HELLO + WELCOME as we drive from Sydney to London via Africa. Right now we are hitting our 39,000th kilometre of the expedition.
This latest story comes live from a rocky track in Damaraland, Namibia.
“I didn’t think places like this still existed in Africa”, I said to Gareth as I looked out from the jeep and locked eyes with a wild desert rhino making her way past us. No fences in sight. No park boundaries. Just pure, pristine, wilderness.
But I’m jumping ahead; let’s start at the beginning. We were invited by Wilderness Safaris to head towards Damaraland in the central-north of Namibia where only gravel roads lead.
ARRIVING AT DAMARALAND CAMP
Most visitors fly in. Us? Well,we drove in and it was like rolling back in time. The Damara people live in huts – crafted from wood plastered in dried cow dung. Off to the side of the in-roads sit petrified forests that date back 280-million years.
Our destination was Damaraland Camp - a luxury lodge with just ten huts based in the middle of the desert.
After travelling across a rocky track for an hour arriving at the camp felt like finding an oasis in the desert. Staff waited for us with cool towels and within the first half hour of arriving I think we had been welcomed by every staff member and had shaken all of their hands. Talk about a head spin
^ The oasis, that is Damaraland Camp
^ Our thatched hut (Suite #9 for those planning a trip)
TRACKING DESERT RHINO
The main reason we traveled to Damaraland Camp was because we really wanted to see desert-adapted elephant and we had read there was a high chance of spotting them there. However once we arrived we met other guests raving about spotting desert rhino – and so our hopes soared!
When we woke for our ‘morning’ game drive the stars were still bright in the sky. We laughed as we put on a thermal ponchos, but were grateful for them as we were chilled to the bone by the fresh morning air in the open-air safari truck.
Soon enough we were bumping along a tough rocky track – thinking how grateful we were not to be putting our Troopy through the trauma! Here’s what we saw:
^ Our track through the Torra Conservancy
^ Wilderness Safaris Defender. Glad it was their rig and not ours on those tracks.
^ After hours of tracking rhino our guide declared ‘No Rhino today’… and then this beauty came out from behind a bush. Desert-adapted black rhino are smaller and have rounder and more padded feet than their savannah counterparts. To see her in the wild, without any fence boundaries, was a highlight of a lifetime.
^ Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra roam in their thousands across the desert mountains. They were so skittish it was like they had never seen a vehicle before.
^ Oh, Hi there!
^ The next morning we drove through a sandy river and spotted our first desert-adapted elephant. These guys reminded us of Borneo’s Pygmy elephants. Small and have longer legs than your everyday African elephant. Their tusks are straight and short and their feet rounded. Absolutely stunning roaming through the desert sands.
Our experience in Damaraland was about more than just the animals. We met the local communities assisted by the camp and learnt about their way of life. Wilderness Safaris have gold standard community involvement – which, to be honest, we found genuinely impressive to see in action rather than just spoken about.
But as we left the community to have sundowners we found the contrast quite stark and it left us wondering as we returned to the luxury of our lodge. Such is the contrast of any journey through Africa. Disparity becomes the norm and we are always left reeling we can only do so much.
^ We were welcomed to the local Fontein community and shown their garden which is protected by an electrified fence that keeps the elephant at bay. The fence was sponsored by the Damaraland Camp team – just one example of how they work with the surrounding communities.
^ Donkey and cart are the main method of transport around here
^ A fire smoulders all day long in the thatched roof kitchen
^ Sundowners and red earth
^ Our dedicated guide, Epi, that looked after us the entire time
^ Dinner by bonfire in a traditional Boma. Magic
^ Working off the dinner by hiking up one of the close-by mountains
We came for the chance to experience the pristine environment and exclusive experience that only Damaraland Camp could provide. But I gotta say that luxurious bed and the am-I-hallucinating pool in the desert made the whole experience absolutely incredible.
^ Our Tradition: Bed Check!
^ Earthy ensuite
^ An oasis in the middle of the desert
^ The view from our stand-alone hut
BYE FOR NOW
^ Saying goodbye to the incredible staff. The chicks thought our home on wheels was HILARIOUS!
^ The girls send us off with a song, dance and a Kangaroo hop
^ Getting it right
Traveller’s Note: Damaraland Camp is an extraordinary place. We would recommend it for a remote desert experience you won’t find anywhere else in the World. Bookmark Damarland Camp and flag Wilderness Safaris as your go-to hosts in Africa.
As always, thanks for dropping by to our corner of the web, we love having you along for the ride in spirit.
Full Disclosure: We were hosted by Wilderness Safaris at Damaraland Camp, all opinions are our own. We loved it!