Thursday, March 3, 2016

Namibia: Doro Nawas Camp and Game Drive

Other Posts: Trip Overview, Little Kulala Lodge, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei, Sesriem Canyon And Scenic Flight, Swakopmund Sandboarding, Walvis Bay Dune & Sea Tour

We left sandy Swakopmund mid-morning on a very overcast day. Our plane was going to be delayed a bit due to weather, but luckily we would be able to fly out of this airport vs. having to be driven 50km away to the alternative landing site.

Our flight to the Damaraland region of Namibia was around one hour. The terrain up here consisted of small mountains and rocky outcrops. No more seas of sand. Our camp, Doro Nawas, was near a river-bed (dry) so there was some lush foliage in the area. The Doro Nawas airstrip is the hub of the Air Wilderness system. There was a large tent that served as a sun shelter with some camp chairs and a cooler filled with beverages. Flights would bring passengers here to connect with other planes north/south to camps or back to Windhoek. Airplane sizes still ranged between 6-12 seats.

The airstrip was a very short drive from camp. This was one of the more unique camp setups we've seen: the main building of camp was up on a mound with the 16 units (concrete buildings; not tents) circling the building on lower ground. The main building roofline was jagged to mimic the nearby mountainside.

The routines at this camp was a bit different from others. Our typical Wilderness Safaris experience is an all-inclusive price for lodging, activities, food, and drink. At Doro Nawas you could opt for an a-la-carte pricing model. Many people self-drive in this area and set their own schedule. Lunch was usually quiet since self-drivers were out-and-about and we ate breakfast alone both days.

A manager gave us a tour of our room. We had a great view of some mountains from our patio. The room was large enough with a bed on wheels for sleeping outdoors, dual vanity sink, writing area, chairs, nice showers (indoor and out) and private toilet area. No A/C, wi-fi, or plunge pool.

Camp common areas were very nice. The pool overlooked the valley and was a welcome refresher after hot days in the desert. The wrap-around porch was perfect for dining and relaxing with sundowners. The firepit was surrounded by funky bean bag chairs in the courtyard. The roof of the building was an observation deck giving guests a 360 degree view of the area. One night the camp served dinner on the roof and we were placed in a more private area of the deck to help us celebrate our anniversary. It was freezing on our side of the deck and blankets were passed out.

The first of our two nights at this camp we rolled the bed onto the patio and slept outdoors. Temperatures were maybe in the 30's. As long as you were under the covers you were fine, but the condensation made all the bedding wet. We actually stayed out the whole evening, which surprised us because we are wimps about things like this. We both woke up about the same time at 2:30am and were amazed by the sky. Stars everywhere and a visible Milky Way. The next night Dave set the alarm to go outside to take his first night sky photos.

Sunsets were equally amazing.

Our first activity at Doro Nawas was an afternoon game drive. Our guide, William, took us and a newlywed couple from France a few miles from camp into the riverbed. We were pretty certain we'd be viewing elephants. We definitely saw elephants, but we lucked into a very quick glimpse of three cheetahs - very rare in this area. They quickly ran towards the hills and the terrain was too thick with brush for us to traverse.

We spent at least an hour watching a herd of 15-20 elephants, including one or two juveniles. They were slowly grazing along the dried-up riverbed while on their way to the man-made watering hole. William did spook a few of the elephants and at times we were charged. Always exciting.

Once the elephants were done with us William drove us to the top of a hill with a wonderful view across 360 degrees. We enjoyed cocktails and taking in the scenery of Damaraland, which was vastly different from our experience a few days before in the south.

Once back at camp, we enjoyed sunset from the main level porch and the rooftop deck. After dinner we grabbed some bean bags by the fire and got to listen to some of the camp staff sing a few songs. The next morning had an action-pack agenda in-store including cave carvings, a living museum, and pipe organs.

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