Our destination was The Mushara Outpost, a lodge that is just outside the Von Lindquist Gate, one of the main entry points to Etosha National Park, situated right up at the northern tip of Namibia. We arrived in the afternoon heat after a long but easy drive from Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia. This was our first time in the country, and we had heard stories of starkly beautiful desert, vast expanses of mesmerising sand dunes and sightings of some of the most rare wild animals on the continent.
A few minutes’ drive before the gate are the two other sisters in the family; Mushara Lodge and Mushara Bushcamp, both with their own distinctive styles and personalities. We were met by the ever-smiling Phoebe, welcoming and keen to introduce us to our new home from home. A few steps up the path and there was the low-lying lodge with its wrap-around open veranda and a timber roof.
I love the African bush, the tranquillity, the birds chattering, and the rustle of animal sounds in the distance. I also love comfort, style and places that are completely at home in their environment – Mushara Outpost delivers all of this in spades.
The main building is beautiful, large and open entirely to its surroundings. Every part of it has been carefully thought through to ensure it fits perfectly into the larger jigsaw. Large comfortable sofas look out over the manicured lawns, a telescope for star gazing, and a sturdy slate-topped bar faces out to the long, dark wooden table which runs all the centre of the room. It’s a place where you play chess and read with a gin and tonic on the side table next to you. Sundowners here are elegant and memorable. The style of the ultimate quintessential African home, all art, lightness, beautiful furnishings and comfort. In the early evening, a campfire is lit outside with comfortable chairs around, marking the beginning of the transition from day to night.
The Outpost caters for up to 16 guests, with everyone accommodated in large custom-made tent-like wood and canvas structures. All are spread out with plenty of space and are extremely comfortable with every facility required. We had both indoor and outdoor showers – I loved our outdoor shower; after a day in the heat, it was bliss to stand there and stare up at the blue sky above.
Large glass windows keep the tent light and airy in the daytime, and we enjoyed the air conditioning in the evening and when sleeping under our mosquito netting at night. We were in tent seven and had a large wooden veranda to sit on and hear nothing other than some of the 340 bird species Etosha offers. On our first night at the lodge, we walked back to our tent after dinner down the lit pathway to see a handful of Springbok dispersing hastily, crashing through the bush from just outside our tent. Apart from that, there was nothing other than silence overnight, and I slept a long and deep sleep in this very different world.
Relaxation and Discovery
The Outpost makes the most of its abundant space, and everything is well spaced out; I can’t imagine it ever feeling crowded here. After a busy day of animal spotting, we enjoyed winding down in the large pool and reading in one of the well-spaced loungers under the shade of a tree or an umbrella. There is also a lovely gift shop with many locally made textiles and other mementoes of this part of the world. The shop is always open and is completely unstaffed – here, they understand their guests and extend warm and friendly hospitality across every touch point.
At night following the path away from our tent, we were led down to the Outpost’s own watering hole with a spacious wooden terrace, set back far enough that guests do not disturb any thirsty animals but near enough to delight in the scene. We brought our binoculars, and although we didn’t see any larger animals, we enjoyed watching the birds flutter in and out of the lit-up pool.
Of course, we were here to explore the vast Etosha National Park, with its salt pan so large it can be seen from space. We heard that Etosha, for that reason, can be loosely translated as ‘Great White Place’ in the Local Ovambo language. One of the best ways to explore the park and see as much wildlife as possible is to join a game drive from the lodge. We rose early on our first morning to join our game drive with Johannes, one of the lodge’s experienced and knowledgeable guides, setting off in the coolness of the early morning. Throughout the course of the morning, we were lucky enough to see mating lions (a rare sighting apparently) and elephants as well as a plethora of giraffes, zebra and smaller but no less interesting species such as jackal, warthog and dik-dik – the smallest of antelopes. The highlight, though, was seeing an endangered black rhino; Etosha is known as one of the best places in the world to see this precious animal.
Later in the afternoon, when the day was cooling, we drove into the park ourselves and followed the pan’s edge, savouring hundreds of bright pink flamingos with their impossibly long and delicate legs, crowding together in a vibrant hue. Three hours passed quickly, and even without Johannes and his eagle eyes, we were pleased with our spots.
Dinner at Mushara Outpost is an elegant yet unstuffy event with beautifully laid individual tables on the open veranda, lit by candlelight and facing the manicured lawn. The menu is announced earlier in the day on a chalkboard in reception sating your appetite for the main event. We comfortably got into an evening routine starting with gin and tonics on the veranda, book in lap, and easy conversations with fellow guests and the ever-delightful staff members Helena and Phoebe. There are numerous books to study and browse through in the lodge, and I enjoyed discovering more about this wonderful country and its history. Dinner was served promptly at 8 pm with the beating of an African drum, and we were shown to our individual tables. We were served a set menu; our first evening was a delightful, light cheese-filled ravioli followed by a delicious chicken dish and completed with apple filo pastry parcels.
There was a wide selection of South African wines to choose from, and our Glenwood Chardonnay was a perfect accompaniment. Our second night was equally satisfying with game skewers accompanied by a delicious smoky deep sauce and plenty of fresh, vibrant coloured vegetables all accompanied by one of the many South African red wines on the excellent wine list. A tiramisu ice cream hit the spot on a still-hot evening.
Breakfast is flexible to accommodate both guests who are departing for early game drives and those with more relaxed schedules to enjoy. Our game drive started promptly at 6.30 am, and we chose to eat at 6 am with a hearty hot and filling breakfast, though we could also have chosen to take a breakfast pack with us on our drive. Freshly baked bread, homemade preserves, and sublime mango and guava were part of the offering; the African fruits also starred in the selection of fresh juices. By the time we returned, it was midday, and we were both ravenous, happy to enjoy a substantial salad each and a refreshing Windhoek Namibian lager brewed in accordance with German purity laws.
I couldn’t fault The Mushara Outpost, from our welcoming arrival after a long journey to the beautiful lodge, luxurious tents with every comfort, and of course, the wonderful and rewarding game drive. The absolute highlight for me was the serenity and peace that came from sitting in the remote African bush, listening to the birds and distant animal voices in this intimate, luxurious environment. Time seems to go slowly, and you relax – I found I could really appreciate the moment.
The other outstanding component of the success of Mushara Outpost is the staff, who were warm, efficient and genuinely dedicated to ensuring their guests had everything they could possibly want. We were delighted to be there and equally sad to leave. Namibia is a country I only want to see more of, and we are already planning our next trip. This was the perfect introduction to it, and there are undoubtedly further adventures to be had.
By Catherine Dinsdale