There are so many unique areas in Namibia to visit like Etosha National Park, the Erongo Mountains, Sossusvlei and the Skeleton Coast that provide a wide range of landscapes and wildlife. We could have easily spent multiple weeks travelling around the country and seeing it all (see my comprehensive list of lodges at the end of this post), however given we have corporate jobs, time is always a restriction. So, with this being said, we chose to make the journey to Sossusvlei to see the one sight we had been vying to see, Deadvlei.
After a quick visit to Windhoek (also see my post on Windhoek), the capital, we embarked on a 5.5-hour drive southwest to the southern region of the Namib Desert to the Little Kulala Desert Lodge in the Sossusvlei region. The drive itself was like no other. As soon as you get out of the city you immediately get the feeling for how vast and sparse the country is.
The reason we chose Sossusvlei is because we had always wanted to experience the stunning photos we had seen of Deadvlei first-hand. Deadvlei is a white clay pan filled with dark baron trees that has been starved from water for an estimated 700 years. Surrounded by some of the largest sand dunes in the world, a river used to flow through the area allowing the trees to thrive however, the area was then hit by a drought which allowed for the sand dunes to spread and grow and eventually cut off the water supply for good essentially making the area “die”. It is located near the more famous saltpan of Sossusvlei, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia.
Where to Stay
Little Kulala Lodge - A rustically chic luxury lodge as close to the National Park and Deadvlei as one can get. Part of the Wilderness Safaris group, which is extremely well regarded and will make your trip an ease and dream.
The reason we chose Little Kulala Desert Lodge was 1) it looked like an absolutely luxurious yet rustic retreat and 2) it is the closest lodge to the Namib-Nakluft National Park, where the famous sand dunes and Deadvlei are located, and has its own private entrance which means you encounter less tourists on your adventure. We did not want to stay at a resort an hour or so away from the park and add more driving to our trip.
The Little Kulala Desert Lodge was stunning. You wonder how a place like this can even exists in desert. Upon arrival numerous staff members were there to welcome us. We were whisked off to a lunch that was prepared for us on the dining terrace overlooking the area. Between courses the lodge hostess and our “safari” guide came and introduced themselves. We were informed of all possible activities and suggest schedules were provided based on what we wanted to do. Everything was done privately with our own guide from the lodge. The first day we arrived we went on a 4x4 adventure into the desert where we got up close and personal with Oryx, Springbok and Ostrich and got amazing views of the Namib Desert. I should also mention we got covered in sand from head to toe! We then had a private dinner with cocktails and wine as no one else was at the lodge. The next day we woke up before sunrise to embark on our adventure into the national park to climb up the famous Dune 45 (which is much larger than photos do it justice), make the 1 km hike to actually stand in Deadvlei and experience this landscape phenomenon, and then recap this amazing experience over a picnic of tea, biscuits and sandwiches. We headed back to the lodge to freshen up and have lunch before heading to the Sesrium Canyon followed by sundowners and Namibian charcuterie in the middle of the desert sitting on our safari truck. Back at the Lodge we then went to a wine tasting evening, as there were about 10 people checked in to the lodge by this point, that was followed by a candlelit dinner on the pool deck, and then after dinner bottle of wine on the rooftop bed on our hut before a night of sleeping under the stars! This was honestly an experience like of a life time and so well done that for once I actually disconnected from the world.
All the activities (except the optional hot air balloon ride), guide, food and drink are included in the price of the lodge. Three days is more than enough to experience the region and move on to the next. The food was in abundance and exquisite. Not only is it comparable to that of fine dining establishments at home, but the chef also provides menu options and caters to any requests.
The rooms are spacious and have great views. Each room or “hut” or “kulala” as they call them has its own outdoor space with a couch and small waiting pool and an additional bed on the rooftop, so every guest can sleep under the stars if they so choose.
You are required to book through an agent of the Wilderness Safaris group, you cannot book directly with the lodge so follow the instruction on the website provided above. This is the case with many of the lodges as they all belong to a consortium of other lodges.
Some of you may not know but Namib Desert is said to be the oldest desert in the world!
Driving was safe and is straightforward. The roads are well marked, and maps are reliable. We took a more scenic route for our adventure to the camp which meant there was no gas station, or anything for that matter, for hours. So, if you do plan to drive, make sure you fill up at the airport or in Windhoek and bring some snacks in case you get hungry.
The road at one point was a bit steep but totally drivable. As soon as you are outside the city the roads are no longer paved so be prepared for the bumpy drive on dirt and gravel.
Keep your camera on hand for all the Baboons, Oryx and Springbok you will see (and that may run in front of your vehicle). The landscape is also beautiful and warrants a photo or two! The cost of our rental car was approximately $550 USD. Make sure you get a truck, not a small car, you will thank me for this one!!
Most lodges do offer private flights from the different airports, so you do not have to drive; this just comes at an extra charge. We were quoted $1,900 USD for 2 people both ways. Given the high cost and the fact our flights into the country did not work with the schedule of the Lodge’s plane, we chose to drive. However, the flights provided by the lodge are extremely scenic and fly over the absolutely breathtaking Hoanib Skeleton Coast as well as other notable areas so if you are on the fence, just do it!
Wine is extremely expensive as well, and reasonably given the isolation these lodges exist in. So, if you are like me and could bankrupt yourself, make sure to grab some wine at Duty Free or in Windhoek.
Additional Sossusvlei Lodge Suggestions
&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge - an absolutely sheer luxurious desert lodge
This place is absolutely stunning and people who have stayed here rave about it. This was a contender with Little Kulala for our trip however it was further from the sites so, unfortunately we chose not to stay here.
As for the rest of Namibia……
I did an immense amount of research into pretty much all the top accommodation choices in the country, so we could properly evaluate what to do with our limited time. The below is a brief but comprehensive list of the plethora of options listed by region.
Hoanib Skeleton Coast – this national park is famous for where the roaring sand dunes meet the ocean
&Beyond Hanoib Skeleton Camp – A absolutely stunning property in the north near the coast
Okahirong- Elephant Lodge – elephants in the desert! Located in the north near the coast
Etosha National Park & Area – a national park and the greatest wildlife sanctuary in Namibia
Little Ongava - more animal focused - etosha has a lake
Ongava Lodge - North end of Etosha National park - North end of Etosha National park
North end of Etosha National park
Onguma Game Reserve - 5 style of lodges/hotel/camp in one area
Mokuti Etosha Lodge - cheaper option in the Etosha Lake area
Epacha Game Lodge Resort – just Outsode of Etosha National Park – more of a reasonably priced option
Windhoek & Area
Omaanda Lodge by Zannier Hotels – just north of airport outside city - on a game reserve and propably the newest and nicest property in the country just in an odd area
Goche Ganas - elephant camp in Windhoek Area
The Olive Exclusive - Located pretty much right in the city of Windhoek - its almost a hybrid of a hotel and lodge and engulfed in nature
South Sossusvelei - Sossusvlei itself is close to the Namib-Nakluft National Park which includes Dune 45 and Deadvlei
Wolwedans Dune Lodge and Tented Camp – not super close to attractions
Erongo Mountains - a stunning volcanic mountain range in a rather flat desert country
Erongo Wilderness Lodge – unique mountain lodge experience - relatively cheaper in price to other options in country
Kuene River – one of the harshest and extreme environments obviously located around the river
Okahirong- River Camp – along Angola border
Serra Cafema Camp – along Angola border
Damaraland – Area with a diverse landscape, mountains, valleys, canyon like feel, close to the coast and a river where animals, including elephants and rhinos run wild
Doro Nawas Camp - area with unique landscape – boulders
Mowani Mountaion Camp - area with unique landscape – boulders
Desert Rhino Camp – track black rhinos!
Damaraland Camp – in a canyon landscape with elephants
I hope this helps you navigate this beautiful and unique country. There are no words for a place this special and I hope you do get to visit.