Namibia

City Slicker’s Guide to Ai-Ais in Namibia

Keen to head to Southern Namibia? Great idea! We’ve just returned and we had a fantastic time in the Land of the Brave. We’re spent 2 weeks exploring NWR (Namibian Wildlife Resorts) various locations. The Ai-Ais resort was our first stop and it was a joy to experience the hot springs as well as seeing the hikers arrive after a gruelling couple of days in the Fish River Canyon.

Please note: There was extensive flood damage to the property 2 years ago, which has left it needing some TLC. It is all very clean, however, you may find a few missing tiles or chipped edges, etc. Nothing unsafe, but the repairs are a work in progress.

But if it roughing it isn’t for you – then this post IS! Here’s the City Slicker’s Guide to visiting Ais-Ais:

  1. Best Route to Ai-Ais
  2. Types of Accommodation at Ai-Ais
  3. Technology at Ai-Ais
  4. 6 Things to do at Ai-Ais
  5. NWR Activities at Ai-Ais
  6. Indoor Swimming Pool Rates at Ai-Ais
  7. Ai-Ais Restaurant Menu
  8. Ai-Ais Food
  9. Ai-Ais Bar
  10. Ai-Ais Shop

1. Getting to Ai-Ais

Ais-Ais is located on dirt roads a 90 minutes from the Vioolsdrift border between South Africa and Namibia. The road is tarred for 40 kms of the 120 km journey and 80kms on dirt.

The dirt portion of the road is very beautiful, however, be VERY careful of game at dusk. They run into the road in the low light and it can be incredibly dangerous (with not a lot of help near by and no mobile reception).

City Slicker’s Route (& best for Sedans): Stay on the B1 and turning left just after Grootplaas onto the C10. This will take you directly to Ais-Ais over a distance of 73 kms.

If you’re in a 4×4, you can take the D316 road for 72 kms, turning left from Korabib on the B1. At the end of the D316, turn left onto the C10 and you will reach Ais-Ais in 11kms’ time.

Warning: We broke down on the D324 on a previous trip and were saved by men working for NWR on their way to Ais-Ais. So always have a spare tyre and don’t arrive too late, earlier is best.

2. Types of Accommodation at Ais-Ais

There are a number of accommodation options at Ais-Ais, which includes 7 Bush Family Chalets, 16 River View Double Rooms (this faces the mountain), 20 Mountain View Double Rooms (this faces the camping site) and 100 camping sites.

Please note: single rates are higher than dividing the couple’s rate into two. See rates online.

Bush Family Chalets (Ai Ais Hot Spring Chalets)

We popped in to check this accommodation and they were fantastic! HUGE rooms, surprising that it only hosts 4 adults as there is loads of space. We could hear people braai-ing (BBQing) and enjoying their evening on the porch. We’d definitely recommend these to a family or friends who want to stay in the same house.

  • High Season Cost: R1800 per person sharing (R3600 / couple or R7200 for 4 adults).
  • With NWR card: less 25% = R5 325 (if each visitor is SADC).
  • Low Season Cost: R1650 per person sharing (R3300 / couple or R2 475).
  • 2 bedrooms (best for 2 couples or a family) – 2 x single beds & 2 x double beds.
  • Includes braai facilities, microwave, stove, kettle, tea station, toaster, fridge, aircon, dining table & chairs, DSTV, dishes, cutlery and large lounge.

River View Double Room (A1)

But, because we’re city slickers, we stayed in a River View hotel room, which included breakfast, dinner and access to the indoor pools. Our suite was absolutely HUGE and included 2 showers, a large balcony, small indoor seating area, desk and large bed. YAY for large beds! #DoubleBedsMustFall

  • High Season Cost: R1650 per person sharing (R3300 per couple per night)
  • With NWR card: less 25% = R2 475 (if each visitor is SADC).
  • 1 Large bedroom, best for a solo traveller or couple. Huge beds!
  • Breakfast included, but not if a family shares this room (max 2 adults & 2 children).
  • Bar fridge, coffee table, desk, aircon, tea station, towels and luggage stands.

Mountain View Rooms

These are located are upstairs, above the hot pools (hence why the close at 5pm so guests aren’t disturbed) and are smaller than the ground floor River View suites:

  • High Season Cost: R1 350 per person sharing (R2 700 per couple per night)
  • With NWR card: less 25% = R2 025 (if each visitor is SADC).
  • 1 bedroom with 2 x single beds. (Maximum occupation is 2 adults & 2 children.)
  • Breakfast included, but T’s & C’s apply – please check.
  • Kettle, bar fridge, aircon, tea station, towels.

Camping at Ai-Ais

There is enough space for about 100 campers, give or take, with a maximum of 8 adults per camping spot. There are ablution blocks and power points scattered throughout the campsite, however, there isn’t 1 plug per campsite. So be sure to try book a spot near electricity if you feel you will need it.

The camp site also has grassy parts and sandy parts with the grass facing the main lodge and the sand backing against the mountain and down towards the Canyon.

Ai-Ais Camping Rates:

In high season, it’s R350 per person to camp, R320 in the low season.

3. Ai-Ais Technology

Here’s what you need to know if you’re a City Slicker and love your tech!

  1. Load Shedding – Ai-Ais (and Namibia) has no load shedding! So this isn’t an issue.
  2. Mobile Reception – There’s no reception if you’re on a South African SIM card here. You may get 1 or 2 bars to call but absolutely no internet.
  3. Wifi – The resort advertises internet, but we weren’t able to get it to work. The sweet lady in the office even rebooted the router for me but it’s behind a closed door so made no difference. Your best bet is at the reception side of the bar where you may get the odd Whatsapp.
  4. Working Remotely – If you need the internet, forget about it.
  5. Backing Up Your iPhone – The wifi is too weak to provide this service. Bring your laptop and cable.
  6. C-Pap Machine – If you a have sleep apnea, electricity is available in the chalets and at some of the camping point. If you are camping though, we do recommend bringing your EcoFlow.
  7. Apple Watch Cover – I broke my cover on the first day at Ai-Ais, make sure you’re using one!
  8. Action Camera – We used our DJI Action camera in the hot swimming pools and it worked well. Don’t forget your charging dock.
  9. Drones – Drones can not be flown in Namibia without a permit (anywhere). Post coming soon!
  10. Google Maps – Don’t rely on this as it won’t load when you need it most! Paper map FTW.

4. 6 Things To Do at Ais-Ais

If you’re wanting to pit stop at the world famous hot springs, here are 5 things to do:

1. Ai-Ais Hot Springs: Visit the Source!

Where does the glorious hot water come from? The Ai-Ais hot spring of course! Ai-Ais means “burning water” and considering this water is over 60 degrees, you’re not going to want to touch it. But use it as an excuse to walk around the camp and visit the natural site. It’s small but, we felt, still amazing that this beautiful water was filtering up from the centre of the earth.

2. Enjoy the Indoor Pools

The indoor pools are what makes Ais-Ais so special! There are 2, one MUCH hotter than the other (about 55). The one closest to the reception door is cooler, the one further down is hotter. We didn’t know this and got straight into the hot pool. It was absolutely divine and we loved swimming there.

3. Swim in the Outdoor Pool

The outdoor pool wasn’t very hot this time, but we recall visiting in the past where we could swim in the beautifully warm water late into the evening (it wasn’t warm enough to do it this time, I’m not sure why). It’s great to float, soak up the heated water and look at the stars above.

4. View Fish River Canyon

The Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world – after the Grand Canyon. It’s also is 47 kms away from Ais-Ais, and is the starting point for the 5 day hike.

You can drive to the Hobas camp and book a drive (with NWR) from Hobas to the actual canyon OR take a NWR bakkie straight from Ai-Ais to the canyon for R400 per person.

We’d recommend doing this as the roads are super rough. We visited in a Corsa last time and it was great to park our car, hop onto an NWR bakkie and head to the canyon.

Day trips into the actual canyon are not allowed, but it’s worth visiting just for the incredible views.

5. Watch the Hikers Come In

We strolled down to the exit of the canyon (located at the bottom of the camp site) and watched hikers ending their trip. As soon as they reached the reception area, they are able to ring the bell and share with the world their hiking achievement. Cold Tafel’s are cracked open at the reception bar (after 11am) and chilling in the afternoon sun with a cold one allows the day to pass by in tranquility.

6. Hike the Fish River Canyon

This is a HUGE endeavour, hence why it’s at the bottom of the list. Hiking the Fish River Canyon is a major achievement, takes 4 – 6 days and can only be done through NWR. If you love hiking and are quite experienced, you may want to reach out to NWR to learn more.

5. Ai-Ais Activities with NWR

NWR also offers a few activities which include:

  • Guided morning drives: R650 pp
  • Guided afternoon drives: R650 pp
  • Guided Night Drives: R750 pp

6. Ai-Ais Indoor Pool Swimming Rates 2023

  • Opening Times: 9am – 5pm
  • Campers Fee: R20
  • Children over 5: R10
  • Children under 4: Free
  • Day Visitors: R50

7. Ai-Ais Restaurant Menu 2023

The restaurant menu at Ai-Ais is very basic. Because the resort is so remote, they provide basic meals and nothing fancy. I saw negative reviews on Trip Advisor, but it’s important to remember and realise where you are:

  1. No one is travelling to Namibia for gourmet cuisine.
  2. Stock is limited due to the location.
  3. If there’s an influx of hikers, food items runs out.

I’ll also be honest and say I grew up in Southern Namibia and life is far more simplistic than what we’re used to in the cities. Please be mindful of that.

8. Food at Ai-Ais

We had no burgers or chips for dinner and no bacon/breakfast bits for our entire stay because food is limited and food transport into the country only happens once or twice a week. The manager did apologise, but there’s literally nothing that can be done about it in such a remote location.

With that, I didn’t have a problem with the food as it fills and warms you up – just what I was looking for after a long day’s drive. The breakfast also had an acceptable spread, although only eggs and sausage were available as they had sold out.

So we recommend managing your expectations if you’re not going to cook yourself.

9. Ai-Ais Bar

The bar at Ai Ais is always well stocked with cold drinks. Enjoy a nice cold drink in the warm afternoon sun or visit the bar early in the evening to have a few toots as most people arrive early, retire early.

10. Ai-Ais Shop

The shop at Ai-Ais has a few basics such as snacks, clothing, liquor, cigarettes and a few consumables. It’s basic but will fill the gap if you’re missing something (don’t expect to do a big shop here). The prices of the liquor is ULTRA expensive though (for eg. about R700 for a bottle of Jameson’s). So choose wisely what you invest in!

Tip: If you need to go grocery shopping, the Spar is permanently closed in Rosh Pinah now so locals use the Shoprite. The Oranjemund Spar is well stocked for consumables. Alternatively, check out our City Slicker’s Guide to Road Tripping Namibia.

Booking at Ai-Ais

Ai-Ais is a great pitstop on your journey through Southern Namibia. Stay for the night, head to the canyon in the morning as you make your way up north.

Booking is done exclusively through the NWR website. Don’t forget to log in to get the SADC rates if you managed to secure your NWR card.

Blog post made in collaboration with NWR. No payment was received for this content.

Is This Helpful?

4 Comments

  1. Can you enter Ai-Ais for the day, just to take the trip to the canyon or must you stay there to be able to take the NWR trip?

    1. Hi Charlene!
      You are welcome to visit for the day. The rates for the pools are slightly higher but you are able to visit.
      The canyon is also outside the NWR location so you can visit it via the Hobas camp.
      Meg

  2. Janine Oosthuizen

    Thanks guys. A well informed article. We are planning a trip to Nam from CT in December, so I’m starting to plan a bit. Thanks for the tips🙏🏼

    1. Awesome Janine! It’s such a fun, peaceful country; I’m sure you’ll have a blast! Will you be going to Luderitz?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.