A NEW LODGE FOR THE SKELETON COAST
Namibia’s Skeleton Coast National Park is a lonely and windswept place. In summer the sun beats down mercilessly, while each morning a chill fog rolls in from the sea to sweep across the landscape. It’s a daily battle between the icy Benguela current and the warm desert sands. As a landscape, it’s harsh and unforgiving, yet utterly beguiling.
Natural Selection currently offers a portfolio of 10 owner-operated camps and lodges stretching across Namibia and Botswana. Though the brand may be new, its four founders boast decades of experience in the African travel industry, and bring their combined expertise to this remarkable new property.
Built on the southern bank of the seasonal Hoarusib River, and backing on to the rolling dunes of the National Park, Shipwreck Lodge is the only luxury lodge in the iconic Skeleton Coast National Park.
“The only other establishment is a government-run fishing camp”, explains Dave van Smeerdijk, co-founder of Natural Selection, who says gaining permission to build Shipwreck involved “a long process of administration with both national parks and the local community. And yes, the Namibian government has strict rules in regards to development in Parks.”
That sense of isolation is certainly part of the lodge’s appeal, with daily game drives exploring the hidden charms of this remote desert landscape. While there is wildlife here – everything from the oryx and the desert-adapted elephant, to the shuffling and elusive brown hyena – it’s a lodge where the landscape is the real star of the show.
With its spectacular location between sand and sea, “this camp is certainly for the adventurous and free-spirited”, says van Smeerdijk. “It is for people who are looking for something different, and who enjoy the beauty in nothing, silence and desolation. This will be a place to disconnect from the outside world and see Mother Nature in at work in the flesh. Of course, there will be many ‘Africa-philes’, but also many people searching for something out of the ordinary.”
During their stay, guests can also explore the geological formation dubbed the ‘Clay Castles’, along with excursions to the Hoanib River Delta and the Mowe Bay seal colony. Discovering the skeletal shipwrecks of the Suiderkus and Karimona is another highlight, their iron ribs inspiring the evocative name of this remote corner of Namibia.
Those wrecks also provided the inspiration for the architecture of Shipwreck Lodge. Each of the 10 rooms boasts a strikingly modern design of jagged struts and windows akimbo, as if shipwreck survivors had constructed a shelter from the elements. A suitably five-star shelter, that is.
Indoors the décor is certainly a respite from the harsh landscapes beyond, while large windows let the views flood in. Soft furnishings reflect the tones of the ocean and desert, while textures of recycled rope, linen and cotton add a touch of vintage-chic. At the heart of Shipwreck Lodge is the remarkable guest lounge and dining room, where a wrap-around deck dishes up some of the finest sunset views in Africa.
In many ways, this is an untouched landscape, and sustainability was a key consideration in the design and build of Shipwreck Lodge, which was constructed with the notion that it could be removed without a trace.
Guest areas are made from sustainably sourced timber, allowing it to be easily dismantled, whilst service areas are made from modified shipping containers that can relocated as needed. Energy-efficient insulation was sourced from recycled plastic water bottles, and the lodge’s electricity needs are met by solar and wind generation. A bio-diesel generator is available for emergency back-up.
The Skeleton Coast is a unique landscape, and in Shipwreck it’s found a lodge to match. With the harsh landscape and relative lack of wildlife, this won’t be a destination for everyone; but for repeat visitors looking to discover a remarkable corner of the continent, this should be top of the list.
[Renderings are courtesy of Shipwreck Lodge]