Windhoek Game Camp’s tented bliss

By By Dorcas Mhungu
August 2011
Travel and Tourism

From the lofty office block, the serene landscape clothed in thorny bushes unfolds before your eyes sprawling towards the horizon that is backed by mountains standing steadfast and proud.

Eight tented units are dotted below the office block with a design concept Carla Feely, Manager of the Windhoek Game Camp, describes as unique and a first in Namibia.

The set up and distance from one unit to another was done to preserve visitors’ privacy.

The interiors of the units are spacious, well furnished with rustic furniture and beautiful chandeliers hanging gracefully from the wooden poles supporting the tent roof.

“And it still feels like you are in the bush but staying fancy,” Feely sums up the winning combination of bush camping and modern lifestyle, the theme around which the lodges were built and also in compliance with a number of eco friendly facets.

These self-catering lodges, just 15km outside Windhoek and in the Brakwater area, are built with round wooden poles and tent material is used for the walls and the roof.

Feely says the interior is kept cool during the scorching summer months of Namibia by the double walls and double tent roofs that allow air to circulate between the two roofs keeping out the hot air.

The windows have no glass but fine wire mesh that keeps out mosquitoes and other insects while still bringing in lots of light and ventilation. Tent material is used to make window roll up blinds that are kept in place with Velcro.

A short wall separates the room from the bathroom facilities and shower and the opposite end has a toilet while the middle section is occupied by two wash basins.

The cold winter nights are warmed by electric blankets while the cold showers are made pleasurable by wood heated water. Each unit has a cooking place fully equipped with a four plate hob, microwave, fridge freezer and all the basic crockery. In addition there is a braai area outside to complete the splendour that the place has.

A unit sleeps two adults and children under the age of twelve are accommodated free of charge. There is a communal area with a swimming pool adjacent where guests, on a hot summer day, can cool off and layback to marvel the beauty of the landscape.

“Eco friendly is the way to go these days and here we have implemented it. The water is not heated by electricity but is supplied from a gas bottle that has been modified to serve as a hot water supplier (“donkey”) to the lodges and wood that is abundant here, is used to heat the water.

“The toilet uses an environment friendly flush system. The water is circulated and enzymes are added to rid it of all toxic matter and the treated water is emptied into a dug out pit away from the lodges and wild animals and birds drink it.”

Game that graces the smallholding include Giraffe, Waterbuck, Blesbuck, Nyala, Impala, Oryx and Spring buck and there is a walking trail where people can see the animals.

“The male Giraffe is too friendly and he sticks his head inside the room. We call him Kappie, short for Kameelperd an Afrikaans word for Giraffe,” Feely says fondly, adding that each time there are tenants in the lodges he gets attracted to the braai light and breaks the light when he brushes his head against it shaking it to break it.

Feely, who is born Oosthuizen, says her family ran a furniture business in Windhoek (Spectrum Furniture) for 26 years until three years ago when a decision was made to close shop and mulled the idea to venture into the tourism business. From the frequent travelling that the Oosthuizens do, they gathered different ideas from the tourist resorts they visited and were able to come up with their own unique design of tented camp accommodation.

“I studied retailing in South Africa. It is still retailing but now I am retailing accommodation and not furniture.” Windhoek Game Camp started operating last year.

“It takes three years to get into real business in the tourism sector but I must admit that we are doing well. We are getting visitors at a pace that is surprising most people. So far, so good.”

A double unit costs N$900 per night and a single costs N$700. Feely says because of the ever increasing rates in conventional hotels offering bed and breakfast self catering places are becoming more popular. Visitors spend half the amount on accommodation at self catering lodges but double their staying period at the same time. With well orchestrated planning and marketing, Windhoek Game Camp is already enjoying housing visitors from Europe, South Africa and good patronage from the locals.

The Oosthuizens, after closing the furniture business, settled on their 50 ha plot in Brakwater and saw the potential in the property to be an ideal place for a tourism project.

“Everything is registered in my parents name but I’m running the business and in the end it will belong to me,” explains Feely who stays on the same property with her parents and her husband Douglas and three boys, Michael 7, Steven 4, and Aidan 3.

The tourism taste seems to be getting sweeter. The family has two other lodges in Zambia on the banks of the Zambezi River and the empire is now operating under the brand name of Spectrum Lodges. In order to maintain high standards and remain exclusive, Feely says the units will remain eight. For the year the camp has been operational, Feely runs the establishment single handedly.

She is thankful to have a very supportive husband who offers leverage when the work load gets back breaking, “and that is why we decided to make the units self catering because there is a lot of work that needs to be done when meals are offered”.

Her parents are currently in Zambia supervising construction of the lodges they are building for her brother. PF