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Lush green, wherever you look: Exceptionally good rainfall in the first three weeks of the new year allowed trees, bushes and grasses to sprout on Ondekaremba. The Seeis-Rivier (dry river) flowed in full width several times and gave guests of the lodge an adventurous welcome...
Ondekaremba already received 371 mm of rain since the rainy season began in October. That is more than the annual average for this area. A downpour brought 90 mm in just two hours.
In large parts of the country the riviere (dry rivers) were in flood, as they say in Namibia. The Seeis Rivier, passing through Ondekaremba, already flowed nine times. Years of drought also contributed to this, as there was less vegetation that could have stopped the water.
The brown floods also left a lot of sand. At the ford to the lodge your legs sink in knee-deep. Even a four-wheel drive vehicle could not pass through.
True Namibian experience
Guests of Ondekaremba park their car in a guarded place above the shore and wade through the deep sand over to the lodge. Their luggage is carried across by the staff.
The best part is: so far no guest has been upset. Everyone enjoyed it as a welcome little adventure and as an authentic experience of Namibia's rainy season.
"Unfortunately" this free experience offer is limited. Because obviously work is being done to restore the ford. Which is welcomed not least by the lodge team, even if they spare no extra effort to make sure their guests enjoy their stay ;))
Corona. The travel restrictions were a huge disappointment also for Namibia fans, including hundreds who wanted to start or end their round trip at Ondekaremba. But don't worry: The natural paradise at the airport is waiting patiently for its guests to arrive in the post-Corona era – and using the time to prepare one or two surprises...
Windhoek, March 14. The test results of two sick tourists in the city confirmed an infection with SARS-CoV-2. The government immediately ordered to block the main flight connections to Europe. Three days later President Hage Geingob declared a state of emergency so that the government can act swiftly if necessary. Tourists were allowed to leave, but they were no longer allowed to enter the country. Their home countries closed their borders, too, unless they had already done so.
In April all of Namibia was in a lockdown. The number of confirmed infections remained at 16 for weeks. State of affairs as of April 30th: eight infected, eight recovered, no death. More on the development in Namibia in the news blog of our partner Bush Telegraph Namibia.
From one day to the next, Ondekaremba no longer had any guests – and therefore no income. On the contrary: Due to travel restrictions, many bookings had to be cancelled and deposits had to be reimbursed. There is little hope of support from the government. Namibia is a developing country. Due to the three-year recession and the severe drought, the state budget is already severely restricted.
No additional help can be expected from the industrialised nations because they have to provide amounts of billions for their own economies. Namibia can count itself lucky if the existing development aid is not cut.
Ondekaremba does everything to keep as many of its employees as possible, especially since one has to be aware that each workplace supports eight- to ten-person families.
Of course, Ondekaremba will survive this crisis – thanks to its concept of sustainability. Anyone who managed to live in and with Namibia's nature for decades knows that building up reserves in good years for periods of drought is essential for survival.
However, the team of Ondekaremba is grateful for any support. A big thank-you to all those tour operators and hundreds of customers who have rebooked planned stays to next year.
Ondekaremba hereby also expresses its thanks to those other hundreds of customers who had to cancel but waived the refund of their deposit for the time being. They have been sent a voucher that they will be able to redeem after the travel restrictions are lifted. Many thanks also to the tour operators who showed their trust and accepted a credit.
The vouchers are also valid for the partners Ghaub (nature reserve with rhinos in the Otavi Mountains) and Waterberg Wilderness (nature reserve with rhinos at the Waterberg). They can also be given to someone who is planning a trip to Namibia.
If they cannot be redeemed by the end of 2021, Ondekaremba will of course refund the amount – depending on the cancellation policy of the original booking.
Above all, however, the Ondekaremba team expresses its sympathy to all those who had been looking forward to their trip to Namibia for months and who could not set out on their journey because of the measures against the Corona epidemic.
However, how do they say: It's only a pleasure deferred. Namibia is waiting for its visitors. Ondekaremba too, and instead of sitting back and taking things easy, the team is preparing vigorously for the time after Corona.
After completion of the basic renovation of the rooms and bathrooms, the lodge is improving its ambience of a Namibian farm – also as a surprise for the first guests after Corona.
Located 10 minutes by car from the airport, Ondekaremba is ideal as the first or last stop on a round trip through Namibia. Guests also appreciate the offered services such as the airport transfer and the day booking.
Close to the airport. Transfer service. Hiking trails in the African bush savannah. Swimming pool and idyllic garden to relax before and after the long flight. These are some of the advantages that guests appreciate about Ondekaremba. But there are more to come. The lodge is getting a fresh new look and has further plans...
The international airport is in the process of being renovated and expanded since September. Ondekaremba is preparing for the guest of the future, too. In February, in the off-season, room by room was completely renovated.
The bathrooms got new tiles, which give them a modern and timeless look. The rooms were painted in an elegantly subdued shade and thus offer a fresh ambience. The reception has also been renovated.
However, the rustic atmosphere of the former cattle farm remains. One example are the floors of the reception and restaurant, consisting of natural stone slabs. The buildings, when looked at from outside, also presage the former farm complex.
The plan is to further emphasise the ambience of a Namibian farm in the African bush savannah. Ondekaremba is supposed to receive horses and ponies - as a further attraction, especially for families.
Building alterations without operational obstructions. This was promised when construction works started at the international airport in September. So far everything has gone smoothly. However, the building activities are still limited to the outside area. And you cannot say that waiting for departure has become more comfortable...
The conversion of the Hosea Kutako International Airport has so far been particularly evident outside the airport building. The entrance on the side of the departure hall is closed, the entrance to the arrival hall is now the only entrance to the building. Several construction fences and barriers were erected between the building and the parking lot. Inside, operations continue largely as before.
That is in line with what the state-run Namibia Airports Company (NAC) announced in September. The entrance area to the departure hall is to be enlarged to make room for more check-in counters, five self-check-in kiosks and more counters for security control.
Then the airport café is to be moved to the enlarged departure hall. This allows the arrival hall to be enlarged. More counters for entry are set up there and a baggage conveyer belt is added to the existing two. In addition domestic flights will be handled in future in the old terminal building from the 1960s, which is currently only used for VIP air traffic.
The conversion and expansion should reduce waiting times at the counters for entry, departure and security control to a minimum - at least until 2030. The cost is around 250 million Namibia Dollar (currently around 15.56 million Euro). In the long term, an extensive expansion worth five billion Namibia Dollar (currently around 311.2 million Euro) is envisaged. According to the NAC, more than 1.4 million passengers are handled at the international airport every year.
A good tip for the first or last day of your roundtrip through Namibia is a stay at Ondekaremba, just 7 km from the airport. There is a transfer service for those who do not want to drive after the long flight - and for those who like to do without a rental car on the last day before departure.
For vacationers who chose to stay somewhere else on their last day and have to vacate their room at 10:00 a.m., a day booking is available. You can hike on the lodge grounds or spend the last few hours in the garden by the swimming pool instead of waiting for your flight at the airport.
At Ondekaremba more than 100 bird species have been recorded. So it says in the information brochure that you receive as a guest. Obviously you can only see a part of them. Thus the enthusiasm was all the greater for those bird lovers who were able to set a new record on a day trip in this month...
For the fourth Advent, the bird expert Stefan Rust had organised a trip to Ondekaremba for Namibians. At 8:00 a.m., the participants met at the lodge reception. On the Oryx Weaver Birds Trail everyone walked to the groundsill in the Seeis Rivier (dry river). For the way back, they chose a path along the southern bank of the rivier – a leisurely three-hour hike.
The "highlights" of their observations included a chestnut-vented warbler (Sylvia subcaerulea), which took fine material for bolstering to its nest, and a rockrunner (Achaetops pycnopygius), which is almost endemic, meaning it only occurs in Namibia. At the groundsill, where there was still some water from the recent rain, the group spotted several Egyptian geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) and three-banded plovers (Charadrius tricollarius).
Three migratory birds also brought joy: A Jacobin cuckoo (Clamator jacobinus), which comes from Central Africa and spends October to April in Namibia; an eurasian golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus), which escapes winter in Europe and is seldom seen because it is very shy; and the red-breasted swallow (Cecropis semirufa, also Hirundo semirufa), which resides in Namibia from August to March and according to specialist literature does not occur in this area.
A little sensation was the Jameson's firefinch (Lagonosticta rhodopareia). It only occurs on the northern border in Namibia and has not yet been sighted in the Windhoek area. It was remarkable, according to Stefan Rust, that it was not spotted near the lodge, but in the bush savannah, i.e. in a natural environment.
When the group returned to the lodge, everyone was thrilled: They had spotted a total of 60 different birds – within just three hours. Possibly record-breaking, said even Stefan Rust, who was interested in birds from an early age and later turned his hobby into a profession: With his tour company BirdsConTour, he takes tourists on excursions to the world of birds – and not just in Namibia. The reason for the diversity of species at Ondekaremba, according to Rust, are the different habitats such as bush savannah, acacia riparian forest and dry river bed with kolks (small depressions filled with water).
For further impressions of the excursion see this post on the Facebook page of BirdsConTour.