Editors' Picks

Wilderness Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp

luxurious, spectacular, desert safari camp

Kunene, Namibia

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Indagare Impact

At a Glance

One of the top lodges in Namibia, Hoanib Skeleton Coast is a luxurious tented camp in the middle of the central Namib Desert, adjacent to the iconic Skeleton Coast.

Indagare Loves

  • The gorgeous camp boasts especially chic décor, which feels fresh and elegant but also very much of-the-place, invoking the desert, Namibia and safari.
  • Excursions to the Skeleton Coast are a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
  • The camp staff, who are all extraordinarily thoughtful and friendly.

Review

When Hoanib Skeleton Camp opened in Namibia’s Kaokoveld in 2014, it was seen as a game changer for the entire country’s tourism. Indeed, the remote and very chic tented camp has drawn people to the Namibian desert who might otherwise have never made it here, to the most desolate part of the world’s second-least-populated country.

The camp consists of eight khaki-colored tents (one is a family room with two connecting rooms) suspended above stilted modular rectangular structures, which look a bit like shipping containers with windows. (The elevated tent peaks help create a natural air circulation that acts as a cooling system, and indeed, despite extremely high temperatures from very strong sunlight, the rooms are rarely uncomfortably hot.) Like a scene from Star Wars or M.A.S.H., the semi-circular set-up of tents fit in perfectly in the basin-like piece of desert. Inside each tent, however, a refined, elegant and modern sensibility pervades. Décor is mostly in shades of taupe and cream, and comfortable sitting areas abound both inside and on the outdoor shaded deck. Some aspects are reminiscent of traditional African safari lodges (wicker chairs, mosquito netted-covered beds), but they all sit alongside contemporary touches (poured concrete floors, tufted leather and steel benches), which creates a very special feel.

There is no air-conditioning, but evenings are chilly, and poured concrete floors retain the cool from the night well into the day, and there are plenty of windows and doors that let in the perpetual southwesterly winds that bring cool air from the Atlantic. When not out on excursions, the place to be during daylight hours is on your deck anyway, looking towards the water hole, which hosts elephants, baboons, oryx and other creatures, like nature's own TV show.

In addition to its extremely refined set-up and service, the property offers unparalleled access to the northern Skeleton Coast, a formerly inaccessible region by land. All stays should include a day visit, which is typically done via jeep one way, and small airplane for the return. Highlights include driving up and down the dunes en route, along the coast and visiting shipwrecks and colonies of seals and flamingos.

While in camp, guests can relax in the gorgeous and comfortable communal lounge areas, including by the small lap pool, which beckons during the mid-day heat. Another highlight is going on a desert game drive, particularly to seek out the elusive desert lions in the area, some of which are related to the late famous desert lion brothers known as the Five Musketeers, which feature prominently in the 2015 documentary Vanishing Kings. The camp will happily play the film for guests in the research center, which is also home to the world-renowned desert lion researcher, Dr. Philip Stander, and his partner, Emsie Verwey, the camp’s resident researcher conducting a study on the rare brown hyena. While Stander is typically out in the bush studying and tracking the lions, he occasionally makes visits to camp and is a delight to speak to and learn from, especially around the nightly campfire. Emsie hosts nightly pre-dinner presentations on her fascinating research.

All meals are taken at the camp in the modern, glass-walled dining room, and the food is very good. Breakfast, typically taken as early as 6:30am, can include eggs as well as continental offerings. When in camp, three-course lunches are served with wine and dishes might include mushroom soufflé or chicken kebabs. Dinner, too, is three courses, and starts with a soup and homemade bread, followed by a choice of two entrées and dessert. Hot chocolate mixed with Amarula, a South African liqueur, is a delicious way to end the dinner and stroll back to your tent.

Service in the camp is, friendly and extremely thoughtful. The guides are some of the best, as it takes a more seasoned specialist to point out the more subtle flora and fauna found here, and in-camp personnel are committed to making each guests’ stay seamless and life-changing.

Note: The camp does not have WiFi or a gym.

Who Should Stay

Staying at Hoanib Skeleton Camp is undoubtedly a highlight of a stay in Namibia and everyone should carve out at least three nights for a visit.

Ideal Length of Stay

Three nights

Impact

Indagare Impact hotels have been carefully vetted according to our Impact Hotel Criteria.

When a guest arrives at a Wilderness lodge, it becomes clear that they are but half of the clientele, while the wilderness itself is the other. There’s of course no concession on hospitality, but the purpose of the safari is more than just tourism. Every Wilderness lodge funnels up into a strictly monitored overall conservation plan that enacts meaningful, enduring initiatives for not just ecosystems and wildlife, but for people and local communities as well. Wilderness champions Children in the Wilderness, an education initiative, and the Wilderness Trust, an independent, dedicated fundraising arm created to extend the reach and capacity to support deserving conservation initiatives. In relation to operational impacts, Wilderness aims to reduce their carbon footprint by investing heavily in renewable energy and technology, and each camp is operated and monitored against very strict internal standards.

Written by Amelia Osborne Scott

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