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Experience Kaokoland with Natural Selection’s Hoanib Valley Camp.
Text and Photographs: Elzanne Erasmus
The sun’s rays gleam and edge along the rim of the mountain to the east. I was sitting on the edge of a rock atop a small hill just behind the lodge in this desolate valley to which we had retreated. The golden hues of early morning light slowly crept across the landscape, not unlike water rising steadily. The grass, still tall after a spell of much-needed rainfall earlier this year, is set alight by the gentle caress of light as the dawn rises. The crown of seeds on each fragile stem diffusing the shine into every direction. A kaleidoscope of dancing beams creating one of the softest scenes I have ever experienced. Ironic when you take into account where I was. A harsh, hard and desolate desert landscape, transformed in the golden glow of morning.
East of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast National Park, a 2-hour drive from the north-western settlement of Sesfontein on the bank of the ephemeral Hoanib River, a new lodge is nestled amongst the enigmatic geological wonderland characteristic of the region. Two hundred meters or so from one of Namibia’s famed rivers, where desert-adapted species of wildlife such as elephant, giraffe and lion roam, Natural Selection has recently opened the doors, or should we rather say tent faps, of the latest product in their ever-growing tourism portfolio: Hoanib Valley Camp.
Flanked by rugged mountainscapes to the west, north and east, the tented lodge overlooks a stunningly beautiful stretch of the Hoanib Valley and the river that lies to the south. With its towering Ana trees and host to wildlife brave enough to take on the often extreme climate of Namibia’s Kaokoland, this destination should surely be on every nature lover’s and explorer’s itinerary.
Giraffe have made their home here in this valley of solitude as is evident not only by their presence in the river but even by the footprints they have left behind in stretches of desert sand and rocky plains to the north of the river. Both young and old enjoy the freedom and luxury of the wild haven they have been afforded within the oasis that is the Hoanib River. An abundance of food and the existence of numerous natural springs mean that survival is possible for all the gentle giants of the Hoanib Valley, giraffe and elephant alike. Natural predators are prevalent, however, as desert lion and a healthy population of brown hyena also call the region home, though the latter is a scavenger and not likely to prey on the strong and healthy.
Beautifully appointed suites and a main lodge area that beckons you to come in and immediately makes you feel right at home. Hoanib Valley Camp is a highly recommended luxury retreat for those looking to escape the norm of what an African safari is expected to be and experience the magic of what a truly other-worldly, authentic and special destination such as the Hoanib Valley has to offer. Here, you won’t find the crowds and the rush of a popular national park, waiting in what seems like a queue to get your chance to snap a picture. No, here you’ll find solitude and silence and undisturbed beauty, yours to soak up and enjoy.
On a nature drive down the river, it feels as though we have traversed a multitude of biomes. From the harsh and rugged mountains in which the lodge is ensconced to the lush greenery of the dry riverbed down which we travel we arrive at a stark valley on the northern bank of the river, not far from the boundary to Skeleton Coast National Park. The views astound and once again we are in awe of the arresting way the light catches each texture and contour of the landscape before us. This time the afternoon light is the artist putting on a spectacular show as it ignites the rugged terrain and makes what was once rough and hard and harsh seem as though it was a delicately painted watercolour awash with the golden glow and softness of perfect light. The shadows dance as they move across the landscape to the rhythm of the sun’s retreat.
During our farewell drive upriver towards Sesfontein, a lioness crosses the riverbed in front of us, slinking along the early morning shadows. And as the sun once again rises and captures the mountain visages to the north and south of our river route, we bid farewell to the magnificent wilderness and the golden light that envelopes this special valley in Namibia.
WHO WHAT WHERE HOW
Natural Selection is a recently established safari company, whose owners have been in the tourism game for many years. Hoanib Valley Camp is the first newly-built establishment within their Namibian portfolio. Others include Safarihoek and Etosha Mountain Lodge in the Etosha Heights Private Reserve, which they manage, and Shipwreck Lodge in the Skeleton Coast National Park, which they co-own with Trip Travel and Journeys Namibia. Nkasa Linyanti Camp inside Nkasa Rupara National Park in Namibia’s Zambezi Region is also scheduled to open soon.
To book your stay at Hoanib Valley Camp or for more information on Natural Selection’s portfolio of safari experiences, visit: www.naturalselection.travel