From the desert to the mountains

From the desert to

the mountains

Text   Le Roux van Schalkwyk   |   Photographs   Le Roux van Schalkwyk

From the Summer 2021/22 issue

As widely as the Namibian landscapes can differ when comparing the northeast of the country to the southwest, as quickly it can change over short distances. Such changes in scenery will not be as drastic, of course, but can nonetheless give one the feeling of being in a completely different place.

A common misconception is that Namibia is just one big sandy desert. Type “Namibia” into any search engine, and the first 50 images will predominantly be of the Namib sand dunes, Deadvlei and a gemsbok skeleton covered in sand. Yet there is so much more to the Namib Desert than just the beautiful dunes, and the vistas are ever-changing.

Ondili comprehends how changes in the landscape are not only incredible to behold but how they possess their own unique experiences waiting to be unlocked. It aims to give guests the opportunity to explore and appreciate the changing vistas and the geology, fauna and flora that come with it. While Desert Homestead Lodge offers guests the best of the Sossusvlei area, 320 km to its north (as the crow flies) Hohenstein Lodge provides its own special brand of magic on the foothills of the Erongo mountains.


Desert Homestead Lodge is situated on a stunning private nature reserve neighbouring the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Namib Sand Sea. The Namib Tsaris Nature Reserve currently covers 120 000 ha and apart from housing the lodge, is a way in which Ondili commits itself to the conservation of the area and the restoration of the biome.

The 20 thatched guest cottages channel the rustic cosiness of an equestrian farm overlooking a stunning grassy plain. Guests can indulge themselves in the panoramic views, crystal clear pool and excellent cuisine while planning the next day’s activities.

When staying at Desert Homestead, the sleep-out ride is an absolute must. There is a special intimacy about exploring a small but incredibly picturesque section of the Namib, the oldest desert in the world, from the back of a horse. Flowing with the rhythm of the sturdy animal beneath and watching the sun change into a scarlet ball as it dips into the dusty haze just above the horizon is really the only way to appreciate this arid Eden.

It is easy to get lost in one’s own thoughts, but for the experienced guide sharing interesting details about the fauna and flora that have adapted to thrive in this environment. It makes for a pleasant alternative to view wildlife such as gemsbok, springbok, some jackals and even a lone giraffe from the silence of your mount rather than from the back of a noisy game viewer. Somehow one feels more connected to nature. A more honest experience, in a way.

Arrival at the camp is just in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the red dunes of the Sossusvlei area. A moment to appreciate the extraordinary setting and reflect on the afternoon’s journey. The tented camp is a simple yet luxurious delight in the desert. Fine bush cuisine and a glass of red wine under a bright starry sky complete an unforgettable day.

Located only 30 km south-east of Sesriem, Desert Homestead is also the perfect base from which to explore Sossusvlei and its natural wonders, or go for an unforgettable balloon ride over the Namib.


Desert plains give way to the undulating foothills of Hohenstein.

Hohenstein is the highest peak on the western edge of the Erongo mountains, towering 2 319 m above sea level, with its granite slopes and pure size demanding the attention of all travellers driving past on the D1935 road. Named after this prominent peak and situated on its foothills, Ondili’s Hohenstein Lodge is the perfect base from which to explore the surroundings or just sit in awe of this imposing feature.

Hohenstein Lodge has created a space that allows guests to spend time according to individual preferences. Various hiking trails of different lengths allow the adventurous to explore the interesting landscape and the slopes of the mountain. Those who prefer a more relaxing, restful visit can spot game drinking at the waterhole in front of the lodge, go birding in the nearby hide or read a book next to the pool.

Hiking one of the trails that meander over small hills, through dry riverbeds and onto the slopes of the mountain is the best way to discover what the area has to offer. Guests can do it at their own pace according to their own fitness level.

For a more comprehensive experience, the Erongo Nature Excursion provides an intimate guided hiking tour. After a quick 20-minute drive, guests disembark at the starting point of the hike from where the experienced guide will lead them through the most interesting landscapes of the property. Thanks to an in-depth knowledge of the environment, the guide shares interesting stories and uses of the trees and will point out and teach you more about the wildlife and other living things. The spectacular rock formations found along the way, geological highlights of the Erongo mountains and the types of minerals mined here will also be explained during the excursion.

After a long day, a relaxing sundowner drive is the perfect way to wind down. Watch the colours of the scenery change to soft, inviting hues of amber, crimson and turquoise as the sun nears the horizon. Make sure to stop in time to watch the sun set behind Spitzkoppe in the west while enjoying a gin and tonic. This is without a doubt the most beautiful time of the day.

Hohenstein Lodge takes full advantage of the picturesque mountain view. With all rooms and the main building facing the mountain, there is ample opportunity for a morning view with a coffee, or for a sundowner spectacle sitting by the fire at the boma. Each of the spacious rooms offers a private shady terrace from where the scenery can be enjoyed. TNN


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