(7 bungalows) contact via Palmwag Travel Shop, PO Box 339, Swakopmund; tel: 064 404459; fax: 064 404664
On the edge of a huge concession, Palmwag is beautifully situated next to a palm-lined tributary of the Uniab River, which often flows over-ground here. As water is very scarce in this area, its presence regularly draws elephants close to camp.
Reaching Palmwag is easy; it is just a few kilometres north of the junction of the D3706 and the D2620. Heading north, it is on the left, immediately after the veterinary fence, and its concession stretches off to the west, as far as the Skeleton Coast. On the opposite side of that same road (D3706) is the Etendeka concession.
Palmwag is the oldest lodge in the area, and was run for years by DAS (Desert Adventure Safaris), an old Namibian company based in Swakopmund. In late 2002, this changed, and there are more developments in the pipeline here. So expect Palmwag to be gradually changing over the next few years, although it will probably remain slightly offbeat and idiosyncratic whatever happens.
Currently Palmwag has campsites as well as a variety of rooms here, and its facilities attract an assortment of visitors, ensuring that Palmwag remains a crossroads for travellers in the area. You meet all sorts here, from shady mineral prospectors to South African families camping, and from upmarket visitors on fly-in safaris to local game guards back from the bush, who are staying at the adjacent base of the excellent Save the Rhino Trust.
Palmwag's shop is poorly stocked, though still the best in the area. It opens 08.00–12.30 and 14.00–17.30 during the week, and 08.00–12.30 at the weekend. Fuel is available from the station next to the veterinary fence from 07.00 to 19.00 every day (with a N$5 levy on Sundays). Everybody seems to fill up here.
There is a variety of accommodation here. At the centre of the camp are 12 simple thatched, reed bungalows, with en-suite facilities. One of these is a family unit, and all are being gradually upgraded. These are now all clean, bright and functional, but not overly large or luxurious, and clustered around the 'Uniab Inn' bar, where guests can relax and have dinner.
On the north side of the camp, the extreme right-hand side as you enter it, are four large and really very beautiful tents, all raised on decking and overlooking the reedbeds and palm trees of the Uniab River. These have large, beautifully designed en-suite bathrooms, with plenty of lovely luxurious touches. (Note that both the bungalows and the tents have 220V electricity from a generator. This is switched off at night, and 14.00–16.00, when battery-powered lights are used.)
To the south, on the other side of the lodge (in more ways than one) a large lawn is set down in the green and well-watered channel of the Uniab River. There's a small swimming pool here and a pool bar which serves snacks, and six nearby campsites. Any number of people are allowed on each site, but Palmwag won't accept more than six groups, and will turn away people who haven't booked. If camping you can book into the restaurant (if there's space), or eat down at the pool bar where a good evening meal costs around N$80.
Experienced 4WD enthusiasts, who are used to the terrain, and have good navigational skills (and preferably a GPS), can buy a permit to drive around the Palmwag concession. However, for most visitors this is not practical. (One trainee guide based at Palmwag recently got lost in his vehicle, became disoriented, and was found severely dehydrated in the Skeleton Coast Park. It is a difficult area.) However, there are plans to build a few designated private campsites and allow such visitors to camp at these on a trail through the concession – a practice that's not currently allowed.
Regardless of this, the best way to see the area is still to leave your car at the lodge and take one of the guided game drives. The area's ecosystem is too fragile to withstand the impact of many vehicles, and the animals are still wary of people. They have enough problems without being frightened from waterholes by tourists seeking pictures.
These guided drives cost N$175 per hour per vehicle, taking a maximum of five people for 2–3 hours. This can become costly if you are here on your own in the quiet season. Short self-guided walks are also possible – ask at reception.