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AFRICAN SERENGETI

Distant Luxurious: Namibia | Luxurious Journey Advisor

Lengthy earlier than 2020 grew to become the 12 months of social distancing, Namibia was the last word vacation spot for distant luxurious. New properties are ever extra high-end, and ever extra personal. Some are grand desert hideaways for less than two friends, who share infinite desert horizons with no different people (besides maybe the devoted chef and driver, who seem solely when summoned). 

We retreated with anticipation to be the primary on the Desert Whisper, far into the Namib Desert, simply as Namibia was getting ready to open once more to worldwide vacationers. Developed by the domestically primarily based Gondwana Assortment Namibia group, which has spent greater than 20 years perfecting its 20 Namibian choices, this one is the head. 

The Whisper is sort of a romantic asteroid flung down into the far reaches of the rock hills, with the desert unspooling into infinity throughout. Outdoors it blends into nature, whereas inside it’s flooded with pure mild and holds the best-stocked bar we’ve seen outdoors New York. 

A Nineteenth-century colonial German structure within the city of Swakopmund on Namibia’s Atlantic coast. // Photograph by Sharri Whiting De Masi 

Inside this bean-shaped luxurious pod is a full kitchen, loaded with contemporary components for breakfast, lunch, aperitivo, dinner and goodies. Visitors might select to organize and serve themselves or sip a cocktail on the terrace whereas the chef makes and serves the meal. (The chef and driver are posted at reception, about three miles away). The visitor restrict at The Desert Whisper is 2 folks, with a minimal age of 13.

Past the kitchen is an open dwelling/bed room area with a number of sofas and simple chairs, a king-sized mattress behind a half wall, an enormous glass bathe enclosure, and a non-public rest room. There are books about Namibia and the remainder of the universe, a giant basket of domestically produced tub facilities, and a telescope. (Be aware: Sure, there’s air-con). The surroundings is ever altering because the solar strikes throughout the desert — spectacular sunsets are a given, together with the darkest of nights punctuated with among the finest star-gazing on this planet.

The Desert Whisper, with its distinctive rusted exterior, gives the last word in social distancing. // Photograph by Sharri Whiting De Masi 

The Gondwana Reserve right here is surrounded by nationwide parks, together with the Namib-Naukluft, the place the world’s highest pink dunes encircle the eerily empty salt pan, Sossusvlei. This Namib Sand Sea was declared a World Heritage web site in 2013. This a part of Namibia is understood for its distinctive geological formations and unbelievable dune landscapes. We’ve seen oryx (gemsbok), giraffes, antelopes, mountain zebras, ostrich, wildebeest and dozens of small desert denizens from the bottom and from a balloon.

One thought for an ideal day could possibly be to take off in a hot-air balloon over the dunes at daybreak, have breakfast in the course of the desert, take a swim in The Desert Whisper’s personal plunge pool earlier than lunch, have the chef put together lunch, take a restorative nap within the afternoon earlier than your driver picks you up for a sundowner drive by means of the huge reserve, with a cease for an aperitivo within the desert because the solar turns the grass silver. Then, again to the Desert Whisper for a spectacular sundown and dinner underneath the celebs. (Or, simply sit by the pool all day, sipping one thing chilled and studying Wilbur Smith). 

Eating at The Desert Whisper, with a view of the world’s oldest desert. // Photograph by Sharri Whiting De Masi 

About 20 miles away on the reserve is The Desert Grace. Right here, the luxurious chalets have particular person plunge swimming pools overlooking the view; there are some household rooms, a full restaurant and a bar/lounge. From the Grace, it’s doable to take particular person or guided walks or e-bike excursions, nature drives, excursions to Sossusvlei, or be a part of the creepy and very fashionable Evening Scorpion Stroll, the place UV mild reveals scorpions hiding out within the darkness. The Grace is perhaps an choice for households or {couples} touring collectively or for a vacation spot wedding ceremony group, with the bride and groom staying at The Desert Whisper. There’s a personal airstrip which serves the reserve.

This Namibian itinerary might begin or finish at Walvis Bay, the place there’s a fashionable airport with flights to the worldwide airports in Windhoek or Cape City, or, as a part of an impartial or guided driving tour. Both method, it actually should embody a cease on the outdated German city of Swakopmund on the Atlantic coast, simply half an hour from the cruise port at Walvis Bay. Based within the late Nineteenth century, it’s now an energetic and numerous neighborhood, the place Bavarian structure, open-air craft markets, inexperienced parks, seashores, eating places and boutiques mirror the a number of cultures of the nation. We love aspect journeys, comparable to to wonderful Sandwich Harbor (with Sand Waves, [email protected]), Tommy’s Little 5 tour of the dunes (www.livingdesertnamibia.com), Mola Mola’s dolphin tour of the Walvis Bay Lagoon (www.mola-namibia.com), or a drive as much as Cape Cross to see the seals and have lunch on the ocean on the Cape Cross Lodge. (Trace: Seeing hundreds of thousands of seals dwelling on one rocky outcrop is phenomenal, but it surely smells merely terrible. You’ll must masks up for this expertise).

The 1,000-mile Namibian Atlantic coast is understood for its oysters and fish. Swakopmund is filled with good seafood eating places, in addition to those who supply wild recreation and different meat. We like The Jetty and The Tug on the water, Kucki’s Pub and Gabrielle’s Pizza. A enjoyable favourite is Fork n Good, the yellow college bus up Strand Avenue on the seashore, the place the takeaway contains terrific calamari and chips. The three superb eating places on the four-star Strand Lodge overlook the Atlantic alongside the mole, the place locals prefer to swim within the chilly sea. There’s a foodie strolling tour on the town (www.swakopfoodtours.com) and the laid again Goanikontes Oasis (www.goanikontes-oasis.com) a number of miles away within the Moon Valley, a form of Luckenbach, Texas, in Africa.

The plunge pool for 2 at The Desert Whisper. // Photograph by Sharri Whiting De Masi 

From Swakopmund’s small airport it’s doable to constitution a flight to the remainder of Namibia. We prefer to e-book personal flights with Westair, which additionally has scheduled flights all around the nation and to South Africa. We recommend planning a visit to Etosha Nationwide Park, which is in regards to the dimension of Belgium and crammed with free-ranging animals: elephants, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, zebras, springbok, ostrich, oryx, kudu and extra. There are many luxurious lodges that ring the park, in addition to quite a few locations to remain inside. Gondwana’s latest property, the 40-room Etosha King Nehale, has distinctive personal entry to the Ontalelo Outpost, a waterhole truly contained in the park.

Sensible Information You Have to Know

In the beginning, Namibia has dealt with the pandemic very properly and now has safely opened its borders to worldwide vacationers. Based on Vera Salt, vice chair of the Affiliation of Namibia Journey Brokers, “Namibia’s huge dimension and its small inhabitants [under three million] makes it the right vacation spot. Our an infection charges have been very low and the federal government has applied strict and managed COVID-19 pointers for vacationers coming into the nation.”

As a part of its Tourism Revival Initiative, Namibia has launched a “visa on arrival” choice for vacationers from some international locations, whereas others might apply for a visa upfront by means of a journey company, comparable to Rennies Journey Namibia. At the moment, arrivals with a unfavorable COVID check lower than 72 hours outdated should not have to quarantine and will proceed on to their locations inside the nation. 

The chalets at The Desert Grace are constructed from indigenous Namibian constructing supplies. // Photograph by Sharri Whiting De Masi 

Masks, contact tracing, temperature checks, and obligatory provision of hand gel at each industrial institution have been in place since Spring 2020. Journey in distant areas, the place there are few folks and wide-open areas, is a profit for these wishing to have a break from a few of these necessities. 

We requested Jacky Ebenau ([email protected]), gross sales director at Rennies, about how U.S. vacationers ought to plan their journey to Namibia. She mentioned that probably the most direct choices are Lufthansa/Eurowings and Ethiopian Airways, which fly from Europe straight into Hosea Kutako Worldwide Airport outdoors Windhoek. From there, vacationers might take scheduled flights elsewhere within the nation, decide up a rental automotive from main suppliers, or meet their information/driver. The choice can be to fly to Cape City or Johannesburg, South Africa, and decide up a recurrently scheduled flight to Windhoek or Walvis Bay, Namibia, on Westair or Airlink. Jacky famous that the return journey to the U.S. on Lufthansa/Eurowings requires an in a single day keep at a German airport, as a result of the flight from Windhoek is a day journey. 

For updates, go to na.usembassy.gov or verify with Jacky at Rennies.

A non-public plunge pool displays the sundown at a Desert Grace chalet. // Photograph by Sharri Whiting De Masi 

The place to Store 

Blue skies, huge panoramas, a whole lot of species of animals and birds, and good meals/wine/beer don’t preclude the delights of buying in Namibia. Each lodge has its personal present store, that includes domestically made objects, and virtually each city has an open-air market, the place distributors promote souvenirs created from every part conceivable, from phone wire to seeds. 

The nation is understood for its diamonds, gold and gems, together with tourmalines, amethysts, and plenty of others. Jewelers, many gemologists and designers skilled in Europe, promote designs incorporating native stones and can create on order for patrons. Our favourite is Sebastian Klein ([email protected]) in Swakopmund, who skilled in Germany and apprenticed with the well-known Horst Knop, earlier than opening his personal studio downtown. supply for gems and stones is the Kristall Gallery.

The lounge/bar at The Desert Grace brings collectively conventional Namibian décor with modern African fashion. // Photograph by Sharri Whiting De Masi 

Different very top quality Namibian merchandise embody ostrich and different skins, which are sometimes exported to Europe. They are often discovered at Nakara in Swakopmund and Windhoek, amongst different areas and are exceptionally fairly priced in comparison with Europe and the U.S. Karakul rugs, handwoven from karakul sheep wool from Namibia and the Northern Cape of South Africa, are distinctive whether or not accomplished in pure or vivid colours. Coming from the identical animal, the Swakara pelts utilized in coats, luggage and gloves are just like Persian lamb.

Our favourite retailers promoting each souvenirs and high-quality décor objects and linens are !Ikhoba on Sam Nujoma Avenue, Meme !Ikhoba on Tobias Hainyeko, Summer time Salt on Daniel Tjongarero Avenue by Bojo’s Espresso Store, and Make Waves within the open-air Arcade off Sam Nujoma Avenue. All promote hand-embroidered linens from the !Ikhoba Venture, begun in 1963, in addition to soaps and lotions utilizing Namibian crops. Gentle and cozy kudu leather-based footwear and boots, a favourite of each women and men, can be found across the nation; we like those from Sibold in The Arcade due to the additional arch help. Oscar & Olive, additionally in The Arcade, sells kudu footwear and boots for kids, in addition to linens, blouses, clothes and weird footwear for ladies.

A king-sized bed room in a luxurious chalet at The Desert Grace. // Photograph by Sharri Whiting De Masi 

We requested Jacky at Rennies if vacationers really feel secure touring to Namibia. Her reply:

“Sure, completely they nonetheless really feel secure. Their most important issues are that each one the suppliers, i.e., airways, automotive rental corporations, and lodging institutions, adhere to the protection requirements. Social distancing is adhered to in any respect the institutions, particularly these out of the principle cities and cities.” She went on to say that self-drives proceed to be a very good choice to journey by means of Namibia, although first-time guests might choose to mix personal air journey with guided journey by automotive.

A chalet on the new Etosha King Nehale has a front-row seat to recreation viewing on the sting of the huge nationwide park. // Photograph by Shawn van Eeden

We are saying go for it. Now’s the time for Africa, particularly Namibia.

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