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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.
For Namibia holidaymakers from Europe, direct flights become scarce in the last month of peak season. Both Eurowings and Condor take up their flights to Windhoek again in May and April respectively, but cancelled the connections in their timetables for the European winter, as they did in the previous year.
According to Eurowing’s website, the German airline offers flights to Namibia three times a week as from the beginning of May – on Mondays and Wednesdays from Cologne/Bonn and on Fridays from Munich. However, the flights end in the last week of October, although the high season in Namibia now lasts until the beginning of December. It is not clear yet whether Eurowings will resume the connections within its flight plan for the European summer from May 2019.
Condor will take up its direct flights from Frankfurt to Windhoek from mid-April. The flights are scheduled for Tuesdays and Saturdays. In addition Condor offers daily flights under the codeshare agreement with the Namibian airline Air Namibia.
Ondekaremba, situated only seven kilometers from the Hosea Kutako International Airport near Windhoek, is the ideal last stop before the evening flight back home. With a day visit (with or without room) you can cool off in the pool or stretch your legs on the walking trails through the bush savannah before getting on the plane.
Paying for a booking at Ondekaremba has become even easier – and, above all, safer. The online payment system Virtual Card Service (VCS) of the international group Direct Pay Online (DPO) creates a secure connection to our partner bank First National Bank in Namibia.
In contrast to other payment systems on the internet, this ensures that payments from abroad are automatically reported to the Bank of Namibia as required. VCS is easy and quick to use; the link can be found on the "Contact Us" page.
Of course, the usual procedure of paying by credit card and sending the data via email is still available.
Ondekaremba gives visitors to its website a good foretaste of their stay – by means of many new pictures. In December, the German professional photographer Alexander Heinrichs visited the lodge. By the way: He already had been to Ondekaremba, more than 20 years ago. In memory he had pictures, of course, but above all a smell...
"My hosts had given me a large piece of smoked meat," says Heinrichs at breakfast. "Even months later, my whole apartment would smell of it." It was the meat of a red hartebeest, Ondekaremba’s heraldic animal. "I will never forget the personal atmosphere – and neither the smell of the smoked meat, obviously."
During his stay, Heinrichs gathered a lot of new beautiful impressions – be it the lodge to which the former guest farm has been converted in the meantime or be it the self-catering accommodation Erioloba Village, be it the campsite in the bush savannah or be it the hiking trails. Heinrichs pulled out all the stops when taking pictures. He even used a drone – based on an explicit exceptional permission. Out of consideration for guests and because of the nearby airport drones are not allowed at Ondekaremba.
The nature trails on Ondekaremba have an additional highlight to offer – in the truest sense of the word: Guests can watch the setting (or rising) sun from a point which is approximately 10 meters above the highest elevation in the hilly area of the bush savannah...
It was built during the year and was given its final touch in November: the new sundowner tower at Ondekaremba. From the platform you have a fantastic view – in the south to the Bismarck mountains, in the north to the mountain ranges with the formation of the "sleeping Fritz", in the west to the Eros mountains, behind which Windhoek is hiding, and in the east to the International Airport and the plains of the bush savannah that stretch to the horizon.
The tower is perfect for guests who spend the first day after landing at Ondekaremba and who want to get a feel for the vastness of Namibia – and of course for guests who like to end their holiday on an atmospheric note on the last day before their flight home.
Equally true to Ondekaremba’s slogan “A great start and ending to your Namibia holiday” are its offers of airport transfers and day visits, that include the use of the trails, swimming pool, outdoor shower, garden, terrace and lounge (free Wi-Fi).
Ondekaremba does not really have guests who are struggling to cope with jet lag. The majority of Namibia tourists arriving at the airport come from Central Europe. The time difference is one hour. And as from now on, for six months a year the watches do not need to be reset after the landing at all...
With his signature under the amended time act, President Hage Geingob officially abolished the winter time. By passing the amendments, parliament followed the overwhelming outcome of hearings held throughout the country.
The Namibian winter time (UTC +1 instead of UCT +2) lasted from the first weekend in April to the first weekend of September. It was introduced in 1993, mainly for children to be able to go to school in daylight. However, many have lessons in the afternoons. Due to the winter time they had to walk home in the dark. The economy complained about losing four mutual office hours with South Africa – one hour in the morning, one hour in the evening and two hours at lunchtime.
Namibians and Central Europeans having business or private relationships should breathe a sigh of relief, too. Combined with the summer time in Europe, the winter time in Namibia caused a time chaos: Europe and Namibia turned the watch hands in opposite directions – and at slightly different points of times. So at times Namibia was one hour ahead of Central Europe, at times it lied level and at times it was one hour behind.
Thanks to Geingob, this chaos is now largely cleared. In Namibia normal time (UTC +2) applies throughout the year. Since Europe switched back to normal Central European time (UTC +1) on the last weekend of October, tourists from countries from Spain to Poland will have to put their watches forward one hour after the landing in Namibia. As soon as the Central European Summer Time (UTC + 2) starts end of March, Namibia will be lying level with Central Europe for six months.
Ondekaremba does not really care. If a guest has booked a transfer, he will be picked up at the airport on time, regardless of whether he puts his watch forward or not.
Namibia holidaymakers can breathe a sigh of relief: The waiting time at the entry and departure counters at the International Hosea Kutako Airport near Windhoek has been significantly reduced. Since end of September the officials waive part of the procedure of the new biometric identification...
The electronic system consisting of scanning the face and the hand of travellers had been introduced on 1 September. Arriving and departing passengers had to queue for more than two hours. Apparently the recording of fingerprints and handprint lasted several minutes per person.
Meanwhile, only the iris is scanned. In addition, the ministry of home affairs is now deploying ten officials at the arrival counters instead of eight as before, and at the departure gates six instead of four.
This is also good news for guests of Ondekaremba. Instead of having to be at the airport three hours ahead of your return flight, a buffer of two hours is sufficient. So our guests can relax longer by the pool or stretch their legs on a hiking trail through the African bush savannah.
Since mid-July, visitors to Namibia from Europe have another airline to choose from: Eurowings. The maiden flight from Cologne/Bonn to Windhoek took place according to schedule on Wednesday evening, 12 July. The first crew could even spend a long weekend in Namibia...
... because the return flight after the first landing on Thursday morning was only scheduled for Monday evening. According to the airline this is quite common, when you start a new long-distance route. On the first plane all 306 seats were booked. Eurowings is known for its reasonable flights.
As from now on, the Lufthansa subsidiary will depart from the airport Cologne/Bonn every Wednesday and Sunday in the evening and arrive at Windhoek early in the morning. The return flight takes place on Thursdays and Mondays; take-off is in the late evening and touch-down at Cologne/Bonn in the course of the morning. As from next summer, one of the two flights will depart from Munich.
Ondekaremba, just a 10 minute drive from the airport, is the ideal first stop after the landing and the last stop before the return flight. On the hiking trails through the African bush savannah you can stretch your legs after or before the long flight.