Friday, January 1, 2016

Namibia: Little Kulala Lodge

Trip Overview Post

The main attractions in the southwestern part of Namibia are piles of sand. We were spending two nights at Little Kulala Lodge so we could be near some of the world's tallest (and oldest) sand dunes. We were in the Namib Desert, an area defined in Wikipedia as: "a coastal desert in southern Africa. The name Namib is of Nama origin and means "vast place". The Namib stretches for more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) along the Atlantic coasts of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa." The Namib is 120-280 miles wide.

We flew in on a tiny plane and our landing strip was mostly gravel and the surrounding area was dotted by random trees and some small bumps of mountains around the way. Our first impression was "look at all this nothing". But later on, the nothing actually became something. It was big and it was quiet. On the drive to camp we did get to see some springbok, oryx, and ostrich: the only game in the area.

Little Kulala from the air
We received a warm welcome at the lodge and were given an orientation. We knew this would be one of the nicer lodges of the trip, but we weren't prepared for all the features this camp provided. Our stand-alone unit was not the traditional canvas tent walls like other camps we've stay at. Kulala's 10 units were brick-and-mortar which meant we had air conditioning. This area definitely needed it since it was hot like an African desert. Another surprise was the wi-fi access in our unit. Definitely not expected. We used it sparingly to post a few pictures and let folks know we made it to our destination. Other nice amenities included a plunge pool, rooftop deck with sky bed for star gazing, and an outdoor shower. We were spoiled with a stocked refrigerator of water, sodas, beer, and liquors (camps are typically on an all-inclusive plan so no further charges for these items, or any other food/drink from the main bar except for premium wines).

Staff makes up the bed at night for star-gazing
Main dining area, lounge, and bar.
Camp library with games, books, and lots of seating.
The outer deck of the camp's main area had a great view of sand, trees, and mountains.  There was a watering hole near the outdoor deck that brought a parade of thirsty animals. 

We enjoyed watching the way ostriches drank water.
Someone actually wanted to take a nature walk to that mountain. It was really hot when they started and we thought they were nuts.
Eddie was our assigned guide. Each guide handles guests from 1-3 units depending on schedule of arrival and departures. We were the only guests doing an activity with Eddie our first night because the other guest was tired from a long day of travel. We had our choice of riding ATVs or taking a scenic drive. We chose the scenic drive because we expected to ride ATVs later in the trip. Eddie took us to a small mountain with a little cave a bit of a ways up the slope. Along the way we stopped to take a look at some plants and trees and saw an incredible sociable weavers nest. Sociable weavers are little birds that build their nests together into one big bird condo. Eventually these get so large that they take down trees.

Eddie said this was a 2 million year old painting.  Looked too good to us to be from a caveman.
On our way back to camp we stopped for our favorite African tradition: Sundowners! Eddie chose a great location for us to stop the truck and enjoy watching the sunset behind a mountain with some cocktails.

We finished our day with a great meal back at camp (meals in camps cater to European tastes and main entrees are typically fish, beef, chicken, lamb, and local game meat) and some time at the bar talking to the staff. It's great to hear about how they live and what brings them to work in such places of isolation. Most of them work three months straight, then have a full month off.

Our great first day had to eventually come to an end since we had a 5:30 wake-up call the next morning for our visit to the dunes.

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