Pure luxury, inspired by nature
by Ginger Mauney
Within the breathtaking spectacle of the Sossusvlei environment in the Namib Desert, surrounded by the highest sand dunes in the world, is a stark white pan known as Dead Vlei.
Skeletons of ancient acacia trees that are over seven hundred years old break through the cracked, white surface of the pan.
Wind-blown, gnarled and sculpted by the elements, the trees of Dead Vlei root visitors in the timeless nature of the desert, while the drama and beauty of the area provide sublime inspiration.
The feeling of space, beauty and texture found at Dead Vlei was also the inspiration for a remarkable lodge: one that has taken the complex simplicity of Dead Vlei and successfully integrated it into the architecture and interiors of Little Kulala (Wilderness Safaris), a sensual, sensible and extremely desirable place to be.
Located on Wilderness Safari’s private 21 000-hectare Kulala Wilderness Reserve south of Sesriem Canyon on the border of the Namib-Naukluft Park, Little Kulala provides magnificent views of dune scenery to the west and the Namib’s rugged mountainous escarpment to the north and east. In this striking setting, the lodge is ideally placed.
Even from a distance, Little Kulala radiates a feel of cool organic nature. As if rising out of the earth, the sand-coloured buildings – a main lounge and dining area, and eleven villas – are crowded with pitched, thatched roofs that resemble giant termite mounds. When entering the lodge, the cool colours of Dead Vlei take on an entirely new dimension. Once inside you are immediately struck by the intriguing combination of serenity and whimsy. It is a place where the Stone Age meets the future in an astonishing visual and tactile feast.
An all-natural experience
White on cream with splashes of green, rough on smooth, shiny on matt, the interiors at Little Kulala were designed to ensure guests an all-natural and unique experience. Giant grey boulders that appear solid from a distance are, in fact, made artificially and are used as coffee tables. Long strands of tiny shells add depth to textured walls.
The floors are bleached white like surface of the Dead Vlei, while the walls were painted using a traditional method of blending sand and pigment for texture and a natural effect.
Bleached white decking extends outside, surrounding the main building and providing space for lounging, alfresco dining and a thick, shaded area for relaxing by the pool. Throughout the lodge, the colours, fabrics and furniture were selected with great care, using only pure linens, cottons, felt and mohair hand dyed with natural vegetable dyes.
Natural designs and materials
Maintaining harmony with nature, the lodge has also made extensive use of designs crafted by African artists, using recycled materials whenever possible. The sandstone basins in the guest bathrooms were carved by hand.
Glasses were hand blown using recycled glass, and recycled plastic was used for the dining-room and lounge chairs. Wood from invasive plants was not only cleared from the environment but then crafted into sleek surfaces and used for tables, bars and other furniture in the lodge.
Flanking the main building are eleven stylish villas, including one family unit. Each villa has the basic amenities you would expect from a premier resort – coffee and tea-making facilities, a mini-bar, spacious lounge area and a luxuriously appointed bathroom. But Little Kulala has features you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a resort, especially one found in the desert.
The villas are climate controlled inside, while outside there is an additional shower, plus a broad deck leading out from the bedroom with its own undercover dining area and private splash pool that remains cool, even during the hottest days. Possibly the most luxurious and natural feature of the villas is the rooftop ‘skybed’ that provides dome-like views for gazing at the stars of the southern hemisphere.
Plenty to do
During the day, guests at Little Kulala can take advantage of various activities while enjoying the magnitude, solitude and tranquillity of the oldest desert in the world. As the only reserve in the area with direct access to Sossusvlei, guests may attempt to climb Big Mama, one of the highest sand dunes in the world, and visit Dead Vlei for further inspiration.
Guided 4×4 excursions are offered in the Namib-Naukluft Park, of which its initial component, the Namib Desert Park, was proclaimed a hundred years ago. Hot-air ballooning is offered on request, as well as guided nature drives and early morning walks on the Kulala Wilderness Reserve.
The meals at Little Kulala are delicious without being pretentious. Wholesome breakfasts, refreshing lunches and three-course dinners are served on the deck where guests enjoy views of the dunes and mountains beyond.
A small waterhole, frequented by flocks of sandgrouse, springbok and ost–rich, is also within viewing distance of the deck. Inside, a wine cellar, dug into the cool earth, is stocked with vintage wines.
With inspiration from the past added to the spectacular surroundings, Little Kulala is a stylishly, naturally beautiful lodge, the ideal place to relax and from where to explore the wonders of the Namib Desert.
Contact Wilderness Air for flights.
This article appeared in the Feb/March ‘07 edition of Travel News Namibia.
Additional photos: http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/country/namibia/introduction/