Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 56 / September 2023

Dear All,

I trust you had a wonderful summer despite our weather and now looking forward to thinking about some winter escapes.

Between Nico and I we have visited Namibia on four occasions over the last decade, with Nico most recently doing a self-drive trip last April.

To us, Namibia is like no other country in Africa and the be honest, the world. It is unique in its scenery, wildlife and of course the infamous Skeleton Coast. Nico’s multiple trips to Namibia have culminated in the creation of this itinerary described by her as “the perfect journey through Namibia”.

Please enjoy following Nico’s recent solo adventure and, if you call her to discuss, expect a long chat – she is a Namibia enthusiast!

Enjoy the journey!

Laterally yours, Nick, Helen, Nico, Jess and Maza

Namibian Self-Drive Adventure, Laterally
Arrival in Windhoek & Drive to the Kalahari Desert

Namibia is a country of arid desert landscapes, warm vibrant colours, and bright blue skies. The immensity of the land is enhanced by the limited population and the few roads that connect the sparse towns. It’s almost impossible to get lost and the infrastructure is easily and constantly looked after, making Namibia one of the most incredible destinations for a self-drive adventure.

After landing in Windhoek and picking up the powerful 4WD Toyota pickup, it’s time to sit behind the wheel and let Namibia’s contrasts and vivid hues unfold by the road. First stop: the Kalahari Desert. The vast expanse of russet dunes stretches as far as the eye can see, painted with the warm hues of dawn and dusk. Amidst this seemingly barren terrain, life persists in unexpected ways – the resilient flora and fauna have evolved to harmonize with the desert’s colours, creating a seamless blend of ochre, sienna, and amber. The Kalahari’s understated beauty is a captivating prologue to the kaleidoscope of colours awaiting on this remarkable self-drive adventure.

Kalahari sands cover much of eastern Namibia. They widen towards the north to include the Caprivi Strip and the Owambo Basin, along with the Etosha Pan. Virtually devoid of surface rock and stones, it is the largest continuous stretch of sand in the world, with a total area of about 900,000km². The region around Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge is one of the most attractive parts of Namibia’s Kalahari, typified by deep red, low lying linear dunes interspersed with vegetated dune valleys of golden grass and green camel thorn trees.

Kalahari Desert to Lüderitz

Continuing our self-drive journey through Namibia’s diverse landscapes, the road ventures towards Lüderitz, a town that embodies a sense of timelessness at the farthest reaches of the world. Driving through the captivating scenery of the Tiras Mountain Conservancy en-route to the historical town of Aus, we’re offered a glimpse of the desert’s rugged beauty. If luck allows, one might encounter the legendary feral horses of the Namib Desert, a living testament to nature’s resilience. Lüderitz feels like a charmingly forgotten town at the world’s end, where history and nature entwine to create an atmosphere of solitude and discovery.

Upon arriving at the rickety Lüderitz Nest Hotel (the only accommodation in town), we’re greeted by coastal winds and a hint of a bygone era. If time permits, a visit to Diaz Point awaits, where a replica of Bartholomeu Diaz’s stone cross stands, commemorating explorations of old. Nearby lies a grave bearing the poignant inscription “George Pond of London, died here of hunger and thirst 1906” a stark reminder of the challenges faced by those who braved these unforgiving landscapes, where seemingly only the Cape fur seals of the colony below would thrive.

Yet, Lüderitz has more stories to share – tales of a different kind await at Kolmanskop, a ghost town that beckons with its abandoned grandeur. A short drive from Lüderitz, Kolmanskop’s dilapidated buildings and shifting sands paint a vivid picture of a bygone diamond rush era. The interiors, once filled with opulence, now welcome the sands of the desert and echo with the whispers of history. Walking through these haunted corridors, uncover the stories of fortune seekers and the town’s rise and fall, all while capturing the haunting beauty of its sunlit interiors and desert-engulfed spaces.

Lüderitz to NamibRand Nature Reserve

Today’s journey northward should be listed amongst the most exquisite scenic roads in the world. Leaving the tarmac behind, the D707 road skirts the edges of the deserts red sands on one side and the dark rocks of the Tiras Mountains on the other. NamibRand Nature Reserve, one of Southern Africa’s largest private reserves, came to life in 1984 as a conservation effort. Encompassing over 180,000 hectares of pristine Namib Desert, it’s a testament to restoration, reclaiming lands once used for Karakul sheep farming.

What sets NamibRand apart is the stunning array of desert landscapes it encompasses. From expansive sand and gravel plains to lush grass savannahs, and from majestic mountains to vivid vegetated dunes of deep red sand, the Reserve provides habitats for an assortment of mammals, from hyenas and jackals to various antelope species and wild cats. A rich tapestry of birdlife, reptiles, insects, and amphibians thrives here, alongside a myriad of plant species. Witness the enigmatic ‘fairy circles,’ unexplained patches of bare sand, or bask in the brilliance of starlit nights – a privilege facilitated by the Reserve’s recognition as Africa’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. This accolade ensures an unparalleled stargazing experience, in one of the least light-polluted regions on Earth.

The landscape’s hues evolve with the passing day, painting a constantly changing masterpiece that can only be appreciated with a stay of a couple of days within the reserve. Both Wolwedans Lodge or Sonop Lodge promise unparalleled beauty and an immersive encounter with nature, making your choice a delightful challenge. Wolwedans Dunes Lodge invites to awaken amidst the desert’s tranquil beauty. With sunrise hues painting the dunes and sundowner drives revealing the breathtaking panorama, the lodge seamlessly blends conservation and adventure.

Alternatively, Sonop crowns the desert with opulence. Its suites, inspired by yesteryears, offer panoramic views from the escarpment’s edge. Expect vintage-inspired luxury, gourmet dining, and an ambiance reminiscent of a refined era.

NamibRand to Sossusvlei

Embark on an early morning odyssey that transports you from the tranquil landscapes of NamibRand to the iconic Sossusvlei. The northwest drive not only unfolds ever-changing desert vistas but also treats you to remote rest stops that seem lifted from an African spaghetti western, adding a touch of cinematic allure to the journey. Located within the awe-inspiring Namib-Naukluft National Park, Sossusvlei emerges as a haven for photographers and a natural masterpiece of Africa. Against a backdrop of clear blue skies, colossal red sand dunes rise, some nearly 400 meters high – among the world’s tallest.

Amidst this enchanting panorama, desert wildlife thrives, from oryx and springbok to ostriches and reptiles. The following morning, rise early for a captivating journey guided by the soft sunrise glow. Explore Sossusvlei, Deadvlei, and the surrounding dunes, enriched by your guide’s insights into the Namib Desert’s formation and its resilient inhabitants. Finally, indulge in a relaxed picnic brunch beneath the shade of a camel thorn tree.

While there are numerous accommodation options in the Sossusvlei area, each with its unique charm, it’s worth noting that Little Kulala Camp and andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge offer luxurious indulgence, while Camp Sossus stands out for its friendly rustic ambiance, impeccable service, and exceptional food.

Sossusvlei to Swakopmund

Nothing enhances the beauty of the fiery Sossusvlei dunes than a morning hot air balloon ride, an early start rewarded with the breathtaking sight of the desert unfolding beneath you. The journey continues North after champagne breakfast at the landing site: the impressive Gaub and Kuiseb canyons provide a dramatic backdrop before meeting the coast at Walvis Bay. Here, the drive is interrupted by a captivating mix of pelicans, flamingos, and seabirds at the lagoon, a scene of vibrant life against the stark desert backdrop.

The coastal road eventually takes to Swakopmund, a charming seaside town that fuses German and Namibian influences. A stay at The Strand Hotel is a must, where the cooler coastal air and seafront location set the scene for the next two nights of exploration. The afternoon presents an opportunity to wander the town’s wide-open avenues, appreciate colonial architecture, and stroll along the waterfront. And as the sun dips below the horizon, it’s time to indulge in a dinner at The Tug restaurant by the jetty, renowned for its fresh seafood.

Swakopmund’s allure lies in its diverse offerings. Adventure options like quad biking, horse riding, and paragliding are balanced by the town’s laid-back atmosphere. The intriguing mix of German heritage and Namibian culture infuses every corner, making it a true seaside resort with a unique twist. While the sea might be too cold for swimming, the refreshing beaches and inviting climate provide a welcome reprieve after some time in the desert.

Swakopmund to the Skeleton Coast

After a couple of days in “civilised” Swakopmund, it is time to venture in what is arguably one of the most beautifully desolate locations on Earth: the Skeleton Coast. Leaving Swakopmund’s seaside charm behind, embark on a drive like no other, where eerie coastal fog adds a mysterious touch to the landscape.

The salt road hugs the ocean coastline and takes the driver past the silent witnesses of maritime mishaps – shipwrecks that stand as relics of unforgiving seas and daring exploration. The roar of the ocean echoes against the deserted shore, seal colonies populate the coastline, their playful antics contrasting with the melancholic history of this dramatic meeting of desert and ocean. As you venture onward, the ever-present fog envelopes the surroundings, creating an otherworldly ambiance in absolute contrast to the fiery hues of the southern Namib Desert sands.

The journey reaches its zenith at the entrance to Skeleton Coast National Park, where a gate adorned with skull and bones marks the threshold to this desolate beauty. Here, your guide from Shipwreck Lodge will greet you, ready to lead you through the final kilometres of desert to the lodge’s embrace. Shipwreck Lodge, a unique haven on the edge of the world, seamlessly blends with the stark surroundings. Each luxury cabin, inspired by shipwrecks and their stories, offers comfort and vast vistas of this untamed land. The lodge’s guiding principle is to harmonize with the environment, an ethos that resonates in its sustainable practices and unobtrusive yet impressive design.

Skeleton Coast to Damaraland

Leaving the haunting allure of the Skeleton Coast behind, the journey carries onward to Damaraland, a land where rugged rocky beauty takes centre stage. After being reunited to our trusted 4WD at the questionably adorned park gates, the road turns inland, unveiling a landscape that starkly contrasts with the dunes left behind.

Damaraland welcomes with its rocky expanse, adorned with striking table-top mountains and unique rock formations. Here, the shifting sands yield to the domain of desert-adapted wildlife, a realm inhabited by tenacious elephants, and the critically endangered black rhino. This arid expanse is their home, a testament to their remarkable ability to thrive in the harshest of conditions.

Amidst this untamed wilderness lies Onduli Ridge Lodge, a haven of luxury and comfort that beckons you to immerse yourself in the heart of Damaraland. A stay here is a must, a chance to savour familiar service, delightful cuisine, and exquisite views that unfold from every angle.

What sets Onduli Ridge Lodge apart is its impeccable design, meticulously crafted to complement and blend with the rugged surroundings. Every aspect of the lodge reflects a harmonious fusion of modern luxury and African charm. The architecture draws inspiration from the natural landscape, seamlessly integrating with the rocks and contours that define this unique region. Each elegantly designed suite is a haven of relaxation, offering panoramic views that connect you intimately with the desert’s breathtaking beauty.

A fitting conclusion to an epic adventure.

Up Periscope – Lazib Inn, El Fayoum, Egypt

2.5 hours’ drive into the Western Desert from Cairo will find you in the town of El Fayoum. Here, besides Lake Qarun, resides the charming Lazib Inn, a true oasis of respectability overlooking the lake and distance sand dunes of the ever-present desert.

With its two swimming pools, one with a fully equipped bar, 16 luxuriously appointed rooms and an excellent restaurant called the “Blue Donkey”, it would be easy to spend two or 3 days away from the more touristy areas of Egypt.

El Fayoum is also the base for adventures out to Wadi Ryan’s desert lakes and to Wadi Al Hitan, where prehistoric whale skeletons sit amid a sweep of rock outcrop dotted sand. An amazing adventure day out rewards those who have found the time to visit El Fayoum.


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