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BTN investigates: Namibia’s Little Kulala

We had heard a lot about the must-see desert retreat at Wilderness’ Little Kulala and couldn’t wait to experience this luxury resort for ourselves. Located just outside Sossusvlei, the property is a great base from which to explore Namibia’s Naukluft National Park.

We set off on our six-hour dusty drive from Windhoek with only a quick pit stop to pick up a hitchhiker. Robin was cycling from Germany to Cape town and his battered body and rickety bike were in need of a short lift, and our assistance was greatly appreciated. He was spending his trip camping in the wild and his holiday seemed the opposite of the luxury jaunt we had planned.

Arriving at Little Kulala, we were welcomed with a much-needed cool towel and fruit cocktail by Licette, our host for the stay. This was most definitely an oasis of luxury in the red sand dunes of this mesmerising southern Africa destination. The main lodge is rustic in look and feel with its cone shaped thatched roof covering the bar, lounge and dining area. The pastel tones complimented the stunning colours that appeared around us in the surrounding desert, and the large wicker furniture reminded me of the weaver bird nests we’d seen on route.

Mark Hakansson

The beautiful wooden beams and flooring were focused on the centrepiece of the room, a large cobbled stoned fireplace. The design of the property has a modern Scandinavian feel, reflecting the environment though colours, textures and composition, while natural woven fabrics are scattered subtly over the furniture. The terrace provides a good view of a small water hole, where you can see oryx, springbok and the occasional brown hyena. After we were briefed to “watch out for snakes and scorpions” in our ‘safety in the desert’ briefing (don’t worry, we didn’t see any!) we were led along the raised wooden walkways to our Kulala private lodge.

The lodge prides itself on its sustainability-policy, being 100 per cent solar energy efficient, while also seeking to reduce carbon emissions and ensure the camp has a minimal impact on the Namib desert and its ecosystem.

Each of the eleven secluded luxury lodges have beautiful floor to ceiling windows, a large decking area with individual private plunge pools, indoor and outdoor showers, and a roof terrace to watch the stunning sunrise or to try your hand at stargazing. On our first night we slept under the stars, on the bed on the deck. Housekeeping always makes up both beds, so you have the option, and it was wonderful to gaze up at the Milky Way as we were drifting off to sleep.

We had arranged a sunrise drive into the Naukluft Park to see the dramatic Namibian sand dunes, so we were woken at 05:00. Little Kulala is the only lodge with a direct private access to the dunes, so we were given access to the park before it officially opens. Our Wilderness Safari guide was fantastic; Emmanuel was so knowledgeable, pointing out the animals that we hadn’t spotted and explaining the incredible geology, fauna and flora of the area.

Experiencing the sand dunes at Sossusvlei was a life changing experience. It had rained not long before our arrival, but it was still a surprise to see water in the middle of the oldest desert in the world!

We took on the challenge of climbing Big Daddy, the largest sand dune at 325 metres. It was no easy feat, with lots of huffing and puffing and rest stops, but it was certainly worth the effort. Our sheer determination to claim the bragging rights and with the encouragement of our guide (and his topping up our water supply) we reached the summit. At the top was the most spectacular view of Deadvlei and a panorama of the sand dunes which took our breath away. The best part was the decent - we took our lives into our own hands as we ran down the steep dune, sometimes tumbling, but never hurting ourselves on the soft sands before suddenly we were in the pan within five minutes. Here we are amazed as we walked around the skeleton remains of 800-year-old camelthorn trees, reaching out of the cracked earth and breaking the endless stretch of landscape.

Exhausted, but exhilarated, we made it back to the Safari truck for a well needed picnic brunch. After we had had our fill, we passed by the Sessrium Canyon, which was no match for Big Daddy but still stunning to see.

We spent the afternoon in Little Kulala relaxing in the library. Inspired by Emmanuel, we wanted to learn more about the environment surrounding us as well as utilising the Photo Hub, a place to review and develop our photo skills with an expert.

Some of the other activities at Little Kulala include quad biking, hiking trails, stargazing, game drives, bird watching, horse riding, photography workshops, spa treatments, hot air balloon and even helicopter flights.

We availed ourselves of the ‘sundowner’ drive option. At dusk, Emmanuel took us to the top of an escarpment with an incredible view, where a small table had been dressed in a white cloth and two director’s chairs. We sipped gin and tonics as we watched the sky transform from hues of blue to purple to orange while chatting and learning about Namibian life and culture from Emmanuel.

Dinner, back at the lodge was outstanding. As the resort is so remote, there are logistical restrictions as to what is available, but they provided a fantastic menu with a choice of game or fish which was more than delicious.

We finished our evening with a creamy Amarula cocktail, listening to the resident astronomer, pointing out the southern hemisphere constellations with his laser torch. As we sat there happy, exhausted and totally in awe of the night sky, in our luxury lodge I thought of our hitchhiker Robin and hoped he was enjoying the African starscape as much as we were, wherever he was.

More Information
Little Kulala is situated in the 27,000-hectare Kulala Wilderness Reserve, a pristine wilderness sited in Namibia.
A welcome oasis, the camp lies along the dry Auab riverbed.
Guests can get much closer to the renowned dunes of Sossusvlei and the haunting panoramas of Dead Vlei, accessible through an exclusive-use gate.
Car provided by website.
Find out more on the official website.