Namibia is still relatively unknown outside of the core of Africa enthusiasts who travel to the continent on a regular basis, however this vast and beautiful land offers dramatic scenery, traditional cultures, and world-class wildlife viewing that is a match for anything found in better known destinations.
A particular highlight for visitors are the spectacular desert lodges that can be found throughout the country from the Southern Namib Desert and the famous red dunes of the Sossusvlei area, to the Kalahari and the far northern areas of the Skeleton Coast.
If you’re looking for an alternative African adventure across a remote and beautiful wilderness, Namibia is an unbeatable choice. These are 6 of the very best desert lodges in this spectacular country.
Little Kulala is a luxurious desert retreat situated in the private 37,000 hectare Kulala Wilderness Reserve – the gateway to Namibia’s Dune Sea with its towering dunes and clear starry skies. The camp takes its design inspiration from its surroundings, notably from the magnificent Dead Vlei in the middle of Sossusvlei. The overall mood and feel is cool, serene, organic and sheltering.
Little Kulala features an elegant main guest area which includes a library, wine cellar, craft boutique, lounge and dining areas. The interiors have been designed to provide an all-natural and unique experience in this most beautiful environment. The extensive use of neutral colours, gorgeous textures and natural light reproduce the soothing pastel tones of the desert. There is also a central shaded swimming pool. A water hole in front of the main lodge building provides the opportunity to see gemsbok (oryx), springbok, bat-eared fox, aardwolf, ostrich and jackals.
Activities at Little Kulala include morning guided drives to the spectacular towering dunes of Sossusvlei, through a private gate into the reserve. Guided drives and walks are also offered on the private Kulala Wilderness Reserve with incredible views, desert-adapted wildlife and plants, and the sunset/sundowner excusion is always very popular! Quad-biking can also be arranged as can a hot air balloon trip.
Each of the gest suites has exquisite fittings and fixtures, and a deck with a private plunge pool that offers spectacular desert views. A staircase leading to the flat rooftop above the bathroom provides the ideal setting for star-gazing, and mattresses and duvets can be made up into a ‘skybed’ for an unforgettable night of sleeping out under the stars.
Situated right at the entrance gate to the famous Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon in the Namib Nauklauft Park, this is the perfect location from which to visit and explore the epic sand dunes sculpted by the wind.
Experience the desert beauty from a bird’s eye view in a hot air balloon or by aircraft. Take a guided drive through scenic natural beauty in a custom built and comfortable all-terrain vehicle or with a quad bike, or of course, you can drive yourself into the Park too.
A dip in the sparkling pool or an ice cold beer under the shady trees in the Acacia beer garden makes for the best relaxation after an eventful day. The al fresco terrace offers magnificent views of the floodlit waterhole where you can watch the passing parade of oryx, springbok, jackal, ground squirrel and hyena, whilst enjoying exquisite food and wine.
&Beyond Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserve
Nestled deep in the heart of Namibia’s ancient Namib Desert, the newly re-opened &Beyond Sossusvlei Private Desert Reserveoffers vast spaces, endless horizons and extraordinary clarity of light that makes this area one of Africa’s most compelling landscapes. A spectacular blend of glass, rock and steel pavilions with a bold geometric structure at its centre, the lodge extends over vast dunes and gravel planes, in perfect harmony with its elemental surrounds.
Overlooking the pristine natural terrain, the 10 suites offer the sophistication of simplicity, and the two-bedroomed Star Dune Suite is ideal for families or groups of friends. The guest area features floor to ceiling, frameless glass panels that fold away to reveal unobstructed desert vistas.
Guests can explore the desert by quadbikes or open 4×4 vehicles, and excursions to the famous Sossusvlei sand dunes, the highest in the world, and Sesriem Canyon will add to this unforgettable desert experience.
Wolwedans Dune Camp
Wolwedans nestles into the dunes and is set against a backdrop of extraordinary natural beauty. Located in the heart of NamibRand Nature Reserve, Dunes Lodge is the perfect base from which to explore vast stretches of awe-inspiring and undisturbed nature, and this is rightly considered one of the most iconic desert lodges in Namibia.
Wolwedans is not a one-night-stop which can be ticked off en-route to the next tourist hot-spot. It is a place to arrive, to be, to learn and unwind, whilst being looked after by a friendly and involved local team. Wolwedans provides an honest, relaxed and down-to-earth atmosphere, free of ‘wannabe’ fanciness and pretence.
Wolwedans provides the perfect base from which to explore vast stretches of undisturbed nature. The personal and informative scenic drives in open Landrovers reveal the wonders of the wilderness.
Scenic flights are another popular activity at Wolwedans. Commencing during the late afternoon, these flights give you a birds-eye view of the Diamond Coast and Sossusvlei and is a truly exhilarating and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Mowani Mountain Camp
Between the Ugab and Huab Rivers in Southern Damaraland lies a vast and unspoilt wilderness. This area boasts magnificent desert scenery, fascinating geological formations, archaeological sites and a unique variety of desert fauna and flora. This is where you will find the Mowani Mountain Camp, nestled amongst the boulders of this beautiful area on a high spot commanding distant views over the landscape.
Adventures and activities available at Mowani include trips in a hot air balloon, hiking through the magnificent scenery, and early morning game drives to track the rare Desert Elephant with an experienced guide in an open Land Rover.
Guests can also visit the prolific site of Twyfelfontein. This wonderful archaeological site offers more than 2,500 engravings as well as various paintings, and is probably the finest example of rock engraving in southern Africa.
The luxury tented en-suite accommodation, each with its own private deck overlooking the desert landscape, is built unobtrusively, so as to ensure minimum impact on the natural environment. The outdoor showers and baths have some of the most spectacular views in the country….
Hoanib Valley Camp
In a country jam-packed with vast, spectacularly beautiful landscapes, Kaokoland may just be the most incredible of them all. Deep in north-western Namibia, the area is a melee of towering mountains, sand dunes, and huge expanses of desert, scattered with unique wildlife and nomadic Himba settlements. It’s also one of Namibia’s most remote and wild environments, and one that not many will get the chance to discover in a lifetime…and that’s exactly why Hoanib Valley Camp was built.
A joint venture between the local communities and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, the world’s only Africa-wide giraffe conservation organisation, Hoanib Valley Camp is an elegant, intimate affair that immerses you into the wilds of the desert.
Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) are the longest running giraffe conservation charity in Africa and are the leaders in cutting edge giraffe research. In Hoanib, their research not only focusses on the desert-adapted giraffe in the area, but also helps to monitor elephant and general game. Very few people realise the giraffe are endangered and they are often over-shadowed by the larger species such as rhino and elephant. Through their genetic work, the GCF have discovered 4 distinct species of giraffe across Africa, instead of what was formally thought to be sub-species – crucial information concerning the future of giraffe populations across the continent. When in camp there are opportunities to meet the researchers and learn about the critical work going on in the area.
As well as game drives, guests can also experience cultural interactions with the local Herero and Himba people.
Paul Campbell is a Co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers. Travel Butlers are specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean.