Kalahari sunsets stir a kind of magic, as if the red dunes radiate above the horizon and set alight the sky in a spectrum of warm hues.
Text Charene Labuschagne | Photographs Le Roux van Schalkwyk
From the Spring 2023 issue
Few of our foreign visitors know that Namibia boasts not one, but two deserts within her borders. The unsung sister of the Namib Desert is the Kalahari, and they could not be more contrasting. Perhaps the only things they have in common are dunes and camelthorn trees, but the Kalahari deserves a rightful place on any traveller’s list for one overarching reason – its soul.
A few kilometres south of the small town of Kalkrand lies Ondili’s Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge. Back in 2008, this property was a productive sheep farm, like so many in its surroundings. While farming in any desert landscape is not for the faint of heart, the Kalahari gets its share of rainfall in the summer seasons, making for fields of golden grass and yellow blossoms dotting the camelthorn treetops. Since acquiring the property, Ondili has redefined the land use, establishing a classic safari lodge in a low-lying depression lined by the red dunes so synonymous with the Kalahari. They have since rewilded the area, reintroducing the plains game that play their part during spectacular nature drives. Yet the soul of a farmyard still hangs in the air, and is punctuated by subtle design elements.
Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge features 11 chalets, one family unit and one superior suite. Each of the suites features a completely unique layout and design, so being assigned a room is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get, but you can bet it’ll be lovely. Velvet sofas, botanical paintings, thoughtful light fixtures and luxurious rugs are just a few of the elements guests can expect. Furthermore, the rounded walls, thatched roofs and expansive outdoor lounging areas make for a distinctly homely feeling associated with organic features.
For those feeling lavish, or travelling with company, the family and superior suites feature picturesque teardrop-shaped pools, amongst other luxury amenities. The layout of these suites prioritises lounging, with extensive sofas and daybeds in close proximity to the mini bar and coffee station.
When the sun sets, a golden glow transforms the shrubbery and grass blades into an impressionist painting. Kalahari sunsets stir a kind of magic, as if the red dunes radiate above the horizon and set alight the sky in a spectrum of warm hues. Peering between the classic camelthorn trees, as the sun dips and a springbok grazes, you cannot help but replay in your head the sounds of “Africa” by Toto.
The main area of Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge is where guests dine, relax by the fireside or take a dip in the swimming pool. The expansive thatched area overlooks a nearby waterhole, and just a little further, a classic red Kalahari dune. Central to this cosy space is a 360-degree bar fashioned from corrugated iron, a stone mosaic countertop and a nostalgic sheep enclosure gate. From here a wide selection of Namibian and other spirits can be ordered, the best of which is a Stillhouse Atlantic gin.
A sunken seating area beckons to be savoured with a good book, with a windowsill reading nook and fireplace nearby. Perhaps the magnum opus of the main area is the cigar and whisky lounge, oozing old-school charm with luxurious occasional chairs and a chess table.
Kalahari Red Dunes Lodge mirrors the soulful landscape of the desert outside, with thoughtful farm-style touches and elevated luxury. Many hiking trails allow visitors to explore the area on foot and after a nature drive, sunset on a red dune with a Namibian gin is enough to restore the soul.
Visit the website for more information: www.ondili.com