Ongava Game Reserve Herpetofaunal Survey


Ongava Game Reserve

Map of Ongava Game Reserve showing main locations and buildings,
ORC = Ongava Research Centre; OTC = Ongava Tented Camp.
(click on map to enlarge)

Ongava Game Reserve is located on the southern side of the world famous Etosha National Park, just off the Outjo to Okaukuejo road at Andersson's Gate. With a surface area of 324sqkm (125sqml) it was developed by buying up and combining four farms: Leeupoort, Margo, Tiervlei and Sonop, the buildings from which still survive to a greater or lesser degree within the reserve. Ongava is bordered by Etosha to the north and farmland on the other three sides. The tourist concession at Ongava Game Reserve is operated by Wilderness Safaris.

The primary ecotype in northern Namibia is Mopane woodland, dominated by the bilobe-leaved leguminous Mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane). Mopane trees are home to the brightly coloured Mopane worm, the larvae of the Emperor moth (Gonimbrasia belina), and an important source of protein known as "omangungu" by indigenous peoples of northern Namibia.

Mopane Woodland.
Mopane tree, Colophospermum mopane
Bilobed leaves of Mopane tree, C.mopane
Mopane worm, Gonimbrasia belina


Thorny Ongava vegetation.
Thorny acacia, Acacia sp.
Thorn apple, Datura stamonium

Whislt the Thorny acacia (Acacia sp.) is native to the reserve, the Thorn apple (Datura stamonium) is an invasive which is removed where ever possible.

Shepherd's tree,
African bottle tree,
Moringa ovalifolia



Ongava Habitats.
Open grassland on red sand. Mopane covered hillsides.
Open arid habitat with Acacia at Sonop.
Bare rocky outcrops and escarpments.
Looking south across wide open mopane woodlands.


The Ongava Research Centre (ORC) is located at the far end of the Bellway, the straight road from the gate that passes the turn-offs to the tourist accomodation at Ongava Lodge, Little Ongava and Ongava Tented Camp.

The Bellway.
Dikdik, Madoqua kirkii, on Bellway near Lodge.
Bellway at dusk near Tiervlei and ORC.
Bellway at near Margo House.

Linked to ORC is the home of the ORC Director, Ken Stratford, and a little further on is Tiervlei House, the reserve manager's house, the staff accomodation village, garages and workshops. The ORC building contains a kitchen area, an office and a guest bedroom.

Ongava Research Centre (ORC)
Front view of Ongava Research Centre.
Garden view of Ongava Research Centre.
Office of Ongava Research Centre.

"The Beast" - that is the name of the vehicle,
not MOS.

Several vehicles are available ranging from regular, fully-enclosed 4x4 Land Cruiser, to open topped "safari vehicles" such as The Beast, used to take paying visitors on safari and game drives.






Paying visitors can stay at three locations on the Ongava Game Reserve.

Ongava Lodge in the trees.
Little Ongava on the escarpment.

Ongava Lodge comprises 12 brick and rock chalets with full en-suite facilities with restaurant and bar close by, anda deck from where guests can view big game at the Lodge waterhole.

Ongava Tented Camp consists of ten spacious walk-in tents, with en-suite facilities, located around a thatched dining area that over-looks a waterhole.

Little Ongava is located on an escarpment above Ongava Lodge and the Lodge waterhole, and comprises three exclusive luxury suites, with full facilities and individual plunge pools.

Most visitors spend some of their time at the Ongava Lodge and Ongava Tented Camp to get the combined experience of luxury and living out of doors.

On offer to visitors are game drives and walking safaris to view and photograph the diverse collection of wildlife in the Ongava Game Reserve, also game drives into Etosha National Park.



Leeupoort House.

Ongava Game Reserve was originally four farms: Tiervlei, Margo, Leeupoort and Sonop. The original farmhouses still stand. Tiervlei is the accomodation for permanent ORC research personnel and game wardens. Margo is sometimes used as accomodation for visiting directors from Wilderness Safaris or West Midland Safari Park. Leeupoort was abandoned and a ruin in 2007 but has since been restored as a fourth camp area known as Andersson's Camp. Sonop is still run-down. Abandoned buildings are good places to search for reptiles and other small wildlife.



The capture boma is a large metal, wood and canvas structure located near ORC and Tiervlei. Since it is used only occasionally for holding game animals, mostly antelope, prior to introduction into OGR or transfer to other reserves and parks, it is largely abandoned for much of the year. The bales of hay, other foodstuffs and numerous man-made micohabitats it provides are a natural magnet for insects, rats, mice and other small animals, and therefore this is also a good place to look for lizards, snakes and larger predators. We conducted several searches and found a number of interesting reptiles in the boma.

The Capture Boma.
Views of capture boma where game animals are held before introduction or transfer to other reserves.