Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Harshman Family Goes on Safari! Frans Indongo Lodge

First African Sunset at Frans Indongo Lodge
The countdown is over and here we are, out in the Namibian bush! I arrived Namibia on the 25th of October just in time for the Adventure Travel World Summit to begin, and Scott and Judah arrived on the 8th of Nov. I'll make a note straight out of the gate here...this is a family safari, our first one, and therefore this blog/trip report will have a very different angle than my others. I'm looking at the lodges, activities, guides and experiences from a different point of view: through the eyes of a three-year-old and my husband who doesn't get to join me here often enough. Some of the lodges we are staying in we (Ultimate Safaris, and in SA, New Frontiers Tours) don't often use for our FIT clients, but they may be the perfect fit for an independent family or travelers on more of a budget. We did self drive to keep costs lower and as we were visiting many areas I'd been to before, but I don't generally recommend that travelers do this. Your clients will miss so much of the essence of a country without a local guide. Bear that in mind as you read on.

Frans Indongo rhinos at sunset
After packing up our vehicle (a 4-seater Daihatsu Terios 4x4) with snacks, supplies, drinking water and bags of luggage in Windhoek at Galton House (a stylish and comfortable guest house in a quiet neighborhood), we headed North on the B1 to Frans Indongo Lodge for two nights. This is a quaint, locally run lodge with just 12 rooms. Upon arrival, the staff was so friendly and eager to meet Judah and they engaged him immediately. Within moments they all knew his name and had him playing and laughing. We spent the afternoon cooling off in the pool and got J's diggers out and did some minor construction work in the rocks. The setting is quite nice overlooking a small waterhole that attracts a variety of antelope (they've been introduced from the Caprivi and South Africa), warthogs, birds and black gnu and sweeping views of the Waterberg Plateau in the distance.

The lodge is very comfortable and designed to make the most of the view, situated to take advantage of the breezes and family suites are smartly placed close to the dining and lounge areas. Both nights we put Judah to bed after dinner and went back to enjoy our own dinner and relax a bit. It was nice to know we could hear him if he woke up, but the rooms were also quiet when we turned in earlier than the group of French travelers. In addition to the sparkling clean pool, spacious deck with lounge chairs, umbrellas and bathrooms, the lodge offers a great look-out tower that was a perfect spot for sunset views.

Hamming it up at dinner
Overall, the food was very good - the portions were really far too large, they had Spiderman place mats and cups for the kids and were very accommodating with meal times, kids menus, etc. We joined a shared game drive on the small reserve and spotted white rhino, gnu, giraffe, a variety of birds, kudu and more. We did not have time to visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund nearby (45 mins drive), but it is very accessible for people who are interested. The one thing I'd mention here is that CCF is very oriented towards conservation, which is excellent, but doesn't have quite the level of tourist interaction that AfriCat does. Frans Indongo offers an excellent standard of mind-range accommodation, but for travelers with higher-end taste, Okonjima has more options to suit that niche.

We really enjoyed Frans Indongo and it was an ideal way to start off our safari somewhere close to Windhoek, relaxing and comfortable. They're weren't any other kids around for Judah to play with, but the staff was very interactive and no one was concerned about him running around and playing. I definitely recommend this lodge for families, especially at the beginning of trip to recoup a bit and ease into the trip.

Stay tuned for our adventures in Etosha! Elephants, hyena, lions and more!

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