Namibia : Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei is a remarkable area in the heart of the Namib desert, a huge clay pan enclosed by massive dunes, including some of the highest in the world at over 1000ft. The incredible red and pink tones of the dunes, due to their high concentration of iron oxide, burst into life in the early morning and evening when the sun is low. Shadows are cast on the dunes and the colours are just spectacular. It really is one of the most beautiful sights. Walking up the dunes is an arduous task and Big Daddy, the highest dune, is quite a challenge but it's well worth it for the achievement and the amazing views of the dunes and pans below.
You can also see the dunes from above in a low flying plane or a hot air balloon. A particularly spectacular trip is a low level flight from Sossusvlei up the Skeleton Coast to Swakopmund. You fly over old diamond mines, ship wrecks and huge seal colonies, stopping in Swakopmund for a delicious seafood lunch on the beach and a boat trip to see the seals and dolphins (and occasionally whales). As well as visiting the dunes, this area is home to unique desert-adapted wildlife, and activities include 4x4 nature drives and horseriding.
Kulala is set on a 21,000-hectare private reserve adjacent to the Namib Naukluft Park and only a short drive to the park gates. It has magnificent views of the red sand dunes of Sossusvlei as well as spectacular mountain scenery and vast open plains. The lodge has an earthy feel to it with all the buildings made from canvas, thatch and with mud walls, the pitched roofs make it look like a nomadic camp from a distance and it blends in well to the dramatic landscape.
There are 12 comfortable rooms or Kulalas (Swahili name for resting place) all ensuite and set up on wooden platforms to catch the desert breezes. Unusually there are private rooftop stargazing platforms where you can ask for your mattress to be put out on and sleep out under the spectacular African sky. The bar and restaurant areas are comfortable and tastefully decorated in earthy and natural colours, there is also a swimming pool to cool down in the heat of the day.
There is a tented camp for self-drive clients or if you have your own vehicle and guide, the accommodation is comfortable in meru style tents with ensuite bathrooms and solar heated water.
Kulala Wilderness Camp is on the 21,000-hectare private Kulala Wilderness Reserve near Sossusvlei, in the heart of the Namib Desert. Built at the foot of a mountain facing west, which means great sunset views, it has 10 simple, yet stylish, chalets - 'kulalas' (kulala means 'to sleep' in Oshiwambo) - each with their own private verandas, solar-heated en-suite bathrooms and elevated sundecks. There is a raised main lounge, bar and dining room from where you can enjoy the incredible views, and an enticing swimming pool. Activities include excursions to the incredible dunes of Sossusvlei, night drives, early morning ballooning (at extra cost), guided walks and scenic nature drives. On the edge of the oldest desert in the world, this is not a game rich area, however, whatever game you do see is interesting and dramatised by the contrast between the desert and animals.
Nestled amidst the dunes in the heart of the NamibRand Nature Reserve approximately 80 km south-east of Sossusvlei are the Wolwedans Camps. The special attraction of NamibRand is its diversity of desert landscapes; wide sand and gravel plains and endless expanses of savannah alternate with impressive mountain ranges and red, vegetated dune belts. Experienced guides take you on drives through this fascinating countryside where you will encounter large and small desert animals and learn about their habits. Breathtaking views and a spectacular location have earned Wolwedans the reputation of being one of the most attractive and unique safari camps in Namibia.
"A very efficiently run place with excellent guiding. We especially enjoyed driving into the dunes and looking at smaller wildlife."
Stuart and Alison, Stirling
There are 4 lodges at Wolwedans - Dune Lodge, Boulders, Dune Camp and the Private Camp
Dune Camp was my favourite. It's simple but very comfortable with 6 large East African style tents with shade netting and a big shaded veranda. Each tent has an adjacent private bathroom with shower and loo and is equipped with solar powered lights.
The entire camp is constructed on wooden platforms and overlooks panoramic vistas, which capture the ambience of the desert. The dining and sitting area has great character with comfy sofas and lots of books and old pictures and antiques. There is also a deck and camp fire where you can sit out under the stars. The food as in all the camps is excellent.
The Wolwedans Dunes Lodge aims at providing a unique experience close to nature, yet without compromising any comfort and style. The entire lodge is constructed on wooden platforms and overlooks panoramic vistas in all directions, capturing the desert in an intimate and memorable way. The building style is a combination of wooden poles and large canvas blinds/windows that open up to the desert beyond. Each of the eight spacious chalets, with en-suite bathroom, lead onto a private veranda and stretches of untouched sand. Careful selection of furniture, light coloured linen as well as the selection of accessories, give the Dunes Lodge a distinct natural charm. The main complex - also built on stilts - consists of a bar and lounge, sundowner decks with a fireplace, a spacious dining room and an intriguing wine cellar built into the dunes. There is also a swimming pool and deck for cooling down in the heat of the day.
The lodge also has the mountain view suite for those who like privacy with its own sitting room and where you can have your meals but you can also to be part of the main lodge.
“We couldn’t want for more. Really great hospitality and service with a warm ambience and atmosphere.”
Christine and Mick, Tebworth
The Private Camp is the piece de resistance of the Wolwedan's collection of camps. It can sleep up to 6 people but is most comfortable with 4. There are 2 ensuite rooms and the lapa can sleep a further two. There are spacious decks with tables and chairs for a variety of dining spots and a fully equipped kitchen, open dining and sitting room. The whole house is open fronted to take advantage of the spectacular views and you can drop the canvas fronts down or leave them open to see the stars at night. In the evening a bat eared fox crept up to come to drink at the bird bath a few metres away totally unperturbed, and waking in the morning springbok were grazing with their young virtually at the end of our beds. You can stay here on a fully inclusive basis with a guide and chefs, who come at meal times or the lodge will provide all your food, prepared and ready for you to cook. You will be left to perfect seclusion with a fully stocked bar and fridge. It couldn't be a nicer place to relax and unwind at the beginning or end of your Namibian holiday.