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It had been a long day of travelling when we arrived at Ngepi Camp (one of the 15 best eco-lodges in Southern Africa) near Divundu in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip. It was dark by the time we had pitched camp. So I had to take an open-air shower. In the dark. By torchlight. Among all those bushes and mozzies and creepy-crawlies. It wasn’t my best moment.

But as soon as the sun peeked through the trees the next morning and revealed our view over the Kavango River, my grumpiness evaporated. Completely. Suddenly, what had seemed bothersome when I was hot and tired the night before was now amusingly quirky, part of the campsite’s must-do-at-least-once appeal.

Make no mistake, the place is deeply idiosyncratic, even eccentric. Musical instruments hang from the ceiling of the lodge’s dining room. I’m not talking little things like flutes and castanets, but full-bodied, potentially skull-crushing stuff like a cello, a trombone, a piano accordion. Other ceiling ornaments swaying in happy confusion above you are a bicycle and a unicycle.

A mokoro (dugout canoe) turned on end makes a surprisingly useful bookcase in the lounge, where you can kick back and relax in one of the beanbags or squashy couches. In the gardens and around a circular fireplace or ‘conversation pit’, more mekoro (yup, that’s the plural of mokoro) are plonked upside down and used as benches or tables.

But it’s probably in the loos where the owner’s oddball sense of décor comes into its own.

One of the loos near our campsite was signposted ‘The Throne’, a rather grand affair where the toilet bowl and seat were encased ­in – yes, you guessed it – a wooden throne. It had an unimpeded view out over the river (related article: six of the best loos with a view). If taking a dump while watching crocs glide past and swivel their eyes in your direction wasn’t your idea of fun, there were plenty more private, viewless loos to choose from, each of them unique – no City Lodge sameness here.

For the business of washing we had a choice. We could, for instance, shower at the ‘adventure outdoors’ centre I hadn’t enjoyed much in the dark on my first night. Or we could go to Eagle’s Nest with its galvanised hip-bath and 180-degree view over the river. It looked madly romantic and I could just picture it by candlelight with some rose petals strewn about. But a British couple with two kids turned it into a family bathroom one afternoon, and from the giggles and shrieks it seemed they were having a whale of a time.

Being of a practical bent myself, I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if the sunset cruise puttered past just when you were ‘on the throne’ or in the bath!

Other cool touches at Ngepi were a sun deck, a floating cage pool in the river and a vibey bush bar. I liked that overlanders had their own section of the campsite, so we didn’t have to be swamped by their multiple tents at our green-grassed patch of paradise along the river. Not all camp sites have river frontage, so request it when you book. Or, if you aren’t into camping at all, you can try out one of the tree-house suites.

For a chuckle, don’t forget to read the tongue-in-cheek signs around the property. Some of them poke fun at 4×4 drivers, or campers who bring everything but the kitchen sink, but there are also ‘green’ notices, for instance one reminding you not to be a wasteful ‘power pig’.

On our second night, I had a shower while it was still light so I could appreciate the rustic naturalness of the surroundings. Open to the night sky, it bragged of ‘unlimited stars’ instead of a measly five stars which is all the best hotels can manage. To alert others that the area was occupied, you put up a pole with a sign saying ‘door’ across the opening to the shelter. Groundcovers nudged the wooden slats that formed the shower deck, a galvanised bucket with holes in it was the shower head way up in a tree, and a felled tree trunk was nearby to hold my dry clothes and towel. It was a completely different experience from the previous night – and this time I succumbed to its charm.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: don’t arrive late and grumpy if you want to get the best from your experience.

That night we went to sleep listening to the grumblings of hippo and the huffing of elephants, and woke to the sound of fish eagles calling over the river. Just another flawless day in Africa.

What to do in the Caprivi Strip

1.   Take a day drive to the Mahango Game Reserve about 15km away.
2.   Popa Falls is also just a hop, skip and jump away, and it’s open from sunrise to sunset.

How to get there: Ngepi is 14km from Divundu, which is a small settlement on the B8 between Rundu (200km) and Katimo Mulilo (320km) in the Caprivi, Namibia. At the T-junction in Divundu turn onto the D3403 and drive 10km until you see the sign for Ngepi Camp on the left, from where it is 4km.

Where to book: bookings@ngepicamp.com

Contact details: tel 00264-66-259903, cell 00264-81-2028200

Website: http://www.ngepicamp.com/



10 Responses to “The Caprivi Strip’s wackiest campsite: Ngepi Camp”

  1. Inge Beadle

    We stayed for 2 nights at NGEPI in August -during a long and extensive trip from Jozi via
    Sossusvlei and Etosha (via Ngepi) to Mankwe Bushcamp in Bots.

    It is the most wonderful experience and the naturalness of the “High-rise” Loo and the open-
    roofed plantengulfed showers are soo enchanting- the best was the swim in the – I think- ONLY
    croc-safe swimming pool in the Kavango River !

    The Popa Falls are also stunning- especially if you visit them (as per their staff recommendation)
    from the ‘other’ side (N’Gabace) past the prison- you can walk in the Okavango and picknick at
    a very special place on earth.

    The cost was very reasonable N$95- a person p/night camping- and their en-suite riverhouses are also
    very well priced- the camp is well worth a visit- I intend going again!

    Reply
  2. nomvuyo zvenyika

    Going back to ngepi this weekend that place drives me crazy!!!!!!i totally love it!!!

    Reply
  3. Sue Millard

    Hi Roxanne,
    I quite agree with Roxanne, Ngepi is a wonderful experience. It is all that she said and more. The sunset cruise is an absolute “must-do” The colours of the sky and reflections on the river at sunset are spectacular, navy blue, purple, maroon, orange, gold, pink, a memory that will be with me forever. The hippos sometimes come up onto the grassy campsites at night but don’t really disturb you. But to lie in bed at night and hear the trumpeting of the elephants (on the other side of the river) and grunts of the hippos is amazing. Sitting on “the throne” as a mokoro paddled by would have been somewhat disconserting but there are other less adventurous bathrooms available. I just sat there for a few minutes fully clothed just for fun. When having a soak in the hip bath, I felt more comfortable wearing a bathing costume! I loved our stay there and wouldn’t hesitate to go back.

    Reply
    • Roxanne

      Sue, I braved the loo on the waterfront but a guy came to throw his fishing line into the river just the other side of the pole “fence” (I could see him through the gaps) so I had to wrap up VERY quietly!

      Reply
  4. Megan Lowe

    We were at Ngepi Camp in September and can’t wait to go back. We also arrived at dusk and did not appreciate our “spot” till the next day. I loved the signs and the quirky nature of the place. Just exploring the camp and checking out the various ablution options could take a morning! More than anything though, we enjoyed the GREEN GRASS in the campsites!! The birding was great, too. Next time we hope to spend more than 3 nights there and to explore the area more fully.

    Reply
    • Roxanne

      Glad to hear I’m not the only one who took a night to convert to the joys of the place. But converted I certainly was.

      Reply

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