Natural Selection has officially opened their first properties in Namibia. Both opened in June 2018, Shipwreck Lodge and Hoanib Valley Camp are situated in the rugged and remote northwest region of the country. Combining the two camps offers safari goers an in-depth experience in one of the most startling landscapes on the continent, far from the normal tourist track.
Designed to resemble the shipwrecks that line Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, the brand-new Shipwreck Lodge is one of the most dramatic and architecturally interesting lodges on the continent. Shipwreck Lodge is a joint venture with Natural Selection and local Namibian companies Trip Travel and Journeys Namibia and the local communities that border the park.
Located in an unrivalled spot in the Skeleton Coast Central Concession Area, the lodge is situated in the Skeleton Coast National Park, a hauntingly beautiful place where towering sand dunes and wind-swept plains roll as far as the eye can see, punctuated only by bleached whale, seal bones and the remnants of over a thousand ships. Shipwreck Lodge is the only luxury accommodation within the area.
The lodge is a sumptuous retreat from which to shelter from the elements, and wood-burning stoves, thick, fake fur blankets and hot water bottles keep out the Atlantic chill. Completely different from any other lodge on the continent, the interiors are a respite from the harsh environment and are soulful, calming and extremely comfortable. Shades of blue, burgundy, black and white represent the ever-changing moods of the Atlantic Ocean, while the use of recycled wood, rope, linen and cotton in the bedrooms is authentic yet soothing. Designed by a Namibian team, architect Nina Maritz and interior designer Melanie van der Merwe, the property was built with the utmost respect for the environment and the cabin-style bedrooms were built using only wooden nails. Each of the rooms are ensuite, solar-powered and contain a wood burning stove to ward off the morning chill.
At the center of the camp is an innovatively designed lounge and restaurant with a wraparound deck offering uninterrupted views across the sand to the Atlantic Ocean. The artwork dotted around the area is original, created exclusively for the lodge by local Namibian artists.
There’s more to the area than simple isolation, in fact it is an irreplaceable and vulnerable wildlife habitat for species of the highest conservation importance. Wildlife includes desert elephant, desert giraffe and the Hartmann’s mountain zebra. Importantly, it also hosts the only other viable lion population in Namibia outside of Etosha National Park.
Activities at Shipwreck Lodge are focused around the wild and beautiful landscape. A stay at the property includes game drives amongst the desert and flora for wildlife sightings. Guests will also have the opportunity to discover the diversity of the desert adapted plants and insects that flourish in the sand, surviving from the moisture of the cold fog that drifts inland from the ocean. Also offered are 4×4 excursions to the geographically remarkable Clay Castles and visits to the mysterious Suiderkus and Karimona shipwreck remnants, the Hoanib River Delta and the Mowe Bay seal colony. Unique experiences include climbing dunes to watch sunrise, enjoying al-fresco lunch in the shadow of Clay Castles, and spending an afternoon fishing for dinner. Guests complete their days full of exploring with expeditions to the spectacular dune fields for sundowners.
Further up the country and east of Shipwreck Lodge, in the remote and wild Kaokoland, is Hoanib Valley Camp. The two camps may be combined with a spectacular full day scenic drive through riverbeds that teem with game, over sand dunes and across wide gravel plains. An equally spectacular option is to combine both camps with a short scenic flight for a chance to view the incredible scenery from the air.
Towering granite mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to Hoanib Valley Camp. Just six canvas tents are raised on decks and all have views of the Hoanib River delta in the distance. Designed by Cate Simpson of Reflecting Africa, best known for her work on North Island in the Seychelles, the camp is understated and beautifully subtle: the earthy color palette is inspired by the landscape and bespoke cushions and furniture are unique and sophisticated.
Days at Hoanib Valley Camp are spent exploring the dramatic landscape. The wildlife is perfectly at home in the arid environment and learning about their survival techniques is fascinating. Game drives will encounter herds of desert-adapted elephant, giraffe and desert lion existing alongside solitary oryx, springbok and wily jackal.
Guests at Hoanib Valley Camp also have the opportunity to contribute to the important giraffe research, which takes place in the area. Trained by the camp’s partners, Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), all guides at Hoanib Valley are giraffe experts. Guests get hands-on and capture photographs of the giraffe they encounter, then identify each and submit their images for data mapping – all essential work in monitoring the local population of a species, which is now listed as ‘’vulnerable.’
Rates at Hoanib Valley Camp start at N$8,000 per person per night and at Shipwreck Lodge at N$10,200 per person per night. These rates include full board accommodation, all meals, house drinks and all activities.