Wolwedans is a collection of superb luxury lodges set on the enormous NamibRand private nature reserve, a place of incredible beauty, space and tranquility. A perfect spot to begin or end your trip, quietly soaking up the scenery, both at day and night. They boast the second best skies in the world for star gazing, second only to the Atacama. It was so breathtaking I decided to forgo the luxurious bed in my tent and instead slept on the sun lounger on my deck, mesmerized by the show above.
Possibly the most iconic images of Namibia are the soaring rusty dunes of Sossusvlei, so enormous and striking you feel you may have stumbled into Mother Nature's personal little sand pit. The dunes are said to be the highest on earth, at 400m, and some like Big Daddy, can be climbed if you're up to the sweaty sandy challenge. These are often pictured against the 500 year old dead camel thorn trees which stand in the old white clay pan, known as Dead Vlei, where these striking colours against the powder blue sky make it almost impossible to take a bad photo.
Where to stay
Yes, these picture perfect spots draw crowds but don't let that put you off, it's worth it. And there are plenty of sandy dunes to share. The Kulala camps boast a private gate to the reserve which mean you can beat the crowds, though equally you can set off extra early, staying at one of the many good lodges in the area, such as the simple but sweet Desert Homestead, or it's more luxurious neighbour, Desert Outposts.
In the centre of the country lies Damaraland, home to the Damara people, whose clicking language is an utter joy to listen to- imagine trying to suck the most stubborn toffee from the roof of your mouth- those clicks that follow will give you some idea of the mesmerising sounds which jump through this language. I would return simply to hear to the dinner menu announced again.
Damaraland offers desert plains, awesome granite mountains, petrified forests, canyons and often a mad jumble of enormous boulders- like something straight out of the Flintstones. And if that takes your fancy stay at the utterly unique and charming Mowani Mountain Camp or it's sister, Camp Kipwe- from here you can visit Twyelflfontein, a sacred place with 6000 year old bushman art. When seen at sunset as the air fills with the sounds of the sweet bubby chirps of desert frogs it's very special indeed. The main activity here is tracking desert elephant, or further into Damaraland, stay at Desert Rhino camp and take part in the excellent rhino tracking activity- made all the more special when we consider how rare these poor animals have become.
These harsh landscapes don't lend themselves to big game numbers, instead this is a chance to view desert adapted game in stunningly harsh but often beautiful environments. Etosha offers the best game viewing in the country, the waterholes around the enormous salt pan act like a magnet to the game, and to the game spotters too- this is a crowded corner of Namibia. But to watch a waterhole bursting with life, as springbok, zebra and oryx and much more hustle of drinking space, is a joy. Most guides will do their best to avoid the other cars, and when returning to your lovely lodge on an exclusive private reserve which borders Etosha, such as Onguma or Ongava, this is not such a concern.
This big country really needs weeks to properly explore but most of us do not have that luxury- I certainly didn't and I already long to go back and venture deeper. A week offers a tantalising taste of maybe in 3 or 4 different areas- but will almost certainly leave you wanting more. The good news is that Namibia isn't going anywhere so don't let that put you off. A longer two week trip certainly allows for a wonderful tour of the most striking areas and if you don't mind driving long distances, you will be well rewarded for exploring by road-This is day dreaming heaven.
The driving days can long and tiring, up to 6 hours of driving a day, and some stretches of road had me concentrating so hard I'm sure there was smoke twisting out my ears. But it is a joy to explore from the ground.
We drove every possible type of road - rusty red dunes and mellow yellow Kalahari sand roads, shifty gravel roads with sheer drops to deep canyons, crackly mud tracks, glistening salt roads and rocky roads so sharp it's a miracle we didn't pop. It's amazing how frequently and suddenly the landscape changes- this country will blow your mind, go!