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December 22, 2022

Camp Kala – pure luxury on the fringe of Etosha

It’s 3am when a deep, guttural roar shakes me from sleep. I sit up instantly and hear it again – rolling across the flat Namibian landscape and rumbling through the wide glass doors of my elevated suite. I slip out of bed and tiptoe to the doors.

The curtains are open – I’d seen no reason to close them because there are only four suites here at Camp Kala, each with its own private view – and I look out over the waterhole. All is still but then, I see him. A large male lion, confident in his prime, emerging from the thicket. He pauses, surveying the open land around the waterhole, and under the light of an almost-full moon, I can see – and hear – the magnificent creature clearly. They say a lion’s roar can be heard as far as eight kilometres away, but this one is barely 60 metres from my suite and as he lifts his head and roars again, his voice reverberates against my chest.

I feel – delighted – like I am intimately connected to this magnificent place.

It’s a feeling I’ve grown accustomed to over the past few days. I’m staying at Onguma Nature Reserve’s Camp Kala on the eastern boundary of Etosha National Park. It’s a beautiful, sophisticated lodge that wraps around a permanent waterhole, and all structures (which are connected by elevated walkways) have been designed to open out onto decks that overlook that focal point. The result is a wonderfully harmonious flow of space, which instils a deep sense of connection to place.

There are five camps and lodges at Onguma and Camp Kala, which opened in November 2022, and is the most luxurious and exclusive on the reserve. Able to accommodate a total of just eight guests (10 if the camp is booked for exclusive use), every double suite is allocated a butler who is on hand around the clock to ensure guests are well taken care of.

Comfort and attention to detail are paramount here. Camp Kala’s open-plan suites essentially comprise three separate spaces: the living area, which houses the tea and coffee station, plus a well-stocked mini bar; the bed, surrounded by generous sweeps of curtains and a state-of-the-art cooling system; and the bathroom, which has a striking double vanity, a free-standing bath (with an exceptional view) as well as a shower and toilet, of course. The entire suite is fronted by glass doors, which open onto a wide, swooping deck that boasts a plunge pool, a wood-fired hot tub, sun loungers and a shaded shala with a king-size day bed.

It was on this deck that I sat one morning, cup of coffee in hand, to watch daybreak, mesmerised by the flow of bird calls as I witnessed the bush transition from the night. It was, I admit, an unusual decision on a safari trip, for mornings tend to begin with a game drive – and at Camp Kala guests usually have the entire 34,000-hectare Onguma Reserve to themselves as guests from the other lodges head into neighbouring Etosha National Park for the morning drive. Other activities on offer are guided bush walks, a photographic session at a waterhole-level hide, bush dinners and – an absolute must – a sleep-out in the Dream Cruiser, a luxuriously converted vehicle with rooftop tent. At Camp Kala, there’s also a spa and a gym, both of which look out into the veld.

Meals at Camp Kala are intimate, and abundant. They are served al-fresco, overlooking the waterhole, and can be set up in the suite if a guest prefers. If one ever feels peckish, the pantry is always open – but with morning coffee and snacks rolling into a hearty breakfast, followed by a generous lunch, sumptuous afternoon tea, sundowner drinks and snacks, followed by a three-course dinner, one finds little time to be peckish.

The lion at the waterhole, however, seems to have meat on his mind and after surveying the surroundings he swaggers off into the night, in search – no doubt – of his pride.

W: Onguma Camp Kala / Onguma

Written for Luxury Safari Magazine © Narina Exelby

Images by David Rogers

Instagram / #Luxurialife