Namibia is a beautiful country with endless colourful landscapes and wide horizons. For me, it is epitomised by the mornings, where one awakes to see the sun reflecting off the vibrant red and orange sands, broken only by the vivid lime green vegetation, all sitting under an azure sky with rugged outcrops sitting grey and purple on the horizon.
Journeying across the deserts, one can see the dramatic yellow star-shaped dunes of Sossusvlei (the highest sand dunes in the world), the white pans of Etosha, and the shipwrecks of the Skeleton Coast sitting on the beaches alongside the dark blue of the Atlantic Ocean. Nearly the entire country is covered in desert sands yet life abounds here.
One of my favourite regions to visit is the NamibRand Nature Reserve within the Namib Desert to experience the secret wildlife, open skies and silence of the desert. Wolwedans can take you away from the crowds to explore it privately and exclusively.
Completely remote, I love the opportunity to explore the deep south of NamibRand Nature Reserve. Guided scenic drives are a good way to see the landscape, but for me, walking safaris, treading along the ancient hunting paths of the bushmen, are the best way to get a feel for this land. Walks are taken with your guide and are at your own pace, taking usually around two to three hours.
E-biking is another way to happily fill your day! Out of the summer months, one can go horse riding through the desert with the Wolwedans horses which is simply magical! The feeling of open space and total freedom is intoxicating.
There is fascinating wildlife here, if you know how and where to look. On my safari at Wolwedans I was introduced to the many facets of NamibRand Nature Reserve's desert habitat with its diverse fauna and flora, accompanied by their experienced guides.
We explored both on foot, by car, and from the air to see the most stunning landscapes from a birds-eye view! In the evenings we took sundowners on the dunes and then dinner under the stars by candlelight.
A special attraction at NamibRand is hot-air ballooning. I still maintain this is the finest hot air balloon experience in the world, where one takes off pre-dawn, with just the occasional roar from the burner in an otherwise completely silent environment.
We watched the sand dunes changed hue from oranges to pinks and the sky turned from mauve to blue as the sun rose whilst scouring the seemingly barren landscape for tiny hoof prints from antelope below, and marvelling at the mysterious ‘fairy rings’ in the sand. Quite the most incredible experience ever!
If a plane is available, I also recommend booking an additional scenic flight to the Diamond coast and Sossusvlei to see these natural wonders from the air.
Wolwedans offers a wonderful selection of accommodation that would suit any discerning traveller:
I most recently stayed at Wolwedans Dunes Lodge, the first, largest and most permanent lodge on the reserve which provides comfortable and luxurious desert safari accommodation. Dunes Lodge aims to provide a unique experience close to nature, without compromising any comfort or 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 windows that open up to the desert beyond allowing the magnificent, breath taking scenery in. Each of the eight spacious chalets, (with en-suite bathroom), lead onto a private verandah and stretches of untouched sand.
Careful curation of furniture, light coloured linen as well as the selection of accessories, give the Dunes Lodge a distinct natural charm. One lies in bed listening to the absolute silence of the dunes occasionally broken by the call of a jackal.
Wildlife comes right up to the lodge and, by moonlight, I once saw gemsbok passing by my room. The main complex – also built on stilts – consists of a bar and lounge, sunken wine cellar, sundowner decks with a fireplace and a spacious dining room.
The whole Wolwedans concept, with a focus on food and affiliate restaurant programme, means that meals are excellent: four course dinners are served by chefs and staff who have all been trained through the Namibian Institute for Catering and Hospitality and utilise home grown, fresh produce.
On my last visit our dinner included duck breast with a delicate salad, vegetable soup, Ostrich kebab with cherry and chocolate sauce and to finish panna cotta mousse with blueberry coulis.
In the mid 1980’s, Albi Bruckner had a vision to turn several farms into a wildlife area. The idea behind the privately owned NamibRand Nature Reserve was to integrate a number of sheep farms into one game sanctuary. This has happened to excellent effect. Today, Wolwedans is run by Albi’s son, Stefan, who has built four exclusive properties here.
The NamibRand is free of internal fences and allows the wildlife to roam in their natural habitat, as they did before commercial farming. Covering a huge area of 200,000 hectares (this is considerably larger than the Masai Mara in Kenya) and relatively close to Sossusvlei, the NamibRand is bordered by the Naukluft Park in the west and the impressive Nubib Mountain range in the East.
Due to its unique location, the reserve offers a diversity of desert landscapes. Game species found in the reserve include gemsbok, mountain zebra, springbok, red hartebeest, bat-eared fox, giraffe, spotted hyena and African wildcats. Kudu, klipspringer, baboon and leopard inhabit the more rocky areas.
Cheetah were also released into the Reserve by CCF (Cheetah Conservation Fund) which is excellent news and the population is doing well.
The core objective of Wolwedans is to support the NamibRand Nature Reserve in its mission to safeguard and restore the pro-Namib ecosystem, while being a sustainable operation in itself. Wolwedans is serious about its responsibilities and abides by the sustainability requirements and environmental management plans set by the Nature Reserve.
They are also the primary source of income for the Nature Reserve and support its conservation efforts with human resources and conservation expertise.
Wolwedans is a member of The Long Run, a worldwide group of nature-based tourism businesses who are committed to driving sustainability in the travel industry and maintaining a healthy planet for the future.
On a more local scope, each camp is driven purely by solar power, ensuring the lightest of footprints in a fragile desert ecology. They also support their staff and the local communities; the Wolwedans Foundation promotes social upliftment and professional development by offering vocational training via the Desert Academy (DA) and The Namibian Institute of Culinary Education (nice).
Please do feel free to contact me if you would like more information about safari holidays to Namibia.
Images kindly provided courtesy of Wolwedans Collection of Camps.
Background image, headline image and image of sunset with boulder formation are copyright to Martin Harvey.