Two new consciously-designed lodges are giving access to Namibia’s breathtaking northern reaches and a singular safari experience.
Part of what makes Namibia so startlingly beautiful is the wide-open spaces. The seemingly endless horizons, cosmic tranquility, diversity of landscapes (it does boast two deserts, after all) and desert-adapted wildlife are some of the reasons that a visit to South Africa’s northern neighbour is so exceptional.
Part of what makes those peaceful panoramas possible is distance, and travelling around Namibia takes a fair amount of time. But the effort it takes and the anticipation it builds, not to mention the sheer beauty of the journey itself, undoubtedly makes the destinations seem that much more wild and exceptional.
That’s certainly the case at Hoanib Valley Camp, one of the newer lodges to join Natural Selection’s collection of owner-run properties. Arriving at this tented camp is quite something: Approaching from Sesfontein in the east, you drive through the desolate Kaokoveld Desert and into the ephemeral yet verdant Hoanib river bed where you’ll likely be welcomed by desert-adapted elephant who seek out underground water by digging with their feet to create fresh-water puddles. Located in the Sesfontein Community Conservancy, the camp is flanked by a remarkable rose-tinted shale and granite amphitheatre.
“We wanted to develop a camp that was an extension of the magnificent surrounds,” design consultant Cate Simpson told VISI magazine in its story on the lodge featured in the magazine’s 100th issue, on sale now. “The landscape, the Himba culture, and the association with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation were all defining influences in the colours, textures and graphic patterns,” Cate says of the interiors of the six tented rooms and main tented lounge-cum-dining room, which are arranged in a gentle arc so that each balcony has uninterrupted views.
To deliver on Natural Selections environmental mindfulness, the camp is run entirely on solar and built on a decking composite of bamboo and recycled plastic produced in Swakopmund on Namibia’s west coast. The goal is for each of its owner-run camps to be as distinctive as its environment. To this end, each property has a conservation angle unique to that area – desert-adapted giraffe, in the case of Hoanib – so that guests leave with a greater appreciation of the local ecology.
It’s why the experience at Natural Selection’s second Namibian property, Shipwreck Lodge in the remote Skeleton Coast National Park, four hours drive north from Hoanib, is so different. Architect Nina Maritz has designed its wooden cabins to resemble stranded ships, befitting of the infamously treacherous Atlantic coastline.
“The structures look quite simple and modest from the outside and are dwarfed by the landscape, so it’s almost like a giant has scattered wooden blocks on a vast carpet of sand,” Nina shared with VISI. The 10 cabins feature consist of a bathroom in a pointed bow that faces south, linked to the bedroom – which resembles a piece of hull lying on its side – by a small lobby. The beds face a large horizontal window that looks out to sea. From here, or through one of the porthole windows, you can watch as the prevailing fog rolls in.
Read more about this unique lodge and exceptional location in the February/March 2019 issue of VISI magazine. The bumper 352-page 100th edition of this award-winning décor, design and architecture South African title is on sale now.
Words: Amelia Brown