Erindi Private Game Reserve first came to my attention back in 2009 when it was the center of the Animal Planet television show ‘Into The Pride’. The five-part series highlighted the reserve’s efforts to reintroduce, rehabilitate and conserve wildlife in a vast area of Namibia that had previously focused on cattle ranching. It was that same year that I first visited the reserve and over the course of the next year I spent a number of months in Namibia and visited the reserve several times. Undoubtedly the reserve’s infrastructure has developed since my first visit and its location is the perfect gateway between Namibia’s Capital city, Windhoek, and Etosha National Park to the north. Whether you’re self-driving in Namibia or if you have a couple of days at the end of one of the many overland tours in Southern Africa that finish in Windhoek, take the 3 hours trip (maximum) north of Windhoek to visit the reserve. You won’t be disappointed!
Take Photos Leave Footprints Ratings
Wildlife – 4.5*
I very nearly gave Erindi a full 5-star rating for wildlife. The only thing holding me back is the absence of buffalo. Hence, the reserve can’t currently claim big-5 status; however, this is rumored to change with the proposed relocation of buffalo from the overpopulated Waterberg National Park. If this happens, Erindi will be the only big-5 reserve in the country, and I’ll probably need to bump this review up to a full 5-stars! The rest of the big-5 (i.e. lion, leopard, elephant and black rhino) are spotted fairly frequently, and your chance of successful sightings are high. Outside of the big-5, the park is also home to cheetah, brown and spotted hyena, wild dogs, giraffe, hippo, eland, warthog, zebra, wildebeest (both black and blue), kudu, hartebeest, wild cats, meer cats, jackals, cape and bat-eared foxes (the latter being a personal favorite of mine) and a myriad of other smaller species and antelope.
In addition to the standard game drive offering, the reserve also has a number of unique and specialized activity offerings that make wildlife viewing even more rewarding. The most exhilarating are probably the cheetah and leopard walks; seriously, nothing can beat getting up close and personal with big cats on their level. A second option is telemetry tracking for tagged animals including lion, elephant, cheetah, pangolin, serval, honey-badger, brown and spotted hyena. As a photographer, and because I generally enjoy the thrill of not knowing what animals I’ll see on safari, I don’t usually opt for game tracking by GPS. For me, the tracking collars spoil the photos. However, I put those reservations aside and tracked lion on one of my visits. Even more exciting was the fact that I had the vehicle and driver to myself and was allowed to climb out on to the bonnet of the car to waft the ‘telemetry stick’ (I’m pretty sure that’s not its technical name) in the air to listen out for the signals. Finally, the reserve also offers night drives in the summer, meaning that you stand a better chance of spotting all of the nocturnal wildlife you might not see on day game-drives.
Scenery – 4*
When you think of a private game reserve, your mind might reasonably envisage a small tract of land akin to a zoo or wildlife park. That could not be further from the truth at Erindi which offers a serious safari opportunity over an area of land ten times the size of Manhattan. The reserve is located in Namibia’s highlands on the central plateau, and it’s fair to say the scenery is both varied and spectacular in places. From classic safari savannah with wide ranging vistas which you can easily spot game, the park then transitions to the Erongo Mountains and bushveld. The reserve is also home to one, fairly dry (at least when I’ve visited) river called the Slang River – so keep your eyes open for hippo and crocodiles when you have your celebratory sundowner on the river’s edge.
Accommodation – 3*
Given that Erindi is a private reserve, accommodation is primarily centered on the reserve’s own lodge and campground. Both are excellent, but compared to other accommodation options in Namibia, they can be a little pricey. By staying in the reserve, you’ll benefit from having the opportunity to partake in some of the activities that are only available to overnight guests. You’ll also have the benefit of having dinner whilst overlooking the lodge’s watering hole. When I wasn’t on safari, I spent most of my time lounging on the deck over the watering hole waiting for animals to arrive. With a camera in one hand and a G&T in the other, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon!
If the Reserve’s accommodation doesn’t float your boat or your budget, there are nearby accommodation options however limited. A couple of camp grounds and small guest lodges (B&B-style) dot the B1 highway. Otherwise, your best bet is to look for accommodation in Okahandja, which is the closest, large town about 100km from the reserve entrance. Staying further from the Reserve does unfortunately mean a very early morning wake-up call if you want to do a morning game drive. Unfortunately, Okahandja doesn’t yet have a Starbucks franchise (insert sarcastic British vocal tone).
Access – 3.5*
The gates to Erindi are about a 3 hour drive north from Windhoek International Airport on the B1 highway (which is tarred to an excellent standard). The drive is easy although fairly boring. On the way from Windhoek, you’ll pass through Okhandja which is 100km from the main reserve gate. Further north of the reserve on the B1 is Otjiwarongo and continuing northward you’ll eventually end up at Etosha National Park. If you don’t have your own car then the Reserve can arrange transfers from the airport (which I have done – it was pretty expensive but you can hopefully share the cost) or from downtown Windhoek, Okhandja and Otjiwarongo. If you’re feeling super fancy and are flush with cash (we can all dream) then the Reserve also has its own gravel air strip. You’ll need to arrange flight arrivals prior to departure and the landing coordinates are available on the Reserve’s website.
Safari ‘X’ Factor – 4*
I wouldn’t normally give a private reserve, particularly one that is the result of the mass relocation of animals, a high score. However, Erindi’s conservation and rehabilitation program are structured around reintroducing animals that were driven or poached out of the area and were historically habituated there. In addition, the size of the Reserve makes for a true wilderness safari where you won’t have dozens of cars all angling for the same photo of one, poor lion. In some ways, the positioning of the reserve is a real benefit. Put simply, most visitors to Namibia will focus their safari goals on Etosha National Park. Undoubtedly, Etosha is a fantastic park; but for me it has become a little too crowded and ‘disney-fied’. By contrast Erindi has avoided those trappings and you should certainly benefit from that! The combination of off-road trails, night drives, walking safaris, telemetry tracking and the soon-to-be relocation of all of the big-5 make Erindi a must-see when you next visit Namibia!
Other Activities: Erindi has developed a comprehensive program of activities way beyond game-drives. The Leopard Walks I previously mentioned actually form just one part of Erindi’s Global Leopard Project which aims to track data on wild leopard within the reserve to better inform conservation and sustainability challenges. During your stay, you can find out more about the project in addition to tracking tagged leopards. Alternatively, if you fancy a break from wildlife (although I can’t imagine why that would ever be the case!), then you could opt to visit a San Tribe. The San people, a hunter-gatherer tribe, still live within the Reserve’s borders and, when their nomadic lifestyle permits, the Reserve offers visits to their villages. You can also visit ancient San rock art, with more than 100 engraved depictions of wildlife throughout the Reserve.
Drones: Flying drones isn’t permitted in any of the National Parks in Namibia, but being a private reserve, Erindi has you covered! Subject to having your own drone with you, then guides will take you out in to the Reserve to capture footage from the air. This is something that I’ve never seen offered anywhere else in Africa (although to be fair, I don’t own a drone. . . yet! Either way, it sounds like a pretty unique experience to capture Erindi’s wildlife from above.