Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia is the remotest and most isolated luxury bush camp we have ever visited. It is so remote that the only way guests can reach it is by scheduled light aircraft, landing at an airstrip that appears to be in the middle of nowhere.
When we arrived at the actual camp, a 5-minute drive from the airstrip and hidden behind a rocky ridge, we expected some sort of greenery, a green oasis in the middle of nowhere, like in the movies. What one sees is more like an organised luxury military camp with eight large Bedouin-styled canvas cottages (the guest suites) and a large similarly structured main public area that houses the bar, lounge and dining room plus a very welcome pool after a hot day out exploring, all set in a barren desert.
Rather than rave about the luxurious suites and amenities I would like to write about the actual experience of staying at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, not only to just chill out in the absolute silence and isolation, but to adventure in search of the desert adapted wildlife.
The game drives are in powerful four-wheel drive vehicles driven by experienced game rangers whose sole mission is to share what this unique area is all about. On the first day we arrived, being a bit weary from travelling, we did a short late afternoon game drive, more to orientate ourselves and to get to know our ranger who is allocated to you for your entire visit. These rangers are master drivers and have a wealth of interesting local knowledge, ours was an absolute gentleman and personal butler of excellent service and care.
The next day was a full day adventure in search of wildlife. We left early, just before sunrise. We stopped in the coolness of the morning and watched the sun rapidly rise… what absolute beauty as the desert scene awakens. As we drove down into the dry Hoanib river bed, our first elephant, a bull, magnificent in his aged and wrinkled hide, the first of a number of elephant we saw, each a unique and wondrous sighting leaving us pondering on their survival in such a harsh and dry area. We saw gemsbok, giraffe and springbok and a number of birds, some lifers amongst them.
The highlight was seeing two black rhino, very elusive and seldom seen… even our game ranger was excited to see them. A pleasant surprise after seeing two lionesses was a beautiful cold buffet lunch set up by our ranger at a table for 2 in the shade of large boulder, accompanied by ice cold white wine! We arrived back in camp in the late afternoon, dusty and satisfied with our busy day. After freshening up we had sundowners at the bar sharing our day’s adventures with fellow guests before heading into the minimalistic dining room, beautifully lit for a 5-course dinner, a real treat with top notch cuisine considering fresh supplies have to be flown in.
As we stayed for 3 nights a special full day excursion is included that visits the unforgiving Skeleton Coast, graveyard to many shipwrecks, the most famous being the Dunedin Star that ran aground in 1942. Again we left at sunrise after a light breakfast for a 3 hour adventure along and through the Hoanib river bed and over sand dunes to Mowe Bay, a small police outpost located on this harsh coast. Driving along we saw a number of giraffe amongst the reeds that line the river bed and then suddenly in the distance some lions which we followed for about an hour until they disappeared into a mountainous ridge… what a sighting! When we arrived at Mowe Bay we spent sometime in the small but interesting museum displaying old photos, artefacts and bits and pieces found along the coast over the years. We also visited the mouth of the Hoanib River which had a small trickle of water damming up behind a sand bank forming a small lagoon teaming with sea birds including beautiful flamingos. Here we saw a resident brown hyena and a couple of black-backed jackal.
En-route to our lunch spot we visited a small cape fur seal colony. A delicious lunch was served at a beautiful setting on beach overlooking the wild waves, at a table set with a white linen table cloth and laden with tasty food and chilled drinks, an Out of Africa scene with a difference. After lunch we were driven to an airstrip where a small Cessna plane was waiting to fly us back to camp, a 20 minute flight over stunning scenery, a different perspective of the route we had travelled earlier by vehicle. The afternoon was at leisure to relax and to enjoy our beautifully appointed suite. Our ranger took us out for a drive to a koppie (small hill) for sundowners and a spectacular sunset. Again, the dinner this evening that could match dinner at some of the best city restaurants.
The next day we decided to do an early morning game drive, find a nice spot to enjoy the tranquillity of this beautiful and serene destination and to enjoy a cup of freshly made French-pressed coffee and freshly baked scones and rusks. Back to camp where we packed our bags and had a leisurely brunch before heading out to the airstrip for our scheduled light aircraft flight back to Windhoek, capital of Namibia.
This is a perfect away from it all destination, to rejuvenate the soul, to clear the mind and to enjoy a unique luxury destination making a new memory and to possibly start a love of this beautiful land, Namibia, if not visited before.