It is truly astounding to see the world’s biggest land animal trundling its sedate way across a seemingly endless gravel plain, not a drop of water in sight, and with only the haze of rocky mountains rising up in the distance.
There is almost nowhere in the world where you can witness such a seemingly incongruous presence of wildlife.
Yet the desert elephants of north Namibia have become specialised denizens of this harsh yet spectacular environment. They know where the hidden springs in the mountains are. They eat only sparingly from the big trees that occur in the ephemeral riverbeds, never pushing one over (they know that should they do, that tree will not be able tor provide food next year), and this wisdom is passed down from generation to generation.
The Kaokaveld – the name given to this north-west corner of one of earth’s most sparsely inhabited countries – is at first glance barren and lifeless, but look a little closer and you will discover a myriad of inhabitants, all of which have evolved over millenia to make this rocky desert their home.
It is truly one of the most fascinating ecosystems in the world, and the Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp is one of the best places from which to experience it.
Set alongside the Hoanib river, which forms the boundary of the Kaokaveld to the north and Damaraland to the south, the lodge is perfectly positioned to enjoy the best of both ecosystems.
Eight pale olive, generously appointed, tented suites peak like whitecaps on an ocean of sand. Totally solar-powered, their open design and colour palette reflect the surrounding desert, keeping the interiors startlingly cool. A unique experience beckons for the intrepid traveller seeking chic luxury in a startlingly rugged and isolated, ancient landscape.
Yet this remote part of the world is by no means just about the desert elephants, even though they are the star attraction.
Giraffes wander between the hills, obtaining moisture from the few leaves they eat off the scrubby vegetation. Brown Hyenas – cousins of the more well-known spotted variety – scavenge for delicacies like ostrich eggs, or prey on seals down on the skeleton coast, and even lions are seen, walking many many miles each day in search of prey like the stately oryx or the springboks which come and go, following the sparse grazing.
This a place where space and isolation are the true magic ingredients. Seldom will you have ever felt a silence more profound, or felt as awed by a landscape so vast and ancient. It seems paradoxical yet there is a friendliness to the desert here that makes you feel at home in the harshest of environments.
The Kaokaveld is not about the volume of wildlife you will see; that is for elsewhere. Instead it is about a deep dive into a fascinating ecosystem, to which some of Africa’s most iconic fauna have managed to adapt despite the odds.
It is about space, and time, and stillness. It’s about starlight.
And of course it’s about the elephants.
Get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about this remarkable corner of our planet, and let’s start planning your safari…