Doro !Nawas

We left the dunes of Sossusvlei and Swakopmund, but we were still surrounded by a lot of sand, a lot of beauty, and it was still really dry. Doro !Nawas Camp in Damaraland is another middle-of-nowhere, stunning Namibian property.

The drive up took us through mile after mile of wide-open expanses. The only signs of human life were the tiny communities of huts constructed from what looks like the remains of the recycle bin: pieces of tin, stone, brick, wood, plastic, some combination of the above.

Doro !Nawas itself sits upon the dry Aba-Huab River Valley, within the Doro !Nawas Conservancy in central Damaraland. Its location affords stunning views of the mountains and red sandstone cliffs.

And you might notice the exclamation point in Dora !Nawas. It is, in fact, a click language. The staff at the camp would read the menu each night in English and in the local click language (I think it’s called Khoekhoe?) and it is seriously impressive. I wish I could make all those click sounds! Here’s a little video, if you’re interested:

And after dinner the staff would sing and dance. It was good fun. We were particularly fond of the Amarula dance (and the Amurula! – a delicious liqueur made from the marula fruit that grows in Africa).

A short drive from Doro !Nawas is Twyfelfontein, which translates to doubtful spring. This area is full of ancient petroglyphs. There are lots of animals depicted, and our guide explained that these were used for education (e.g. to teach the young about footprints of animals to hunt, and those to run away from).

There are also some beautiful rock formations, including these “Organ Pipes.”

But the highlight of this expedition was the epic sundowner spot. Our guide pulled out a veritable spread, complete with biltong, nuts, crackers and the obligatory G&T’s. So many beautiful sunsets in Africa. And because it gets very chilly there as the sun goes down, they have fleece-lined ponchos on hand! Fleece-lined ponchos! Keep your eyes open for fleece-lined ponchos as the next Snuggie. Calling it.

Also, I sincerely wish I had video or at least photos, but we finally saw springboks in action. It’s clear to us now how they got their name. They literally spring across fields – apparently in an effort to convince predators that they’re super fit and hard to catch or something. And the best part? This move is called pronking.

Alan and I woke early one morning to head out with Jimmy in search of the elusive rhinoceros. The 4:30 am wake up call was a little brutal, but when we turned off the road and a few minutes later saw a large group of desert-adapted elephants, we knew it had been worth it.

Our luck continued on the drive as we spotted some kudu, springboks, oryx, Hartmann’s mountain zebras, and steenbok.

Jimmy even made an epic spot of a spotted hyena in the distance.

And then some jackals! Not to mention the scrub hare we saw on the drive in.

And then we thought our luck was going to culminate in some really big sightings when Jimmy spotted lion prints, rhino poop and flattened euphorbia bushes – evidence that a rhino had trampled them recently. We traced the tracks for what felt like miles and certainly hours. We were impressed with Jimmy’s tracking skills, but the rhinos and the lion were sneaky that morning. Despite our best efforts, they eluded us. Though we did learn a fun fact about rhinos. You may have heard of black rhinos and white rhinos. These distinctions have nothing to do with their color. Rather, it is the shape of their mouths. The misleading “white” designation derives from the Afrikaans word “weid,” which describes the flat, wide lip of “white” rhinos which is better adapted to grazing vs. the pointed lip black rhinos use to pick fruit and leaves off branches and twigs.

In the hopes we might spot some, we kept driving on, deeper into the wilderness, and on a seriously bumpy road. The landscape was absolutely spectacular, and the geodes lying all around sparkled beautifully in the sun.

To make up for the lack of a rhino sighting, some giraffes appeared on the side of the road as we began heading back to camp. All in all a solid day of game viewing in an area not that geared towards safaris.

Practical Info

Damaraland is best known for the collection of San rock engravings at Twyfelfontein. The region’s scenery is gorgeous and reminiscent of the Southwestern US. Other attractions include desert-adapted elephants, possible black rhino sightings, assorted other wildlife and terrific stargazing.

Note that we were booked at Doro !Nawas on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis. If you book on a fully inclusive basis, then alcoholic beverages and laundry service would be included.

Transportation: We drove from Swakopmund, which took at least a few hours and was largely on unpaved roads. We departed for Okonjima.

Accommodation: We stayed at Doro !Nawas, which is a Wilderness Safaris property. The setting is beautiful, offering vast views of the landscape and epic stargazing. The main building has cozy lounge spaces and all meals are taken there (including lunch on the deck). The infinity pool is small but refreshing. The thatched roof cabins are enormous and nicely appointed. There is no WiFi, though there is a computer in the lodge area that works fine for email.

Food and Drinks: We ate all our meals at the lodge. The food was fine, but not quite as good as many other places we’ve stayed thus far in Africa. The after dinner singing and dancing, however, was delightful.

Activities: A visit to Twyfelfontein is pretty much mandatory. We also stopped to observe the Organ Pipes and Burnt Mountain, which frankly were a bit underwhelming. I think there are some hikes in the area. It was neat to see desert-adapted elephants and other animals.

October 22-24, 2014 (Wednesday-Friday)

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