The new Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is located on a private concession close to the dry bed of the Hoanib River just outside Skeleton Coast National Park. The Atlantic, and hence the actual coast, lies some 40 miles to the west. We arrived to find spacious open-sided public areas, covered by steeply pitched tented ceilings, that flowed unimpeded into the desert landscape. The accommodations comprise seven tented suites, plus one two-bedroom family unit. They are set wide apart and come with shaded outdoor decks that are ideal for a languorous afternoon with a book or a tranquil sundowner. Although partly made of canvas, our suite had large glass windows, sturdy wooden doors and electric lights. A sizeable bath provided twin sinks and an excellent shower with abundant hot water from a nearby solar panel.
As well as game drives to view desert-adapted lion and elephant, more adventurous and athletic guests can go on escorted hikes. The one activity that no one passes up is the four-hour drive across the desert plains and the subsequent dune sea to the Skeleton Coast. Although the dirt road is rutted and potholed — Land Cruiser tires last a maximum of six months — the feeling of being somewhere close to the end of the world is overwhelming. Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is a remarkable place that fully deserves its many accolades. It cannot be compared with ultra-luxurious safari camps such as the Singita properties in South Africa; rather, it aims to provide a wilderness experience that is nonetheless very comfortable and reassuringly safe.
For the past two decades, Singita properties in South Africa and Tanzania have set the standard for luxury wildlife lodges. Only one member of the portfolio has remained relatively obscure: Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. Located in the remote southeastern corner of the country, it is surrounded by the 130,000-acre private Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, a sanctuary for endangered species.
The main lodge at Singita Pamushana is built of stone in a style that evokes Great Zimbabwe, capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe from the 11th to the 15th centuries, and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Passing through a conical entrance tower, we emerged onto a wide wooden deck with a cobalt-blue free-form pool and a serene backdrop of a glassy lake and green wooded hills. The lodge’s seven air-conditioned suites are on a gentle slope and are surrounded by huge baobab trees and massive boulders. Inside, we found a sizeable lounge decorated in a vibrant African style. The separate bedroom opened out onto a deck with a private plunge pool and loungers, from which it was possible to gaze at the lake 200 or 300 feet below.
The terrain at Malilangwe varies from open grassy plains to tangled bushveld. Elephant and giraffe are seen frequently, as are cheetah and hyena. And the guides can usually track down lion. One of the Malilangwe’s great draws, however, is the ease with which you can observe both black and white rhino. This superb lodge is a wonderful extension to an itinerary in Botswana or South Africa.