A slice of desert paradise at Little Kulala
There is no subtle way of saying this. Little Kulala’s combination of magical natural surroundings, inspired organic design, flawless service and the atmosphere of complete serenity took our breath away. This is no typical 5-star resort. There’s no phone signal, barely any wifi, and it is off the grid in as many ways as one can imagine. If that’s what you want, look no further.
We thought we were lost, sure we had made a wrong turn somewhere 50 km back over the sandy dunes of Sossusvlei. The 37 000-hectare property is a private Wilderness Reserve, where Little Kulala was built in 2006 joining it’s mid-range sister camp, Kulala Desert Lodge. We finally arrived, pulling into the parking area to be greeted with fresh drinks and refreshment towels and were ushered into the white-washed reception and lounge area. The design is exquisite, combining stone mosaics, thick plaster walls, thatched roofs and overstuffed white pillows, inviting guests to lounge and linger.
So after arriving, an employee (hard to call them bellboys here) took our bags to our “Villa” and we sat down to lunch on the crescent terrace, with the regions signature “dead” trees protruding from the deck. Outdoors and indoors overlap a bit here, as most places in Namibia. We looked out to the (man-made) watering hole where the occasional springbok or oryx would sip. Like the color palate, the food – a eclectic blend of international dining traditions – fits perfectly with the surroundings. There was moroccan couscous salad and green beans with feta, in general it was mediterranean dishes, from north africa and southern Europe. The meat dishes always included a local game option, wildebeest, kudu or springbok. Everything is made on site, so when I (the tasteless american) asked for hot sauce I was given a small pitcher of oil with diced fresh chili. They grow all the vegetables, from tomatoes and cabbage, to butternut squash and pumpkin, in the hotel’s greenhouse. They even have ice cream. I never thought I’d eat chocolate ice cream in the Namib desert, but now I’ve crossed that off my bucket list.
Kulala Wilderness Reserve has its own private gate into the Namib-Nakluft National Park, which makes it the closest camp to Sossusvlei providing guests with splendid views of the red dunes. We did a tour of the dunes on our second day there, climbing up on of the biggest most unchanging ones, “Big Daddy”, as it is lovingly named.
The hotel also offers bird watching, game drives, massages, hot air ballooning, eco-friendly quad biking and horseback riding. Sadly we didn’t have the time to take advantage of any of these activities, but heard form other guests that the quads and hot air balloons are one-of-a-kind experiences.
We stayed in one of eleven villas, each with air conditioning (not a given), which are thatched and gated with a private bleached deck complete with its own plunge pool. Our’s was part of a two-villa setup for families or groups, which shared the deck and pool. We we’re alone, however, and loved the vibe created by the protected area, that still fit seamlessly with the surroundings. The villas have both indoor and outdoor showers. The linens and furniture fabrics are made with all-natural fibers, cottons and mohair dyed with natural vegetable dyes, keeping in tune with the sand, wood and stone.
After a long day we took a quick dip in the pool (water felt like the ultimate luxury, like skiing in dubai) and then a crisp glass of wine on the deck, reading about the wildlife we wanted to see on our tour the next day. In Oshiwambo, Kulala means “to sleep”, meaning we were at the “little sleep”. So we opted for the “skybed” option to have the rooftop bed made for us to stargaze as we fell asleep under the crystal clear night sky.
Dinner and a show
For dinner, the restaurant offered a springbok filet with lentils and fresh water fish with sweet potatoes. Nothing is set in stone and the staff is glad to accommodate any dietary needs or restrictions. We found it hard to concentrate on our food with the expansive African sky spread out before us like a glittering tapestry. There were a few honeymoon couples and a large family of americans, a british family of four with teenage children that were having a fantastic time reuniting in the desert. The establishment has a 15 -and-up children’s policy, meaning there are no crying fits and no monopolizing of the pool or lounge area. Even if you love kids or have them yourself, this policy does make a difference when it comes to serenity.
After dinner, we were about to get up and leave when the staff paraded in in traditional dress from the region singing at the top of their voices. It was magical. There was clapping stomping, solos, harmony, drums and dancing; harmonious, but improvised. It was a joy to watch. This was no entertainment crew, or “animation” staff, these people were singing funny and irreverent folk songs from their growing up. One of the housekeeping staff was in fact on an apprenticeship organized by a school in the region, the manager told us they do these sorts of cooperations to make sure the regional community stay s involved in the hotel industry. After six or seven numbers the staff said goodnight and trotted off – still singing and laughing – to their houses, a little village built nearby the hotel site. We were elated and could not stop smiling on our way back to our villa to spend the night sleeping under the stars.
Verdict: A little slice of heaven in the middle of Namibia’s world-famous dunes, Little Kulala makes discovering the deserts secrets and hidden pleasures a thing of beauty.
Little Kulala – Click here
S: -24,1838 E: 15,7745
Yes, there is no address, that’s how far out this place is.