to Namibia on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and returns to Germany on the following days.

For the end of October Lufthansa and Eurowings have invited to an official launch of the new direct connection in Namibia. However, Windhoek is by no means a new destination for Eurowings. Already last year, the airline had flown to Namibia – in their (European) summer timetable. From March to October, there was one flight per week each from Cologne/Bonn and from Munich.

For the first stop after landing Ondekaremba is a great option, as it is just seven kilometres from Hosea Kutako International Airport near Windhoek. There you can relax after the flight and start the tour the next day rested, which might be especially important for self-drivers who do not come from England and have to get used to the left-hand traffic. However, Ondekaremba is also the first choice for the last stop before the evening return flight – because of its day booking, giving you the opportunity to spend the last hours on the lodge premises instead of at the airport.

Airport under construction

Good news for travellers to Namibia: At Hosea Kutako International Airport, long waiting times at immigration counters, check-in and security checkpoints are soon to be a thing of the past. After several delays the conversion and expansion of the airport east of Windhoek has now begun...

  • In a process of conversion: The International Hosea Kutako Airport at Windhoek

    In a process of conversion: The International Hosea Kutako Airport at Windhoek. Photo (2017): Olga Ernst, Wikimedia

Within about one year, the building is to be completely redesigned. The entrance area to the departure hall will be extended, the number of check-in desks turned 90 degrees and the number of counters increased from 14 to 18. There will be also five self-service check-in kiosks in future. In addition, the area for security checkpoints will be enlarged, so that there is space for five counters instead of the existing three.

In order to gain more space for the arrival hall, the airport café will be moved to the departure hall. 17 counters for entry are to be set up, with desks for two officials each. The number of baggage conveyer belts will be increased from one to three.

In addition, the handling of domestic flights will be relocated to the old terminal building. Since commissioning the current building in the mid-1980s, it has only been used for VIP air traffic.

According to the Namibian Airports Company (NAC), the conversion and expansion costs about 250 million Namibia Dollar (currently about 15.42 million Euro). The capacity created should be sufficient until 2030. In the long term, the government is planning a substantial expansion worth five billion Namibia Dollar (currently about 308.5 million Euro). According to the NAC, Hosea Kutako International Airport has more than 1.4 million passengers a year. The current building was originally designed for 250,000 travellers a year.

Not only for the time of the conversion and extension of the airport, Ondekaremba is a great location for the last hours of your Namibia holiday. Situated only 7 km from the airport, Ondekaremba is offering with its day booking the opportunity to lie by the pool or hike in the bush savannah instead of waiting in the airport hall for the evening departure. And another tip: If you make use of the transfer service, you can forego the rental car on the last day.

Guests instead of cattle

In Otjiherero Ondekaremba means "place of good pasture". However, in times of drought, the cattle hardly find grass here. Therefore, farmer Immo Rust and his wife Ute decided to also "farm" with tourists and turn Ondekaremba into a guest farm. That was 25 years ago...

  • Ondekaremba, celebrating the 25th anniversary of its guest business

    Ondekaremba, celebrating the 25th anniversary of its guest business. Photo: Ondekaremba

The registration of the accommodation establishment in 1994 came just at the right time. There was hardly any rain in the following rainy season. Immo and Ute Rust had to reduce their herd of cattle from around 700 to 100 animals within one year. Tourism, on the contrary, increased significantly since independence in 1990. And Ondekaremba was ideally situated: Since the international airport was only 7 km away, the start and ending of roundtrips through Namibia were literally at its doorstep.

The guest operation proved to be successful. Within a short time, the daughter and the youngest son joined the business. As on a typical guest farm, guests were personally hosted by the owners, had dinner with them, got to know the farm operation and learned a lot about the everyday life of their hosts. There were also several hiking trails to explore nature on your own.

In 2011, the eldest son, who had founded the private nature reserve Waterberg Wilderness at the Waterberg eleven years earlier, took over the guest farm and turned it into a lodge. Four years later he added the budget-friendly Ondekaremba Econo Lodge for self-catering.

A Toyota Quantum with a trailer was purchased to provide guests with a more convenient airport transfer. As most flights to Europe take place in the evenings, Ondekaremba introduced a day booking. Ever since tourists can spend the last hours before departure with relaxing at the pool or with going on a short hike instead of waiting at the airport.

In 2016, the largest part of the farm was sold, allowing the acquisition of Ghaub in the Otavi Mountains as the third member of the group. However, the core of Ondekaremba remained intact: a charming area of African bush savannah, home to more than 100 species of birds, and offering trails for guests of Ondekaremba Lodge, Econo Lodge and Campsite.

Airport expansion just about to start

Air passengers at Namibia International Airport still face long waiting times in the arrivals hall and at security checkpoints when several planes arrive or depart at similar times. However, the conversion of the airport, having been postponed again and again since November, is now in the starting blocks...

  • The Hosea Kutako International Airport at Windhoek: Conversion will start soon

    The Hosea Kutako International Airport at Windhoek: Conversion will start soon. Photo (2017): Olga Ernst, Wikimedia

That's what the Namibian Airports Company (NAC) announced in mid-June. Above all, the conversion is aiming at simplifying passenger handling and shortening waiting times. The departure and arrival halls will be modernised and equipped with a surveillance system. There are also plans to install facilities for electronic check-in and more luggage conveyer belts.

In addition, the NAC wants to reactivate the old terminal building, which dates back to the 1960s and was replaced by the current building in the mid-1980s. The idea is to separate the handling of national and international flights, thereby creating more space for both passenger groups.

The costs calculated by the NAC are approximately 245 million Namibia Dollar (currently about 15.8 million Euro). Restrictions of the operations during the building works will be avoided if possible.

In the long term, the government still plans a major expansion of the Hosea Kutako International Airport. China has pledged low-interest loans and a grant for the estimated costs of five billion Namibian dollars (currently around 322 million Euro).

In 2017, according to NAC, 1.4 million passengers were counted at the airport. The current building was designed for 250,000 travellers a year at the time of construction in the 1980s.

During the process of conversion and expansion, the airport is likely to get even less appealing than it is now for those who have to wait. An attractive alternative is the day booking offered by Ondekaremba, which is only 7 km away. Many tourists make use of it already on their day of their departure: Rather wait for the evening flight at the pool in the lodge garden instead of in the airport hall.

Further paths for nature lovers

Viewing towers, bird baths, a game viewing hide – the trails at Ondekaremba offer plenty of variety. You can also gather that from a quick glance at the new small hiking map, which you get at the reception. But wait a minute, can that be true: Is there really a public swimming pool in the Seeis rivier (ephemeral river)?

  • Ondekaremba hiking map

    Graphic: Ondekaremba

It is good to stretch your legs before or after a long flight. No wonder that guests of Ondekaremba like to use the trails on the grounds of the lodge. To further increase diversity, the network of paths has been gradually expanded. Now you can spend hours exploring the African bush savannah.

Two lookout towers offer a magnificent 360 degree view over the wide landscape. There is a game viewing hide near a water trough; with a little luck you can observe red hartebeest and kudu. The path along the dry river bed of the Seeis Rivier is very attractive, too. A kolk (depression) in the sand is often filled with water, even long after the last rainfall. Since a protruding rock looks like a natural springboard, the kolk is jokingly called "public swimming pool". Fancy a dip in the water? Be our guest ;-)

Ondekaremba produced a new small hiking map for the guests to take along on their walk. It shows the extended network of paths and also provides guests with a bit of information about the former farm at the airport.

The hiking trails are also available to day visitors (booking possible with or without a room) who stay at Ondekaremba on the day of their departure.

Healing nature by barbecuing

Bush fires are immediately combated and contained by humans. Therefore, shrubs spread out and grasslands shrink. Bush encroachment is a big problem in Namibia. Camping guests of Ondekaremba can now help to finance the costly clearing of scrub – by barbecuing...

  • Guests of the Ondekaremba Campsite can buy collected dead wood in cartons

    Guests of the Ondekaremba Campsite can buy collected dead wood in cartons. Photo: Sven-Eric Stender

Campfires and barbecuing are a crucial part of the real camping experience in Namibia. At the Ondekaremba Campsite guests can now buy firewood, which they can burn with a clear conscience, because it is exclusively dead wood collected on the area of partner Ghaub Nature Reserve & Farm.

In addition, the proceeds from the sale of the wood of Ghaub Farm Products contribute to financing the costly measures of Ondekaremba and its partners Ghaub and Waterberg Wilderness to contain the dense bush, which is spreading more and more if nothing is done about it.

For those who want to take the wood along, it is not packed in the usual plastic sacks that are now prohibited in national parks, but in cartons. If you use the cardboard to ignite the fire, nothing remains but ashes - which, like after the bush fires, can provide the soil with new nutrients.

Chef instructor trains cooks

The dinner at Ondekaremba Lodge will be melting even more in one’s mouth now. A retired chef trainer from Germany spent two months at Ondekaremba and its partners Waterberg Wilderness and Ghaub. It was already the third time. The training sessions took place this time mainly in the cold room...

  • Retired chef trainer Georg Maeding shows manager and chef Fanie Hawanga and cook Wilbertina Nampala how to professionally unflesh cattle ribs

    Retired chef trainer Georg Maeding shows manager and chef Fanie Hawanga and cook Wilbertina Nampala how to professionally unflesh cattle ribs. Photo: Sven-Eric Stender

The training for the cooks of Ondekaremba Lodge this time focussed on the professional way to unflesh bones. In addition, retired chef trainer Georg Maeding from Lübeck went into detail about what you should pay attention to, depending on the meat type, when you cut meat into smaller pieces.

Of course, he also checked in the kitchen to what extend the cooks put into practice what they learnt in the previous training courses, and he imparted more helpful hints and tricks. "Above all, we have improved the preparation of sauces," said Maeding shortly before his return flight to Germany in early December.

During his two-month stay, he also visited the partner properties Waterberg Wilderness and Ghaub. It was already the third time after 2015 and 2017 that Georg Maeding by the agency of the Senior Experts Service trained the cooks at Ondekaremba. In the first two training sessions he put basic skills and knowledge on a sound basis, he revised the menus and went into particulars about the professional arrangement of food on the plate.

Ondekaremba Lodge offers a rich breakfast buffet and a set menu of four courses for dinner. European dishes are prepared in Namibian farm style and enriched with typical local ingredients such as kudu meat, butternut or chutney. Breakfast and dinner are included in the room rate for standard rooms, family units and apartments.

ICAO gives Namibia's Airports high marks

At the Hosea Kutako International Airport east of Ondekaremba all were ready for battle in the middle of November: An expert team of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) thoroughly inspected facilities and operations. Two weeks later, Namibia was able to breathe a sigh of relief...

  • International Airport east of Ondekaremba

    From the airfield into the arrival hall: International Airport east of Ondekaremba (April 2017). Photo: Olga Ernst, Wikipedia

The ICAO experts' verdict: The International Airport 40 km east of Windhoek largely meets worldwide standards. The experts did not find any serious safety deficiencies. The green light also applies to all commercial airports in Namibia, as the ICAO's nine-day inspection spanned the entire country.

In some areas, however, the International Airport has to improve a bit. The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) was asked to submit a catalogue of concrete measures to ICAO by March.

Irrespective of this, the NAC intends to start an extensive upgrading and expansion in the coming year. At the time of its construction in the mid-eighties the airport was designed for 250,000 travellers a year. Last year, 1.4 million passengers were counted.

Ondekaremba is less than 7 km away from the International Airport, thus being a great lodge for the first and last stop on a Namibian tour. It also offers a day visit to wait for the departure, walking trails to stretch one's legs and transfers to and from the airport.

Trials against 'vultures'

During the clean-up operation after the crash of the Boeing 707-344C of South African Airways east of Ondekaremba in April 1968 some of the helpers steal valuables of the victims of the disaster. One of the 'vultures' is even the head of the traffic police in Windhoek...

  • Crash site of the Boeing 707 a few kilometres east of Ondekaremba in April 1968

    Crash site of the Boeing 707 a few kilometres east of Ondekaremba in April 1968. Photo: Wikipedia

From August to October 1968, the lawsuits regarding the thefts at the crash site make headlines in the Allgemeine Zeitung.

The 20-year-old railway employee Josef de Beer admits to having found two lighters, two watches and some coins during the clean-up operation. He did not hand it in at the central collection point, he claims, because he wanted to keep it as souvenirs. Due to limited funds of his parents, his bail is halved during the trial to 100 Rand. The sentence, however, is quite severe: 21 days imprisonment and another 150 days imprisonment or 150 Rand fine.

The magistrate exercises leniency towards the 19-year-old railway mechanic J. Kühn. Due to the theft of two lighters and 21 British coins, Kühn is sentenced to 60 days imprisonment or 120 Rand fine.

The Surveyor of the Administration of then South West Africa, Hermias Genis, pleads guilty to stealing 110 Rand, a gold ring of nine karat, a brooch and a tiger eye. His sentence is 21 days in prison and another 90 days in prison or 200 Rand fine.

The biggest indignation is directed at the head of the Windhoek traffic police, Johannes Visser Smith. When searching his house, a film camera, an exposure meter and jewellery of passengers of the plane are found in the locked rifle cabinet. The judge accords no credibility to his claim that he forgot to hand over these objects. The sentence: 25 days imprisonment or 150 rand fine. One week after the judgement, Smith also faces disciplinary action by the City of Windhoek. At the end of October, he is dismissed from the service of the municipality.

The brand-new Boeing 707-344C of South African Airways crashed into the bush savannah in the moonless night of April 20, 1968, just 50 seconds after take-off, a few kilometres east of Ondekaremba (see news story of April 2018). 123 people died, five survived, one even unscathed. The cause was a chain of errors and mistakes of the pilots who were not yet totally familiar with the cockpit.

Source: Allgemeine Zeitung, column "Vor 50 Jahren" (50 years ago)

International Airport to be expanded

Long queues at entry gates and at security checkpoints when multiple planes land or take off at almost the same time – that's what the state-owned Namibia Airports Company (NAC) wants to do something about as quickly as possible. From November, the International Airport is to be converted, and soon after it will be extended...

  • Long queues at departure at Hosea Kutako International Airport near Windhoek

    Long queues at departure at Hosea Kutako International Airport near Windhoek. Photo (archive): Stefan Fischer, Allgemeine Zeitung

According to the NAC, arrival hall, checkpoints and baggage claim will be rebuilt and redesigned. The conversion is expected to start in November and will cost around 240 million Namibian dollars (about EUR 14.4 million). One aim is to accelerate the handling of passengers, which can currently take up to two hours. International benchmark is 45 minutes.

Following the conversion, the government plans to invest five billion Namibia Dollar (almost EUR 300 million) in a major expansion - with a low-interest loan and a subsidy from China.

The number of passengers arriving and departing increased by almost a third between 2015 and 2017, also due to airlines such as KLM, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Eurowings, who have added Windhoek to their list of destinations. According to the NAC, last year 1.4 million passengers were counted. The airport was designed for only 250,000 travellers a year at the time of its construction in the 1980s.

Although only 7 km away, at Ondekaremba the airport operations are hardly noticeable. Due to its location, Lodge, Econo Lodge and Campsite are great first and last stops on a roundtrip through Namibia. Day stay and airport transfer complete the offer for air travellers.

No child without a full birth certificate

Nasty surprise at the check-in desk: Since the beginning of July, apparently families are turned away by airlines when they want to check in for their flight to Namibia. The airlines point to a new implementation of entry regulations that require a full birth certificate for children...

  • Pointer to the new regulations on the website of the Namibian Embassy in Sweden

    Information about the new regulations on the website of the Namibian Embassy in Sweden

Namibian tour operators confirmed that an unabridged birth certificate should be carried along for accompanying children. Accordingly, Namibia has toughened its entry requirements as part of international action against child trafficking and adapted respective requirements of neighbouring countries South Africa and Botswana.

If only one parent is travelling, a certified declaration of consent from the other parent must also be provided. If the other parent has died, this must be documented with the death certificate.

Anyone who succeeds in flying to Namibia without these documents must expect to be stopped at the entry desk and sent home with the next possible flight.

There was apparently no public statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs on the introduction of the toughened entry requirements. Only on the website of the Namibian embassy in Sweden you can find an announcement of the new provisions. Not even all immigration officials seem to be informed: There are families who were able to enter Namibia without being asked at the control desk for the documents. The office of the Namibia Tourism Board in Frankfurt, however, published on its German-language website a notification for travellers with children already weeks ago. The German Foreign Office also added a passage about it on its country page about Namibia.

Sleeping near the airport at a low price

Everything is becoming more expensive, even the holiday. Thus it is no wonder that budget accommodation is increasingly sought-after. Ondekaremba also feels this increasing demand – and has responded promptly: The bungalows for self-caterers were expanded and are now bookable under a new name...

  • Ondekaremba Econo Lodge for self-caterers

    Ondekaremba Econo Lodge for self-caterers. Photo: Alexander Heinrichs

  • Bungalow with double rooms

    Bungalow with double rooms. Photo: Alexander Heinrichs

The Ondekaremba Econo Lodge, formerly known as Erioloba Village, is ideal for those who are looking for a good and affordable stay in the immediate vicinity of the airport. It consists of three bungalows, each with three to four single rooms, and one bungalow with three double rooms. Each bungalow has a bathroom with shower and toilet and in front of the entrance a small terrace with bench and table. With the booking of a room you have reserved the entire bungalow, so you do not have to share the bathroom with other guests.

In addition, there is a common building with a kitchen and a dining room with bar and fireplace & indoor grill. If you do not like to cook yourself, you can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner in the restaurant of the lodge, which is only a five-minute walk away.

Of course, there is also a swimming pool and a barbecue area outside – ideal for the first or the last "braai" (barbecue) on the round trip through Namibia. Hiking trails lead through the African bush savannah and to an observation tower, which offers a magnificent panoramic view.

Guests of the Ondekaremba Econo Lodge can also make use of Ondekaremba Lodge's services, such as free Wi-Fi in the lounge at the reception and airport transfers.

For more information and photos please click here.

Aircraft disaster at Ondekaremba 50 years ago
  • Wreckage of the crashed Boeing 707-344C in the bush savannah east of the airport at Ondekaremba near Windhoek

    Wreckage of the crashed Boeing 707-344C in the bush savannah east of the airport at Ondekaremba near Windhoek. Photo: Wikipedia

  • Same type as the crashed aircraft: A Boeing 707-300 at Johannesburg airport (1965)

    Same type as the crashed aircraft: A Boeing 707-300 at Johannesburg airport (1965). Photo: Ralf Manteufel, Wikipedia

The International Airport near Windhoek had been in operation for just four years when it experienced its first and so far only major plane crash. Exactly 50 years ago, in April 1968, a brand new Boeing 707-344C of South African Airways mysteriously crashed 50 seconds after take-off...

Relatives of some passengers were still on the terrace of the airport building (of that time) on that moonless Saturday evening and had to watch how the plane after taking off suddenly lost altitude and then plunged into the bush savannah. It came from Johannesburg and was to fly to Europe via Windhoek and Luanda. On board were 116 passengers and 12 crew members. Five passengers survived, none of them was from Namibia.

According to the investigation report, the cause was human error. The Boeing 707-344C was brand new and had only been put into service a few weeks earlier. The pilots had completed an instruction programme, but in the new cockpit the display of the ground speed was in unfamiliar place and the drum altimeter could be easily misinterpreted anyway. They had probably switched back too early from take-off power to climb power. As they had no point of orientation in the darkness, they obviously did not notice that the plane was losing height instead of gaining height.

With a rate of descent of about ten meters per second and a groundspeed of about 500 kilometres per hour, it hit the ground and burst into several parts. Unbelievable that one of the passengers survived completely unhurt.

The crash went down in history as the "Ondekaremba Aircraft Disaster". Despite the official name J.G. Strijdom Airport (after the then Prime Minister of South Africa which administered Namibia at that time) Namibians in fact referred to it as Ondekaremba Airport. The reason: In 1961, a 500 ha (5 km²) piece of land had been separated from the farm Ondekaremba for its construction.

The farmhouse, which today houses the restaurant and bar of Ondekaremba Lodge, was not endangered by the crash. It was and still is situated about seven kilometres west of the airport building, while the crash occurred five kilometres east of it.