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Going… Going… Gondwana

“As we clamoured our way to the peak of ‘Big Daddy’, the tallest dune in the area, we were greeted with some of the most picturesque views of our trip yet:  the striking red dunes, blue sky, white salted pans and early morning shadows seemed to have been photoshopped and left us in awe of one of Namibia’s most popular destinations.”

As a travel destination, Namibia is an absolute pleasure for South Africans.  Not only does the South African Rand hold its value against the Namibian Dollar but it is also one of the easier countries to access from down South.  Yet for some, we had not explored this country beyond the rapids of the Orange River.  Fortunately that all changed as we came across The Gondwana Collection, a cluster of lodges scattered throughout Namibia, which offer a home- away-from-home type feel and some real motivation to travel North.  Armed with a map of “Gondwana’s Classic Routes” we soon had an itinerary that would leave any tourist breathless.  With Namibia’s vast open landscapes and dirt roads vibrating below us we knew that we would be spending a fair few hours in the car as we journeyed on.  Whilst all the Lodges provided the comforts a weary traveller appreciates after a long day on the road, each had a unique charisma which introduced us to the various regions of Namibia.  Not only did the buffet dinners and breakfasts provide a taste sensation of delicious local cuisine, but the friendly welcome from a knowledgeable and competent staff facilitated a pleasurable stay at every one of the lodges we visited.

Canyon Lodge

CANYON LODGE

Camouflaged amongst giant granite boulders these chalets are neatly tucked away between the rugged environment which plays home to the Fish River Canyon.  The bathroom and shower carved into the rounded rocks put us in touch with the natural setting.

After a good night’s rest, we were off to explore Africa’s largest canyon. As the heat hissed through the serpent-like twists and turns in the canyon, we spent many hours revelling in the splendour which lay below our feet.  We chose to appreciate the views from the rim of the Canyon, but the lodge also offers guests the opportunity to explore it on foot.  Mules are strapped with all the essentials for a 4-day expedition, removing the load from one’s shoulders and allowing for a pleasant adventure besides the meandering river.  Wishing a group of hikers well as they started off on their trek, we headed back to the lodge to enjoy an icy swim in the pool overlooking the beautiful vistas of the great plains of Namibia.

The start of Fish River Canyon trail

KLEIN AUS-VISTA: Desert Horse Inn

Subtle changes in landscape provide an excellent opportunity for nature-lovers to enjoy the Gondwana Sperrgebiet Rand Park.  On arrival, we were handed an activities booklet which outlined some fantastic hiking and mountain bike trails.  There are a few mountain bikes available for rent. They far exceed the average rental bike specs and are more than capable of handling the rugged terrain.  The lodge also plays host to the Klein Aus-Vista mountain bike challenge which will be held on 2 and 3 May 2015.  Wild horses of the Namib roam the hills and plains near the lodge and we were fortunate enough to spot them on our drive out to Kolmanskuppe.
DSC06199

The former small but booming mining town, which is now an iconic ghost town.  After we had purchased our permits (R75 per person) we were taken on a tour. Incredibly, much of the Kolmanskuppe, although weathered, remains intact and includes a functional “kegelbahn” (nine-pin bowling arena).  The eerie sense of emptiness is emphasised as the local tour guides explain the fascinating history of this once diamond rich town.   The coastal town of Lüderitz is not far away and Diaz Point offers some exquisite views over the lighthouse and marshlands, where flamingos and some game can be spotted.

NAMIB DESERT LODGE

Dwarfed beneath an imposing backdrop of petrified dunes the dinner and entertainment area opens up onto a waterhole which is frequented by a variety of wild animals throughout the day.  As we sat down to another delicious buffet dinner we enjoyed the “bush TV” activity playing out from the corner of our eyes.

However, the natural beauty of Sossusvlei National Park is the main attraction in the region.  Armed with a packed breakfast we made our way along the dusty roads and eagerly awaited the opening of the park’s gates.  Time passed quickly as golden streams of sunlight started to add colour to the silhouettes of mountains and dunes lining the horizon.  As we clamoured our way to the peak of ‘Big Daddy’, the tallest dune in the area, we were greeted with some of the most picturesque views of our trip yet:  the striking red dunes, blue sky, white salted pans and early morning shadows seemed to have been photoshopped and left us in awe of one of Namibia’s most popular destinations. 

Sossusvlei
The contrasting colours of Sossusvlei


The Lodge also offers a sundowner drive to the top of the petrified dunes. It was here that we bid our farewells to the region while overlooking the collage of landscapes consisting of mountains, dunes, grasslands fossilised dunes and riverbeds. Treated to some of Namibia’s finest hospitality, our tour of Southern Namibia drew to a close.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:

VISAS: If you own a South African passport Visas are not required for tourism purposes.

WATER: Whilst you need to be careful about water you source in Namibia, all the lodges in the article had drinkable tap water.

PARK FEES: These are standard throughout Namibia and vary depending on your nationality.  South Africans pay R60 per person and R10 for the vehicle.

GONDWANA CARD: Anyone with a permanent or temporary residence permit for an SADC (Southern African Development Communities) country may apply for a Gondwana card at a cost of R200*, which entitles the holder to a 40% discount on accommodation and a 25% discount on dinners or activities booked through the lodge.

BOOKING AHEAD: Whilst booking is not essential, it is advisable and all Gondwana Collection lodges and campsites can be booked online at www.gondwana-collection.com.  They also have some suggested routes to help you plan your stay.

* Price correct at time of publication

Cheers until next time!

Duane Stacey

Duane spent much of his student years guiding overland trips through Southern Africa where he developed a deep love for adventure, travel and good food. He is a committed Christian who loves exploring God’s creation be that on foot, bike, vehicle, boat or plane. He has run with the bulls in Pamplona and swum with Whale Sharks in Mozambique and is always looking for the next escapade. With a passion for snowboarding, mountain biking, surfing, skydiving and scuba diving adventure is never far off. He enjoys finishing a day by combining his culinary skills with his cultural experiences to dine on a dish fit for a king.

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