For an epic African adventure that’s as exhilarating as it is wildly romantic. Cosy up in angular wooden cabins and listen to the winds rattle along the Skeleton Coast’s desolate and hauntingly pretty landscape at Shipwreck Lodge, Namibia.
When my now-husband suggested a self-drive honeymoon through Namibia, all notions of languid, tropical afternoons by some infinity pool were shattered. Namibia’s siren call is lost on the fly and floppers, but instead pricks the ears of the more intrepid (albeit within a safe environment). Shipwreck lodge taps into this sense of wild adventure, while keeping things safe and ruggedly luxurious – with James Bond-like lodges rising from the ochre, wind-swept plains – eerily referencing the bones of washed up whales or ships that once frequented this treacherous coastline.
Their extraordinary isolation offers couples the chance to truly switch off and spend time solely in each other’s company, rather than mingling with a rush of tourists. Adventure here is dispensed as one wishes. The bare minimum is a thrilling contrast of beautifully designed, exceedingly cosy lodges cast adrift in an other-worldly, elementally dominated landscape. Honeymooners can layer on various drives and excursions at their own pace.
Set the Scene
Of the country’s staggeringly beautiful and diverse landscapes, the Skeleton Coast may just be the most dramatic. Raw and rugged, it’s a place shrouded in mystery and elusive wildlife, and one that elicits a sharp jolt of solitude (one that many honeymooners may have yet to experience).
The Skeleton Coast is one of the more recent, lesser-known parks in Africa, and is undoubtedly one of the most unusual, captivating and hauntingly picturesque. After a five hour scenic drive on the desolate coastal road in a rented 4×4 (essential to get here in one piece!), you arrive at the Shipwreck Lodge outpost in Mowe Bay. Met by a welcoming friendly face with cold drinks, you’re then driven to the Lodge a further 45km north across a mesmerising backdrop of vast sand dunes, crashing waves, and the odd lonesome jackal.
Whilst rustic in style inside, with a gentle nod to the original ‘shipwreck’ inspiration, the cabins deliver on all the five-star luxuries, as well as a log burner to ramp up the drama (and the heat) on a particularly chilly, gusty evening. Shipwreck is remarkably the only lodge within the northern area of the Skeleton Coast National Park – a wildlife habitat unique in its count of species classified as ‘highest conservation importance’. Desert-adapted lions and elephants frequent the area, as well as the majestic oryx and a large colony of theatrical sea lions. You may even spot the odd lonely oryx from your king size bed or from one of the 10 cabins’ daybeds – the latter a tricky spot to attempt a book with such evocative landscape beyond its pages.
Food and Drink
You may not expect elevated fare in our planet’s ‘Last Great Wilderness’, however, like many of the guests, it somehow made it here. Delicious fresh fish from Walvis Bay, slow roasted Oryx, or eggs any side up for breakfast – the options are comfortingly limited, spanking fresh and beautifully presented by chefs whose standards have only consolidated in this arid setting. Delicious, picnic-style lunches are whipped out on excursions and the cocktails are worth heading to the main lodge for, just before sunset.
Architect Nina Maritz found inspiration in the chapters of John H. Marsh’s ‘The Skeleton Coast’ – a gripping account of the formidable rescue operation when British Cargo Ship, Dunedin Star ran aground on the shores of the Namib desert in 1944. The award-winning architect’s infatuation stopped abruptly at gimmick, ensuring the references remained within the realms of taste and pulled the surrounding desolate splendour inside.
Whilst this is not the spot for Big Five sightings, Shipwreck Lodge offers superb guided excursions that are completely unique from the typical African safari, and thus truly memorable. Think sundowners served on the blustery Atlantic beach, guided walks to marvel at the whale bones that line the coast, or exploring the dunes by quad bike, with the wind through your hair, and the landscape flashing past. The staff are super friendly and their encyclopaedic knowledge of, and passion for, the surrounding environment and its wildlife is infectious.
Shipwreck lodge’s setting is dramatically different to anywhere else you’ll go in Africa. Getting here is an expedition in itself, but it’s this elemental aspect and a sense that you’re journeying to the edge of the earth that imprints itself indelibly in your mind and makes for an intensely romantic trip.
To book visit: shipwrecklodge.com.na
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