Namibia‘s desert landscapes present travelers with a symphony of paradox: wide-open spaces and intimate encounters; rugged natural beauty and luxurious accommodations.
Here are three base camps that will set the scene for travel transcendence:
Ingeniously built among the giant boulders of a granite kopje, this cluster of igloo-shaped bungalows is close to the petroglyphs carved thousands of years ago by the Khoikhoi people at Twyfelfontein, Namibia’s first World Heritage site. Explore these ancient rock engravings on guided walks. In the mornings, look for elephants as they roam dry riverbeds in search of water.
Three hours by light aircraft from Windhoek or via Swakopmund over Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, this tented camp occupies a lush strip of forest along the crocodile-filled Kunene River, which separates Namibia from Angola. Canvas and thatched villas overlook otherworldly desertscapes. A nearby Himba settlement is home to one of Africa’s last seminomadic tribes.
This collection of thatched African-style chalets sits in a 55,000-acre private wildlife sanctuary. Game drives offer sightings of leopards, giraffes, and more. Guests also can track cheetahs on foot and experience a day in the life of a Bushman. The resident AfriCat Foundation’s wildlife rehabilitation facility helps big cats that have been rescued prepare to live in the wild again.
This piece, reported by Mark Sissons, first appeared in the October 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.