Namibia is a huge land of contrasts. The west coast is Namibias’ only coast, and the Namib Naukluft National Park is essentially to protect the Namib Desert and its unique denizens!
AndBeyond run a unique 5 star lodge on a private concession on the foothills of the Etendeka Mountains, with stark rock escarpments at the east and rust and pink sand dunes on the western edge.
The lodge is sited on the foothill slopes, with all the bedroom units in a semi-circle facing down across the endless gravel plains with the dunes in the far distance. The main lodge is open, simple and spacious ensuring a smooth air flow at all times through the lounge and dining area. A small gift shop is always open with select local curios and items of interest for sale. The lounge inside is generously furnished with comfortable chairs and settees, and adjoining dining area set out with separate tables and chairs. All of this ensemble faces out across the valley to a distant waterhole which attracts herds of oryx, springbuck and ostrich, with clouds of sandgrouse in the midmorning too!
The sturdy thick-walled cabins are accessed via the paved pathway from the lodge. 10 cabins including a couple of family units are located away from the lodge, cast in a wide semi-circle.
Each has a large queen sized bed, dressing table, settee and lounge area, fully carpeted and air-conditioned too. The en suite bathrooms are spacious, with a shower, vanities and outside shower as well. These are glass walled, but a screening wall ensures complete privacy for guests.
The main dunes are the biggest attraction here, and they are an hours drive away along the main road to the park entrance.
The road leads down between the dunes, along the Tsauchab river valley ending up eventually at Sossusvlei itself. Here the main dunes dominate the horizons and ‘Big Daddy’, the tallest dune available to the public stands at 338m/1151feet high! Early in the morning is the best time to climb a dune here, and it is a mile walk to the base, before starting the long haul up.
Walks can be done through the plains in the cooler parts of the morning and this will uncover an interesting array of creatures, plants and rocks from an era past. Quad bikes also do a trip through hills and plains to the soft rust-red sand dunes normally where sundowners are taken and the light changes by the minute at the days end.
Oryx, springbuck, ostrich and Black backed jackal are about the only animals commonly seen, but if one is patient phenomenal images present themselves in the early morning with the light on the dunes, and especially if animals are on the dunes as well!
Ballooning is another way to see the scale of this dune field, the oldest desert in the world. The early morning light strengthens by the minute, outlining the curvature of the earth above the endless sand sea, and the dunes gradually come to life, like supine sand dragons in the sunlight.
There is no other destination like this in sub-Saharan Africa!