!Uris Safari Lodge – On the diggers’ trailSeptember 3, 2012
Conservation News PostSeptember 5, 2012
Text and photos by ©Sharri Whiting De Masi – All photographs copyright of the author
Re-printed with permission of the author
The Southern Cross shines so brightly in Namibia’s southern skies that visitors hardly need a torch to walk from the luxury chalets at Vogelstrausskluft to dinner in the well-appointed main lodge. Located just 25 kilometres south of the Keetmanshoop-Lüderitz road, this is an ideal stopover on a southern itinerary.
Formerly three karakul and goat farms that were unsustainable for agriculture due to insufficient water, Vogelstrausskluft was put together in 2001 by private investors who wished to return the land to its natural semi-desert state. Since then, fences dividing the properties have been removed and game introduced. Today the preserve is populated by kudu, gemsbok, springbok, klipspringer, zebra, baboon and ostrich. The lodge opened in September 2005.
The wow factor
Why go south? Vogelstrausskluft Lodge alone would be worth the trip, even without the access it provides to the west side of the Fish River escarpment. The setting is 26 000 thousand hectares of unspoiled grassy plateau, river valley and plains – plenty of room for hiking, quad-biking, game watching and scenic drives. But the wow factor, the big payoff, is when a 4×4 vehicle crests that last hill and suddenly the Fish River Canyon sprawls in front of you across the horizon, glowing in the late afternoon light. This may be the ultimate definition of the sundowner.
The area between the Fish River Canyon rim and the canyon itself consists of small hills and side canyons well worthy of exploration. In fact, in these canyon plains there are desolate parts of the original farms that haven’t been visited for decades, presenting a challenge to intrepid hikers and quad-bikers. The preserve hugs the edge of the canyon, which at its closest point is 19 kilometres from the main lodge.
The skies above Vogelstrausskluft allow stargazing at a level that attracts both casual and serious astronomers. Southern Namibia’s location astride the Tropic of Capricorn is ideally situated for observing the stars and constellations of the southern hemisphere. Vogelstrausskluft has virtually no light pollution at night – the Milky Way, invisible in more populated regions of the world, blazes across the heavens here.
The Vogelstrausskluft Lodge lies hidden behind a hill, creating a secluded atmosphere undisturbed by modern civilisation. Guests leave their cars in covered parking behind the old farmhouse and are transported to the site by 4×4 lodge vehicles. There is an airstrip on the dry pan, provided the rainy season hasn’t turned it into a lake. If so, transfers from the airport at Keetmanshoop, less than an hour away, will be arranged.
The stone lodge building, built with top-quality Namibian materials in natural colours and textures, was designed simply to blend into the landscape. A spectacular thick, wooden slab serves as the bar. Comfortable leather sofas and chairs offer relaxation at one end of the spacious building; at the other is the dining room, with a loft above for reading or conversation. On the grand terrace, overlooking the broad grassy riverbed, game watchers may sit at comfortable tables or cool off in the infinity pool, which seems to spill out over the savannah.
There are twenty-four air-conditioned en-suite rooms in a series of thatched chalets, including one for a family. Each twin-bedded room has an unobstructed view of the vast landscape from a private veranda. Furnishings create an ambience of uncomplicated elegance, with fine textiles and stonework.
Plenty to do
Vogelstrausskluft Lodge is well equipped for small conferences and meetings, which draw participants from all over Namibia and South Africa. With the imposing reception area overlooking the landscape, it is a romantic spot for grand weddings and celebrations. The menu in the restaurant is varied and the service is good, with a good selection of wines and other beverages.
Day trips from the lodge can include visits to Keetmanshoop, Giant’s Playground and Kokerboom Forest; Lüderitz, Kolmanshop, the Wild Horses at Aus, Duwisib Castle, the hot springs at Ai-Ais, and, of course, both sides of the Fish River Canyon.
This article appeared in the May/June ‘06 edition of Travel News Namibia.