An “Out of This World” Must Do Experience is The &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia, Africa

guest-area-longue-overlooking-namib-desertThis Grandma read that within the first three years of retirement, Boomers travel all the time.  We all think we are unique, but we discover all of us are the same.  Grandpa and I have gone to Paris, San Francisco, Arizona with the family, Cuba and now Africa in 2017.  We still have one trip planned before the end of the year!

Here is more of our perfect Africa experience.

Several persons we met in our previous world travel told us that The &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia was their favorite place in Africa, which is why Grandpa and I booked the Abercrombie & Kent safari extension to the Namib Desert in Namibia. Our Abercrombie & Kent escort on animal safari told us it is one of the three “must dos” in Africa, not for animals, but for “out of this world” outrageous landscapes that look like the surface of Mars, for the highest red sand dunes in the world, and for the best night skies in the Southern Hemisphere. I agree with the above, but they and he left out its beautiful lodge and luxurious villa accommodations, spectacular and too plentiful food and drink, and friendly and great service.

We booked our stay and flights through Abercrombie & Kent who made everything seamless.  Namibia is a country in southwest Africa, distinguished by the Namib Desert along its Atlantic Ocean coast, once part of South Africa and now is adjacent to it.  We arrived at the Lodge from the Namibian capital, Windhoek, via small but modern Scenic Air single engine plane with six other passengers.  Our pilot, Tonya, has been flying since a child, taught by her pilot father.  The landscape during the a little over one hour flight changed to more and more interesting, and when most interesting, we landed on a tiny gravel landing strip seeing the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge against a canyon wall.  It was a very smooth flight.  The return flight was on a smaller plane and slightly bumpy as we got close to the mountains around Windhoek.

The location of the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is breathtaking. You are in the oldest desert in the world, visible land that we read was 180 million years old.  There was a geologist visiting who told us he saw limestone layers behind the lodge that dated back and contained signs of the earliest life on earth just after the magma hardened, that the black mountain near the lodge was newer at 1.2 billion years old, and another nearby granite mountain was 600 million years old!

Our guide, George, took us alone, or at the most, once with another couple and their fourteen year old son, on excursions to experience the Namibian desert (there is one guide for two villas, generally four persons).  We took a nature walk, about 45 minutes each way, to a cave like overhang where there were bushman paintings.  Two thirds is a relatively easy hike, but the last third is pure uphill rocky terrain.  The couple and their son went up with George and it was safe for my husband and me to hike back alone.  It is worth going, even if you do not do the climb.

It was too windy for balloon flights, but we did go on the morning excursion to the world heritage site, Namib Red Sea Sand National Park.  These are the largest red sand dunes in the world, and even amazing through sand storms while we were there.  We got to climb just a short distance of Dune 45, saw Big Daddy, but did not get to hike to Dead Vlei because of the wildly blowing sand on the day we were there.

Grandpa did the ATV drive in the Namib Rand Nature Reserve and loved the exhilaration of speeding along the top and sides of beautiful red sand dunes.  We both enjoyed the drive to the top of those dunes and having a sundowner as the sun changed the landscape minute by minute as it set. My favorite, though, was the bumpy and steep (not too bumpy or too steep) excursion to the top of the petrified sand dunes, only available to &Beyond guests on the Reserve, where, at a sundowner, we had a 360 degree vista of changing scenery as the sun was setting.  Some rock formations seemed to create a rock rainbow. On this excursion we saw two zebra and aardwolves, who eat termites, not animals.

After two days of enjoying the changing landscape as the sun hit different areas, I googled “photos of surface of Mars,” and my husband and I were open mouthed as we were experiencing those landscapes.  I showed the pictures I had copied off the internet to Paolo, the lodge manager, who really thought we had taken them on our excursions in the Reserve! I then went on a mission to attempt to duplicate them, and other than sparse grasses here and not on Mars, we nearly did.

You do not come here for an animal safari. Because &Beyond is so clever and places water holes near the lodge, you get to see impala, oryx, springbok, and ostrich. On drives we saw more of them and jackals, wildebeest, zebra, aardwolves, many varieties of birds, and saw beautiful large beetles, and, fortunately for me, only interesting tracks of a snake, which George said was harmless, but not the snake.  There were insects, but not many in July, winter, and we did not see mosquitoes. George explained all the trees and grasses and how they are used by the people and the animals and how everyone survives in the oldest desert on earth.

All of Namibia is a light free zone, the only such country in the world, to preserve the view of the best skies in the Southern Hemisphere.  The Namib Rand Nature Reserve, one of Africaʼs largest private nature reserves, where you enjoy the &Beyond Desert Lodge, lies in one of the naturally darkest (yet accessible) places on Earth. It was established to help protect and conserve the unique ecology and wildlife of the southwest Namib Desert, and its mission now includes preservation of the area’s brightly starlit night skies. Paul, resident astronomer, at the Observatory on property, outstandingly explained everything we were seeing, with his laser, binoculars, and a great huge telescope in which we could clearly see billions of clusters of stars, Saturn and its rings, Jupiter, and the Milky Way and more.  We saw shooting stars and meteors.  The night sky is brilliant, and especially from the skylight Emilia, our housekeeper, opened over our bed. It is safe to walk without accompaniment at night.

At &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namib-Naukluft Park, Namibia, there are ten individual villas, separate buildings.  Take a look at the pictures of the Lodge on the website. From previous TripAdvisor reviews, we chose villa 7 and it was perfect.  The road to the lodge goes past villas one to five. Our villa was set apart from the other nine villas, each a private distance from the other, rustic modern chic, with living room area and bedroom a few steps up.  There is a fireplace that you can see from the living and bedroom area, which fire we enjoyed before bed, and watching the stars through the skylight above the bed. The bathroom is large, marble and granite, with thick plush towels, and everywhere you have the beautiful view. The villa is serviced several times a day, it seemed like every time you leave, perfectly done by Emilia, the housekeeper.  There are three outside areas, one with an outside shower, one with a table and chairs, where we enjoyed lunch delivered to our room.  Another has lounges overlooking the landscape.  There is free time to enjoy the villa, and we took advantage of the services of the outstanding masseuse, Charlotte, trying the Healing Earth African Shea Butter Ritual for 75 minutes of bliss, in room deep tissue massage and treatment.

Children are welcome, but only three persons per lodge (they bring in a single bed for the child).  If you have two children you must have two villas.  There were three children at the Lodge when we were there, all teenagers.  This Grandma thinks age 13 is the youngest to bring a child to the Lodge.

There is intermittent internet service, less rather than more, and no email or texts came in or went out.  Expect to be and enjoy the isolation and ancient natural surroundings.

It is amazing that in this remote location on earth, you will find gourmet food and exquisite presentation.   We complimented the wine at dinner the first night, and there was a new bottle in our room every day thereafter. Our butler, Hanzana, was in training and did an outstanding job in spoiling us.  Service under the guidance of Maretha, is excellent.  The servings are large, and here you can sample eland, zebra and springbok, as well as duck, pork belly and fish, salmon and linefish, white and delicious.  The menu is varied.  The desserts are too appetizing and delicious to turn down.  Expect to gain weight during your stay.

Three days is perfect to experience this unique place.  Just before we were leaving, two new guests just arrived.  They immediately exclaimed, “It is as if we just landed on Mars.”  Makes you wonder if the landing on Mars really took place in the area around the &Beyond Lodge.

If you can secure a reservation as the Lodge is so small, it is an “out of this world” and “&Beyond” must see experience.  You too will be examining each vista and bringing home pictures that sincerely look like Mars and remember the starriest of skies in the Southern Hemisphere.

Now that we have had two of the three most amazing African safari experiences, we are planning for the third, an East African migration safari to Kenya and Tanzania, to where our Abercrombie & Kent escort recommended: Masi Mara, Serengeti, and Ngoro Ngoro Crater. Especially after just hearing of the woman killed by a hippo during a migration safari, yes, we will challenge Abercrombie & Kent to again book us into luxurious and safe safari accommodations.

 

Joy,

Mema

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