Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Last November, I enjoyed a fabulous holiday in Namibia. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Concorde Room at London Heathrow Airport
- Review: British Airways Boeing 777 First Class from London to Johannesburg
- Review: Airlink E190 Business Class from Johannesburg to Windhoek
- Review: &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
- Review: Zannier Hotels Sonop
- Review: Zannier Hotels Omaanda
- Review: Little Kulala by Wilderness Safaris
- Review: Damaraland Camp by Wilderness Safaris (today)
- Review: Hoanib Skeleton Coast by Wilderness Safaris
- Review: Onguma The Fort (Etosha National Park)
Today: Review of Damaraland Camp by Wilderness Safaris (Namibia)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Damaraland Camp
Damaraland Camp is situated in the Huab River Valley, one of Namibia’s most dramatic wilderness areas. Simply beautiful, relaxed, and open to the desert, the camp has been a model for community-based conservation initiatives since 1996 – an award-winning partnership between Wilderness Safaris and the Torra Conservancy. Displaced in the early twentieth century from the local area, and relocated back to their homeland from South Africa in 1973, today the Torra community farmers thrive, largely through the partnership. The camp is comprised of ten elevated adobe-style thatched rooms, each with a large deck where you can contemplate the desert. Off the main area are a pool, open campfire, and outdoor boma – canopied with countless stars in crystal-clear night skies. A highlight at the lodge are game drives searching for fascinating desert-adapted wildlife (e.g. elephants and black rhinos).
Damaraland Camp features in my top 10 list of the best hotels in Namibia.
Have you ever stayed at Damaraland Camp? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Damaraland Camp is the most luxurious lodge in Damaraland, one of Namibia’s most dramatic wilderness areas. Damaraland features a spectacular desert landscape, ranging from the glorious rock formations of Spitzkoppe, Erongo and the Brandberg in the south to rugged mountains around Palmwag in the north. In the heart of Damaraland lies Twyfelfontein, which harbors some of Southern Africa’s finest and most famous prehistoric rock art (mostly depicting animals). Damaraland is also one of Africa’s most underrated wildlife-watching areas, home to critically endangered black rhinos, desert-adapted lions and elephants as well as to thriving populations of wild game including gemsbok, kudu, springbok, Hartmann’s zebra, giraffe and spotted hyena.
- Damaraland Camp enjoys a spectacular location in the Huab River Valley, a phenomenal Mars-like landscape full of geological wonders and fascinating desert-adapted wildlife. Ranking among the most beautiful in the entire Damaraland area, the scenery around the lodge is at the same time harsh and so beautiful, it might move you to tears. Built on red earth and surrounded by ash bushes, euphorbia and the occasional shepherd’s tree, the lodge overlooks stark plains and ancient mountains, which turn from rust to purple as the sun sets. Getting to this incredible off-the-beaten-path place does require some efforts though: guests will either need to fly into a nearby airstrip or leave their vehicles in the nearby hamlet Fonteine Pos (the last 13 km or 8 mi mi to the lodge can only be driven by a 4×4 car).
- Damaraland Camp has been a model for community-based conservation since 1996 – an award-winning partnership between Wilderness Safaris and the local Torra Conservancy. Displaced in the early 20th century from the local area, and relocated back to their homeland from South Africa in 1973, today the Torra community farmers thrive, largely through this partnership. For example, prior to the pandemic, the venture generated more than N$2 million per annum for the Torra Conservancy. The income enables the community to support its people through various projects, such as aiding learners to further their studies and assisting local families in emergencies. It also funded the building of water wells, which strategically provides fresh water to elephants, preventing them from raiding the village in search of water.
- Damaraland Camp was the first Wilderness Safaris camp in Namibia, but the lodge has been rebuilt and refurbished several times since its opening in 1996, maintaining its timeless, elegant design with a classic African safari feel. The camp is comprised of ten tented rooms (more on that below) with a stone-built and semi-open air pavilion at its center. The latter features an open-plan design and houses a dining area with a large fireplace, a living area with comfortable sofas, a small bar, a tea & coffee station (where cakes and sweets are on display at tea time), and a small boutique that also doubles as a library. Adjacent is a lovely oval-shaped swimming pool, surrounded by a shaded sala with sunbeds and fronted by a low deck where huge cushions and pillows beckon to admire the incredible views.
- Accommodation at Damaraland Camp consists of ten spacious, adobe-style thatched rooms, each raised on individual wooden decking – part of which extends out to form a large viewing deck with magnificent vistas. Recently refurbished, each tent features twin beds, a spacious dressing area behind the beds (with a luggage rack and a curtained wardrobe), a large writing desk and a comfortable chair. The ensuite bathrooms are equipped with his and hers wash basins (with toiletries) and a big shower (with a roll-down flap). Each unit has light-wood floorboards, a ceiling fan above the bed, a tea/coffee station, a fog horn (for use in an emergency), insect repellent and a safe. One unit is located further from the others, so has more privacy, and another unit (next to the main pavilion) has two bedrooms, so is more suitable for families.
- One of Damaraland Camp’s highlights is its delicious food (some of the best food I enjoyed during my travels in Namibia), with all meals being included in the room rate. For breakfast, a small continental buffet is offered in addition to a hot meal of your choice. Lunch is served in the shaded dining room and includes a soup, main course and desert (packed lunches are prepared for excursions). Dinners are a real treat, with set menus offering a choice of two starters and two dishes (including vegetarian options). Most evenings, dinners are served on the terrace next to the open campfire, with superb stargazing in the crystal-clear night skies. A couple of times a week, a barbecue is offered at the camp’s boma – an idyllic area near to the camp, surrounded by rock formations and lit by an assortment of small lanterns
- Activities at Damaraland Camp revolve around exploring the Huab River system, featuring guided nature drives and walks:
- The reason most people come here is for the game drives, which focus on finding desert-adapted elephants in the dry river bed. Gemsbok, greater kudu, springbok, and occasionally lion, cheetah, and black rhino can be spotted.
- Damaraland is known for its ancient rock art. Guests on stays of three nights or more can take a day drive to view the rock art at Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site and marvel at the art of ages past (at an extra cost).
- For a limited time, rhino tracking excursions are offered. Guests set out in the morning by vehicle to follow the ‘Save the Rhino’ monitors as they track one of their charges – the desert-adapted black rhino.
- Damaraland Camp is managed by Wilderness Safaris, my favorite safari company in Africa. Wilderness Safaris was founded in 1983 in Botswana by two young guides, who wanted to ensure both conservation of wildlife areas and that the financial benefits of their safaris flow to Botswana and its people. Today, Wilderness Safaris is widely acclaimed as the continent’s foremost ecotourism operator, dedicated to conserving and restoring Africa’s wilderness and wildlife. They do this by creating life-changing journeys for guests in some of the most remote and pristine areas in Africa, hereby helping to conserve Africa’s spectacular biodiversity and share ecotourism’s benefits with the communities that live alongside these areas. Wilderness Safaris operates more than 40 camps in seven countries, including several iconic and ultraluxe properties such as Mombo & Little Mombo in Botswana and Bisate Lodge in Rwanda.
- Like all Wilderness Safaris camps, Damaraland Camp has built its ecotourism success on the Wilderness Safaris ethos of the 4Cs – Commerce, Community, Culture and Conservation, ensuring conservation initiatives are at the forefront of its activities. The camp has been built with as light an eco-footprint as possible, using biodegradable materials such as canvas fabric, reeds, gum poles and grass thatch. It is powered by a hybrid system combined with a diesel powered generator, which charges a bank of batteries to supply part of the camp with electricity through an inverter. Thanks to this, the generator only needs to operate for eight hours a day. Each guest unit has its own small solar panel and inverter to power LED lights and a solar-powered geyser. Also, 80% of the camp’s staff is hired from the local community, while the rest of the 20% is sourced from Namibia.
- Although Damaraland Camp is a fabulous, must-visit destination in itself, there’s also another reason to travel to the lodge as it offers easy access to its sister lodge, Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp (the most spectacularly located wilderness lodge I’ve ever stayed at). Damaraland Camp is just a 30 min drive from the Doro Nawas airstrip, from where the bush planes to and from Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp depart and arrive (the flight from Doro Nawas to Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp takes about 40 minutes). Because of their proximity, both Damaraland Camp and Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp can be easily combined in one and the same itinerary, and I advise to stay 2 nights at Damarland Camp before proceeding to Hoanib Skeleton Coast for another 3 nights (a stay at both lodges can also be combined with a stay at their sister property Little Kulala near Sossuvlei, which I reviewed here).
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- Large game is not concentrated year-round at Damaraland Camp, with the natural cycle of rainfall dictating the seasonal movement of wildlife. In addition, due to the vast terrain, long distances on bumpy roads can be covered during game drives in search for desert-adapted wildlife. For example, a safari drive along the dry river bed of the Huab River will take most of the morning while black rhino tracking excursions can take a full day. That said, getting close up views of desert adapted elephants and black rhinos is so unique and thrilling that you’ll easily forget the efforts it might take to locate them.
- Damaraland Camp is not as lavishly luxurious as some of the other lodges in Africa. For example, there are no wellness and health facilities on site (no spa and no gym) and the swimming pool on the main lodge’s outdoor deck is rather small (but pleasant nonetheless). There is no in-room air-conditioning (a high-powered ceiling fan provides decent cooling though during the day) and no in-room mini-bar (but the staff will set up your favorite drinks in the room if you want them). But what the lodge may lack in luxurious details is more than made up by the beautiful yet simple design, the amazing food, the incredible staff, and the surrounding Mars-like landscape.
- Similar to most other remotely located lodges in Namibia, the internet is pretty slow. Damaraland Camp is, proudly, an “off the grid” camp which encourage guests to enjoy the welcome release of reconnecting with nature and their surroundings rather than being preoccupied by (numerous) mobile devices.
- It is quite a trek to get to Damaraland Camp but it is truly well worth it. The drive from Swakopmund to Damaraland Camp will take around 5 hours on gravel roads while travelers coming from Windhoek face a 6 hour journey (with about 4 hours on decent tarred roads). Also, the last 13 km or 8 mi mi to the lodge is on a very bad road which can only be driven by a 4WD car (travelers with a 2WD car will need to leave their vehicles in the nearby hamlet Fonteine Pos and will be picked up by the camp staff). If you want to avoid a long drive, you can also fly in to a nearby airstrips (flight bookings are taken care of by Wilderness Safaris).
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: n/a
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good 8,8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Damaraland Camp (and/or receive many free perks).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Namibia is from July to October, when the temperatures are comfortably warm during the day and the chance of rain is low. This is also the best time for outdoor activities and wildlife viewing, making it peak travel season. Between December and March, some days will be humid and rain may follow, often in localized, afternoon thunderstorms.
HOW TO GET THERE
Guests flying into Damaraland Camp will be met at the airstrip, a short drive from the camp. Guests on a self-drive trip can either leave their vehicle at a farmstead by the C39 and be transferred to camp (recommended for 2WD vehicles) or drive themself to the camp (4WD only).
Below is a selection of my photos of Damaraland Camp. To view more hotel photos (including meals), click here.
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