Travelling across Namibia is an incredible adventure, and can be done in a couple of ways; the main two are hiring a 4x4 Camper/truck with a roof tent and go dirtbag style or to stay across some the most unique and beautiful ‘barefoot luxury’ properties that Namibia has to offer. (Of course there are plenty of ‘in-between’ options)
Due to the nature of my work we opted for the latter, and were lucky enough to stay in some of these properties by partnering with them during our trip, here is a more in depth look into each of them. (NB this is not sponsored content and there are no affiliate links)
Our trip started with staying at Zannier’s Sonop, Hidden away in 13,800 acres of private nature reserve sits Zannier’s tented camp, Sonop. Canvas tents dressed in authentic 1920’s British Colonial style perch almost impossibly amongst vast granite boulders, connected by a series of wooden boardwalks; it is hard to believe that not a single boulder was moved during its creation!
As is our habit, we wake early, the patter of our bare feet on wood the only sound amidst the vast desert. The air is cool, and the sky is beginning to glow with the early morning sun which rises quickly, almost urgently, bathing us in warm golden light. Sonop is not a place to rush, wildlife is not the focus here, the early morning game drives are not in search of the big five, they are restorative, focused on coffee and embracing the silence. Here the beauty lies in the desert landscapes that seem to stretch on forever, only broken by distant mountains. While away hours on the outside decking buried in a book, or spend an afternoon exploring the reserve on horseback. It takes time to truly enjoy and understand the magic of Sonop, to detach ourselves from the modern world full of noise and distractions.
Sonop is far removed from the typical African game lodges. Every element in the ten tents is carefully thought out; the deliberately selected antiques that dress each room, the roll top baths overlooking the panorama, it is a place to slow down and observe the peace. It is hard to believe that something so calm and separate from the world still exists, and it is one that needs to be experienced to be felt.
Top 3 favourite things about Sonop:
The child in me loved travelling up and down the wooden boardwalk by golf cart
Movie nights by the pool, covered in blankets and munching popcorn under the stars
Exploring the reserve on horseback was just such an incredible experience
From Sonop, we moved onto Kwessi Dunes, which if you ask Nicola she will say is her favourite property out of them all.
Kwessi Dunes was another property that needs to be experienced to be truly understood. It is so much more than just another safari lodge. From the Zebra and Oryx that flock to the watering hole in front of the lodge, to lazing by the pool while the Oryx drink from the trough not 2 feet away (In fact, the watering hole and trough were only put in by the lodge staff after the animals started drinking from and climbing into the natural pool!!) Kwessi Dunes is not about chasing big game, but about exploring the ever changing colourful landscapes and sleeping in the outside ‘stargazing bed’ as the Milky Way travels lazily across the sky, with both indoor and outdoor showers Kwessi Dunes is truly a one of a kind location; the link with nature is constant and beautiful.
If you are keen to travel further afield (not that we felt the need to once) then Sossusvlei is the ideal day trip location from Kwessi Dunes, and early morning tours with the kind and knowledgable staff are available for an extra fee.
Top 3 favourite things about Kwessi Dunes:
The staff were unrivalled, the attentiveness and kindness of every single member was like nowhere else
Watching the Zebra trundle across the desert to the watering hole in the early morning light
Snuggling in bed under the milky way
Shipwreck Lodge on the Skeleton coast was the undoubtedly the most surreal stay, and worth every single second of the long and barren drive through the park.
The idea that anything can exist on the barren and endless stretch of coastline is remarkable. Add in the mystery of ancient shipwrecks and the whalebones scattered across the stretches of sand looking like vast chunks of driftwood washed up and bleached by the sun and the Skeleton Coast is like nowhere else I have visited.
Nestled like the shipwrecks they were built to emulate sit 10 wooden cabins, each with glass fronts, wood burning stoves and an outside decking to sit and enjoy the silence. Skeleton lodge prides itself on having a minimal environmental impact; running off solar and using eco-friendly water and waste management.
Shipwreck lodge is the kind of location that you really have to want to visit in order to make the effort to get to. From paying for, and acquiring a permit, to the brutal escorted hours drive across the sand dunes (no roads, no tracks, no markers) just a couple of lovely guides who know what they are doing!
Top 3 favourite things about Shipwreck Lodge:
Falling asleep to the crackling of the woodburner
The ‘end of the world’ location and feeling of nothingness stretching endlessly
I mean, it’s a cabin designed to look like a shipwreck on the coast of Namibia. What is not to love?
Hoanib Valley Camp
Another lodge that really requires knowhow for off road driving, and a certain amount of determination, Hobnob Valley camp is nestled amongst vast rocks and mountains, hours down a dusty river bed sits Hoanib Valley camp, a joint venture between the local communities and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation it is one of Namibia’s most remote and wild environments and not one that many people will get to experience in their lives.
Days at Hoanib Valley camp are spent tracking desert adapted elephant, endangered rhino and desert adapted giraffes. Driving up and down the dusty river bed on early morning drives was a truly awe inspiring experience. Having not seen any ‘big game’ on our road trip so far Hoanib valley camp delivered the one animal I was desperate to see. We woke early one morning, fuelling up on coffee and setting off down into the river bed, we drove for hours, seeing nothing but (the beautiful) desert adapted giraffe. After hours, and no sighting of ‘Oliver’ the ‘local’ elephant I was feeling disappointed, and trying to manage my feelings when out of the bushes, into the warm morning light steps Oliver, the most beautiful sight of the trip, he ambled slowly toward us, ears flapping, dust rising as his huge feet moved through the river bed. I have never been one to be ‘speechless’, but this moment was truly awe inspiring, and a bucket list experience.
On our days ‘off’ we lazed by the pool, in constant awe of being surrounded by giant granite mountains, and watching the stars rise as the fire crackled at our feet.
Top 3 things about Hoanib Valley Camp:
Seeing my first elephant!!
Lounging by the pool, surrounded by mountains
Driving through the early morning dust and exploring the river bed
Our last stop was Zannier’s sister property, Omaanda which was the perfect last stop on our road trip. Just outside Namibia’s capital Windhoek, although you would never know it by the dark skies and deafening silence.
If you’re on the hunt for wildlife or big game, then Omaanda is the property for you. Set in an immense nature reserve of 7500 hectares the Zannier reserve contributes to fighting the extinction of threatened species. During our various game drives, we tracked Rhino and their calves on foot, which was truly mind-blowing, we saw leopards stalking prey through the African brush and enjoyed sundowners on the tail of the Jeep as the sky turned from gold to pink and then to darkness.
One of the most incredible things about Omaanda was the unbelievable difference in temperature, we fell asleep to the open fire crackling, waking at dawn the decking was slippery with ice and frost, but come 11am it was sweltering and we were throwing off our cardigans and enjoying the heat of the African sun.
The lodges of Omaanda are traditional round cornered huts with thatched roofs, a picture window sits over the large bathtubs, and the open fire is double sided, so whether you’re curled up in bed, or stretched out in the bubble bath the glow and crackle of the fire is a constant comfort.
Top 3 things about Omaanda:
Tracking black rhino on foot
As someone who loves snuggling in colder temperatures, I loved laying in the bath with the open fire crackling
The most incredible breakfast!