Cucumber smiles and sunflower kisses at Damara Mopane Lodge - News - Gondwana Collection

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Cucumber smiles and sunflower kisses at Damara Mopane Lodge

Avatar of inke inke - 12. June 2017 - Gondwana Collection, Tourism

 

Top-heavy sunflowers peeping over walls, lush spinach carpeting the ground and scarecrows eyeing you from the greenery may not be something you would expect to see at a tourist lodge, especially in your very own chalet garden, but then Damara Mopane Lodge breaks out of the box to offer its guests a truly unusual, memorable and extraordinary experience.

The lodge is a burst of freshness in the north-western corner of Namibia, home to ancient engravings, ephemeral river courses and desert elephant. In the heart of an expanse of mopane woodland, Damara Mopane extends its hand in greeting and welcomes you into a warm embrace of friendliness, charm and innovation.

Built in a semi-circular labyrinth design with an enormous turquoise pool glittering at its centre, the lodge chalets are free-standing homes, each with their own small garden planted with an assortment of herbs and vegetables. If green fingers have always evaded you or been a long-time dream, not to worry, a contingent of green-fingered elves have done it all for you. All you need to do is to sit on your stoep (aka a veranda) admiring your small food-garden bursting with emerald broccoli heads, carrots, maize, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and bright marigolds, and enjoy the peace of your surroundings. You have been transported into another realm. An enchanted one, at that.

Damara Mopane’s large garden receives purified water from its state-of-the-art recycling plant. The green bounty is enjoyed by the guests and the surplus produced is given to those in need. Vegetables – as well as offcuts from Gondwana’s butchery in Stampriet – are given to kindergartens, homes for the aged and schools. Gondwana extends this sharing ethos with its ‘Meal for Two’ programme - a Gondwana Care Trust programme, supported by Bank Windhoek - where every time a guest enjoys a meal with Gondwana, someone in need receives a wholesome meal.

The idea behind Damara Mopane lodge is in line with the Gondwana Collection’s aim to offer guests not just a bed for the night and great food, but a special experience that they will remember long after they return home. This can also be seen at some of their other lodges like Canyon Roadhouse, with its collection of vintage automobiles and roadside memorabilia, and at Etosha Safari Camp’s foot-stamping, heart-warming Shebeen restaurant. It’s all in good spirit - and lifts the heart, exercises the smile-muscles and fluffs the imagination. Lay back, let down those barriers. It’s time to relax into the holiday and to take a break from the road - and the seriousness of life - before the beauty and wonders of the country beckon again.

And they will, soon. Damara Mopane is a good base from which to explore the Damaraland attractions and happily return to again at the end of the day. The thousands-of-year-old Twyfelfontein engravings, where shamans etched their prayers into rock and beseeched the gods for food, rain and luck for the hunt, are approximately 130km away, while a 50km drive to the south-east leads to the Vingerklip rock feature.

The lodge incorporates people and nature into its name: ‘Damara’ for the local people, one of the oldest ethnic groups in Namibia, and ‘Mopane’ for the small, robust trees with their butterfly-shaped leaves that abound in the area. The trees are valued as a food-source for many creatures (including mopane worms – a sought-after delicacy for some!), for their strong, resilient wood and for bursting into spring-green at the driest time of the year, bringing hope for the season ahead.

Inspiration for Damara Mopane Lodge was twofold. It came with the design of a labyrinth, where the semi-circular pathways between the low adobe walls give guests a feeling of being in an African kingdom of old. It also came with the idea of greening the lodge - in the best possible way for an arid country like Namibia - by planting an abundance of fresh food, which contribute to the wholesome meals while also fitting snugly into the village atmosphere of the lodge.

The stylish and fascinating lodge design is best appreciated from a height. And the optimal time to appreciate it is in the late afternoon when the land is awash in gold. A walkway leads up the hill to a sundowner deck overlooking the mopane woodland and the lodge far below. From here the view extends all the way to the Brandberg in the distance – and from there to never-never land. This is the ideal way to enjoy the end of the day, with a drink in hand, as the ruby sun dips elegantly into the trees.

When it bids goodnight and a splash of rosy colours paints the sky, it’s time to wander down the pathway, lit with lanterns, towards the lodge, where tables are set outdoors, a fire blazes in a brazier and enticing smells of supper waft through the air calling you home.

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