5 of the best escapes in Namibia
Best escapes in Namibia: In recent months, new sentences have entered the English language and within a short time they have become familiar. One expression, perhaps more than any other, stands out, namely social distancing. We have all learned to keep our distance safely and to stay at home, while aspiring to be outside. Fortunately, there is a place that will satisfy your desire for nature and which has nevertheless respected the idea of social estrangement for millennia, Namibia.
Often called the country of open spaces, Namibia is one of the least densely populated countries in the world and getting away from everything and everyone is easy to do!
If you are not yet ready to face the realities of the modern and lively world again, we have incredible shrines to allow you to escape real life for a little longer.
Wolwedans Private Camp
Languid in a vast valley in the middle of the oldest desert in the world is the charming private camp of Wolwedans, a haven of exclusivity. It is luxury in simplicity. As the name suggests, each booking at the camp is on a private basis, accommodating a maximum of six people in three en-suite bedrooms, perfect for families, honeymooners and those seeking just solitude.
Built in a classic desert safari style with sturdy wooden poles, sturdy canvas coverings and adorned with a muted palette of earthy colors, the camp fits perfectly into its surroundings. The director’s leather sofas and chairs mix with antique tables and swirling mosquito nets to create a feeling of serenity, allowing you to be simply.
And you can be as active or lazy as you want. Your private chef is there to ensure you are well fed and watered according to your personal taste. Your private guide and vehicle are there to take you exploring the great Namib Desert in 4 × 4 vehicles, or join a Khoisan bushman guide on a desert ride, reaping the rewards of a thousand years of experience while he reveals the secrets hidden in the sand. For a different view, take to the skies in the fresh morning air in a hot air balloon above this timeless landscape.
If this all sounds too much like hard work, the canvas sides of the camp lift up to expose you to your surroundings with breathtaking views in all directions without moving from your chair. Desert plains dotted with tufts of grass bleed into low mountains under an endless blue sky. From time to time, the scene is disturbed by a passing oryx or the slow parade of the springbok en route to new pastures.
At nightfall, your isolation becomes more and more apparent. Long shadows descend slowly from the mountains and the sky changes from brilliant blue to deep royal blue before becoming the darkest black, dotted with the light of a thousand stars, and it is up to you to enjoy in splendid isolation.
& Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
If, however, you are tired of complete isolation and want a bit of glitz and glamor while you experience the majesty of the Namib Desert, we have the perfect option. A little jump north of Wolwedans is the newly redesigned Desert Lodge Sossusvlei, bringing modern chic to the ancient desert.
This is where the cool and rugged industrial desert geometry combines to create one of the most striking properties in the whole country. Each of the 12 suites is spread out along the slightly curved escarpment, fully glazed so as not to miss a moment of the dramatic environment.
Grays, whites, slate, concrete and glass dominate softened with wool, cotton and earthy coconut. The inflated sofas sit side by side with scandi style chairs mirrored in your private outdoor lounge and plunge pool. Although its interiors are so elegant, the real star of the show is the view. Everything has been designed to enhance it perfectly, from the glass shower offering a 180 ° view to the retractable skylight above the king-size bed to ensure you do not miss a moment of celestial performance. For those traveling with children, there is even a two-room star suite, which means no one should miss it.
The painfully beautiful design continues in the main double-story guest areas, offering amenities that wouldn’t be out of place at Mayfair or Fifth Avenue. Sip cocktails at the bar, dine at a communal table or find your own secluded spot, explore the temptations of the wine cellar or sweat in the gym, and if you’ve eaten too much, there’s always the spa to recover!
The main attractions in the region are the ever-changing dunes of Sossusvlei and the nearby hardness of the aptly named “Deadvlei”. Guided excursions from the lodge leave as soon as the first light makes its presence felt on the distant horizon. As you travel through the dune fields, the rising sun casts constantly changing shadows on the landscape. The imposing orange dunes dwarf sporadic camelthor trees and offer a difficult climb, even for the most able of us.
At the end of the morning, the desert sun is high in the sky and there is no escape from its rays. It’s time to head back to the lodge sanctuary until the first breath of fresh air in the afternoon hits you. Venture out and explore another side of the desert, search for game or discover the flora that thrives in quicksand. Finally, head to the hills where drinks at sunset await you as the color of the sky changes from minute to minute. You may even have the chance to dine under the stars in your own desert fairy circle before returning “home” to observe the stars in the lodge’s own on-site observatory with a resident astronomer. Do not stay too late however, you would not want to miss the sunrise at the back of a quad!
Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp
Continuing further north, the sands of the Namib give way to stone and gravel from the distant Kaokaveld. Here, nestled in a valley created by the Hoanib River, which once raged and barely fleeting, is the Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp.
Only 8 tents are nestled at the foot of a rock outcrop on the banks of the dry river bed. Each bathroom is comfortably furnished in muted earth tones and powered by an almost endless supply of solar energy. The minus is more style of the camp reflects the ubiquitous ethos of walking slowly and preserving a very fragile ecology.
The lifeblood of the valley is the river, now almost exclusively confined to flow like an underground aquifer, providing enough food for a scattering of albida trees to thrive. The trees and their nutritious pods in turn feed a variety of fauna during the driest months, notably the springbok, the gemsbok (oryx), the giraffe and even elephants adapted to the desert. Of course, where there are grazers and grazers, there are usually predators and the valley is home to rare lions, cheetahs and brown hyenas adapted to the desert.
Explore the region in specially modified 4 × 4 vehicles in search of incredibly resilient wildlife, while drinking in very spectacular landscapes. You can also explore on foot with your guide to uncover the mysteries hiding in plain sight, from ominous scorpions to characterful Namaqua chameleons and enchanting web-legged geckos. When research teams are in the camp, guests have the opportunity to learn about their work, paying particular attention to elusive lions adapted to the desert.
It is not only mammals that manage to exist in these seemingly sterile surroundings, but abundant flora and fauna are revealed as you deepen. The morning fog created by the Benguela Current, bringing cold air from the Southern Ocean to combat the hot breathing of the desert, provides invigorating humidity. Welwitschia mirabilis, a thousand years old, collapses on the ground like worn mops and vast expanses of landscape bathed in the mysterious glow of a hundred species of lichens. The sky is dotted with kestrels, buzzards, hawks and eagles, while the Namaqua grouse and the endemic Rüppell korhann blend effortlessly into the terrain.
Then suddenly, like a mirage, there is water. Crest of a desert ridge, the view goes from ocher to a vast blue ocean surrounded by a long black sand beach. You have reached the tumultuous South Atlantic and the aptly named Skeleton Coast. The black sand of the beach sparkles until you realize that it is not sand at all, but a colony of thousands of Cape fur seals seeking respite from the breaking waves. . A closer inspection reveals that not everything survives and that the skeletons are revealed. The hulls of large ships lie rusty and forgotten in the midst of the whitened bones of white whales and the omnipresent shadows of the brown hyenas on the lookout for their next meal.
Bordering ever further north, the creeping sands of the Namib Desert are suddenly stopped by the Kunene River and beyond Angola. It is here, at the edge of the country, sheltered under the tree canopy by the river, that you will find Serra Cafema.
8 elegant wooden and glass chalets sit on raised bridges under a refreshing thatched crown. Everyone takes full advantage of the setting of the river and the shade of the forest that results. Inside, an elegant design blends with oversized images of the local Himba tribe, who are the majority owners of all the surrounding land.
A stay at Serra Cafema is a story of two worlds. The Kunene is the only permanent source of water in the region and creates a green and meandering belt full of life. The world beyond this ribbon of green couldn’t be more different. The creeping desert sands patiently corrode the imposing outcrops of granite and colonize the once watery valleys where morning mist is now the only source of lean livelihood.
When the water level allows, explore the winding river by boat. The green-backed and goliath herons stand like statues awaiting any movement in the water while flashes of golden yellow sparkle in the tree line while the less masked weavers are busy building the nest. This fertile idyll is not without threat, however. From time to time, you spot a large Nile crocodile basking on the sandy shores, patiently waiting for something or someone to take a reckless step towards them.
Far from the generosity of the river, life is hard and intermittent. Winds whip the top of the dunes carrying the sand to each corner. Hardy grasses seek out the little shade and moisture they can find, supporting transient gemsbok (oryx), small herds of springbok, and Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Plated desert lizards rush across the cooking sand in the hope of avoiding the addition of camouflaged horns, while a Namaqua chameleon waits for its time until a stray fly becomes lunch.
In this seemingly desolate land, there remains one of the last truly semi-nomadic tribes of southern Africa, the ovaHimba. Over the centuries, the Himba have learned to adapt and survive in a region where few others would last. The area around Serra Cafema is the cultural heart of the Himba people, and guests of the lodge can have the chance to meet members of the tribe during their stay.
The Himba are among the most recognizable of all the peoples of southern Africa thanks to their red-orange glow. Living in such a harsh state, exposed all day to relentless sunshine, they coat their bodies with a mixture of fat and ocher called otjize. Not only does this give the tribe its characteristic color, but it protects it from the sun, keeps its skin soft and helps repel insects. The chance to meet members of a Himba tribe is a very special honor, as you will witness a lifestyle that is rapidly disappearing, born of an era that we have long forgotten.
For some, however, all the breathtaking landscapes, wild adventures and iridescent night sky are not enough, and no trip to Africa will be complete without a significant dose of its emblematic fauna. Fortunately for them, there is “The Great White Place”, Etosha National Park, one of the great wildlife reserves in Africa. The park takes its name from the large salt pan of almost 5,000 km2 which is in its center and sparkles in the midday heat like a, well, a big white place. While the pan itself is largely lifeless, the magic happens all around the edges!
On the southern border of the park is the 30,000 hectare private Ongava Game Reserve, offering guests the unique advantage of accessing both the incredible Etosha National Park and the flexibility of field trips. private land. Although the reserve offers a variety of accommodations, for the lucky few, Little Ongava will be their base.
Located on a rocky hill with an endless view of the plains of Onvaga, there are only three sumptuous suites. Each suite is filled with exquisite furnishings, luxury bathrooms, indoor and outdoor showers, a large terrace, a shaded “sala” and a private plunge pool. The main guest areas share the same spectacular views and the emphasis is on an intimate personalized experience. The camp has its own vehicle and a guide for expeditions in search of big game from Africa.
The vast expanse of Etosha and Ongava is largely covered by flat terrain dotted with rocks with pockets of sturdy mopane trees, acacias and occasional salty grasses and dotted with waterholes and rock outcrops . From the end of November to March, the rains arrive, creating dark and moody horizons with rain curtains that sweep the open savannah visible for miles around. The earth briefly turns iridescent green, the flowers open and new life abounds. This is the time to visit when you want to feel like you have the park for yourself, to see springbok babies, zebra foals and lanky wildebeest calves. The sky is filled with migratory birds and even the salt marsh fills with brackish water attracting flocks of flamingos and pelicans on its brackish coasts.
As soon as they arrive, the rains vanish, the lush grass turns, the water in the pan evaporates and the whole scene turns into a grayer shade of gray to make way for an endless sky of cobalt blue . A fine white powdery dust covers everything and gives a slightly strange feeling, like a scene from an old-fashioned western. In September, it seems like there is no more drop of water on the earth, and yet this is when some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa takes place. National Geographic-worthy scenes appear on every street corner as large and small creatures descend on the scattered water points.
Large swirling clouds of dust appear on the horizon, getting closer and closer, finally revealing their elephantine secrets at the last moment. The zebras disperse as the gray colossi claim their place at the bar, their stripes blurring in the heat mist as they walk. Herds of wildebeests wait patiently while the elephants quench their thirst, very aware that there is a pride of lions resting in the shade of a solitary mopane, watching each of their movements. The monotonous horizon is broken only by a distant journey of a giraffe. Like a big theatrical performance when a character leaves the stage on the right so that another enters on the left and everything you need to sit down.
It’s the wonderful thing about Namibia, just sit back and stand still and it will reveal its alluring secrets to you, and we’ve all gotten pretty good at sitting and standing still in the past few months!
Warwick Blow owns Safari In Style. Safari In Style uses more than 50 years of personal experience to create unique tailor-made trips through the most beautiful safari destinations in Africa.