Wished farewell from the outstanding Doro Nawas Camp with a filling breakfast and a goodbye song from the assembled staff, I began a 200-mile journey north. Along the way, I spied massive termite towers, some with trees growing out of them (careful not to approach the empty ones too closely—they’re often the home of venomous snakes), as well as a baboon sitting atop a road sign as if that was the most natural thing in the world.
After a late lunch break at the hopping Outjo Bakery, which served up a tasty grilled chicken with butternut fusilli and a refreshing Farmdudler iced tea, I continued on my way to my destination, Etosha Safari Lodge.
I was eagerly anticipating spending a couple of days in Namibia’s Etosha National Park, a vast, 8,600-square-mile protected area that teems with wildlife living and surviving in amazing landscapes. Just a stone’s throw from the southern entrance to the park, Etosha Safari Lodge seemed the perfect place to spend the night before venturing into one of Africa’s top national parks.
I arrived at the turnoff for the lodge. Only a half mile along the private road, I came to a screeching halt. “Giraffe! Giraffe!”
Fumbling with my camera and spasmodically trying to open the door, I tumbled out of the car. As I righted myself and stared at my tall friend, only six feet from the side of the road, I was realizing a long-simmering (40 years, to be exact) childhood dream: to see giraffes in the wild. It was one of the most joyous moments of all my travel experiences, indeed, of my life, but the giraffe, largely camouflaged by trees expect for his head and top of his neck, didn’t seem to realize what a wondrous effect his very presence was having on me.
We stared at each other for a while, me in complete rapture, him in, well, I can only imagine was a combination of curiosity, perhaps a bit of wariness, and a healthy dose of ennui. Soon, another giraffe head popped up from behind the trees, and then a third. It was all too thrilling, and I knew that, if Etosha Safari Lodge had 19’-tall welcome ambassadors, it would be a heavenly place to stay.
As it turns out, I was right, and I was already regretting that my plans had me staying at this stylish lodge for only one night. I pulled up to the main entrance, a low-rise building approached by a brick circular driveway and a staircase leading up to half a dozen glass-pane doors. After a quick and friendly check-in, I made my way to my room, one of 65 private bungalows reached via curvy paths through mopane woodlands. Bungalows feature large, comfortable beds; open-shower concepts; wall sconces with elephant-head shields; and magnificent views from private verandas.
I had arrived later in the afternoon, too late to partake in the lodge’s walking and safari tours, but not too late to take a dip in one of its three crystal-clear cold-water swimming pools, bordered by brick walkways and grass, comfortable chaise lounges and large sun umbrellas, and with unobstructed miles-long views of the country.
With the day turning divinely cool, I hurried back to my bungalow and prepped for dinner. I passed through the reception area next to the tempting gift shop and stepped onto the wide veranda, covered by a roof supported by brick piers, and emerged onto the sunset deck. It’s an appropriately named section of the lodge, where guests gather on stools around circular tables on the wooden deck, illuminated by alabaster-colored orbs. With a nonalcoholic African sunset beverage in hand, I leaned against the railing, noting the bird nests dangling from nearby trees, and began to enjoy nature’s nightly spectacle. Wispy clouds had started to float by, brushing the sky and adding extra beauty to the sunset. The blue sky above me gradually began to darken as the sun dipped below the horizon, lighting it up in golden and orange tones before flickering out. It’s one of the best free shows you can ever imagine.
Inside the expansive dining room, a buffet feast awaited me. A huge brick fireplace divides the room into two: on one side, a lounge area with leather sofas on which to relax with a drink from the large bar, lit by white, yellow, and cobalt blue pendants; on the other, the main dining room with a series of French doors. I settled in for a rewarding and varied dinner that included grilled lamb chops, au gratin potatoes, roasted oryx, basmati rice, carrots and broccoli, pork schnitzel, baby marrow, a couple of salads, and apple crumble, accompanied by some fine South African wine.
I returned to my bungalow late and reveled in the care and comfort that Etosha Safari Lodge was providing. The total silence outside my doors lulled me into a sound sleep, punctuated only by a dream or two about handsome giraffes and staying here forever.
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