Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Last November, I enjoyed a fabulous holiday in Namibia. You can read my trip reports here:
Today: Review of &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (Namibia)
Nestled deep in the heart of Namibia’s ancient Namib Desert, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge – one of the most amazing hotels I’ve ever stayed at – is a secluded and serene ultra-luxury retreat that overlooks one of Africa’s most compelling landscapes. In this spectacularly beautiful location, 10 spacious suites envelope guests in pure indulgence, complete with private pool, an outdoor shower and a dramatic skylight over the bed for late night star-gazing. If you’re up for something more active, quad biking adventures, hikes, walks and excursions to the world-famous Sossusvlei site will let you explore the surrounding scenery and satisfy your sense of adventure.
&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge features in my top 10 list of the best hotels in Namibia.
Have you ever stayed at &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is situated within a private 12,715 hectare (31,419 acre) reserve deep in the Namib, the world’s oldest desert (covering an area the size of Germany). Set amidst an ocean of towering sand dunes, rocky outcrops and gravel plains, the utter tranquility of the landscape and extraordinary clarity of light make the Namib one of the planet’s most spectacular and untouched wilderness places. It is also one of the least populated areas on earth, inviting its visitors to experience an intense feeling of vastness and isolation. Virtually all facets of the Namib are represented in the area where the &Beyond lodge is located, creating a spectacular blend of colors and shapes that make it a visual feast for travelers, artists and photographers.
- In 2019, &Beyond reopened the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge – its sole property in Namibia – following an extensive nine-month, $3 million USD renovation. Designed by South African–based Fox Browne Creative, in partnership with Architect Jack Alexander, the new lodge is comprised of one central pavilion an 10 stand-alone villas. Just one wall remains from the original main lodge, while the villas were gutted but retain their former footprint. The fabulous design puts an emphasis on the surreal desert landscape in which the lodge is set. Drawn as a series of geometric lines in the sand, the lodge’s pavilions feature an organic architecture that blends well into the sweeping curves and natural shapes of the surrounding hills and sand dunes. The creamy color palette of the interiors contrast delightfully with the bright colors of the iconic desert landscape.
- The main pavilion – which houses the communal guest areas – is an inspired, two-story masterpiece of architecture, covered by a remarkable rusted geometric steel roof shaped as sails. The lower level features a dining area (with walk-in wine cellar) on one side and several sitting areas on the other side as well as a shop showcasing Namibia’s finest craft offerings, Large glass panels fold away on three sides to reveal unobstructed desert vistas as far as the eye can see. In the middle, there’s an island bar and a telescope for zooming in on the wildlife that drink from the waterhole in front of the pavilion ‘s rim-flow pool. The pavilion’s upper floor houses a brand new gym and spa area (with one couple’s treatment room) for some relaxing pampering following a busy and active day in the Namib desert.
- The lodge’s 11 beautifully appointed villas are spread out along the curve of the escarpment. Each suite has a glass wall with sliding doors that open to a secluded, shaded veranda complete with a large private pool. Above the bed, there is a skylight for middle-of-the-night stargazing. The ensuite bathroom is equipped with a glass-encased rain shower as well as an outdoor shower, both offering 180° desert views. Other suite features include a living room with a fireplace, Swarovski binoculars to observe the passing wildlife, and a fully stocked bar (filled with Namibian gins, South African rums, Amarula, wines, and more). During my visit, I was upgraded to the Star Dune Suite, which consists of two ensuite bedrooms linked by a communal guest area, complete with private lounge and dining area (designed with families in mind).
- The chefs at &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge prepare delicious meals (all food & beverages are included in the room rate). Breakfast is served after the morning activity and consists of yogurt, cereals, croissants and fruit salad in addition to made-to-order hot dishes (including eggs Benedict). Lunch options include light bites such as pan seared pork chops, roasted beetroot & cranberry salad, and chilled summer pea soup. Dinner menu features dishes such as coconut ginger kingclip & prawn curry, and Namibian rack of lamb. The interactive kitchen design allow for guests to create their own dishes and menu should they wish to. A range of singular interior and exterior dining spaces ensures guests never dine in the same place twice. A fine selection of wines from an impressive walk-in wine cellar complements the lodge’s sublime meals.
- The selection of adventures available ranges far beyond the standard excursions and includes a number of opportunities for guests to immerse themselves in the splendor and mystery of the Namib Desert. You can set out on foot or by quad bike to enjoy a close-up experience of the living desert surrounding the lodge outside the confines of a vehicle. You can choose to spend time getting to grips with the unique ecology or to step back in time and visit San rock art sites to find out more about the area’s history and people. Fascinating geological excursions showcase the four different habitat types near the lodge, paying particular attention to ancient rock formations. Desert drives that continue after nightfall reveal an array of unusual desert-adapted fauna and flora that thrives in the area while marveling in the stark desert scenery.
- The highlight of a stay at the lodge is the excursion to the world-famous Sossusvlei area (included in the room rate). This half day adventure into the Namib Naukluft National Park takes you down an open valley between towering red dunes. Take in and photograph the striking scenic beautify of the area as you drive in, best seen when the light is still throwing shadows off the ridges of the dunes. At Dune 45, a stop will be made to view the world’s most photographed dune. Your guide will chat about how the ecosystem and interesting Aeolian geological processes were formed as well as about life in this formidable environment. There will be a chance to climb Big Daddy, which at 1,066ft is the tallest dune in the area, and to walk to Deadvlei, where some 70 camel thorn tree trunks, 900 years dead, remain standing on a bleached clay pan.
- Known as “The Living Desert”, the impressive dunes of the Namib abound with intruiging desert-adapted wildlife, such as beetles, spiders, lizards, gerbils, golden moles and other creatures, all leaving their telltale tracks in the fine sand. The plains and dry watercourses of the Namib Desert are home to oryx, springbok, Burchell’s zebra, kudu, ostrich and giraffe. Predators include leopard, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, Cape and bat-eared foxes, termite-eating aardwolf and African wildcat. For avid bird-watchers, over one hundred species of birds habitat this region. During a stay at &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, guests might spot several of these animal species. For example, oryx, springbok, ostriches, and jackals visit the artificial watering hole in front of the central pavilion each day.
- The night skies at &Beyond Sossusvlei Private Desert are heavenly, with the concession bordering the International Dark Sky Reserve of the NamibRand Nature Reserve (Africa’s first and only International Dark Sky Reserve). The exploration of the Namib Desert’s incredibly clear night skies are a highlight for any visitor at the lodge, which features a state-of-the-art observatory with a Celestron CPC 1100 GPS (XLT) computerized telescope. With almost no impact from artificial light and on the best dark skies in the world, guests can discover the constellations of the southern sky under the guidance of a resident astronomer. Phenomenal stargazing is guaranteed, almost each and every night. Tip: for the best stargazing, try to avoid a stay during a full moon, when the flashlight-bright moon reduces the number of visible stars.
- Sustainability and guest comfort go hand in hand at &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, with sophisticated, environment-friendly design solutions supporting uncompromised luxury in a climate of extremes. Here are some examples
- The roofs of the villas are clad in PV panels allowing the buildings to harness the harsh natural environment (where temperatures often reach over 50 degrees Celsius or 120 degrees Fahrenheit) and use the sun to create enough energy to ensure the lodge is entirely self-sustained. The electricity generated is then used to power a series of environmentally responsive air-conditioning and water recycling systems to ensure the lodge positively affects the environment from which its design was derived.
- By bottling water on site and using recycled glass bottles, andBeyond Sossusvlei saves a significant amount of carbon dioxide per month, absorbing the carbon footprint of the plastic water delivery truck. At 100% occupancy, the lodge would have consumed thousands of plastic water bottles per month.
- The Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is managed by &Beyond, one of world’s most exclusive travel companies. Established in 1991, &Beyond strives to make the world a better and greener place by combining conservation efforts with sustainable tourism. The company has established an intimate relationship with some of the world’s last remaining unspoiled natural places and the communities that surround them. In combination with highly-skilled guides and rangers, this allows &Beyond to deliver extraordinary guest experiences that feel profoundly meaningful. As of today, &Beyond owns and operates 29 extraordinary lodges and camps in iconic safari, scenic and island destinations in Africa and South America, enabling the company to positively impact more than 9 million acres of wildlife land and 2000 km (1200 mi) of coastline.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- The water in the suite’s private pools or the shared larger pool by the main lodge is kept at a cold temperature to slow evaporation in the strong sun. While this is a blissing during the hot summer months, taking a dip in the cooler winter months might be a challenge.
- WiFi is available at &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, but only inside the suites. The WiFi signal is not very strong, just enough to send texts and catch up on emails (but that’s the case in all remotely located hotels in Namibia). The lodge choose not to offer WiFi in the public areas of the main building, so that guests can detox in tranquility and focus on relaxation and interaction with other guests instead of relying on the internet.
- Similar to most lodges in Namibia, &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is not fenced off, so guests are required to be vigilant at all times. Leopards, snakes and scorpions are present in the Namib Desert, and there is no physical impediment to them entering the area around the lodge. It is recommended that guests use a torch when walking around the lodge at night.
- Getting to and from the lodge might require a long drive on gravel roads, depending on where you come from: Swakopmund is 400 km (248 miles) from the lodge, while Namibia’s capital Windhoek is 380 km (236 miles) away. Because of the long drive involved, I recommend to stay at least 3 nights, so that you have a minimum of two full days at the lodge itself. If you don’t want to fly, you can also reach the property by scheduled daily charter flight to its private airstrip (which is just 5 minutes from the lodge).
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 10/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 10/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (and/or receive many free perks).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Namibia is from July to October, when the temperatures are comfortably warm during the day and the chance of rain is low. This is also the best time for outdoor activities and wildlife viewing, making it peak travel season. Between December and March, some days will be humid and rain may follow, often in localized, afternoon thunderstorms.
HOW TO GET THERE
&Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is located on the NamibRand Nature Reserve, and can be accessed along the C27, approximately 30 minutes south of Sesriem, either coming from Swakopmund (400 km or 248 miles) or from Windhoek, (380ckm or 236 mi). Please note that the road surface here can be quite poor, and 4WD car is advisable, especially in the rainy season (November to May). You can also fly in, and it’s a 90 min flight from Hosea Kutako International Airport in Windhoek to Sossusvlei Desert Lodge’s private airstrip.
Below is a selection of my photos of &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge. To view more hotel photos (including meals), click here.
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