I woke up from one of the deepest slumbers that adulthood has gifted me in the longest time. In the moment of first consciousness, eyes still closed, I recognised that something was different. Then I opened my eyes to the most spectacular colours in the sky with my bed located right on the edge of the earth. At least that is how it felt when I woke up on my chalet’s elevated terrace overlooking the unsurpassed vistas of the Namib Desert at sunrise. The last thing I remembered was counting a pocketful, or rather a skyful, of the brightest shooting stars amongst the twinkling Milky Way … and then waking up in paradise.
But it was not just waking up to scenery different to the four walls of my bedroom; something inside me had shifted too. Is this what a soul cleanse felt like?
Tucked in under my cosy covers, the plush pillows forming my royal throne, I enjoyed a cup of coffee delivered at my door in the early morning hours by the magic Gondwana elves (also known as Lance, our guide). The action only came when I spotted the first little dune lark, Namibia’s only truly endemic bird. My haste to get to my camera almost made me spill my coffee. And no, it was not because I am a little off my rocker. For those who do not know, capturing these swift dune runners is not the easiest feat. Plus, you do not get to see them anywhere else in the world other than the Namib Desert.
As it scurried from one spot to another, tossing around sand with its beak in search of dune ants, which created small orange swirls in the air, I tried to capture it without blurring or losing my subject through my camera viewfinder as it disappeared between dunes. There was no way that I was giving up.
The Namib Dune Star Camp is a very exclusive, off-the-grid desert hideaway where you can only stay for one night at a time. I was determined … I was going to get my perfectly focused picture. So I spent some more time in my bed sipping coffee (holidays are tough!), patiently awaiting my unsuspecting model’s return.
And then, victory was mine as I finally succeeded in taking the perfect picture. I happily sat back when I felt prompted to take out a pen and paper to start writing. The creative floodgates had been opened and words came streaming in. Yes, this was indeed what a soul cleansing felt like.
Top tips to make the most of your experience
- Guest vehicles are not allowed at the Namib Dune Star Camp. Check-in takes place at Namib Desert Lodge. Jump aboard the 4×4 that departs anytime from 4h30 pm, but details will be communicated on site. Until then you can relax in the lush garden at the pool or have a drink at the bar. The near absurdity of cooling off in the pool while being surrounded by the red fossilised dunes of the desert, will have you in awe.
- I recommend getting an overnight bag from reception for the night. This way you do not have to take your whole suitcase into the wilderness for just a night.
- Get ready for the Namib Desert full-body massage as you make your way to the isolated camp atop a dune. Keep your camera nearby in case you spot stunning desert wildlife, or you want to photograph your arrival at the haven atop a dune. It is worth it to immortalise these special moments.
- Participate in either the afternoon or morning dune walk. Your guide has a treasure chest of interesting facts about the desert and every creature – big or small – that calls it home. Which critters can be found in the desert? How do gemsbok survive in the harsh conditions? How were fossilised dunes formed? He unveils all this and more. You do not need hiking shoes for the walk – I did it in flip flops.
- Prepare for relaxation and sundowners on the deck, and get to know your co-travellers. After all, you will all be sitting around the same dinner table. You might want to pack something warm – nights in the desert can become considerably chilly.
- After a regaling dinner cooked by your personal chef for the night, join your guide for some stargazing. He will plot out each and every constellation that is visible to the naked eye.
- Roll your bed out onto the deck of your room. “But it’s Africa – what if I get eaten?” Nothing that lives in this part of the desert will have the desire to eat you.
- For the full desert experience, book your stay at Namib Desert Lodge, Namib Desert Camping2Go, and/or The Desert Grace.
After my soul-cleansing visit here, I only have one question – where is the million-star review option? Will you allow the Namib Desert to woo you with its magic and romance?
First published in Michelangelo March 2020
Author – Annelien Robberts is an avid wordsmith who turns her pen to all things travel, culture, and lifestyle. She was born in a small town called Otjiwarongo and grew up on a farm nearby. Creativity, nature and animals make her happy.