A weekend at Erindi

A huge elephant by the Camp Elephant watering hole

One of our best friends from Muscat came to visit us, and we decided to go check out Erindi Private Game Reserve. Just about everyone in Windhoek told us Erindi is absolutely amazing, and (spoiler alert) they were right!

There are two lodging options: Camp Elephant or Old Trader’s Lodge. At Camp Elephant, you can either tent camp or stay in a self-catering chalet. No matter which option you choose, I don’t think you can go wrong. The camping looks seriously nice: there are private flush toilets and showers, a refrigerator, hot water, grassy areas for your tent (grass!), picnic tables, and a kitchen sink. Coming from Oman where there was literally nothing if you didn’t bring it with you, the camping there is hardly even camping, other than the fact that you have to sleep in a tent.

Self-catering chalets

We booked the self-catering chalets since we weren’t sure if we’d have our camping gear or not. The chalets all border a watering hole and have two bedrooms, a bathroom, air conditioning, and a well-equipped kitchen with a microwave, toaster, and a two-burner stove. Then outside there’s a picnic table and two (two!) braai areas. It was awesome.

The front of the chalet, with a view of the watering hole and two braai spots

Watering hole and chalets at dusk

I can’t tell you much about Old Trader’s Lodge because Camp Elephant guests are “strictly forbidden from visiting Old Trader’s Lodge at all.” I’m guessing it’s fancy? I have no idea. I’m also curious about what must have happened to institute this ridiculous policy.

We visited Erindi on Thanksgiving weekend, so we decided to do a glamping Thanksgiving. We cooked all the food, except the turkey, on Wednesday and Thursday. We got the braai going as soon as we arrived, heated up everything else, and had a humongous feast. In hindsight, the fact that we thought we needed to bring additional food for Saturday night is laughable. We went home without having cooked some of the food we brought, and we never even had a chance to make s’mores. Oh well. Worse things have surely happened.

Thanksgiving desserts!

Sausages on the braai

On Saturday morning, E and I went on an early morning game drive while Nate stayed behind with M and slept in. The game drive was…. alright, I guess? It certainly wasn’t my favorite. There were a bunch of loud hungover people that arrived late, drank throughout the entire thing, wanted to wake up the lions, asked if you could hunt rhinoceros, watched youtube videos and video-chatted during the game drive, and asked the driver if he had more drinks. And the driver seemed hell-bent on driving through the tightest of spaces in an enormous safari vehicle. I sat in the middle to avoid getting swiped by thorny branches. He spent probably 10 minutes trying to drive over a tree. But we saw a male and female lion resting and then a cheetah family out on a hunt, so that was cool.

The next morning, Nate and E went on a game drive while I stayed behind with M. Their guide was awesome, super-knowledgeable about everything, and took them to see lots of lions (including cubs!). Plus there was the added bonus of no obnoxious passengers. So I guess the game drive tours at Erindi are a total and complete crapshoot.

Another option at Erindi is to do self-drive game drives. You have to stay on the road, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see any lions or large predators unless they literally cross the road right in front of you, but you’ll see lots of other neat stuff. We saw a lot of zebras, springbok, oryx, and giraffes. Plus some clusters of elephants and rhinos.

Since moving here I’ve discovered that I get carsick on the bumpy dirt roads (great timing, huh?) so Nate drove the first half and then I took over. I felt slightly better behind the wheel, but I need to buy some kind of medicine for next time.

The amount of wildlife visible from the chalets is awesome. Hippos and crocodiles live in the watering hole, and there’s no shortage of wildebeest, springbok, elephants and warthogs, plus a huge variety of birds. There are also scorpions and bat-sixed moths. A palm-sized scorpion wandered towards our picnic table while we were playing a board game outside after M went to bed. I shouted “Holy shit, a scorpion!!!” and I’ve never seen grown adults jump so quickly on top of a table.

Erindi makes for a nice weekend getaway, or a great first stop on a further-flung camping trip. There’s a surprisingly large well-stocked shop next to the reception with pretty much everything you could need if you forget something, including ice and firewood. That said, I started a list of things to make sure we bring next time: pool towels, tin foil, binoculars, extra dish towels, a silicon spatula, and a kitchen sponge.

Erindi, we’ll be back!

Update: We’ve since returned to Erindi and our second account was about the same. Guided game drives are a still complete crapshoot (even more so than last time) and the facilities are still amazing.

How to survive a game drive with a toddler/young child

Game drive vehicle at Gocheganas, the best place for sundowner game drives near Windhoek

Game drives are one of the most fun things to do in Namibia. You never know what you’ll see: maybe herds of elephants or a lion eating a zebra or springbok pronking. Or you might get to have gin and tonics with rhinos. You never know.

However, with a kid, game drives are not always so great.

One of the first things we learned when we moved here was that we needed a solid strategy for keeping M entertained and happy, particularly during guided game drives in an open vehicle. They’re usually 3-4 hours long, and sometimes you’re not allowed to get out of the vehicle. There can be lots of driving without seeing much of anything, and usually the animals are far more interesting to us than they are to him. I could watch zebras all day, whereas M is finished after 5 minutes, max. There are also times when you don’t want your kid making tons of noise. Best case scenario, it scares the animals away; worst case, the animal thinks you’re a threat and charges you. Or, if it’s a carnivore, it could try to eat your kid. This is why Erindi doesn’t allow children five and under on open vehicle game drives.

Game drive tire change at Mt. Etjo

On every game drive, we make sure we always bring…

  • High-value snacks: I’m not talking about apple slices and carrots; I’m talking about brownies, cookies, M&Ms, lollypops, etc. The good stuff. It’s hard to talk when your mouth is full of food. And hangry kids are no fun.
  • An extra camera: preferably a light-weight one with a wrist strap, easy-to-press shutter button, and a big display screen. After a game drive where M insisted on using my enormous DSLR camera himself nearly the entire time (and I asked if I could leave him with the rhinos), I always pack our little point-and-shoot from 2010 for him to use.
  • A water bottle: It’s easy to get dehydrated in an open-air vehicle, and sometimes we fill it with juice when we worry that M isn’t drinking enough liquids.
  • A jacket or sweat shirt: Especially on the evening game drives, it can get cold surprisingly fast. Or it might rain. Open-air vehicles in the rain are also no fun.
  • Kindle/iPad/etc: We went on a game drive at Mount Etjo that took a solid hour longer than expected, and towards the end it was freezing cold and raining. Luckily we had M’s jacket and he was warm, cozy, and happy playing a game on his kindle while the rest of us sat there shivering and miserable.
  • Close-toed shoes: All of us always wear close-toed shoes on game drives. You never know what you’re going to have to potentially walk through, whether it’s animal poop, rocky terrain, or thorns. M calls his sneakers his “safari shoes.”

Lastly, follow the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If your kid is happy doing one thing, don’t make them stop because you think they should be doing something else. We took M on the carnivore feeding tour at Na’an Ku/se and instead of looking at the caracals, leopards and cheetahs, he wanted to stay in the truck and play a game on his kindle. Was I annoyed? Yes. But it was a hot, miserable day and he was happy, so I let it go.

Zebras! But M just wanted to look at his Kindle, which was fine.

This list will morph as M grows and changes (and is allowed on the Erindi open vehicle game drives) during our three years here. But for now, this is what we’ve got and it’s working pretty well so far!

Riding in style at Na’an Ku Se