After months and months of being cooped up throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, travellers from around the globe are hungry for new experiences – and not just any experiences. They’re looking to take part in authentic, meaningful encounters that add value to both their holiday and their lives in general. Enter Ongula Lodge in Namibia, the country’s first lodge to be constructed within the boundaries of an active Ovambo/Owambo homestead, allowing visitors to get to know, learn more about, and live like the local Ovambo people.
Experiences to look forward to
The chance to live amongst this rich culture and spend a night or two inside a luxurious rondavel is enough to draw in hordes of tourists, but experiencing day-to-day local living isn’t the only reason why travellers are scrambling to book their stay at Ongula Village Homestead Lodge, established in 2012. Along with learning all about the unique set-up of a homestead, cultivating the lands across the seasons, and how the Ovambo people utilise the country’s endemic trees for both construction and medicinal purposes, there are plenty more adventures that await. Here are a few examples set to fill up a visitor’s itinerary during their stay:
- Taking part in the pounding of the tribe’s staple food, mahangu (pear millet) – and sampling it in many different forms, of course
- Learning how to make Marula oil, or odjove in the local language
- Experiencing the local distillery and learning the art of making ombike schnapps
- Getting to work with fresh local ingredients in the epata (traditional kitchen), involving cooking up a storm at an open fire
- Trying one’s hand at basket weaving and pottery alongside the talented Owambo women who are happy to share the tricks of the trade
There’s also the opportunity to embark on a scenic and educational Ongula Village Walk, with the goal of taking travellers even deeper into the daily happenings of the community. The walk allows for an insider’s look into the tribe’s everyday tasks, like collecting water and firewood, followed by a relaxing sundowner under a marula tree and a closer look at village nightlife at the local cuca shops.
Visitors can opt to stray away from the homestead for a couple of hours to adventure through the nearby town of Ondangwa in the Oshana Region of northern Namibia. This exploit includes a stop at the Nakambale Museum (a legacy built to honour the Finnish missionaries who settled in the area during the 19th century) and at an open market and an Ohanje Craft Centre, both chockfull of handmade souvenirs and offering the perfect chance to continue supporting local and ensuring more sustainable tourism. The tour concludes with a mouth-watering picnic lunch and a lesson in Nambian flora and fauna on the banks of the ephemeral Oshigambo river.
There’s further opportunity for travellers to immerse themselves in Owambo culture by taking music, drum, and dance lessons at the homestead. Visitors can get up and get moving as they learn some impressive local dance moves or, alternatively, put their feet up and revel in the captivating traditional songs and rhythms.
Once they’ve had their fill of the energetic homestead hustle and bustle, it’s time to relax for a bit with a game of Owela – a traditional board game originally played by the elders and now a popular go-to for both young and old, especially since its recent modernisation by a Namibian university. The university sought to redesign the game to ensure the preservation of such an important piece of cultural heritage. Traditionally, it’s played on a four-row trough with at least eight holes per row and using seeds from the Marula tree as counters.
Ultimately, the lodge affords curious travellers the opportunity to treat themselves to a once-in-a-lifetime authentically Namibian excursion with sustainable, communal, and experiential travel at its core.