Enchanting five-star accommodation. Utterly clear skies. Eerie ghost towns and ocean-meets-desert coastlines. That’s Namibia for you.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry vacationed here before their engagement and nuptials. The soon-to-be-finished eco-friendly Hoanib Valley Camp, which lies in the northwestern region of Kaokoland, was also rumoured to be Meghan and Prince Harry’s choice of honeymoon accommodation. And the prices there start at ₹60,000 a night.
Now, not all of us have the extra change to spare, so what does it take for us to have a luxurious getaway in Namibia, and is it actually worth breaking the bank for some memories?
According to the 2017 ‘Travel and Tourism Competitiveness’ report, Namibia is the fourth-most competitive nation in the Sub-Saharan region. A projection report by World Travel and Tourism Council states “travel & tourism investment in 2017 was N$ (Namibian Dollar) 4,425.5 million, and this should rise by 3.4% in 2018.”
Sights for all eyes
Peak seasons for travel vary: expeditions into Etosha National Park are best suited for dry seasons from June to October, but between December and March is the best time universally, in spite of occasional humidity. While urban areas burgeon with development, what attracts travellers are places that exude stillness and preservation.
Recent years have seen Sossusvlei (a salt and clay pan located in the southern part of the 2,15,000-hectare NamibRand Nature Reserve) as well as Kaokoland (the country’s most remote and wildlife-rich eco-region) emerge as popular luxury destinations. Sossusvlei translates to ‘dead-end marsh’ and lures in those seeking utmost privacy, paired with a stunning contrast of the surrounding high red dunes with azure skies. Thunderstorms are worth beholding, for very little trumps the sight of the expansive skies split by sharp white ribbons of lightning as the ground trembles from the thunder, while emanating the most refreshing petrichor.
Twyfelfontein, the UNESCO Heritage site dating back to over 2,000 years in the Kunene region, is a portal to the human race’s beginnings. There are rock drawings that depict ritual practices of the hunter-gatherer communities from this part of southern Africa.
Another geological wonder happens to be one of the country’s strangest phenomena found in the Namib Desert: mysterious fairy circles which are patterns of bare patches, whose origins have been a topic of fierce debate.
One theory suggests they are the result of termite nests that clear vegetation in the area, while another alludes to a much simpler idea of water shortage.
An unmissable area is the 30-kilometre stretch of the Skeleton Coast between the German-colonised town of Swakopmund and the picturesque seaport town of Walvis Bay. Watching the tumultuous waves of the Atlantic brush against the behemoth sand dunes of the Namib — which reach up to 900 feet in height — is worth dozens of social media shares. The ocean winds, that bring a fog that lasts 180 days, also create an immense line of shifting sand dunes, known as a ‘dune sea’.
Plus, the Atlantic Ocean’s Benguela Current, an ocean current from the Western Cape of Africa, largely shapes the climate here. It’s a place where so many things are happening simultaneously, it requires a great deal of calm to fully soak it all in.
If you have a penchant for the unusual, the century-old Kolmanskop might just appeal to you. It’s a diamond miners’ ghost town, which operates as a tourist destination. The town features a dilapidated school, hospital, ballroom and casino among other buildings, and is often used as a film set.
Green goes grand
‘Green lodges’ are the go-to in Namibia’s outbacks, with private chalets or tents on offer, whether it’s the Wolwedans, Okahirongo, Kulala Desert or AndBeyond Sossusvlei lodges. Their aim is to minimise the ecological footprint through thoughtful camping and energy-efficient operation. These camps make the most of natural light, use solar power and have clever insect-proofing to avoid the use of pesticides which disturbs the ecosystem.
High-end camps, like Hoanib Valley and the Nambwa near the Chobe River, offer a different way to experience the expanses. Travellers are drawn in by their innovative canvas architecture melded with local and rustic craftsmanship.
Starting from ₹16,000 a night for any of the more affordable but still luxury stays, you can expect in-room fireplaces, lavish meals coupled with sumptuous Erongo Mountain wines, as well as private tours of landmarks, such as the cavernous settlements in Sesriem Canyon and the geological wonder that is Deadvlei, a white clay pan. The Namibian night sky can turn an average traveller into a stargazer and astrophotographer. Luxury lodges often have their own observatories with professional astronomers on board, which are sure to keep families busy.
And if one wants to get closer to the stars, a sunset or late-evening hot air balloon ride over Sossusvlei and Sesriem Canyon is a must-try. The experience offers views of diverse wildlife spread across the landscape, and they average at around ₹37,000 per adult across the year.
But don’t let such numbers discourage you. If you travel in groups or pairs, the trip becomes a lot more wallet-friendly. So start saving and give Meghan and Harry a wave from us, if you bump into them.