The last of the sunset light shines deeply into the back of my eyes; so rich and dense, it feels like an illusion or some sort of submerged experience. The colours are so phenomenal that I can’t help but say, “This is not AI. This is not VR!” to remind myself that the spendor unfolding in front of me in real time.
The click of long lenses interrupts the tweeting of birds at dusk. A soft whisper and the odd loud Aussie laugh dot the ASMR heaven of the Okaukeujo waterhole.
African dust delivers the most incredible orange skies, silhouetting all surrounding trees and some wildlife. Against the emerging night, black rippling reflections on the cool water appear more clearly than the animals projecting them.
A huge, male elephant saunters down the parameter path, giving me a fright purely from the sheer size and stillness of each of his footsteps. He shakes his head and assesses the audience who are perched along a scantily barbed-wire, stone wall.
Eventually, there’s a symphony of wildlife drawn to the water for the cooling of day. These treasured experiences are only shared with those staying inside Etosha National Park. Day visitors are required to exit before sunset, causing them to miss the majesty of golden hour.
Okaukuejo Waterhole Chalet at Etosha
We’ve been offered the privilege to stay in one of Etosha’s Okaukuejo waterhole chalets inside the National Park. I say privilege as there are only 4 of these types of chalets – duplex houses that are the closest to the waterhole.
Each chalet has 2 bedrooms, with the main bedroom leading onto an open balcony allowing for game viewing and front row access to the waterhole 24-7.
The chalet has two bedrooms, a kitchenette and two small seating areas. The downstairs bedroom is en suite and includes a shower. The bedroom has two twin beds, mosquito nets and a cupboard.
The kitchenette and bedroom are separated by a shallow seating area, which doubles the size of the downstairs area when the double doors are open.
The kitchenette doesn’t include any plumbing, but does have a coffee station and bar fridge available to store cooldrinks and light eats.
The large stairwell (no banister – so best for able bodied people) leads to the second floor and master bedroom. This is a suite unto itself with shower, open wc, his and hers sinks, a cupboard and large bed. (We love the large beds in Namibia!)
The suite doors open onto an open air balcony which viewing access to the waterhole. We chose to make ourselves a little charcuterie board and enjoy a glass of bubbly while the sun set across the park. It was June so the temperatures were moderate (under 30) and there was no wind. Bliss!
Meals at Okaukuejo
Meals (breakfast and dinner) are included with this room, which worked well for me, however, my husband missed the ability to braai (he’s a fussy eater).
Please be mindful that there are no cooking facilities in these chalets (which makes sense as you wouldn’t want people sizzling their steaks while trying to quietly watch the waterhole!).
I have also seen a number of complaints about the restaurant food online. It’s important to remember that Etosha is not a 5 star resort. And while the food is pedestrian, I enjoyed everything I had (it did the job).
I am, however, gluten intolerant which isn’t catered to so I suspect being vegan may also be a challenge. I packed gluten-free snacks for myself, which helps. I suggest doing the same if you have a more selective diet.
2am Animal Encounters
Randomly, waking up in the middle of the night, I debate with myself about whether I should get up and look for animals. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to embrace how close we are to the waterhole, but the bed is also hella comfortable and fresh air is the best holiday sleep aid.
There’s also been an injured wildebeest lying next to the waterhole for over 24 hours, which means the likelihood of animal engagement is high. Earlier in the day, a game ranger explained that the jackals are the “news bulletins” of the park and will inevitably inform the lions that there’s a vulnerable animal. This after I had asked how the lions would know the injured animal was there if there wasn’t any wind?
As I say in bed, I begin to hear the cries of a jackal or hyena. I instantly get up and look out the window. Nothing. Getting back into bed, the sounds float up again. This time, I’m up and getting clothes on. It’s eerie when you know for a fact there are predators outside your window; your own mammalness becomes very apparent!
The giraffes are gone, the gemsbok are gone. While glancing over the black waterhole reflecting the night sky; rocks appearing yellow from the park floodlights, a lioness. Suddenly a huge plume of golden dust flies into the air as a lioness and wildebeest collide!
I wake up Al-John (poor guy got such a fright) and rushed downstairs, exiting the house and standing against the glass door. My adrenaline is pumping with the rush of seeing a kill unfold and the acute sense of vulnerability as potentially becoming prey myself. This is the wild after all – anything could happen!
Another tourist stomps down the waterhold pathway, distracting the animals and, quite frankly, far too boldly exposing themselves to this dangerous environment. This makes me more nervous so I stay pressed against the glass door.
I spot two more lions, they seem young. The wildebeest isn’t giving up without a fight and starts to charge into the lions, chasing them away. This works as a lioness saunters off, however, their eyes still move between the wildebeest and the red light of the tourist’s headlamp.
A few minutes later, another young lion decides it’s his turn to give the wildebeest a go. After a little back and forth, the small pride takes charge of the situation as the cries of the wildebeest fill the night.
The red light of the tourist’s headlamp seem to disrupt the lions and after the kill they saunter off. This is when I too depart; it feels way too scary to stay outside for much longer!
In the morning, it’s as if absolutely nothing happened over night. If you’d slept through it, you’d never know. The only tell are the crows perched on the discarded carcass, enjoying their breakfast and it seems a pity the animal was left as is.
Outstanding Safari Experience at Okaukeujo
The following day we had a triumphant display of over 30 elephants! I say triumphant as their trunk tooting was trumpet-like for sure. The baby elephant getting over excited and landing on its face – adorable.
Gemsbok and giraffe also wade through the water, cooling off in the mid day temperatures as rhinos slurp up water. An outstanding safari experience that requires little to no effort at all.
This is the best of Okaukeujo. The ability to see game in phenomenal circumstances right in the heart of the park. A truly unforgettable wildlife experience.
Caveat: The guests before us only checked out at 3pm as the geyser had broken and they were waiting for it to be fixed so they could shower. We were offered another room, but it was a large downgrade so we chose to stay in the chalet, without hot water. We recommend doing the same. Cold showers come and go, but experiences like this are once in a lifetime. PS The geyser was fixed that evening, but we can not guarantee it will be fixed in the same timely manner should it occur again.
We’ll be having a City Slicker’s Guide to Okaukeujo up on the blog soon, but for now, I hope this helped you make your decision to visit Etosha National Park. Before you shut the front door, “Got the Passports?”