The immense dunes at Sossusvlei are the largest in the world, and no trip to Namibia is complete without at least a glimpse of this astonishing landscape. On a calm, cloudless morning, a flight by hot air balloon is a surreal experience as the sunrise sets fire to the huge ridges of orange sand below. However, Sossusvlei receives significant numbers of visitors, which is why I recommend a stay at Little Kulala, 35 miles east of the dunes on a private 105-square-mile wilderness reserve. (Wolwedans is a 90-minute drive farther south.) The 11 air-conditioned thatched accommodations are decorated in calm, neutral colors and come with indoor and outdoor showers, private plunge pools, patios and rooftop star beds. Meals are frequently served outside against an epic backdrop of the desert; a climate-controlled wine cellar offers an interesting and extensive selection. Activities include hiking, horseback riding, ballooning and ATV excursions.
The spacious, climate-controlled suites; the rooftop star beds; the atmosphere of privacy and tranquility.
The 70-mile round-trip to Sossusvlei, which is inconvenient, even if it enables you to escape the crowds.
Balloon flights can be arranged on the property.
The only Namibian game area where you will reliably see large numbers of animals — as you might in Botswana or South Africa — is Etosha. The 125-square-mile private Ongava Game Reserve shares a boundary with the national park. Little Ongava is set on a hilltop that commands panoramic views across a vast tract of savannah. The lodge comprises three spacious bungalows, each with harmonious expanses of unadorned wood and desert stone, a large sitting room with a fireplace, a private deck, an infinity pool and a sala. A boardwalk connects the accommodations with the attractive main lounge and dining area. Guests have a dedicated guide (private vehicles are available) and may expect to see lion, black and white rhino, elephant, giraffe and numerous large antelope species, including rare black-faced impala. Rhino tracking on foot is a specialty of the reserve.
The feeling of exclusivity; the stirring view.
Aside from the cost, very little.
The Ongava Research Centre is a privately funded facility dedicated to the scientific study of the ecosystem. Its rhino-breeding program has resulted in an increase in the population from six in 1995 to more than 30 today.
Both Sossusvlei and Etosha are mandatory components of any Namibian journey.