Situated on the dune belt between ancient fossilised dunes and a spectacular desert landscape, the intimate Dune Star Camp is a one-night desert adventure not to be missed. Take the opportunity to sleep under the stars, join the nature walk and soak up sublime desert beauty away from the modern world and all its trappings.
“When we walk around in the wilderness, we should be aware that we are stepping on the nests and holes of many underground-dwelling animals,” our guide and host Persival Sikunge tells us when we join him at sunrise. Judging from the many tracks that are left on the sand, the desert creatures had been busy during the night, making the most of the cooler temperatures. “This is where a golden mole swam through the sand,” he shows us as we follow a wave of sand. “Here are the tracks of the scrub hare, the yellow-burrowing scorpion, the sand-diving lizard. This is the crescent hole of the palmetto gecko and these are the markings of the white-lady spider,” he says expressing relief that he had not stepped on it earlier in the dark when he was laying out the table for our early-morning coffee. He skilfully locates its nest and gently lifts the flap for us to see its silken home.
We had hopped aboard the game-viewing vehicle the previous afternoon and driven alongside the dune belt with its dramatic fossilised dunes before following a steep track that led up the sandy slope to Dune Star Camp on the ridge above. The camp’s deck affords a breath-taking view of the valley below - a medley of deep-red sand and pale-yellow grass, accentuated by the green camelthorn trees marking the river course and extending to the Naukluft Mountains on the horizon. And we had it all to ourselves. After moments of awe, drinking in its beauty, some of us made our way to our cabins to shower and rest, while others joined the afternoon nature walk before we all gathered on the deck at sunset for sundowner drinks and snacks. A four-course meal followed in the dining-room where candles glimmered above the long table, adding an enchanting air to an already dreamy Dune Star night.
We didn’t linger too long after the mouth-watering black forest cake, eager to wheel our beds onto the decks of our cabins for a chance to watch the night sky and sleep outdoors in the Namib Desert. A waxing moon hung benevolently in the sky, a cool breeze gently wafted in after the steaming-hot day and an owl hooted to its mate. In the morning, the beauty of the surrounding landscape surprised us once again, and after moments of awe, we drank in the scenery, appreciating the deep, pervading peace and utter quiet. A few Namaqua sandgrouse flew by breaking the silence with the sound of their soft wings and melodic calls. As the day brightened, we made our way to join Persival and some of the other early birds for the nature walk.
As we walk through the many stories written in the sand, he continues to explain the mysteries of this unusual environment. He tells us about the origins of the impressive fossilised dunes that were formed twenty to twenty-five million years ago during a wetter phase of the Earth, the sand compacting and hardening, revealed in later drier years by wind erosion. Turning to the soft, younger dunes Persival explains: “The sand retains water, so a week after rainfall, the layer on the surface has dried out, but if you dig down a couple of centimetres, the sand will still be wet.”
It seems that there are many wonders at this charming desert camp, enough to dazzle, enlighten and enrich us. I notice at breakfast that everyone is more relaxed than when they arrived the day before, as if the ancient desert had worked its magic on all of us. On the short drive down into the valley below and through the magnificent land back to the lodge where our paths will diverge, I observe the ease with which my companions now share their stories of heart and soul, and smile - content in the awe-inspiring desert moment.
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