Get a glimpse of the lesser-seen sides of Namibia with three extraordinary travel experiences that measure up to the awe-inspiring scenery
TEXT Julia Freemantle | PHOTOGRAPHS Supplied
Namibia’s return to the tourism hotlists brings with it a fresh crop of places to stay, some not quite what you might expect, and whose uniqueness is perfectly at home in this vast and otherworldly place. Huge and sparsely populated, the country offers incredible game viewing (in the popular Etosha National Park, for instance), incomparable landscapes (think the desolate beauty of the Skeleton Coast) and good infrastructure (making self-driving a possibility for the intrepid traveller). Proximity to South Africa makes it an accessible destination for local explorers, and affordability makes it an attractive option for overseas visitors. We’ve selected three special ways to see Namibia that offer a point of difference and anything but run-of-the-mill memories.
NAMIBIA HORSE SAFARI COMPANY
The Namibian landscape lends itself to adventure – it’s a mecca for a variety of sporting endeavours, from hot-air ballooning to quad biking. Arguably one of the best ways to see wildlife, however, is on horseback. With five routes to choose from (different terrain and difficulty levels, from intermediate to advanced), the 10-day safaris with Namibia Horse Safari Company immerse you in the environment like no self-drive or vehicle-led excursion ever could. The riders spend some nights camping under the star-filled desert sky and others staying at lodges along the route.
Each safari has its particular merits – the Wild Horses Safari, for example, brings you within close range of the Namib’s feral herds, and the Desert Canyons Safari takes you to the hot springs at Ai-Ais and the banks of the Orange River. They all offer a blissful time in the wild.
Although this is not a “luxurious” trip in the traditional sense of the word, it offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience of being in nature and off the grid. Your comfort is catered for as far as it is possible in the wild, with showers set up at each camp and everything fully catered, down to the sundowners.
THE NEST @ SOSSUS
Located in a remote valley in the Namib Desert, in the Namib Tsaris Conservancy, The Nest is a private residence for rent straight out of a vernacular architecture dream. It was designed as a collaborative project involving celebrated designer Porky Hefer, owner and conservationist Swen Bachran, and interior designers Yelda Bayraktar and Maybe Corpaci.
The structure, built using locally sourced materials, pays homage to the landscape by drawing inspiration from the communal nests of sociable weavers, which are typical of the area. Inspired by the birds’ clever design – the nesting chambers offer an effective buffer against extreme heat and cold – the home’s rounded rooms are designed with all furniture built in and custom-crafted.
Accommodating up to seven guests in four en-suite bedrooms, this hideaway is available on an exclusive-use, all-inclusive basis. It is as private and remote as you can get, making it the perfect escape for a small group for a special occasion. A guide, chef and butler ensure guests are looked after, while the setting and a flood-lit waterhole provide exciting desert wildlife viewing.
THE DESERT GRACE, GONDWANA COLLECTION
The Desert Grace is not your typical safari lodge – the interior design, by Fox Browne Creative, is a far cry from the beigy palette and low-key motifs you might expect. Whereas the desert setting has been acknowledged in the design, this is in conjunction with a fun frivolity that sets the lodge apart.
Styled along the lines of a Palm Springs motel with mid-century accents, the interior is an unexpected delight. The colour palette – earth tones, the dusky hues of the desert at sunset, and the soft pink of rose quartz – and accessories like woven baskets serve to create a comforting cocoon and keep you grounded in the location. Yet it all feels fresh by virtue of cool design pieces, contemporary artworks, and quirky touches like a pink neon sign above the bar and ostrich feather lampshades. It has the distinct feel of a Wes Anderson film set.
The 24 bungalows each has its own plunge pool, the bar and restaurant are nearby, and there’s air-conditioning and Wi-Fi. During the day you can do an e-bike tour and join an excursion to the Sossusvlei dunes, and after dinner continue exploring on the Scorpion Night Walk.