on October 19, 2012
For our trip to Etosha National Park, we opted to overnight at the Halali Rest Camp, located roughly halfway along the park’s main road between Okaukuejo on the west side of the park and Namutoni on the east side. We chose Halali for its central location, allowing us to easily access both sides of the park, and avoid having to make a drive across the entire park in a single day. This location proved to be a wise choice, as on our second day, we were able to spend far more time exploring the eastern side of the park, without having to worry about the long drive all the way back to Okaukuejo.Halali provides a variety of accommodations, from budget double rooms to a semi-luxurious honeymoon suite. Many of the rooms at Halali fall into the bush chalet category, which accommodate either two people or four, and include separate bedroom, living room, and bathroom facilities. There are also a few family chalets, for slightly larger groups, and camping facilities are available within the rest camp as well.We reserved a bush chalet, and were given one designed for four people, even though there were only two of us. The spacious chalet had two bedrooms, each with its own air conditioning unit, and extra long twin beds that had been pushed together to form a "queen" bed. All of Etosha’s rest camps have undergone extensive renovation and modernization in recent years, and our chalet at Halali was no exception. The room was furnished with very new mattresses, soft sheets, and duvets and pillows that were surprisingly luxurious. The rooms have all been painted in modern colors that complement the African setting, providing accommodations that are competitive with the more luxurious private resorts outside of the park, but at a more affordable price, and in a more convenient in-park location. This design philosophy extended to the bathroom in our chalet, which was equipped with a very large walk-in shower, burnished brass fixtures, and mosaic tile on the countertop and in the shower.Also included in the bush chalets is a living room with sofa, counter area with refrigerator and sink, and coffee/tea station. Outside the chalet’s entrance are nicely sized patio areas with braais (barbecue grills), which we did not use. However, had we opted to cook our own dinner, a nice selection of meats and produce was available in the rest camp’s convenience store, along with cooking utensils and packaged grocery items.In addition to the overnight accommodations, Halali offers travelers a variety of amenities. Like the other full service rest camps in Etosha, Halali is equipped with a small grocery store, gift shop, and fuel station. These are all essential within Etosha National Park, where distances can be great, and the closest towns are a minimum of well over an hour away by car. This is the desert, and Etosha experiences hot daytime temperatures, cool nighttime temperatures, and no humidity. Even though most of the time spent visiting the park requires driving around in an enclosed vehicle, it’s still easy to get dehydrated due to the dryness. Having a grocery store available to stock up each morning on water is essential, and the stores at each of the Etosha rest camps do deliver, offering water in all sizes, as well as other beverages, and a good selection of food. A variety of souvenir and gift items are also available.Halali also offers guests a swimming pool, although we did not make use of it. A full service restaurant is also provided, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most of the meals are provided buffet style, and the food ranged from adequate to good; none of it was at all bad, but it was nothing exciting either. Our first evening there, dinner was being served in the large outdoor seating area, adjacent to the swimming pool. An evening barbecue buffet spread was laid out, offering a variety of local specialties, including grilled springbok and impala. All of it was fresh, although the meats were cooked to a degree of doneness that would make "well done" in many American restaurants look like "medium rare" in Namibia. While nothing about the food was gourmet, it was not bad either, and it was certainly adequate for a night or two. Breakfast, which was included with our room rate, was similar, offering a buffet of prepared items, as well as made-to-order omelets and eggs.As with the other Etosha rest camps, nighttime and early morning game drives are available. These allow guests to leave the rest camp’s boundaries during the hours the park is closed to private vehicles. These tours are all conducted by the park on safari vehicles. Unfortunately we were not able to take advantage of one of these drives.Halali’s final amenity is its proximity to the Moringa waterhole, which is lit nightly by floodlights, allowing for evening wildlife viewing. Halali is situated around the base of a large rocky hill near the middle of the park, and the Moringa waterhole viewing area consists of a series of platforms and benches on the side of this hill. This provides for outstanding wildlife viewing and photography, since the viewing platform is nicely elevated above the waterhole. There is a very tall fence separating the viewing area from the waterhole (the fence actually completely surrounds the Halali rest camp), but the elevation of the viewing area keeps the fence out of photographs. This platform faces west, affording for incredible sunset views. At Moringa we saw an incredible amount of wildlife, including a nightly show of a large herd of elephants playing and bathing in the water, several rhinos (we even witnessed a fight between a rhino and an elephant), a large number of birds, several giraffe, and even a leopard and a lion. For nighttime viewing, you will definitely want to bring along flashlights for the walk to and from the waterhole, as the walk down the road from the camping area and bush chalets is pitch black. Additionally, the floodlights on the waterhole attract a lot of bugs, so wearing a strong mosquito repellent is absolutely essential. Etosha does lie within the malarial zone, so mosquito bite prevention is extremely important.Reserving a room at one of the Etosha rest camps can be an exercise in frustration. Reservations are mostly handled through a central phone reservations center, located in Windhoek. Given time zone differences, just getting through to this number when it is staffed can be frustrating for North American travelers. Additionally, space in the Etosha rest camps can fill up quickly, and package tour operators frequently book up much of the space as soon as it is made available by the park management. We were traveling during the off season, in mid-November, and none of the camps were fully booked while we were there. However, after several unsuccessful attempts at reaching the park reservations service by phone, and several requests made through various websites that went unanswered, I was on the verge of just booking us at a private game lodge near the park, and driving into the park each day. Eventually I did try a search on Expedia.com for Etosha National Park, and was presented with options at all of the rest camps, being resold by a US tour operator. This final attempt was successful, and our reservation was confirmed for Halali. It took me several weeks to go from making my first inquiry to actually having a confirmed reservation, which we received only 48 hours before we were due to depart for South Africa. So, my recommendation for booking one of the rest camps in Etosha is to start trying for a reservation as soon as you have dates set for your trip, and to try a variety of methods. What eventually worked for us was a booking made through Expedia, but not everyone finds success that way. So, be patient, and try a variety of sources to make your booking.Overall, I highly recommend staying within Etosha National Park during your visit. Despite the hassle and frustration of making a reservation within the park, the convenience of not having to drive into the park and completely out of the park each evening is worth it. The accommodations are comfortable, and certainly exceeded our expectations. And, while the dining options are merely average, they are certainly adequate. On a return trip I would like to experience staying in one of the other rest camps, but I also would not hesitate to stay at Halali again.
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